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History of Webster School, 1907

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▶ Webster School History

-from "Eight Annual Report of The Public Schools, Wheeling, West Virginia," 1907

History of Webster School

Fifty years ago Webster District, or Webster Township, as it was then called, had not sufficient population to entitle it to elect commissioners or trustees. In fact, much of the lower part of the district was a corn field. Where Webster School now stands a mound of sand and gravel furnished a playground for the children. In 1860 the first election was held in the district, resulting in the election of G. L. Cranmer as commissioner; E. J. Stone, J. H. Watters, and J. Berger as trustees. The few children living in the district attended the school in Centre District. Not until 1865 was it deemed expedient by the Board of Education to authorize the commissioners to rent two rooms for the purpose of establishing a primary school in Webster District. Suitable rooms were not obtainable, so it was thought advisable to buy ground and build a school house. The commissioners at that time were Wm. Clohan, Wm. Hastings, and Alexander Glass. The corner lot of the present site was purchased and plans for a six-roomed building accepted. The records describe the location as the south-east corner of Bolton and Division Streets. Bolton Street is now known as Eoff Street and Division Street as Twenty-sixth Street. That same year the adjoining lot and fraction of a lot were purchased.

In 1866, one wing of the proposed building was erected and fitted up for use. Miss Florence Echols (Mrs. James Stanton) and Miss Elizabeth Cross were appointed teachers for the school. The following year the other rooms were ready for occupancy. James M. Galloway, formerly principal of Washington School, was the first principal of Webster School. Miss Martha Harper was appointed his assistant. Misses Annie Waterson, Edith Martin, Florence Echols, Elizabeth Cross and Mary Morrison were elected teachers of the different grades. On account of failing health Mr. Galloway resigned in 1869. The Rev. Samuel Boyd was appointed his successor. Under the able supervision of Mr. Boyd, Webster School became one of the best in the city. During his term of office the crowded condition of the school made it necessary to build a four-roomed addition. In 1880, Mr. Boyd retired from public life. His resignation was a great loss to the cause of education. Such rare scholarship and executive ability as he possessed are seldom found united. S. S. Gibson succeeded Mr. Boyd. He gave promise of being an excellent principal, but fell a victim to the "Grim Reaper" a few months after entering upon his duties.

F. H. Crago was elected to fill the vacancy. In 1883, Mr. Crago exchanged schools with Mr. J. C. Gwynn, who had been principal of Ritchie School for four years. The increasing population made it necessary to build another addition of three rooms. Even this afforded only a temporary relief. The property adjoining the school, facing on Eoff Street and extending to Twenty-seventh Street, was purchased and part of the house converted into school rooms. The school property then included all the ground between Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Streets, facing on Eoff Street, and extending to the alley in the rear. Mr. Gwynn resigned in 1891 to accept the principalship of the Fairmont Normal School. The present incumbent was appointed to succeed him in Webster School.

The old school-house had been repaired and added to so often that it was condemned as unsafe in 1891. Accordingly, the Board of Education authorized the clerk to advertise for plans for a new building, in Webster District. From the different plans submitted the Board selected those of Giesey and Faris for the present large building. Its broad stairways and numerous exits reduce the danger from a panic in the case of fire to the minimum. The middle part and lower end of the building were ready for occupancy in January, 1892. The upper end was not completed until 1893. Webster School is the largest and finest grammar school building in the State. The total cost of erection was $65,000. At first, only sixteen of the rooms were occupied, but now every one of the twenty-one rooms is in use.

Before a central high school was established, each school had a high school department of its own. Each year the seniors from the different schools formed the graduating class of the Wheeling schools. Webster was well represented in the different classes, winning a goodly share of the honors. since the centralization of the high school department Webster has sent a class each year to the High School. Many of the former pupils of our school are now filling positions of trust and honor in the great school of life. Some have taken up professions, but the great majority of the boys are numbered among the successful artisans and business men of Wheeling. Many of the girls are engaged in educational work in our city. Two are teachers in the High School and about one-half of the corps of teachers in our own school at the present time is composed of its graduates. Webster School has the honor of having had three of its teachers, Miss Harper, Miss Clohan, and the writer, appointed as principals of Wheeling schools. Miss Harper was principal of Washington School for nearly fifteen years. Although she has entered into rest, her influence is still felt in the lives of her pupils. We who had the privilege of being under her teaching feel that she was one of those of whom Drummond said, "There are some men and some women in whose company we are always at our best. While with them we cannot think mean thoughts or speak ungenerous words." Miss Elizabeth Clohan (Mrs. Wm. Erskine) was appointed principal of Clay School in 1890. The following year the writer was appointed principal of Webster School.

At present the corps of teachers in our school is a follows: Anna Bender, Stella DeGant, Ethel Westwood, Agnes Nesbitt, and Lola Irvin in the first grade; Ella McKinley, Lizzie Hamilton, and Temperance Garden in the second grade; Amanda Gillespy and Julia Clarke in the third grade; Cecilia Finlaw, Agnes Carpenter, and Margaret Dudley in the fourth grade; Mary Grimes and Frances Florer in the fifth grade; Gertrude Roth and Sophia Ervin in the sixth grade; Emma Bowlin and Mary Hughes in the seventh grade; Ida Richards in the eighth grade; Anna Looser, teacher of German; and Mary Repetto, principal. The commissioners of Webster School now are Dr. J. A. Monroe, Chas. F. Schultze, and Frank W. Bowers. Mr. Bowers in President of the Board of Education.

Through the courtesy of Walter H. Hall, Clerk of the Board of Education, Wm. R. Dudley, Miss Elizabeth Cross, and Mrs. Mary Morrison Shafer the writer has been enabled to give the statistics regarding the earlier history of Webster School.

MARY D. REPPETTO, Principal.

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