By Audrey Schiesser | Local Happenings
Stories Inspired From "History of Scioto County"
The City Schools
Portsmouth schools got their start when Henry Massie, the town's founder, donated lots 130 and 140 for school purposes. Second Street School was built on the site, and Fourth Street School later was built on lot 39, also donated by Massie. These, of course, came much later than the settling of the town.
Alexandria school, which disappeared with the early town after Portsmouth was developing, reportedly was founded in 1806. Twelve years later Joseph Wheeler opened an "English School" as Wheeler's Academy, with fees of $2.50 quarterly, plus expense assistance with firewood. Clarkson Smith later opened another subscription school on Second Street with fees of $25 a year.
Furniture in the schools was meager, with split logs for seats, with wide boards fastened to walls for desks. Generally boys and girls attended classes in separate rooms. A co-educational academy was proposed in 1827, but even at that, separate classes were the rule, with safe distances between male and female classrooms.
Boys were to be taught grammar, geography and Latin, with Greek at an additional cost. Girls were to get classes in reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography and plain and fancy needlecraft.
Financial success of subscription schools seems to have been less than ideal. While the proprietors were trying to get the co-educational school started, another teacher was pleading with parents to pay up before forcing him into bankruptcy. The first "free school" was taught by George R. Kelley (1829) in a small frame building near Front and Washington Sts. The school, financed from the sale of Section 16 of the township as provided by the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1785, was able to operate only until the funds were gone — about three months.
Public sentiment was strongly in favor for those with children, but even more so for payment by those with children, only. Few people seemed sufficiently interested in public schools to support taxes for education purposes.
Funding sources for the free school remain unidentified. Also in 1836 the city gave property at Fifth and Court Sts. to James Lodwick, Washington Kinney and Peter Kinney for a free school. They built a 2-story brick structure at a cost of $900. The lower section also was used by the Select Female Academy.
All Saints Church used the upper part at one time for its Sunday School. At a later date the city bought the property back and used it as a full public school.
One of the most significant steps in Portsmouth educational development came in 1838 when the town charter was amended placing the onus of education on the town, giving power to levy taxes, buy lots, pay teachers, supply fuel and furnish equipment. This, in fact, was the beginning of public schools for the city.
By 1842 enrollment had grown to 468 in the city, but average daily attendance was only 220, a problem that plagued the system for years. This was before compulsory attendance, and at a time when the school was segregating male and female students. Per-pupil expenses for 1842 were listed at $7.52.
With the passing of the months, attendance grew, and more buildings were needed. This came at a time when private schools still were available and apparently beginning to prosper.
Building costs also were increasing, and by 1850 the contract for the three-story, 12-room building at Second and Chillicothe Sts. was $7,184.
Finally, in 1857, the city turned schools over to a board of education, following approval of public voting. This action came only a year after the city had opened its first high school in the face of strong opposition. Education beyond the basics still was considered an unnecessary frill.
Five seniors graduated in 1860, the first of a growing trend. By 1874 there were 13 graduates, but in 1875 the class dropped to six. On the positive side, by 1876, 31 of the city teachers were products of the high school.
Portsmouth experienced remarkable growth late in the 1800s and early 1900s. Schools kept pace. The high school was moved to Gallia and Waller Sts. property in 1897, and by 1912 the original part of a new building was occupied, with additional space provided in 1922.
Records of 1908 showed schools operating as: Bond Street, Campbell Street, Eleventh Street, Highland, Fourth Street, Offnere Street, Second Street and Union Street. Garfield and Lincoln were in use by 1916, and McKinley was under construction by 1917. Massie School replaced Second Street School.