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From History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois, Springfield, IL: Continental Historical Co., 1885, pp. 229 – 231. Not a complete transcription. There will be typographical errors.
When the county of Jersey was organized in 1839, the office of superintendent of schools had not been as yet created. The only officer connected with the schools, under the constitution of 1818, was the commissioner of the school lands, who had charge of the funds arising from the sale of the sixteenth sections, donated in each congressional township for educational purposes. This officer was appointed by the county commissioners’ court, who were empowered to fix the compensation of the same. May of these men in all the early communities were unfit for the position, and upon the records of Jersey county is spread the following unique preamble and resolution, which is here given with names and dates left out, as it is not necessary for historic accuracy that they should be given; suffice it to say, that it is at a term of court in the early “forties:”
“Whereas, an oreder was made at the June term, 18__, declaring the office of school commissioner and agent for the inhabitants of Jersey county, vacant by the removal of ___ ___ for neglect of duty and incompetency; and whereas, the court was not aware of the existence of the law passed last winter, making said offices elective by the people, on the first Monday in August next; and, whereas, in consequence of the existence of said law, the court could not get a suitable and competent person to accept the appointment of said office for so short a time; therefore it is
“Ordered, that said order is hereby rescinded, and said ___ ___ is to all intents and purposes re-instated in and to said office, for the reason above mentioned. But, be it known, that nothing has occurred to change or alter the minds of this court relative to the causes of removal.”
The first to occupy this office was Joseph Crabb, who was appointed by the county commissioners’ court Oct. 14, 1839, and held it for about a year. He was succeeded by George Pegues. By some change in the law this was altered from an appointive to an elective one, and this gentleman was elected, but resigned it September of that some year, and James Harriott was appointed in his place. In 1843 he was re-elected without any opposition, and again in 1845 and 1847, holding the office for eight years.
Rev. B. B. Hamilton was the next to fill the office, being elected thereto in the fall of 1847, but only served one year. Mr. Hamilton is a resident and present postmaster of the town of White Hall, Greene county.
In the fall of 1848 Hiram Bridges was elected to fill this office, and held it for nine years, being re-elected in 1855.
Henry H. Howard, a prominent attorney of the county, was elected to this office in 1857 and acceptably filled it for two years.
Superintendent of Schools
In 1858 the law governing school matters was radically changed, among the improvements being the abolishment of the office of school commissioner, and the establishment of the office of Superintendent of Schools. This officer was required to examine applicants for teachers’ certificates, and to issue said certificates to such as were qualified; to visit and inspect the schools in the county periodically; to examine the plans for any new school buildings and modify the same when necessary; to hold meetings of the presidents of school districts, and make a report to the state superintendent.
W. J. Herdman was the first to fill this new position, being elected thereto in the fall of 1859, and held the same for nine years, being elected his own successor several times.
C. H. Knapp was the next incumbent of the office, being elected at the regular election on 1867, and served the people in that capacity for six years.
W. H. Lynn was elected to the office of county superintendent of schools of Jersey county in the fall of 1873, and was re-elected in 1875, serving four years.
William H. Lynn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 14, 1836, his parents being Samuel and Frances W. (Wilson) Lynn. His early life was spent in Kentucky, where he received an academic education. In 1857 he, with his parents, came to Illinois, and served as a clerk one year in Carrollton. He then gave his attention to teaching, and was afterwards elected county superintendent of schools, and served as such four years. Politically he is a democrat.
Lott Pennington, the present incumbent of the office, was first elected in 1877, and has filled it ever since, being elected regularly his own successor, on the expiration of his term of office.
Lott Pennington, county superintendent of schools, is a native of New Jersey, born July 22, 1842. He is a son of James and Elizabeth (Richards) Pennington, the former a native of New Jersey, the latter born in Wales, but brought to this country in infancy. James Pennington was a farmer, and Lott was reared to agricultural pursuits. In 1857 he came to Illinois, and stopped first at Bunker Hill. He came soon after to Jerseyville. In 1860 he entered Mount Morris Seminary, and continued a student there three years. He then followed teaching during the winter, and farming during the summer seasons, in the vicinity of Jerseyville. In the fall of 1877 he was elected county superintendent, and was re-elected in 1882. He is well qualified for this responsible position, and his popularity is well attested by his re-election to the same. In Nov. 1863 Mr. Pennington was married to Rebecca Rue, a daughter of George S. and Ellen Rue. They have six children: George, Herbert, Birdie, Jesse, Frank and Edith.
In the pioneer days in Jersey county, in common with all new countries, good schools were like “angels’ visits, few and far between;” and it was considered very fortunate, indeed, if any opportunity was offered for obtaining even the rudiments of a common school education. Some of the scattered settlements could not afford to employ a teacher, and were therefore compelled to do without, or send their children across the prairie or through the timber to some more fortunate settlement, where a school was in operation. Many instances are mentioned where children have been sent a distance of from three to six miles, walking the entire way morning and evening of each day, that they might avail themselves of the chance of acquiring knowledge, and thus fitting themselves for life’s duties.
How different now! In every township there are several schools in successful operation; competent teachers are employed, many of whom have spent years in fitting themselves for their vocation, and every convenience afforded for the education of the rising generation. In those early days a log cabin or shanty, probably 10 x 12 feet in size, was erected on some of the old settlers’ land. Frequently these huts had but one window, a small doorway cut through the logs at the most convenient place, while the furniture consisted of slab seats for the scholars and a three-legged stool and a hazel of hickory rod for the teacher. As for books, but few were needed, the less the better, as the teacher could get along the more readily.