Early Rockport Schools
From 1968 Rockport-Spencer County Sesquicentennial Book
By Ellen Squier Brown
Azel Dorsey must have taught the first children, but as early as 1822 George Moffett taught in a round log cabin which stood just north of the present cemetery, a “blab school” where each pupil studied his lesson aloud reading or counting at the top of his voice.
An early law of the State provided that fines from the J. P.’s and Circuit Court should be used to found a fund for the construction and maintenance of a county seminary. The number of fines from $1.00 to $5.00 is phenomenal and might be called the “Fist and Skull Age”. As a consequence, however, the seminary fund grew rapidly, was tossed about and finally destroyed in the courthouse fire of 1833.
November 1835 saw the completion of the county seminary which was well conducted and for sometime the leading school of Rockport, but the law of 1853 provided for the sale of the property and conveyance to the common school fund. After the seminary was sold the basement of the Methodist Church was used and various rooms through the town. Mr. and Mrs. John Atkinson were early teachers as well as Allen Kincheloe, Jonas Sanders, W. L. Partridge, J. B. Harris and Thomas D. Boyer.
In 1859, the free schools were opened. The school in the first district was conducted by Mr. Bean and an assistant in the upper district school house on Fifth street north of the Methodist church. The second district school was in charge of Mr. Kincheloe and an assistant and was kept in the basement of the Methodist church.
In 1869 a brick building called the seminary was built at the cost of $4,000. The high school was founded in this building, the first teacher’s institute was held there and, after 1873, it became a grade school. It was razed in the 60’s and the Methodist parsonage was built there in 1964.
The Rockport academy was organized by the Methodists early in the year 1857 and the cornerstone was laid on July 11, 1859. Progress on the building was slow because of the war, but in 1863, after changing the name to Rockport Collegiate Institute, it was formally opened in September. The presence of this Institute was felt in the community as students came from a distance to board here and study and in 1866 there were 197 students enrolled. Young ladies were graduated in a full college course and young men were prepared for the higher classes in universities. The property was sold to the town for $9,800 in 1873 and used for a high school. This building was razed in 1962 to make room for the new elementary school. On this same lot stands the southern red oak, over 230 years old, and one of the largest, if not the largest in the country.
In 1897 education became compulsory and in 1907 high schools became a part of the state educational system.
In August 1955, the school corporations of Rockport City Schools and Ohio Township became the Rockport-Ohio Township School Corporation. In 1962, the elementary schools of Silverdale, South Central and Rockport elementary were merged into one elementary school called Rockport Elementary School. Since reorganization on January 1, 1965, the high schools of Luce Township and Rockport-Ohio Township became the South Spencer High School located on Seminary Street. The South Spencer County School Corporation has three elementary schools, Grandview Elementary, Rockport Elementary and Luce Elementary. There are two Junior high schools, Harris Junior High School at Richland and the Rockport Junior High School at Rockport. St. Bernard’s Elementary Catholic School in Rockport is the only parochial school and was constructed in 1961 with eight classrooms for grades 1-8.
Rockport and the name of Abraham Lincoln are almost synonymous. Lincoln instituted and taught a night school along with James Grigsby in the forest of Spencer County and this was commemorated by George Honig, a Rockport sculpture, in his mural, which was unveiled on October 31, 1934, and now hangs in the Rockport Elementary School.