Old Washington (Schools & Colleges)
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date unknown
With the gradual growth of the city, the establishment of homes for the few thousands of people connected with the government, mechanics and laboring people, taverns, business houses, etc., before the term farmer was obsolete in the District, schools were called into existence and children were sent to hem for the double purpose of learning and to keep them off the streets, or rather the commons, thereby lightening the cares of the housewife in many instances.
In the first quarter of the last century there were but two public schools, and less than twenty private schools of all grades, in which the "three R's", at least, were being aught in the city. There were some of a higher grade, in which more favored were prepared for college, one or two French schools, two scientific schools, as well as young ladies' academies, one of the latter being a boarding establishment.
Nor was the white race alone interested in education. For the colored people, numbering 3,500, the majority slaves, in a total population of less than 14,000, had established two or three schools in the city.
Two Public Schools
Two school districts were laid out. That part of the city, west of first street, west and north of E street, south, was the first. The rest of he city formed the second.
The schoolhouse for the latter district, then the most setled, was erected in 1808 at the northeast corner of 3d and D streets southeast, and that for the first district on I street west of 17th street, in 1816. These were known as the Western and Eastern academies. Henry Ouold and E.D. Tippett were the teachers, resepectively. Boards of seven trustees in each district had the oversight. Among the trustees were Rev. Father Matthews of St. Patrick's Catholic Church and Rev. A.T. McCormick of Christ Episcopal Church, Navy Yard., It is history that these trustees, busy men as they were, found time to give person supervision, and frequently were to be found in the schoolrooms.
The eight-hour law was then in force as to school hours, especially in summer, and, notwithstanding, there were so many classes of pupils ranging from six years upward that it was almost impossible for a teacher to hear the recitations of their pupils in a day. A number of these pupils lived asmuch as two miles from the schoolhouses, and showed such anxiety for learning that they traveled back and forth with their lunches and books. Furher accommodations for the public schools were not given untl 1844, when the population numbered 30,000 and two other school buildings were erected.
Columbian College, for which forty-seven acres of land, north of the city boundary and west of 14th street, was purchased in 1819, received its act of incorporation in 1821, opened that year with but fifty-four stunders, under a faculty of ten professors headed by Dr. Staughton. Rev. Obadiah Brown was the president of the trustees and Rev. Luther Rice was treasurer.
A five-story brick building, including basement and attick, with two commodious dwellings, formed the settlement known as College Hill. It was served with a daily mail.
One of the most noted classical schools at that time was that of a Mr. Plumley at the norhwest corner of 18th and I streets northwest, in which were he small numbers of pupils representing the leading families of the West End and Georgetown. Salmon P. Chase, aferward prominent as Chief Justice, was associated with Mr. Plumley from 1825 to 1829, having charge of the young men, a dozen or so. Mr. Plumley taught the young ladies.
There were then about 100 pupils, including the preparatory school, being aught by ten professors and tutors, Rev. A. Kohlman being the president of the seminary and Rev. Adam Marshall principal of the preparatory school. Many pupils were here prepared for Georgetown College, a number appearing subsequently in the ministry and the professions.
Contemporaneous with the above was the neighboring Washington Academy of John McLeod, on the west side of 10th street between F and G streets, in which his brother, Columbus McLeod was his assistant. It was widly known as McLeod's School, both a this location and a few years afterward at the northwest corner of Grant place and 9th street.
Over the door was a sign, "Order Is Heaven's First Law." If there ever was a school in which order was maintained, it was this one. Mr. McLeod was a strict disciplinarian, and spared not the rod nor switch, but with all he was mindful of the morals and physical and intellectual needs of the pupils.
He encouraged swimming and other athletic sports, supervising their plays and accompanying them to the river at daylight for bathing. He believed that "cleanliness was next to godliness."
Taking in school at sunrise, the hours were long. No irrelevant word or sound was to be heard unless in recitation or through the infliction of corporqal punishment. Indeed, his character as a schoolmaster was such that a threat to send a boy to McLeod's School from any part of the city was sufficient to put him on his good behavior.
As may be imagined, few bad boys left the school untamed. More than one character prominent in after years had reason to bless the time when its ways were turned by the rod of McLeod.
Catholic Day School
A scientific school of reput was established in "the long room over the baths" on C street between 4 1/2 and 6th by William Elliot, who was long connected with the patent office and afterward city surveyor and later a paten agent. At Mr. Schofield's, on 8th street south of E street, M. Poumeyrol conducted a scientific school.
French was taught on the same square as McLeod's by M. Tastet. A the northeast acorner of Pennsylvania avenue and 13th streets M. Varon kept a French academy.
Mrs. Fales kept a boarding school for young ladies on the west side of 13th street south of F street. Mrs. A.M. Stone had a seminary on the south side of the avenue between 10th and 11th streets prior to 1820, soon after locating on the north side of F between 19th and 20th streets.
R.M. Richarson had a young ladies' seminary on the north side of the avenue west of 12th street. On the south side of G street between 17th and 18th streets a school was known as Cottage Green School from the character of the building, a frame, and the surroundings, a field. Near the old Capitol was the school of the Rev. John Calmers. On 16th street north of St. John's Church was McPhail's Academy, which after went into possession of P.H. Haskell. Prior to 1820 the building was a medical hall.
There were other private schools. Margaret Sinnot having one on 11th street between E and F streets; Mrs. E. Turnbull, south side of F street between 6th and 7th, and in the eastern part of the city there were Mrs. Ann Smith,, on 7th between L and M; Thomas Wheat, at the Hamiltonian School, at the corner of 2d street and Virginia avenues southeast, and in the Ten Buildings on New Jersey avenue between D and E streets, John O'Brien and Miss Sarah Nichols each had a school.
William Sedgwick was on the west side of 7th street between L and M streets, and Rebecca Russ had a school opposite Mrs. Cattinger conducted a young ladies seminary on 13th street south of F street.
Mrs. Corbett on the south side of G between 19th and 20th streets had a school, and at the Union Academy, 26th street, near M street, J.D. Cobb had Georgetown as well as Washington pupils.