In the long, long ago-"in good King George's glorious days," the colony of Virgina was ruled over and governed by Sir William Berkeley who, in one of his reports to the home government touching the condition and welfare of the colony, of which this section was then a wild and, except by savages, an uninhabited part, thanked God that there were no printing presses or free schools to teach and enlighten the people and rouse them to the independence that later on asserted itself and made this glorious country what it is, and hoped that there would be none of these to vex him "these hundred years."
With what horror must the shades of Berkeley, as they from time to time revisit the domain over which that arrogant, narrow-mined, bigoted old Lord once ruled, view the condition of affairs to-day. The printing press and the free schools! To what enormous propotions have they grown and what a power for good they are in the land! The press-the mighty engine before whose power evil-doers flee and in whose strength the people find a defender of their rights and privileges! The free school - the poor man's college, where the citizens of tomorrow are trained to appreciate and glory in this grand country and its manifold blessings! Governor Berkeley did well to couple the press and free school together; the one is the outgrowth of the other and both are the pride of the people. The mighty strides both have made fill the beholder with astonishment and amazement. Take the free school system, for instance, and note the men of prominence whose early education was limited to that attained in a free school, and the reputation and place in history they have reached. The free school is a blessing that is not as fully appreciated as it should be.
The proverbial modesty of newspapers and newspaper men precludes an extended and laudatory notice of the newspapers of Wheeling, but of her public schools too much cannot be said in praise. They are one of Wheeling's prides, and properly so, for they are the best in the State. Indeed there are few in the country considered as a whole, and with everything - buildings, teachers, furniture, apparatus, course of study, grade attained by graduates, system, order and other details that go to make a good school that excel the public schools of the Independent School District of the City of Wheeling. In educational assemblages her schools have often been referred to as models and her instructors have always been listened to in those meetings with marked attention and deference.
It is not proposed in the chapter to speak of the organization of the schools of this city into an independent school district, but rather to treat of them as they are found to-day; as the investor, the capitalist, the specultor who shall come here to invest his money in new or old established industries will find them; as the workingman who comes to this desirable field of labor, which with the introduction of natural gas becomes more desirable than ever, will find them for the benefit and advancement of his childern. The schools are under the direction, supervision and control of a Board of Education, composed of twenty-one members, three from each of the seven sub-districts, Washington, Madison, Clay, Union, Center, Webster and Ritchie, that compose this independent district. These members are elected, one every two years, to serve for six years. They have a Clerk and a City Superintendent. The teachers are appointed by the commissioners in whose district they teach and confirmed by the Board, but are controlled and under the direction of the Superintendent. The present Superintendent is Prof. W. H. Anderson, who succeeded Hon. John M. Birch, now U.S. Consul to Nagasaki, Japan. Both are gentlemen of marked executive ability and it is largely owing to their labors that the schools have reached the high eminence they now rest on. Mr. H. H. Pendleton is Clerk and Mr. O. H. Collier President of the Board.
In the district there are seven large school buildings and two annexes for the accommodation of white pupils and one elegant building for colored children. The coming year will see erected in Ritchie district another school building, the interior arrangement of which will not be excelled by that of any school building in the country; it will be a model in the way of heat and ventilation.
The total value of all the school property of the district is about $310,000. The value of all the buildings is somewhere in the neighborhood of $174,000; of furniture $16,970; of apparatus, $1,400. The average value of the houses is about $22,000. During the past year the average cost of education per pupil based on the enrollment, was a little over $10 50; based on the enumeration it was a trifle over $6, the enumeration showing 10,006 school youth in the city.
Each of the seven schools, and the colored school, is a grammar school in itself, with the primary divisions attached. There are 91 rooms in the buildings and the services of 105 teachers are required. A principal presides over each of the sub-district schools; to each is attached a grammar room and assistant grammar teacher, and the balance of the rooms are divided into four divisions, A, B, C and D, with grades running from 2 under the division A rooms to 7 under the D divisions. In addition to these teachers there are four German teachers, who have charge of the study of German in all the schools. The aggregate of salaries that will be paid for teaching alone during the coming year will be $19,000. The levy for this year is estimated to realize $71,000 for a school fund, $92,000 for a building fund and $5,000 for the Public Library fund, which as detailed elsewhere is under the control of the Board of Education.
The school buildings of the district with two or three exceptions are handsome buildings viewed from an architectural standpoint. A notable example is Centre district school, located in the Fifth ward, an illustration of which is published in this issue. All of the buildings are modern and conveniently arranged inside. The furniture is of the most approved pattern from a scentific and hygienic point. The rooms, stairways, halls and exits are also arranged that in case of fire every building could be emptied inside of two minutes. The yards are spacious and afford good playgrounds. Connected with each building are quarters for the janitors. The heating and ventilating apparatus in the new school house to be erected in Ritchie district will itself cost nearly $2,500. In all the buildings the heating apparatus has been so perfected and the ventilation so arranged that the evils to health so often found in crowded school rooms are so far done away with as not to be perceptible.
The course of study prescribed by the Board is a well selected one and embraces all those branches most useful to those who in after years are to be compelled to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows. A student of the Public Schools of Wheeling when graduated and in possession of the Board's diploma is entitled to a teacher's certificate for any room except the grammar rooms.
It is to be said to the credit of the people of Wheeling that they take a great interest in their schools, as evinced by their liberality in furnishing all the money needed for buildings, furniture and appliances, and by the many visits that parents pay to the bright, cheerful rooms in the scrupulously clean buildings wher their children are instructed by a set of patient, competent, accomplished teachers. Wheeling's schools are to be numbered among her most important and beneficial advantages.
In addition to the excellent public school system there are institutions of learning that would be creditable to any community. Chief among these are the Wheeling Female College, of which Prof. Brown is the efficient President; Mount de Chantal, just outside the city, for which the Sisters of the Visitation have earned a high reputation; Prof. Frazier's Wheeling Business College; famous Bethany College near by, with which Rev. Dr. Pendleton has long been identified; the Linsly Institute for boys, founded by the liberality of Noan Linsly and successfully conducted by Prof. Orr. St. Joseph's Academy; St. Vincent's High School; the Seguin Collegiate Institute; many good private schools, art and musical schools. No Wheeling boy or girl need live or die in ignorance.
While Wheeling has never been called a City of Churches, nor been especially noted for her great piety or that of her people, she is well blessed with religious organizations and bodies that exert a steady influence gor good and at times stir up a deep religious sentiment. The people, as a rule, are God-fearing, and to this fact, probably, may be ascribed the prosperity of the city in all things. Wheeling has thirty-one houses of worship and nearly that many pastors, congregations and Sunday-schools. Many of the church congregations date their organization almost back to the time when Wheeling was a straggling frontier town, notably the First Presbyterian, which received the land on which its handsome edifice now stands from old Colonel Zane, the pioneer.
Wheeling has had in her time some noted men as pastors, but the great majority of the ministers of the gospel who have labored here, have been plain practical, outspoken men, who have presented to their congregations the Word in a pure, simple and convincing manner.
Wheeling's churches classified are as follows: Methodist, 7; German Methodist, 1; Methodist, (colored)1; African M.E., 1; Presbyterian, 3; United Presbyterian, 1; English Lutheran, 1; German Lutheran, 2; German Reformed, 1; Independent German, 2; Catholic, 3 and one chapel; Episcopal, 2 and one chapel; Disciples, 1; Baptist, 1; Colored Baptist, 1; Hebrew, 1; Latter Day Saints, 1.
Several of the church edifices are beautifully decorated inside, and their outside appearance is that of architectural beauty, adding greatly to the attractiveness of the city.
The Public Library, though still in its infancy, is an institution of which Wheeling has a right to be proud and which is by no means the least of her solid attractions. Its beginning was small and unpretentious, but it has advanced rapidly both in size and quality and the public's appreciation, until now, though but four years old, it is a model and a lasting credit to the city, and especially to the Board of Education of the Independent School District of Wheeling, by whose authority it was founded and is conducted.
The school law of this district, as amended and re-enacted March 11 and April 12, 1875, February 14 and March 24, 1882, provided that the Board of Education might maintain, support and increase a public library for the use and benefit of the residents of the District by levying a tax not to exceed 3 cents on the $100 valuation, and should make all rules and regulations for conducting and managing such a public library.
Under this law the Wheeling Public Library was opened to the public August 12, 1882. For a number of years Wheeling had been without a public library of any kind. The old Wheeling Library Association, a joint stock affair that was once prosperous and flourishing, had fallen entirely to pieces and its books and furniture lay mouldering in the basement of the Public Building. Hon. John M. Birch, the present United States Consul to Nagasaki, Japan, then Superintendent of the Schools, and Mr. H.H. Pendleton, then as not, Clerk of the Board, President C.H. Collier, of the Board, Dr. S.L. Jepson and a number of other public-spirited members of the Board, had for a long time had in view the establishment of a public library, as being something not only due the people, but beneficial to the community. After considerable trouble and unwinding of red tape, the property of the defunct Library Association was secured and a levy laid for the maintenance of a Public Library. the rough, unfinished hall over Smythe's grocery, corner of Market and Fourteenth strees, was secured and fitted up plainly but at the same time comfortably and attractively. The Library was a popular resort for young and old from the start. As the number of volumes grew, however, the space became so cramped that the enlargement of the reading room became an imperative necessity. This year both of the second floors in the Paxton block, corner of Market and Fourteenth streets, were secured and fitted up in a pleasing and convenient manner. The quarters now occupied will serve for a number of years to come. The library is a series of alcoves, and the reading room is light, airy and cheerful. There are convenient toilet rooms, and the offices of the Superintendent, the Board and Clerk and Librarian adjoin.
Being compelled to fit up quarters twice in four years has consumed considerable money that would otherwise have been used for the purchase of books. Still no complaint can be made on this score; the Board has always acted in a spirit of the greatest liberality towards the Library. The Library was opened with about 4,200 books on its shelves. These have been increased by purchase and donation to about 8,600 volumes. During the months of September, October, November and December 1882, there were 10,629 volumes taken out for home use, not counting those taken from August 12th to the 31st. In 1883 there were 41,362 volumes taken out; in 1884, 48,756; in 1885, 57,898 volumes, and in the first six months of this year 31,159 volumes, and for seven weeks of this time the Library was closed in order that the enlargements might be made. In 1883, 1,293 volumes were used in the reading room; in 1884, 2,935 volumes; in 1885, 6,849 volumes and in the first six months of this year 4,475 volumes. These figures show the steady increase and indicate the growth of the public appreciation of this great benefit. The reading room is well supplied with all the leading periodicals, pictorials and daily papers from all the leading cities of the country; and this list is being continuously increased.
As showing the class or style of literature read, the following figures are from Librarian Pendleton's report for the year 1885: For home use 47,696 volumes of fiction or 32.28 percent of all the books given out, were taken; polygraphy, 2,775 volumes, 4.79 percent; politics and commerce, 59 volumes, .10 percent; philology, 19 volumes, .04 percent; poetry and drama, 500 volumes, .88 percent; history, 2,061 volumes, 3.55 percent; biography, 1,259 volumes, 2.17 percent; geography and travels, 2,254 volumes, 3.89 percent; science and art, 845 volumes, 1.29 percent; philosophy and education, 306 volumes, .53 percent; theology, 215 volumes, .38 percent.
A librarian and two assistants are now necessary in order to properly serve the people. The books that have been added since the library was opened have all been carefully selected and are good standard works. The latest books of all the leading authors are secured as soon as published. A book may be kept for two weeks. Residents of Wheeling and taxpayers on property in the city, not under fourteen years of age, are entitled to draw books, which can be obtained upon all days except Sundays and holidays. On sunday afternoons the reading room is open to the public.
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886 (Special Natural Gas edition)
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.