Illinois Genealogy Trails

Early School History
Franklin County Illinois


The first school in Franklin County was the "Mother-Child" class. The Bible was their textbook. Later they had community gatherings and the best educated person present would teach the parents and children. Girls were thought of as needing very little education.

 In early school days the pupils paid little attention to heat, lights, and seating comfort. There was plenty of ventilation, because it came through the cracks of the building. The log or pole cabins had clap board roof and a fire place at one end. The seats or benches were split logs; pegs were driven into the round sides for legs, and were arranged so the pupils faced the fireplace. The seats were in four sizes; big girls, little girls, big boys, and little boys. The crude blackboard was a square yard plank. If they had a box of crayons it must last a year, but mostly they used a clay called "kale."

 Schools were held in an old abandoned building, an old empty corn crib, or any building that was available.

 The Bible continued to be the main reader for many years. The Old Blue Back Speller was used and loved. Arithmetic was considered so important that when a child completed the arithmetice book he could quit school, because he considered himself educated or graduated as we speak of it. When thet received there first United States map they considered themselves "up to date." Grammer was considered as a necessary subject.

 The pens were made of quills, and ink was made from small oak trees. Red ink was made from poke berries. The pupils wrote on slates with homemade pencils composed of soapstone.

 "Chawing Wax " was obtained from a sweetgum tree nearby; this was the childrens chewing gum.

 The first subscription or paid school was in Cave Township in 1824. It was taught by Sion Mitchell. The next one was in Mulkeytown in 1830, which was taught by Mr. Cook.

 The free school law was enforced and Franklin County was divided into more than 100 districts. Each district had three directors, who hired the teachers. In 1857 a law was passed which provided for an election of state and county superintendents. Women were allowed to vote for these officers. Later, in 1920, women were given the right to vote for any candidate.

 With the passing of the free school law many problems were to be met, such as taxes, new officers, and new buildings. Prior to this, the teacher "boarded around." Later, he was paid a small salary by the district.

 Discipline was often a problem of the early times. When the grown up boys had finished there autumn harvesting, and had no books to read, no radio nor television, they returned to school to pass the time.

 An incident at Old Barren School about 127 years ago is an example of these "grown ups." As was told, the teacher was told he would have to treat them for Christmas. The teacher, a short, dark complexioned man, said, "No!" "No!" When the teacher went out at recess, the boys locked the door and said "Treat! Treat! Treat!" Mr. X kicked the door down and came into the schoolhouse. The fightened girls screamed and the boys were still for once. Mr. X said, "I'm little, but I'm just like a wasp!" All helped to repair the door; however, Mr. X nursed a very blue toe for weeks. Mr. X became one of Bentons leading attorneys. The consolidation of schools in Franklin County is a great improvement from the former schools. There are 40 beautiful, modern school buildings. There are 128 high school teachers and 263 grade school teachers and two parochial schools. The total enrollment is about 8,160 pupils in Franklin County schools. The Benton Academy was the first school in Benton. It was a subscription school, probably established in the early 1840's. The trustees built a two story frame building for the Academy on East Church Street, but this school didnot exist as long as expected. Later the lot was sold to the Benton School District and the building was moved about a block east.

 The first brick school building was built on the same site about 1870. This gray building contained both grade and high school pupils. The first high school graduating class was in the year 1888. This building later became known as the Logan Building.

 In 1897 a new red brick building was built just south of the gray building. Samuel T. Robinson was the first principal.

 Mrs. Mary (East) Hart was probably the first primary teacher to teach in the small frame building. Later it was moved across the alley to the west. Miss Elliot conducted the first kindergarten school Benton. It was on East Washington Street in the year 1880. This building was still standing in 1964. Miss Kate Spani and Mrs. Dollie G. Dollins taught fifth, sixth, and seventh grades in a vacated pool room on East Main Street in 1906.

 In 1905 the Lincoln School was built a short distance east of the present Lincoln Building. Both grade school and high school were taught there.

 In 1909 the Benton Township High School was built. The 1910 class had six to graduate. W. C. Cooke was the principal. The new addition was in 1920. There were 30 to graduate. Ralph Jackson was the principal.

 In 1950 the high school became the Benton Cosolidated High School. Herbert Mundell was the principal in 1964.

 The first high school yearbook was called "Egyptian Star," then the "Owl," then "Notneb" (Benton spelled backward), and then the "Scarab."

 The Douglas School was built abut 1912. Lester Lingle was the first principal.

 The Webster School was built in 1916-1917. Mrs.Cecile Payne was first principal.

 The present Logan School was built in 1921. E. S. Dillon was first principal.

 The Grant School was built in 1922. Miss Lena Phillips was the first principal.

 The new Lincoln School was built in 1953. Miss Lena Phillips was first principal.

 The new Washington School was built in 1953. Sherwood Pace was the first principal.

Return to main page

Nanette Riley 2008 ©Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group