History of Warrick, Spencer and Perry Counties, Indiana,
The Rockport Academy, or Collegiate Institute, was organized early in the year 1857, by prominent men of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at the head of whom were Revs. Dr. E. H. Sabin, Dr. H. S. Talbott et al. It was decided to construct a building costing, in round numbers, $20,000, and this amount was divided into shares of $20, and solicitors were started out, led by Dr. Talbott, who collected the major part of the subscription.
The subscription was largely obtained during the years 1857 and 1858, and in the last named year work on the building was begun, but progressed slowly, so that it was Monday, July 11, 1859, before the corner-stone was laid. This ceremony was felt to be highly important, and was very impressive, a large crowd congregating to witness the proceedings. Thomas F. DeBruler called the assemblage to order and explained the import of the occasion, after which James C. Veatch placed in the stone a tin box containing a copy of the subscription and association of the academy, a bible, various United States coins, bills of the Mining and Manufacturing Bank of Rockport, and copies of several newspapers, and to conclude the ceremony Dr. Sabin delivered an interesting discourse on the subject of “Female Education.”
The Rockport Brass Band furnished music for the occasion. During 1860 the walls were erected of brick, and it was expected that by September 1, 1861, school could be commenced, as the material necessary to complete the structure was already purchased. The building was 50 x 70 feet, three stories high, and all looked with hope to the opening of the school. But the Civil War came on, and for a time work was at a standstill, under the great excitement, and the repeated calls for money and the hard times.
James C. Veatch and Thomas F. DeBruler had been actively connected with the institution.
In 1863, the name of the school was changed from “Rockport Academy” to “Rockport Collegiate Institute,” and in September of this year the institute was formally opened with fifty students, under Prof. W. S. Hooper, of Rome Academy, Principal, and several assistants, one, Miss Sue Hooper, sister of the Principal, being a lady of high literary and moral character, and of indomitable energy, and becoming the life of the school.
A debt of $600 was soon paid off, and in 1864 the institute was clear of all obligations. At the time the school opened in September, 1863, two rooms only were ready for use. A piano had just been purchased for $425, a set of philosophical apparatus for $500. Eighty-seven students were enrolled the first term, and 135 during the first year. In 1865 the Institute and grounds were valued at $31,000. Rev. O. H. Smith A. M., became Principal in 1866. At this time over 100 students were in attendance. The presence of the Institute had begun to be felt by the community. Young men and women took greater interest in education, parents were deeply gratified, and the institute was the pride of Rockport and the friends of education generally. One hundred and ninety-seven students were enrolled in 1866.
Young ladies were graduated in a full college course, and young men were prepared for the higher classes in universities. The fame of the institute went abroad, and many students came from a distance.
A boarding department was organized. In 1870, Prof D. C. Culley A. M., of Kentucky, succeeded Mr. Smith as Principal, and under him the school continued to flourish. The students in 1870 were 173 and in 1871 were 168.
In 1872 the institute was in debt $1,400, which debt was a mortgage on the grounds, and the property was in danger of being sold to satisfy the mortgage. The mortgages increased, and in 1873 amounted to about $1,800. The Indiana Conference, whose property the college was, neglected to come to the rescue, and the building and grounds were sold to satisfy the debts, comparatively small though they were, and the proceeds were ordered distributed pro rata to the stockholders and donors. The buildings and grounds were purchased by the town of Rockport for $8,000, exclusive of the college debt, which was about $1,800, making the total paid for the property about $9,800. The building has since been used for the high school.
In 1878 Prof. Albert H. Kennedy became superintendent. The high school of Rockport is one of the most meritorious in the State, and much of its efficiency is due to the energy and ability of Mr. Kennedy, the Superintendent. It affords good education to boys and girls, and well fits them for the duties of life, in this day of schools and scholars.
The course embraces three years, of three terms each, with the following branches of study: