Hillsboro Academy Again

Hillsboro Academy Hillsboro Illinois
Hillsboro Academy Hillsboro Illinois

Five years after taking over the operation of the old Hillsboro Academy and changing the school's name to "Literary and Theological institute of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Far West," better known as Lutheran College, the academy building was turned back to the original stockholders.

Even though the Lutherans had agreed on October 19, 1846, to "maintain" their college here for twenty years, the college trustees broke their promise after enough pressure was applied on them to have the school moved to Springfield.

The move was agreed upon in the fall of 1851, to take place the following spring when the new college, named Illinois State University, could be opened. After deciding to switch their college support and faculty from Hillsboro to Springfield the Lutheran trustees adopted a resolution on Dec. 17, 1851, stating:

"When this Institution is removed to Springfield the building now occupied in Hillsboro shall revert to its original owners.''

Revert it did. The original owners were the stockholders of Hillsboro Academy, who had been represented by fifteen trustees when the school property was turned over, to the Lutherans. Six of the trustees, John Tillson, John S. Hayward, Hiram Rountree, George Burnap, Thomas Sturtevant, and William Witherspoon met on May 17, 1852, to again accept ownership of the Academy property.

Trustees had to be appointed to fill five vacancies on the board of trustees, new bylaws had to be adopted, a new state charter had to be issued and other tasks carried out in reorganizing the Academy before it could be opened to students.

Three trustees, the Rev. Daniel Scherer, W. L. D. Ewing and Francis H. Hereford had died, and the Rev. Thomas Spilman and M. L. Cushman had. moved away during the five years the Lutherans operated the school.

Appointed to replace them on the Academy board were Joseph T. Eccles, William Brewer, Solomon Harkey, Dr. A. S. Haskell and Absalom Cress. Mr. Cress had been one of the trustees of the Lutheran college.

To raise funds to help re-open and maintain the Academy new shares of stock were sold at $2 per share, with each share being subject to a $1 yearly assessment. Stockholders were to meet annually to elect five trustees for three-year terms.

There were to be fifteen trustees elected at the first annual meeting, with those elected, choosing by lot one, two, and three year terms.

The first stockholders' meeting was held December 2, 1852, in the store of Joseph T. Eccles. Nineteen stockholders, John S. Hayward, Hiram Rountree, James Blackman, W. K. Jackson, James Blackman, Jr., R. W. Davis, Thomas Sturtevant, Pordice Boutwell, George Harkey, Benjamin Sammons, Solomon Harkey, J. H. Rolston, E. Y. Rice, Joseph T. Eccles, William Brewer, A. Tobias, John S. Hillis and Garret Brookman cast ballots for trustees.

Elected trustees, and the terms of office they drew, were: John Tillson, Israel Seward, John S. Hayward, William Brewer and Thomas Sturtevant, one-year; Obadiah Ware, George Burnap, Thomas Phillips, Absalom Cress and Solomon Harkey, two-years, and Pordice Boutwell, Joseph T. Eccles, William Witherspoon, A. L. Haskell and E. Y. Rice, three-years. John Tillson was elected president, William Brewer, vice-president and John S. Hayward, secretary-treasurer of the board. Mr. Tillson, the founder of the Academy who was then living in Quincy, died a few months later, on May 11, 1853, at the age of 57.

The trustees then engaged George C. Mack of Whitford, Vermont t0 serve as principal of the Academy when it . was re-opened on the second Monday in September 1853. Announcement of the re-opening was published in the Prairie Mirror, a Hillsboro weekly newspaper.

Named as members of the faculty were Mr. Mack, his wife, to serve as preceptress, the Rev. R. · M. Roberts, teacher of Latin and Greek, Miss Lucinda C. Dearborn, assistant preceptress, Miss M. C. Brown, assistant teacher for the winter term, and Mrs. A. S. Haskell, teacher of instrumental music.

A catalogue prospectus printed for the opening of the 1853-1854 school year, stated: "The Academy is situated in Hillsboro, the shire town of Montgomery County, Illinois. For beauty of location, finish, and completeness, the Academy building is unsurpassed by any edifice of the kind in the state.

"Hillsboro's beautiful scenery and health render this institution a pleasant and desirable retreat for those who wish for an opportunity to study. The town is characterized by its freedom from all that has a tendency to lead the young astray from virtue.''

When school opened there were 178 students, 90 "males" and 88 "females", enrolled in courses of study suitable for a college. Courses included Latin, Greek, algebra, geometry, surveying, English grammar and rhetoric, arithmetic, chemistry, geology, logic, Evidences of Christianity, Bible study, moral science, history, theory and practice of teaching music and other subjects. Tuition ranged from $2.50 to $5 per course for each term. Grade school classes were also taught, probably in the nearby lyceum building.

A number of the students were from different places who boarded with Hillsboro families while school was in session. Among those enrolled when the Academy re-opened in September were:

Male: William Abbot, George W. Brown, Jr·., John H. · Brookman, William Clotfelter, Amos Clotfelter, Jr., John M. Cress, Solomon F. Cress, Jacob M. Harkey, W. E. Hayward, Frank D. Hubble, Jesse J. Phillips, Sidney B. Phillips, Charles H. Richardson, Amos Sawyer, Jr., Thomas Seymour, Charles B. Turner and Charles H. Witherspoon.

Females: Harriet L. Abbot, Lucy Boutwell, Ellen S. Brewer, Isabella O. Coudy, Mary E. Cram, Olive Dryer, Mary Gunning, Virginia T. Harkey, Mary L. McEwen, Parnesia M. Phillips, Laura A. Rountree, Juliet K. Sawyer, Cornelia Seward, Laura A. White, and Catherine E. Witherspoon.

The Hillsboro Academy remained a Mecca for ambitious young people of the mid-west for several years to come. For another thirty-three years it played an important part in the education of dozens upon dozens of students while serving as an academy and then as the first high school. This period of the Academy's fifty-year history will be covered in the next article about Hillsboro schools, past and present.

Academy taught primary, grades, too

Some of the schoolmasters who operated the old Academy as a personal endeavor furnished instruction to grade school children as well as to those taking advanced subjects.

The Rev. J. R. Brown was one such principal who accepted tuition-paying students of different ages. In a notice of the Academy opening for the fall term on September 3, 1866, the Rev. Brown stated:

"All the branches, from the primary to the most thorough academic course, will be taught. Special attention will be given to a primary class of scholars of from eight to ten years of age."

The tuition charges for 10-weeks of instruction, along with the names of the faculty, are shown on this reproduction of the notice, issued 113 years ago on July 26, 1866.

Miss Idabel Evans has receipts for tuition payments made by members of her family in 1854 and 1864. On July 29, 1854 Miss Jane Blackman paid $2.50 for tuition and 25 cents for incidentals for the summer term. The payment was made to G. C. Mack, who· took over the operation of the Academy after it ceased to be Lutheran College.

On Nov. 15, 1864, Mrs. H. B. Hunt paid Edmund Miller, principal of the school, $5.55 for tuition and incidentals for her sons, Orville and Horace, for seven weeks of instruction in the primary department.

The Hillsboro Academy - Part 3 of 4

By Tom Bliss 1979


Formerly: Edison ( South) School

Currently: Hardee's

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Jeff Dunn

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Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

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