Educational Progress In Beardstown
Early education in Beardstown was carried on under very discouraging conditions. There were no free schools and all the schooling the children received was from subscription schools, common in those days. Such schools were maintained by the heads of the families by paying so much per month for each child. These schools were taught by parties who had sufficient learning to give instructions including the birch and hickory, but who had no special preparation for teaching. These schools were hard on the children of the poor. If a man could not pay the fee he could not send his children. These schools were held in shops, houses, and other buildings very poorly equipped for school purposes.
The first school taught in Beardstown was a subscription school kept in an unused building facing State Street between First and Second Streets. In the year 1833, Thomas Beard, founder of our city, erected a building on Sixth Street, immediately east of State Street which Mr. Beard donated to the public for educational purposes and later the building was occupied by Dr. Hoffman as an office and chemical laboratory.
During the forties an old warehouse, situated at the corner of Lafayette and Second Streets was used as a school house for several years. Between the years 1830 and 1853 school was held in different buildings and parochial schools were also maintained during the time by the various churches.
In 1852, Beardstown began the erection of a spacious brick school building, known as the Brick School, on block 36, where now stands the Central building. This building was completed in 1853
and was the first free school in this city. It served people until 1884, when the present Central building was erected at a cost of $26,000. In the year 1887 two rooms were erected in the East Ward and two rooms in the West Ward; in 1889 two more rooms were added to the East Ward, now called the Washington School.
In 1893 the Second and the Fourth Ward buildings were erected. In 1908 the Second Ward building was removed and the Lincoln building was erected on the same lot, and was opened in the Spring of 1909 and is now the home of the high school, which is growing very rapidly.
Two more rooms have since been added to the Washington School, making it a six room building.
But the problem of taking care of the children of the west side of the city has been for some time, so to speak, the child of sorrow to the board of education and was not of easy solution. The Fourth Ward building had for some time been considered unsafe, and yet could not be dispensed with unless other provisions could be made to house the children residing within the bounds of the west side district of the city. But the solution came sooner than anyone expected or looked for. In the spring of 1913, during the high water, it became evident that the Fourth Ward building was unsafe and had to be condemned and abandoned. It thus became imperative for the Board of Education to take some decisive action in reference of making provisions for the children residing in the West Ward district and to erect a building on some site centrally located within said district and easily accessible to all children residing within its bounds.
It so happened that when this site became available, a bond issue of $25,000 was voted, and after due deliberation the Board proceeded to erect a school building of eight rooms which should be artistic in its architectural aspects, to be equipped with all modern devices and to make it in all respects, as nearly as possible, an ideal school building, which would be a credit to our city and in which we all could feel and take a pardonable pride, the Board being prompted by the principle that the best is only good enough for our children. This building, known as the Beard School, situated on the site of the old City Cemetery, was completed and formally dedicated on October 30,1914.
The total value of our school property today, including this building, is about $170,000. The enrollment in our school last year was 1,421 pupils.