Today, we bring you one of Sylvia Henricks’ “Remembrances.” You can read more of Sylvia’s columns weekly in The Franklin Township Informer, or in her book From The Ash Grove (available directly from the FTHS, or via the web site).
On the back of this old photo is written “County Institute, Court House front. School teachers.” Given to the Franklin Township Historical Society in “9-1992” it originally belonged to Paul Copeland, a Franklin Township school teacher.
The photo is undated, but the clothing of the persons shown appears to be the late 1800s. The “Court House” is the building on east Washington Street replaced quite a few years ago now by the City County Building. The “County Institute” was a progam adopted by professional educators to encourage and instruct school teachers, especially those in rural schools, in their methods and content of their teaching.
The Indiana State Teachers Association was organized in 1854, but it was not until 1865 that the state began to require annual teacher institutes, later supplemented by monthly township institutes. (The idea was widespread that anyone could teach, especially in a country school.)
The first state normal school was opened on January 6, 1865, in Terre Haute. Other such schools followed. Historian Logan Esary stated in A History of Indiana from 1850 to 1920, “Besides these, there have been hundreds of temporary ‘summer normals,’ holding usually ten weeks in which a modicum of methods have been taught” One of these summer normal schools was held at Acton for several years. (See our Society’s publication. Readin’, Writin’, and Rememberin’ ).
Among our possessions is a Xerox copy of a journal kept for a few years by William T. Maze, a local farmer-school teacher who attended the Acton Normal School, and also, on occasion, went to the County Institute in Indianapolis.
Interesting to note in the photo, is the number of women. What was once considered a man’s profession became increasingly one for women. James Madison in his book, The Indiana Way (1986), quotes Caleb Mills, an Indiana educator who said on hiring women teachers, “the expenses might be materially diminished while the character of the schools might be essentially improved.” The author continued, “Only 1/5 of the teachers were women in 1860, more than half by 1900, and two-thirds by World War I.”