Teaching and Preaching at the Early Rock Hill Schools Rock Hill School, Lebanon Oregon

The early Rock Hill Schools were called "subscription schools". Because public school funds were not available, the local settlers sponsored the education of their children. The parents of a family with school-aged children commonly signed a contract with the teacher, agreeing to pay that person a certain amount for each pupil taught. When funding shifted in the Rock Hill School District from family purses to public tax dollars is not known.

Teachers at the early one-room Rock Hill Schools, like teachers throughout rural Oregon, had to contend with a variety of difficult circumstances. The Rock Hill teacher, who sometimes had little formal training, taught all eight grades in a single room. Ages of the students often ranged from four to twenty. The equipment provided for teaching the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography was limited. Fogle, in writing about the Rock Hill School in the 1870's, recalled that: "The principal text book-- in fact the entire curriculum of the younger children-- consisted of the long since discarded blue-backed Webster's Elementary Spelling Book , a collection of widely divergent spelling and reading lessons.

In the early days, the school year was very short, sometimes lasting for only three months or less. Older students, especially, were needed at home to sew, card wool, churn butter, milk cows, and help with the planting and harvesting. The existing roads often were flooded or deep in mud during the rainy season. Teachers who lived at a distance commonly boarded with the families of local farmers.

Most of the early Rock Hill School teachers were men. The names of only a few of them have been recorded from the early years. Several of them later became rather well known at the local, even the state level. Rock Hill School teacher "Old Man" Gallaher, as he was usually called according to Fogle, " to distinguish him from the other numerous members of the family...", probably was early pioneer William C. Gallaher. Gallaher apparently valued a good education, for on January 18, 1854, the Legislature of the Oregon Territory passed an act appointing him as one of thirteen Trustees of the newly established Santiam Academy in Lebanon. One of William Gallaher's younger sons, James Jackson Gallaher, whose house was located just north of the first Rock Hill Schoolhouse, was another early teacher, probably around 1860. Students remembered him as the one-armed school teacher, for Jackson or "Jack", as he was called, earlier had lost a limb in a threshing machine accident.

W.R. Bishop, described as a successful teacher, preacher, musician, accountant, businessman, and farmer, taught at the Rock Hill School and at two other Linn County one-room schools during the period 1856-1861. Bishop later moved to Brownsville where he founded Bishop's Academy. He also founded the Harrisburg Academy in 1861, in Harrisburg. 'Nimrod Price Payne', described by Fogle as " one of the outstanding pioneer developers of Linn County...", likewise was a teacher at the Rock Hill School, probably in the late 1860's. (Fogle probably was referring to Nimrod Price, an early pioneer, who, according to the Albany Daily Democrat (January 6, 1916), "... was a staunch friend of religion, education and whatever made for the uplift of the community, serving for years upon school boards with marked ability.")

Perhaps one of the most illustrious individuals to teach at the Rock Hill School during the early years was James Knox Polk Weatherford, called "Jim" by his friends. Weatherford, who went on to study law, was elected as Linn County School Superintendent in 1874, and was admitted to the bar in 1875. In 1876, he was elected to the State Legislature and became Speaker of the House; in 1884, he was elected as a State Senator, representing Linn County.

A single student from the early days, Milton A. Miller, appears to stand out from his peers. As a prominent figure in Oregon political life, Miller was referred to by his schoolmates as "The Sage of the Santiam" and "The William Jennings Bryan of Oregon". Fogle, in reminiscing about the successes of his fellow students, recalled that one served as the Register of the U.S. Land Office at La Grande and later became a prominent Texas dentist, another served as a county judge, and yet another held the editorial chair at the Albany daily newspaper.

Around the turn-of-the-century, the State began to require that County School Superintendents submit annual. reports. The Superintendents based their reports, in part, on written Teacher's Reports that were sent in by each school. Early reports completed by the Linn County School Superintendent, as well as two Teacher's Reports completed for the Rock Hill School, provide some interesting facts about the County's educational system. Statistics averaged for Linn County for the five consecutive school years ending 1899 through 1903 show that: the County had about 120 organized school districts; the County had about 122 schoolhouses, nearly all of them frame structures, although three log schoolhouses still were in use in 1900; the County built about three new schoolhouses each year; the County employed about 260 teachers, but not all of them taught for the full school year; the County paid about $47,500 in teachers' wages; and the County paid male teachers about $40.00 a month and female teachers about $32.00 a month. Pupils ranged in age from four to twenty years. Linn County schools were open for about seven months a year (probably for a shorter time at a rural school such as the Rock Hill School). The cost of building a rural one-room schoolhouse around the turn-of-the-century was reasonable, for the structure usually had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. For example, in the spring of 1903, according to the Lebanon Express-Advance, the families in Linn County School District No. 66, located southeast of Lebanon, near the town of Waterloo, voted " to empower the district board to build a new school house at a cost not exceeding $500."

Lydia O. Frum, teacher at the Rock Hill School during the year 1898-1899, and Olivia Sorenson, teacher during the year 1901-1902, submitted reports to the Linn County School Superintendent that fortunately have been preserved. Lydia taught for about four months (school ended in February) and had a maximum of 36 students enrolled at one time. Olivia appears to have taught at Rock Hill for about five and one-half months. She had a total of 41 students enrolled during that period; her average daily attendance, however, was 23 students. Lydia's reporting form required that she list the students by name. Details entered for each pupil included: age; number of days attended; "number of times tardy"; "deportment" (behavior) grade; and parents' names. School visitors listed by the women included parents, members of the Rock Hill School District Board of Directors, and the Linn County School Superintendent. Both teachers enumerated the subjects taught. Both teachers, in commenting on the physical conditions of the building and grounds, mentioned the poor condition of the "water closets". Lydia added that: the schoolhouse grounds were not suitably improved; the supply of good water was not "ample"; the woodshed was in poor condition; and the ventilation was not very good. Olivia mentioned that the school grounds lacked fencing.

Now and then, in the late 1890's and during the first decade of the 20th Century, an issue of the Lebanon newspaper would mention the name of the teacher currently employed at the Rock Hill School. By then, the County required that a prospective teacher must pass an examination before receiving the required teaching certificate. (The newspaper often listed the names of persons who were taking or who had passed this test.) Teachers at the Rock Hill School during this period commonly were single women. While school was in session, the schoolmistress often boarded with a local farm family. Over the years, for example, the Nichols family, who lived in a house northeast of the school, now and then provided a convenient home for the Rock Hill teacher. This family apparently was very supportive of the local school, for two descendants of settler John Nichols were listed as members of the three-man Rock Hill School District Board of Directors in separate annual reports (for the school years ending 1899-1903) of the Linn County School Superintendent.