Portland Plan and System of Management

The first Superintendent of the city schools was S. W. King, who was appointed in 1873. He was succeeded by T. M. Crawford, in 1878, who served until the appointment of Miss Ella C. Sabin, in 1888.

The growth of Portland during the past few years is perhaps as clearly indexed by the growth of the common schools as by any other means. From the time the public school system had attained sufficient importance to be placed under the control of .a city superintendent, the number of pupils who have received instruction at the public schools, has increased from year to year. The following table will show the number of pupils enrolled each year since that time:

Year EndingNumberYear EndingNumber

The gain in the total number of pupils registered since 1874, a period of fifteen years, has been 2,962, which is a total gain of nearly 200 per cent. in considerably less than a score of years. It will also be seen that the number registered in 1889, above that of the previous year, is greater than it has been any year since 1884, showing that the growth of the schools has corresponded to the increase in population, and the material prosperity of the city.

While the material resources of the city have been developed, its commercial interests carefully consulted and its transportation facilities largely increased, the education of its future citizens has not been neglected. During the last ten years more than $1,000,000 have been expended by the taxpayers of the city in the cause of popular education. In 1880 the sum of $43, 862.03 was paid out for maintenance of schools; in 1881, $68,589.07; 1882, $118,-105.56; 1883, $160,097.92; 1884, $150,150.42; 1885, $128,551.07; 1886, $129,362.20; 1887, $94,765.07; 1888, $139,593.02; 1889, $135,347.51, and for 1890 it is estimated that $154,530.00 will be required. These large sums have been judiciously used and have made possible a system of free schools such as affords pupils an opportunity for a good practical education not surpassed by any city in the land.

Under the laws of Oregon the public schools of Portland are not under municipal control, the city government having nothing whatever to do with the city schools. The school district is a separate corporation, although the territorial limits of the district are identical with those of the city. All matters pertaining to the schools are primarily decided, not by the general voters but by the taxpayers, and women as well as men have a vote here. The schools are under the management of a board of five directors, chosen by the taxpayers, one being elected each year to serve five years. The amount of money to support the schools is raised by such tax on the property of the school district as may be voted at the annual meeting of taxpayers held in March.

The district has been most fortunate in the selection of its school officers. Since the organization of the free school system, the board of directors has been composed of Portland’s most progressive and public spirited citizens who have generously devoted their time and attention to the cause of popular education. A complete list of those who have served the city in this capacity since the organization of the district, in 1856, is herewith appended, it being eminently fit that the names of these laborers in behalf of the public weal should be preserved:

YearMembers of the BoardClerk
1856Wm. Weatherford, J. Failing, Alexander Campbell*Thomas J. Holmes
1857Wm. Weatherford, J. Failing, John H. CouchThomas J. Holmes
1858J. D. Holman, J. Failing, E. D. Shattuck J. M. Breck.*
1859J. D. Holman, J. Failing, E. D. ShattuckJ. M. Breck
1860J. D. Holman, J. Failing, E. D. ShattuckJ. F. McCoy.*
1861J. D. Holman, J. Failing, E. D. ShattuckWilliam Grooms
1862Wm.Weatherford, T. J. Holmes, A. C. R. Shaw*L. M. Parrish
1863S. J. McCormick, T. J. Holmes, Wm. R. King*O. Risley.*
1864S. J. McCormick, T. J. Holmes, Josiah FailingL. M. Parrish
1865W. S. Ladd, T. J. Holmes, Josiah FailingL. M. Parrish
1866W. S. Ladd, E. D. Shattuck, Josiah FailingL. M. Parrish
1867W. S. Ladd, E. D. Shattuck,* Josiah Failing*L. M. Parrish
1868A. L. Lovejoy, R. Glisan,* A. P. DennisonJ. F. McCoy
1869A. L. Lovejoy, E. D. Shattuck, Wm. WadhamsE. Quackenbush
1870A. L. Lovejoy, E. D. Shattuck,* J. N. DolphR. Weeks
1871J. A. Chapman, A. P. Dennison,* J. N. DolphR. J. Ladd
1872J. S. Giltner, J. G. Glenn, J. N. .Dolph*R. J. Ladd.
1873J. S. Giltner, J. G. Glenn, J. C. AinsworthR. J. Ladd
1874A. H. Morgan, J. G. Glenn, J. C. AinsworthJ. D. Holman
1875A. H. Morgan, W. S. Ladd, J. C. AinsworthG. W. Murray
1876A. H. Morgan, W. S. Ladd, J. C. AinsworthG. W. Murray
1877A. H. Morgan, W. S. Ladd,* J. C. AinsworthG. W. Murray**
1878A. H. Morgan, H. H. Northup, J. C. AinsworthD. W. Williams
1879A. H. Morgan, H. H. Northup, Win. WadhamsD. W. Williams
1880John Wilson, H. H. Northup, Wm. WadhamsD. W. Williams
1881John Wilson, Charles Hodge, Wm. WadhamsD. W. Williams
1882John Wilson, Charles Hodge,* Wm. WadhamsWin. Church, Jr.
1883John Wilson, James Steel, Wm. Wadhams, N. Versteeg, P. WassermanWin. Church, Jr.
1884John Wilson, C. H. Dodd, Wm. Wadhams, N. Versteeg, P. WassermanWm. Church, Jr.
1885John Wilson, C. H. Dodd, D. P. Thompson, N. Versteeg, P. WassermanT. T. Struble
1886John Wilson, C. H. Dodd, D. P. Thompson, G H. Durham,P. WassermanT. T. Struble
1887John Wilson, C H. Dodd, D. P. Thompson, G. H. Durham, W. M. LaddFred A. Daly
1888L. Therkelson, C. H. Dodd, D. P. Thompson, G. H. Durham,W. M. LaddH. S. Allen
1889L. Therkelson, M. C. George, D. P. Thompson, G. H. Durham, W. M. LaddH. S. Allen

Besides the public schools mentioned in the foregoing, Portland offers many advantages in the way of private and special schools for those who prefer them. Among the first of the private schools which assumed any magnitude was the Portland Academy and Female Institute, which was opened in 1850, by Mr. Buchanan. In 1852, C. S. Kingsley and wife assumed its control and managed it for several years. It was located on Seventh street between Columbia and Jefferson streets. In 1862, Rev. D. E. Blain was principal and Miss S. A. Cornell, preceptor’s, at which time there were seventy-five pupils in attendance. Two years later, O. S. Frambes became principal; Mrs. S. E. Frambes, preceptress, and J. G. Deardorf and Miss Mary McGee, assistant teachers. For some years after it maintained a high rank as an educational institution, but the growth and development of the public school system finally usurped the field and it ceased to exist in 1878.

St. Mary’s Academy, the oldest private school in Portland, was founded, in 1859, by the Sisters of the Most Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, from Montreal, Canada, who at the same time established a convent of their order. They opened a day and boarding school in a small wooden building on Fourth street, between Mill and Market streets. The school has had a prosperous career, and a large three-story brick building has recently been completed at a cost of $40,000 to meet the demand of the rapidly growing patronage it enjoys. At present twenty teachers are employed in instructing the 250 pupils who are receiving their education at this institution. All of the common English branches are taught, besides Latin, German and French. Rev. Mother Mary Justina is provincial superior and Sister Mary Patrick is directress of studies.

It would be almost impossible to give even a list of the numerous private schools which, for a time, flourished in Portland. Among the earliest, not before mentioned, were those conducted by Rev. P. Machen, J. McBride and J. H. Stinson. For a time the congregation of Beth Israel maintained a Hebrew school, on the corner of Fifth and Oak streets. It was under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Eckman as principal and Rev. H. Bories and Geo. F. Boynton, teachers. The directors were: H. F. Bloch, N. Werthermer and S. Blumauer.

Among the most successful of the private schools of Portland is the Bishop Scott Academy, which owes its origin to the Protestant Episcopal church. As far back as the year 1854, a long time ago in this country, a committee was appointed by Bishop Thomas F. Scott, to secure property for a school, to be conducted under the auspices of the Portland Episcopal Church, in the then Territory of Oregon. The site selected was a tract of land near Oswego. Trinity school was finally opened in the spring of 1856, with Mr. Bernard Cornelius as principal. It had a precarious existence for a number of years, sometimes being closed for a year at a time, and closed permanently in 1865. Such names as the Rev. Mr. Fackler, the Rev. John W. Sellwood, and Mr. Hodgkinson are to be found on the records of the school, as having been in charge at various times. After the arrival of Bishop Morris upon his field of labor, in June, 1869, he took steps to establish a school for boys in the then jurisdiction of Oregon and Washington. He chose Portland as the site of the institution, which he named-in honor of his predecessor-The Bishop Scott Grammar and Divinity School. The very first money ever received by Bishop Morris for this purpose came from some little boys at the Ury School, Pennsylvania. They saved their spending money during Lent, and sent an offering of $50 to the Bishop of Oregon, for a school for boys. One of those little benefactors, now a busy man, recently visited Portland, and manifested a warm interest in the academy which he had aided, as a child. Two double blocks in the pleasantest part of the city were next given for school purposes by Captain Flanders and Mrs. Caroline Couch; and the corner stone of the Bishop Scott Grammar School was laid on the 5th of July, 1870, by Bishop Morris, assisted by several of the clergy. The grounds at that time were away out in the woods in the western part of the city, and it required great faith in the development of the country and the town to establish a school at that time and place. With indomitable perseverance, however, it was built and opened for business on September 6, 1870, under Prof. Chas. H. Allen. The chapel of the school was named St. Timothy’s. The property at Oswego was sold for about $5,000, and held as the beginning of an endowment for the Bishop Scott Grammar School. The school was successful from the very beginning under the wise management of Prof. Allen. It continued with varying success until it was overcome by misfortune in the burning of the building on November 8, 1877. A large amount of church property was destroyed and the school received a severe set back. With his remarkable energy, however, Bishop Morris set to work immediately towards re-building the institution, and the corner stone of the present building was laid June 6, 1878. School was re-opened September 3d, of that year, under the charge of Dr. J. W. Hill as head master, who has been at his post up to the present writing. In 1887, the armory was built and military discipline was introduced; the name of the school changed to Bishop Scott Academy, the whole school re-organized and the institution entered upon a new era of usefulness. During 1888 and 1889, about $15,000 were expended on permanent improvements on the school property, consisting of a wing on the north side, practically more than doubling the capacity of the institution. For a number of years past the school has been on a substantial basis and has met with all the success its friends could wish for. It has grown to be an institution in the broadest sense of the word. The course of study is varied to meet the requirements of any class of students. The history of the school is closely interwoven with that of very many families. Its graduates and former pupils are now to be found all over our Northwest. The influence for good that it has upon the young of the Northwest is beyond calculation. Its present success is, very gratifying to all interested in the cause of Christian education.

St. Helen’s Hall, a school for girls, was founded by the Rt. Rev. B. Wistar Morris, D. D., the present bishop of Oregon. Immediately upon his election as missionary bishop in 1868, he conceived the plan of establishing a girl’s school of a high order, in which religious and secular education should go hand in hand. In this undertaking he sought and obtained the co-operation of the sisters of his wife, the Misses Rodney, of Delaware, all graduates of St Mary’s Hall, Burlington, N. J., and teachers of reputation in the east.

Bishop Morris soon bought from Mrs. Scott, the widow of his predecessor, a desirable site for the girl’s school near the Plaza. The funds necessary for this purchase were furnished by Mr. John D. Wolfe, of New York, a noble churchman, who did the like for many other church schools in our country.


* Resigned before expiration of term.

** G. W. Murray resigned in September, 1877. E. Arnold was appointed his successor. Mr. Arnold died in February, 1878, and D. W. Williams was appointed to the vacancy. Mr. Williams was regularly elected the first time in April, 1878..r Charles Hodge died March 30, 1883. James Steel was elected to the vacancy at a special election, Apr. 24, 1883. Of the thirty-three persons, including the present board, who have served as school directors during these thirty-three years, the following are dead: Wm. Weatherford, Josiah Failing, Alexander Campbell, John. H. Couch, J. D. Holman, Thos. J. Holmes, A. L. Lovejoy, J. A. Chapman, John G. Glenn and Charles Hodge. Prior to April, 1863 the entire board was elected annually. In October, 1862, the school law was amended, making a term of a director three years. In October, 1882, an act was passed constituting cities of 10,000 inhabitants one school district–increasing the number of directors to five and extending the term to five years. In 1878 the time for holding school elections was changed from April to March.


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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