History of Schools in Dry Grove, Illinois

The citizens of Twin Grove and Dry Grove suffered all the inconveniences usually experienced by the original inhabitants of any country. The few who dwelt within convenient distances of one another were not, at first, sufficiently numerous to support a school. So far as can now be ascertained, the first school taught in the township was held in a log cabin on the farm that Jacob Hinshaw bought of Abraham Carlock, when Hinshaw first carne to the settlement. The teacher was Daniel Crooks. His was, as all others at that time, a subscription school. The number of pupils or the amount of money the worthy teacher received for his services, we know not; but it would not be in accordance with the spirit of the times to suppose that he more than earned a sufficiency for family necessities.

It is probable that the first schoolhouse in the township was at Twin Grove. The exact date of its erection we were unable to learn, but it was quite early in the history of the settlement. The first teacher here was James Garten.

About the time of the building of the schoolhouse in Twin Grove, the progressive spirit manifested itself at Dry Grove. The pioneers concluded that the private residence on Mr. Hinshaw’s place was no longer sufficiently ample, commodious or dignified to serve as the educational edifice of the community. It was not hoped that anything superior to good, hewn, straight log could be obtained, but there would be an improvement; so they decided to build. A meeting was held to decide upon the location. Those on the west side contended that the schoolhouse should be in the middle of the grove, as ‘they were all settled around it in the edge o£ the prairies. But those on the east said ” No.” They maintained that the greater bulk of settlers was on the east side, and that there would be more discommoded by placing it in the center than by locating it farther east. The west end people could not be persuaded to accept a compromise where they considered themselves plainly in the right. The eastern folks were no less emphatic in their assertions that the west end minority wished to control the majority, and bring a great inconvenience upon many. When it was ascertained that neither side would yield, they split. One party built their house in the eastern part of Dry Grove, and the others built theirs a little west of the center. During the first winter, school was taught in both houses, but the division worked the greatest harm to each party. Neither could keep up school afterward for want of the union that they lost in building. This story is told illustrating the fact that sometimes the usual harmony of the frontier settlements gave place to local strife. It is not to be supposed that the contest was bitter, or that any acted maliciously, but we do learn that men, then as well as now, would hold out for what they conceived to be their rights. The first teacher in the center school was George Hopkins; the first in the east end was Daniel Crooks. Mr. Warlow tells many incidents of the school that he attended at Dry Grove, some time after this, and taught by Milton Williams. This man had come to the Grove quite early from Richmond, Ky. He afterward moved to Oregon with all his family, except Col. William McCullough’s wife. Milton Williams taught at Dry Grove for some time. He, kept a loud school. Every boy and girl tried to see how much noise it was possible to make, and those who have taught school know how great the possibilities are in this direction, even in the ordinary school of to-day, where noise is supposed to be at a discount. What a happy jingle those loud schools must have presented 1 There could have been no laws against whispering, for only the merest blockhead would have attempted such a thing. The frequent command to .a keep quiet,” so common now in every school, would have been out of place altogether. And yet. there is but little doubt that he was ” In his noisy mansion skilled to rule,” for the birch was applied without ceremony to all who refused the mild scepter of ‘° moral suasion.” Schools have multiplied and improved till now many neat buildings declare the interest manifested by the people in education. Further details of the present standing of school matters in the township may be found in the following: Number of pupils under twenty-one years, 55-1; number of pupils between six and twenty-one, 370 , number of pupils enrolled, 241 ; number of schoolhouses, 8: amount paid teachers, $2.241.03; total expenditures, $3,455.39; estimated value of school property, $4,450 ; highest wages paid per month, $50.

Among the earliest of the churches was the United Brethren’s organization. John Dunham preached all over this country at a very early date, but we hear of no organization in Dry Grove until after the arrival of David Mason. Mr. Mason bought out the old schoolmaster, Milton Williams. Mason was from Ohio, and came about 1836. The organization of the church did not occur until two or three years after ward. A Rev. Mr. Davis was the minister that organized the society. For some time, there were but few members, and the society was quite feeble, but after a protracted effort by the Rev. Abraham Eccles, during which a revival of considerable importance was gotten up, the society was more prosperous. Beside Mr. Mason, Mr. Harmon Gillespie and Philip Rodcap may be mentioned as prominent supporters of the church. The United Brethren built their church in 1850 and 1851. It was 24 by 36 feet. It was put up by the members of the society. The only cash outlay was for such things as must necessarily be bought. They hauled their own saw-logs to the mill and had them converted into lumber, with which to build their church. From this fact, it is not possible now to give the cost of this church. It still stands, and furnishes the necessary conveniences for religious services. The society is not very strong at present. Rev. J. W. Fisher is Pastor.

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Le Baron, William., Jr. & Co. The History of McLean County, Illinois: portraits of early settlers and prominent men. Chicago. W. Le Baron, Jr., 1879.

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