South Bend Schools Before 1880
For awhile after the first settlement of this region, pay or subscription schools were taught in private houses in different parts of the then settled part of the township, which was chiefly along and in the vicinity of Crooked Creek. The first schoolhouse, a primitive log one, was erected probably about 1803, near the present site of St. Jacob's Lutheran and Reformed church edifice, in which the first teacher, or least one of the earliest, was James Allison. Mrs. Nancy Kirkpatrick, widow of James Kirkpatrick, remembers that schoolhouse, and that before its erection schools were taught here and there as above stated.
In the earlier settlement of the southern part of the township, there was an ancient schoolhouse about 200 rods southwest of Olivet, on the present farm of Joseph Coulter, and another about a mile and a half a little west of north from Olivet, on the present farm of David Finley. The first schoolhouse at Olivet was built in or about 1820, on the present site of G. W. Steer's blacksmith shop, and was known as the "Big Run schoolhouse," which continued to be used until 1834-5.
About a mile distant from Olivet, across the Indiana county line, is Elder's Ridge Academy, whose beneficent influence in promoting educational interests in this region has for many years been effective.
The slight opposition which the common school system encountered in this part of the county was readily overcome by its more numerous friends, prominent among whom were William Davis, Joseph and Alexander A. Lowry, Anthony Montgomery and John Wherry, as the writer is informed. The further preparation of the history of that system, except some statistics, belongs to the school department.
The first school year in which this has been a distinct school district was 1868. Its first annual report was for 1869, when the number of schools was 6; average number months taught, 4; male teachers, 4; female teachers, 2; average salaries of male per month, $38.25; average salaries of female per month, $35; male scholars, 288; female, 244; average number attending school, 433; cost of teaching each per month, 64 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $902.84; minimum occupation, 211; total amount levied, $1,113.84; received from collectors, unseated land, etc., $1,200,44; cost of instruction, $892; fuel and contingencies, $152,72; repairing schoolhouses, etc., $55.66; balance on hand, $1,000,00.
In 1876 the number of schools was 6; average number months taught, 5; male teachers, 6; average monthly salaries, $35; number male scholars, 182; number female scholars, 179; average number attending school, 298; cost per month, 64 cents; amount levied for school and building purposes, $1,179.30; received from state appropriation, $237.15; received from taxes and other sources; $1,233.71; paid for teachers' wages, $1,050; paid for fuel and contingencies, collectors' fees, etc., $196.25.
The settlement of the lower or southern part of the township occurred much later than that of the northern part. Robert Townsend remembers that at and around the pleasant hamlet of Olivet, on the Robert Lettis Hooper tract, there were but few settlers in 1833. It had then the appearance of a wilderness rather than of a settled region. He remembers that a primitive log schoolhouse was there in 1834, which had the appearance of having been erected a few years.
The only wagon in the neighborhood in 1833 belonged to John Smith. The nearest gristmill was that at South Bend. The people packed their grists to mill on horseback. There were no wagon-roads except the one from Saltsburg. The state road was not opened until 1843. A year or two before then emigrants from Washington county, the Ewings and others, settled here.