History of Portland Oregon’s Educational Institutions

St. Helen’s Hall opened September 6th, 1869, in the building then known as St. Stephen’s Chapel, standing at the southwest corner of Fourth and Madison streets. There were fifty pupils on the opening day. By November 1, the number had increased to eighty and the principals, finding that they had more than they could do, called Miss Atkinson, now Mrs. F. M. Warren, Jr., to share their duties. Since then, the Misses Rodney have constantly taught in the school and continued to direct it, having had a gradually increasing corps of able assistants. Of them, Miss Lydia H. Blackler and Mrs. Mary B. Clopton may be especially mentioned, both having been very efficient in their departments; the one giving thirteen years of service and the other ten. Miss Rachel W. Morris, the very capable and energetic sister of the bishop, had much to do with the planing of the building and the organizing of the domestic department; and Mrs. Morris, the bishop’s wife, in the twelve years of her residence in the school, was also a zealous worker in behalf of the school. The main dwelling, which was to be occupied by the bishop’s family and the boarding department of the school, was not finished till November 27, 1869. The funds necessary for this building and for the various additions made to it, all came from friends of the church in the East, except the sum of $5,000, which was advanced by some citizens of Portland, to be repaid to them in scholarships.

The school had grown so large by Christmas, that the recitation rooms were too small and too few. The chapel was accordingly moved to an adjoining lot, purchased of Mr. Charles Holman. The building was then enlarged. As the school continued to grow, other additions were made to the dwelling house.

The name “St. Helen’s Hall” was given by two of the charter members of the faculty; one wishing to honor the memory of St. Helena, mother of Constantine, the other having in mind that “snowy cone” of Oregon, Mount St. Helens, which seems to keep watch as a sentinel over Portland. In 1880, the new chapel of the school was begun. It stands at the corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets. It is .a beautiful building, adorned with windows of stained glass, many of which are memorials of the departed. One of them was erected by several young men in memory of Henry Rodney Morris, the eldest son of Bishop Morris, who, when not quite nineteen years old, gave tip his life in an attempt to save the lives of two workmen.

The domestic arrangements of this school are those of a home. Very earnest attention is given to the health of the pupils. To this end, calisthenics form a part of the daily exercise, as well as walking.

The course of study is high. It may be either regular or special. It is quite abreast of the demands of the times and the improved conditions of society.

The school has an extensive library and an herbarium of great value, as well as a fine collection of shells, some from abroad, and many from the rivers and coast of Oregon. The instruction given is after the best methods in all departments, and so it has ever been. The German School of Music has always been the standard, in the musical department; and both this and the art department have more than a local reputation. Good English is cultivated, both in speaking and writing. The pupils are drawn from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, California and Honolulu.

In view of the probable extension of the business portion of Portland into the quarter in which the Hall stands, Bishop Morris, several years ago, secured a beautiful block of ground on the western outskirts of the city, near the Park; and there the school will shortly be removed. This change has been hastened by the action of the city council, in selecting the present site of the school as that of the new city hall. A fine new brick building will soon be erected, and there it is expected that St. Helen’s Hall will begin its next year. The grounds of the new home will be even more ample than those of the present one, and the magnificent view of river and mountain will be unobstructed.

Doubtless the twenty years of successful management by the same rector and principals have much to do with the present standing of the school. That it will continue to be a blessing to the State of Oregon seems to be assured. Probably 2,000 girls have received instruction at this institution, while 62 have graduated. The latter have formed themselves into a society of graduates and from time to time do some deed of kindness to their Alma Mater which strengthens the bonds that already unite them to her.

St. Michael’s College was opened August 28, 1871. It was founded by Very Rev. John F. Fierens, Vicar General, with Rev. A. J. Glorieux (now Bishop of Idaho), as first principal. In February, 1886, the college was transferred to the care of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who still continue its management. The object of the college is to give a Christian education to Catholic youths, but those of other denominations are received without any interference whatever with religious opinions. The course of study is divided into four departments, viz : Preparatory, Intermediate, Commercial and Collegiate, the latter includes Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Surveying and Navigation, Rhetoric, English Composition and Christian Ethics. The present number of students is two hundred.

St. Joseph’s Parochial School for boys, was established in 1868. It is a Catholic institution and is conducted in the basement of St. Joseph’s German Catholic church, corner of Fourteenth and O streets. Miss Kolkmann is principal and Miss Orth assistant teacher.

The Independent German School, corner of Morrison and Ninth streets was established in 1870 by a society composed of some of Portland’s most progressive citizens for the purpose of providing a school where both the English and German languages could be faithfully taught without any religious basis. It is supported by voluntary contributions and tuition fees. Frederick Beecher is principal.

The International Academy, corner of Ninth and Stark streets, was started in 1875 by Rev. John Gantenbein, pastor of the First Evangelical Reformed Church, as director, and his daughters as teachers. German and English are taught.

Portland has two medical colleges. The older of these institutions, the Medical College of the Willamette University, was removed from Salem to Portland in 1878. For several years a building on the east side of Fourth street between Morrison and Yamhill, was used for college purposes, but in 1885 a new college building was completed at a cost of $25,000, on the corner of Fourteenth and C streets, capable of accommodating two hundred students. The faculty in 1878 was composed of L. L. Rowland, M. D., emeritus Professor of physiology and microscopy; A. Sharpies, M. D., Professor of principles and practice of surgery; D. Payton, M. D., Professor of psychology and psychological medicine; W. H. Watkins, M. D., Professor of theory and practice of medicine; R. Glisan, M. D., Professor of obstetrics; P. Harvey, M. D. Professor of diseases of women and children; O. P. S. Plummer, M. D., Professor of materia medica and therapeutics and Dean of the faculty; S. E. Josephi, M. D., Professor of genito-urinary and surgical anatomy; R. O. Rex, M. D., Professor of organic and inorganic chemistry; Matthew P. Deady, Professor of medical jurisprudence; E. P. Frazer, M. D., Professor of hygiene and dermatology; H. C. Wilson, M. D., Professor of eye, ear and throat; R. H. Alden, M. D., Demonstrator of anatomy. The present faculty is composed of E. P. Frazer, M. D., Professor of diseases of women and children and Dean of the faculty; C. H. Hall, M. D., Professor of theory and practice of medicine; James Browne, M. D., Professor of physiology and hygiene; Richmond Kelly, M. D., Professor of obstetrics; W. E. Rinehart, M. D., Professor of anatomy; J. J. Fisher, M. D., Professor of materia medica and therapeutics; H. S. Kilbourne, M. D., United States army, Professor of surgery; Alois Sommer, M. D., Professor of chemistry; D. H. Rand, M. D., Professor of genito-urinary anatomy; W. B. Watkins, M. D., Professor of eye and ear; M. C. George, Professor of medical jurisprudence; George H. Chance, Professor of dental pathology: D. H. Rand, M. D., physician to out door department and free dispensary; W. E. Carll, M. D., Professor of practical and surgical anatomy.

The Medical Department of the University of Oregon was established in Portland 1887, and at the present time the college is located in the Good Samaritan Hospital, corner of Twenty-first and L streets. The faculty is composed of Hon. Matthew P. Deady, L. D., president of the Board of Regents and Professor of medical jurisprudence; S. E. Josephi, M. D., Dean of the Faculty and Professor of obstetrics and psychological medicine; Curtis C. Strong, D., secretary of the faculty and Professor of gynaecology and clinical obstetrics; Holt C. Wilson, M. D., Professor of the principles and practice of surgery and clinical surgery; Otto S. Binswanger, M. D., Professor of chemistry and toxicology; K. A. J. Mackenzie, M. D., Professor of theory and practice of clinical medicine; A. C. Panton, M. D. Professor of general and descriptive anatomy; J. F. Bell, M. D., Professor of materia medica and therapeutics and microscopy; M. A. Flinn, M. D., Professor of physiology; G. M. Wells, M. D., Professor of diseases of children; Henry E. Jones, M. D., Professor of gynaecology; W. H. Saylor, M. D., Professor diseases of genito-urinary organs and clinical surgery; A. J. Giesy, M. D., Professor of dermatology and hygiene; F. B. Eaton, M. D., Professor of diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat; Wm. Jones, M. D., Professor of clinical surgery; Thomas B. Perry, M. D., United States Marine Surgeon, Professor of clinical surgery; Richard Nunn, M. D., demonstrator of anatomy.

Portland has two business colleges, which furnish ample means for instruction to those who desire to pursue a commercial life. The older of these institutions, the Portland Business College, was established November, 1866, by Mr. H. M. DeFrance and M. K. Lauden, as the “National Business College,” by whom it was conducted until July, 1872. Mr. Lauden then disposed of his interest to W. S. James, who continued the school till February, 1874, when he was succeeded by W. Lynn White. DeFrance and White continued together until July, 1880, when De France retired from the school, White becoming sole owner, and changing the name to ” White’s Business College.” The school was conducted by White until the time of his death, which occurred in April, 1881. Mr. A. P. Armstrong bought the school of the administrator of the estate of Mr. White, in July, 1881, changing the name to ” Portland Business College,” by which it is now known. He conducted the school as sole owner until March, 1889, when it was sold to the Portland Business College Association, an incorporated company with the following stockholders: A. P. Armstrong, D. P. Thompson, L. L. McArthur, T. H. Crawford, Wm. Kapus, Philip Wasserman, Walter F. Burrell and D. Solis Cohen. This association is now conducting the school. Its design is to afford young men and women an opportunity to fit themselves for practical life. The following departments are maintained, to-wit: business, shorthand, typewriting, penmanship and English.

The Holmes Business College is a comparatively new venture. It was opened in 1887 by G. Holmes, by whom it has since been conducted. Quarters have been fitted up in the Abington block with all appliances for giving a thorough education in such knowledge as is needed in following a business avocation.

Besides the above there are special schools for special instruction in needle work, a kindergarten school, and many opportunities for private instruction afforded by special tutors. Portland, it will be seen, has all the necessary advantages for instruction in the common, and many of the special branches of education, and only needs a first class university to crown the system to make it one of the strongest of educational cities.


Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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