Clipped From The Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune
Exploring the History of Iowa By JOHN ELY BRIGGS UNIT TWO SCHOOLS. This is the seventh story' in this series of explorations into the'history of Iowa.' Another' topic about schools will appear ' in this paper next week. • . ' o— 1. The First School. . On the west bank of the Mississippi river, beside the dashing waters of the DCS Molnes Rapids, a few log cabins, half hidden in the woods, showed that white people had come to live in the Iowa coun-1 try- Down a narrow valley flowed a small creek to add its meager gift of water to the mighty river. To the west, timber-clad hills surrounded the little settlement, like the protecting .arms of a foster mother. This, in the language of the Indians, was Ahwipetuk, which meant "Head-of-the-Rapids." Dr. Isaac Galland, an energetic pioneer, had brought his family across the river from Illinois some time In 1829. At Ahwipetuk he built a cabin and prepared to make his home there. During the following year other settlers arrived. Former friends and relatives cleared small patches in the forest and raised log cabins. Isaac R. Campbell, James and Samuel Brierly, W. P. Smith, Colonel Dedman, and Abel Galland joined the doctor. In Half-breed Tract. Iowa was not yet open for settlement, but this spot was in the Half-breed tract, a triangular area between the Des Moines and Mis- rivers south of the northern boundary line of Missouri, which had been reserved for children of mixed white and Indian parentage. Although the people at Ahwipetuk were pure white, they were not expelled by the soldiers, as they would, have been anywhere else in the Iowa country. The summer of 1830 was a busy one in the little settlcmt .'.. Trees had to be chopped down, houses had to be built, and gardens had to be planted. The children found life in the new country exciting. Though the work never seemed to be finished, a day seldom passed without an • adventure of some kind. When the boys were not helping clear the lanri or build a cabin, they were exploring the country, hunting, and fishing. The girls took care of their smaller brothers and sisters, played with home-made dolls, picked berries, and watched the boats run the rapids in the river. First Teacher Hired. And so the summer passed quickly. But when the frosty nights of early autumn painted the hills with gold and scarlet, Dr. Galland realized that it was time well that hip .the pupils copied again and. again some pious sentence that the eacher wrote' at'' the top of the iage in their copy .books. Prob- ably'the copy... books were home- nade and only : the most skillful were allowed to use quill pens and ink. Master ' Jennings • also set tha problems in arithmetic according' ,o the ability of .each pupil. While he smaller children puckered their irows over simple sums, the big boys were- puzzled, with- fractions, and measurements, "and the "rule 1 of -three." And the answers were not to be found in the back of- the look, for there were no arithmetic very kind. Each pupil brought whatever he could find at home. Some of the children learnec". to read from the Bible. ticed A woodcut of the first schoolho use In loiva. engraved from an old The original Is oiv.ned by George H. Duty of daguerreotype. Montrosc. for school to begin. Being educated himself, he decided the children of Ahwipetuk should at least be taught write and cipher. • •' Across the river at the village of Commerce (later Nauvoo), Dr. Galland found a young man who was willing to be a schoolmaster for a few weeks. And so Berryman Jennings was hired to teach the first school in Iowa. For this service he was given room and board with the Galiand family, and the use of the doctor's medical books. Geographically, his "district" extended north to Canada and west to the Pacific ocean. Actually, of course, the children at Ahwipetuk were his only pupils, Built Log Structure. The schoolhouse was built in a small clearing on the bank of the Mississippi. At one side a brook flowed quietly down to the river, while through the open- door the children could look out over the broad expanse of sparkling water to the distant Illinois shore. Back o£ the schoolhouse rose the Iowa hills, brilliant in the hues of autumn, but drab and cold when the leaves were gone and snow covered to read and, tion saved time as well as nails which were very scarce. Tbe floor the ground. Early one morning in October, 1830, Berryman Jennings set out from the GaOand home to start his school. With him went Eliza, David, and Washington Galland. It was probably a short walk to the little one-room log cabin that was to serve as the schoolhouse. The un-hewn logs were notched at the ends to fit close together, and the cracks between were filled with mud to keep out the winter wind.' The roof was made of clapboards which were held down with cross poles. This style of construc- consisted . of. logs - split in halves and laid with the -1at side up. The door .and windows .were simply openings In the walls where the logs had been cut away. Oil8d paper across the.windows Jet in the light but kept out wind, rain, anc snow. Held Rude Benches. As the master entered the schoolroom, he saw rude benches made of puncheons (half-logs with slicks stuck in auger holes for legs. Rough desks were "fas tened against the wall under thi windows" for the pupils to writ* on. According to Washington Gal land, the "few scholars interestet in learning the art of writing" had to stand up at these desks or fur nish their own high .stoois. At th end of the room opposite the door was a fireplace, for there were no stoves in. Iowa in those days Though the fireplace was built of logs, the inside was packed with dry dirt, and the "chimney toupee out with sticks ar.d mud." It is not known whether all.the pupils came to school on the firs dav. At some time during tha first term, which lasted three months, seven boys and a girl were present. The youngest was six years old and the oldest sixteen Besides the Gallant children, ther were ' James Campbell, .Tollive Dedman, James Dedman, Thomas Brierly, and George Kinney. Lacked Equipment. Berryraan Jenning's task wa* not easy. He had no maps or globes to aid in teaching.- geography. For practice in penman- books. Indeed, there were 'ew school • books. of any While the little ones prac- their A-B-C's, the others studied spelling by syllables. Applied Lash. The master of the first Iowa school seems. to have been a capable teacher. He was better educated than roost men on tie frontier, and ambitious to become a! doctor. Though usually kind and patient, he was sometimes vexed by the idleness and pranks of his older pupils. As one of the boys recalled many years later, he was quite ready to use a whip if necessary to sharpen dull wits. No doubt he was strict, for that was the-way of teachers then. The school closed late in December, but Berryman Jennings stayed at Galland's through the winter and spring, studying the doctor's big medical books. Two years later he married in Illinois and moved to Burlington, where he lived until 1847. In that year,-he joined the stream of migration to Oregon where, 'It is said, he became very wealthy. And what became of the little log schoolhouse beside the Mississippi? For a while it was used as a kitchen by the Brierly family. Later it served as a shelter for stock. Finally it was torn down and used for fire-wood. Even the spot where it once stood has now disappeared. When the Kcokuk Daro was built In 1913 the river above widened and covered the site. The old school grounds are under 20 feet of water about a hundred yards from the shore line. Just outside the village of Galland, however, a bronze tablet oa a boulder calls attention to the historic place where the first school- bouse in Iowa once stood. Activity Hins. 1. Find Galland on a map.