History of the Academies of Indiana,
by John Hardin Thomas,
1914 Master Thesis, Indiana University.


          The preparation of this work has been both a source of interest and pleasure. Interest, primarily, in the education of our forefathers. Interest in the re-discovery, as it were, of the histories of institutions that were rapidly passing out of the memory of men. Pleasure, chiefly, in the correspondence with some of the old pioneers in education, some of whom were the founders of the old Academies. Mr. W. L. Anderson of Indianapolis, in a letter, expresses his appreciation thus: “Glad to know that an effort is being made to preserve a history of the old schools so dear to so many of us old fellows.”

          The material for this work has been gleaned from the State Laws of Indiana; Documentary Journals of the House; the County Histories of Indiana; The Indiana School Journals; Newspaper Files; and numerous private letters.

Rome Academy

          The Rome Academy was located at Rome, Perry County. In 1859, the county seat was removed from Rome to Cannelton and the Legislature, by Act approved Dec. 22, 1858, transferred the old court house, a two-story brick building, to the town of Rome to be used for school purposes. A board of trustees appointed, consisting of John C. Shoemaker, Jeb Hatfield, and Elijah Hackaby, and $2,000 were subscribed by the citizens, the interest on which should be expended for repairs and equipment for the Academy.

          The first term was opened Oct. 1860, with E. V. Evans, A. M. principal, and C. W. DeBruler assistant. The course of study was as follows: Primary Grade- Orthography, Reading, Writing, Mental Arithmetic, and Primary Geography. Tuition, $6 per term. Second Grade- Arithmetic, Grammar, Ancient and Modern History, Geography, Analysis, and Elocution. Tuition, $8 per term. Third Grade- Natural and Mental Philosophy, Hygiene, Book-keeping, Algebra, and Geology. Tuition, $12 per term. Fourth Grade- Higher Mathematics, Chemistry, Rhetoric, Composition, and Languages. Tuition, $18 per term. Music and use of Piano, $20; Use of Piano, $4; Vocal Music, $2; Drawing and Painting, $3. The school term was forty weeks. The first term opened with about 40 students, which was increased to about 60.

          Prof. Evans was succeeded in 1861, by Rev. Wm. M. Daily, A. M., formerly President of Indiana University. He was succeeded in 1862, by Rev. Will S. Hooper, assisted by his sister Miss Susan Hooper. The attendance increased to 90 students.

          In 1863, Prof. James Snow and Miss Flint took charge of the Academy and taught one year. The work was not a success financially and at the close of the year the rent on the building and the interest on the endowment fund had to be added to the tuition to make up the teachers’ salaries.

          In 1864, the trustees leased the property to the Episcopal Church. A Mr. Rafter was appointed principal, and the name of the Academy was changed to St. Albans Academy. This management failed the first year. The Baptists next tried it by putting Rev. I. W. Brunner in charge as principal. They failed after two years and turned the Academy over again to the Trustees. After this the building was used as a public hall, as a township school, and as a private school by various teachers. So much of the $2,000 had been used for repairs and mismanagement, that in about 1901, when the walls of the building needed extensive repairs, the Trustees offered to deed the property and the remainder of the endowment fund to the township. The offer was accepted by J. H. Lee, Trustee of Tobin Township, and in 1902, after a Special Act of the Legislature, the property was transferred to Tobin Township. For a time afterward it was used as a district school. Since 1910 it has been a certified high school.

Rockport Academy or Collegiate Institute

          The Rockport Academy or Collegiate Institute was located at Rockport, Spencer County. It was organized in 1857, by Revs. Dr. E. H. Sabin and Dr. H. S. Talbott, and other prominent men of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The funds were raised by private subscription. The capital stock was fixed at $20,000, divided into shares of $20 each. The trustees elected in 1858 were, J. W. B. Moore, N. Pyeatt, and William Jones. Dr. H. S. Talbott was agent. The campaign for subscriptions continued through the year 1858 and most of the stock was subscribed for.

          The work on the building was begun in 1858, but it progressed slowly and the corner stone was not laid until July 11, 1859. It was hoped that the building might be ready for use by Sept. 1, 1861, but in the meantime the Civil War had begun and the repeated calls for money for the Academy, in those days of hard times and great excitement, were met by calls for volunteers for the preservation of the Union. The latter calls were for a time the more popular and work on the academy for a time ceased. The movement was kept alive however, and largely due to the influence of General James C. Veach and Thomas F. DeBruler it was completed in 1863.

          The building is a brick structure, 50 x 70 feet, three stories high, with a large bell-tower on top. It contains eight rooms. Hallways running north and south separate the rooms on the east from those on the west. It stands near the center of the double square between Sixth and Eighth street, facing Walnut Street on the north. The building and grounds were valued in 1865, at $31,000. The campus contains about five acres and is well shaded with beech and maple trees.

          In September 1863, the school was opened and the name was changed to The Rockport Collegiate Institute, but it has generally been known by either name. Prof. W. S. Hooper, of the Rome Academy was the first principal with his sister Miss Sue Hooper as his assistant. At that time only two rooms had been finished for school purposes. The enrollment at the beginning was 50 but it increased to 87 by the end of the first term, and to 135 by the end of the year. The school was equipped with a $425 piano, a set of philosophical apparatus costing $500, and a small library.

          In 1866, Prof. Hooper was succeeded by Prof. O. H. Smith, A. M. of the Danville Academy, with Prof. John W. Webb, A. M., and Prof. William F. Gillmore, A. M., as assistants. The enrollment during this year was 197. The school was co-educational. Young ladies were graduated from a full college course, and young men were prepared for the University.

          In 1866, a frame addition was built to the academy building which served for a dining room and kitchen. This was designed for students who came from a distance. It was used until about 1878 when it was torn down.

          In 1868, there were five members in the faculty, and 165 students were enrolled. The tuition in the college classes was $10 per term.

          In 1870, Prof. Smith was succeeded by D. C. Culley, A. M., of Kentucky, who was principal until 1873. The course of study then consisted of a two year preparatory college course, and a three year academic course, equivalent to our present high school course, including Analogy and the Evidences of Christianity.

          Educationally, the Collegiate Institute was among the foremost of the state. From it many of the old citizens of Rockport, and others scattered everywhere, were graduated. From there they went to DePauw University or to Indiana University. Like many of the other Academies, however, it was a failure financially. The common schools and the free high school system became more popular and the Institute rapidly declined in influence.

          In 1873, the Indiana conference found itself in debt on account of the Institute, about $1,800, which indebtedness was secured by a mortgage upon the building and grounds. No effort was made to pay it off, although the debt was not great in proportion to the value of the property. The building, grounds, and equipment were sold to the town of Rockport for $9,800. The $1,800 indebtedness was paid off and the balance, $8,000, was ordered to be distributed pro rata among the stockholders and donors.

          The building is still standing, in good condition, and has been used for the high school since 1873.

Early Education

          The history of early education in Indiana may be roughly divided into two periods- first the District School Period, which extended to about 1852, and the Graded School Period, which began about 1852.

          The first period may be characterized as the ignorant, democratic period of education. The people ruled. They were the school government, and they had the initiative and the recall. They voted whether they would have a school or not; they voted the teacher in and voted him out; they voted what salary they should pay; and they voted on what subjects should be taught and what subjects should not be taught. Order was the essential requirement of all teachers.

          The second period introduced method and system into the schools. Schools were organized and from that time on they continued to grow. “How ye govern,” was no longer the principal thing but was rather subordinate to the ability to teach.

          Although this early period is generally regarded as a period of ignorance and inactivity in education, such was not the case. Dotted here and there over the State in the most enlightened and progressive communities stood the Old Academies and Seminaries, like the Monasteries during the Middle Ages, where the ambitious youth were instructed in the higher branches of learning – courses which were the equivalent and in some respects superior to our present high school course.

          In the absence of our free system of common and high schools, the Academies had to depend exclusively upon tuition or private donations for their support. On this account many of them early made shipwreck, and almost all of them went down before the great wave of the Free Public School System which swept over the State from 1852 to about 1870.

          In many of the communities education was closely allied with religion, and nearly all of the churches, when possible, made some effort to afford facilities for higher education for its people.

          The Friends were among the most active in their movement. This may have been in part due to their peculiar religious belief. By the side of their meeting-houses they almost invariably erected a little cabin for a school house. They never patronized the free schools so long as their numbers and means would warrant them in maintaining one of their own, where the discipline and management were entirely under their control.

          Back in the early days of Academies we find the first beginnings in Agriculture, Manual Training, and Domestic Science, all of which we are inclined to consider to-day as modern school problems. The ideals and principles that they attempted to work out then are practically the same that confront the modern educators of to-day. This early movement failed because it had to be conducted on too small a scale.

          The old Academies had an up hill fight from the beginning but they filled a deep felt need in education, and their very memory is the most precious thing in the lives of the old pioneers.