Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Early Education Efforts

 St. Tammany was home to a number of educational institutions in the early 1800's. These were the days when general public education was just being introduced and privately-run schools were becoming popular across the nation as well.

In the history book on St. Tammany written by Frederick S. Ellis, he noted that in 1819 the state legislature began to appropriate money to help parishes start up public schools. While the schools were not "free," they were required to admit a few students who were unable to pay. Over the next few years, more money was forthcoming from the state, and the police jury was given the task of appointing five trustees to oversee the operation of the schools.

On June 3, 1820, Covington's first school was established.  

According to notes found in the papers of the late Bertha Neff, historian, it was in 1828 that specific people of Covington began taking their educational problems to the state legislature. That year a group of Covington area residents were named Trustees of the "Covington Academy" and given corporate powers to handle the affairs of the school.

The Covington Academy

They were identified as Jonathan Gilmore, David B. Morgan, James Hosmer, Joseph Laurent, Henry T. Tyson, William E. Bagley, Branch W. Miller, Moses Moore and Daniel Edwards.

They were entrusted with the duty of applying the funds of the corporation to the "establishment of a seminary of learning in the Town of Covington for the instruction of youth in the English, French and other languages, as well as mathematics and the other branches of knowledge generally taught in the grammar schools.

Bear in mind this was in 1837, just 24 years after the founding of the town.

The trustees were authorized to raise $25,000 by a lottery, and required to give bond that this feature would be properly discharged.

Covington Female Academy

Then, on  March 13, 1837, Alexander G. Penn, John McDonald, William Bagley, Jesse R. Jones, Robert McCay, Thomas G. Mortee and George T. Gilbert incorporated the "Covington Female Academy."

The Covington Female Academy was officially created by Legislative Act 103 in 1837, listed as a non-sectarian school, and given a state appropriation of $4000 with the proviso that the trustees were bound to "maintain and instruct four indigent females," two from St. Tammany and two from Washington Parish.

In an Act approved on March 16, 1938, it was stipulated that the affairs of the Covington Female Academy shall thereafter be managed by seven trustees chosen from among the stockholders and each to be elected and hold the office for one year. The election date was set for November 1. Shares were $100 each and entitled the shareholder to one vote.

On March 10, 1839, the state legislature amended the charter of the Covington Female Academy by substituting the sum of $3,000, per year, provided the institution board and educate 25 indigent children each year.

According to Ellis, "the school apparently remained in continuous operation for many years after its founding, although not exclusively as a girl's school. In 1850 it was being run by Reverend S. B. Hall under the name of Westminster Seminary." At that time it had a staff of twelve, Ellis goes on to say, and after Rev. Hall left in 1853 (due to the yellow fever epidemic) the school was then administered by a Mr. Hutchinson. 

Site Now A Part of SSA

"It is now part of the site of St. Scholastica's Academy, and it is possible that a school has been in continuous operation at that site for over 140 years," Ellis concluded in his book published in 1981. Recalculated to the present year, 2020, that means the site may have been a school for over 179 years straight.

In the same legislative session of March 11, 1837, the trustees were appointed for the Fellenburg Institute of the Parish of St. Tammany. This act was apparently passed in conjunction with the incorporation of the "Pine Grove Church" which embraced all of the Presbyterians of the parish at that time. For more information about the Fellenburg Institute, CLICK HERE

Mandeville College

The Mandeville College began in 1844, with Lewis Elkins as president. He was formerly a teacher at Jefferson College. The facility ran an advertisement in the Picayune newspaper on June 4, 1844, describing itself as a "commodious establishment."

Assistants to Elkins were Duncan Macauley, J.C. Poirer, Felix Perin, J. Hazeldon, and Senon Goria. A Professor Hall taught some classes there.

The courses called for English, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Math, Logic, Rhetoric, History, Geometry, Philosophy, drawing and music.

For more information on The Mandeville College, CLICK HERE.

Newspaper Items from the Time
Click on the images to make them larger.

Two years later, in 1846, Mandeville College apologetically changed its name to St. Tammany College. From a December 31, 1846, advertisement in the Times Picayune:

"St. Tammany College, Mandeville, LA

The institution hitherto known as the Mandeville College, will henceforth assume the title of St. Tammany College. It is unnecessary to advert to the difficulties and embarrassments under which the Mandeville College has labored since its foundation.

St. Tammany College now being organized with a change throughout every department, will henceforth be conducted under my immediate superintendence and control. I tender to the heads of families who have patronized the institution, a solemn assurance that there shall be no cause of dissatisfaction towards this institution in any department.

The table, dormitories, and apparel room, and indeed all that appertains to the health, comfort and happiness of the scholars, will always be kept under my special supervision. The corps of Professors I have selected are teachers of capacity and experience, and is now so composed as will insure the most perfect harmony and union, in one common effort and rivalship to advance the scholars rapidly in the progress of their studies, and to maintain that parental discipline so conducive to the future prosperity and popularity of this College.

I offer to parents a guarantee, that at the quarterly examinations, whenever the scholar exhibits no progress, the tuition shall be returned.

Parents are invited to visit the College at all times without reserve, to witness the recitation of the classes and to inspect every department, that they may assure themselves of the propriety and good order which will pervade the St. Tammany College.

For placing this College among the literary institutions of the South, and particularly of Louisiana, I am content that it shall "flourish or fall" under the motto we assume of "feral palmam que meruit."

Sept 17  Edward Barnwell

 The Academy Movement

Later in the 1800's came the "academy movement" but these schools were said to be of a "transient nature, with terms so short they were almost useless," according to notes found in the papers of former archivist Bertha Neff.

"They were small and under private enterprise that moved from pillar to post. Mr. Barella began teaching in Covington soon after the Civil War and followed this work until early in the 1880's. Another gentleman conducted a small school for a few years, as did Mr. George Vickers. Two ladies, Miss Mary Kellar and Miss Katie McDougall conducted small schools around 1886.

The Parish Public School System

The St. Tammany Parish School System started in 1900. According to the 1904 newspaper article below: "Previous to 1900, when the present Board went into office, there was practically no system of public schools in the parish. In the town of Covington, the enrollment was about twenty pupils with an average daily attendance of five to ten, and the school term rarely exceeded three months. The school was then taught in a miserable little cabin in a side street."

Progress was then made rapidly in a number of areas. 

Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also: