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CALEB MILLS AND INDIANA COMMON SCHOOLS.
BY PRESIDENT TUTTLE OF WABASH COLLEGE *
CALEB MILLS, for forty-five years an active member of the Faculty of Wabash College at Crawfordsville, Indiana, was born at Dunbarton, New Hampshire, July 29, 1806, graduated at Dartmouth College in the class of 1828, at Andover Theological Seminary 1833, was married to Miss Sarah Marshall, September 13, 1833, removed to Crawfordsville, Indiana, in November, 1833, and on the 3d of December, 1833, threw open the portals of Wabash College to twelve young men, the forerunners of several thousand who have enjoyed its privileges since that memorable morning He died October 17, 1879.
The class with which he was graduated at Dartmouth was remarkable for the part its members bore in educational work. Ten of them became college officers, and several of them distinguished themselves as such. Among these were Labaree, President of Middlebury College, Long, of Auburn Theological Seminary, and Young, of Dartmouth.
Of the forty graduates in that class, the three who are most likely to be remembered for permanent educational work, assisted in founding two colleges. Milo P. Jewett, a scholarly and able man, was for several years at the head of a large institution for young ladies in Alabama. After great success there he came North, and was the means of inducing Matthew Vassar to abandon the plan of building a hospital at Poughkeepsie, and in its stead to found and endow Vassar College. Not only did he do this, but he was influential in shaping its successful career.
Edmund 0. Hovey was one of the original founders and trustees of Wabash College. In 1835 he became a member of its faculty. He continued a member of the board of trustees and faculty until his death March 10, 1877. At his suggestion, in 1833, his classmate, Caleb Mills, was appointed the first Principal of the institution which became Wabash College, in which for nearly forty-six years he exerted a great and wide influence. It is seldom that any institution of learning can name as the offspring of one of its classes two such granddaughters as Vassar College and Wabash College.
The official life of Professor Mills divides itself into two parts—his work in Wabash College, and his work in connection with the public schools in Indiana. The lack of time warns me to leave the first part, untouched, except to say in a general way that he nobly and faithfully performed the duties connected with his position as college officer. He was honored by his associates in the college, and he won the hearts
* A paper read to the Indiana Teachers' Association, December 31, 1879.
of his students. When God sent him and “his brother Hovey" to found Wabash College, he sent the pledge of success and the assurance that other blessings needed would not fail.
A distinguished friend of education who has never seen either of these men recently wrote concerning them: “There must be a very solid and deep foundation for an institution and its sacred aims to account for the unwearying devotion of two such men as Professors Hovey and Mills for nearly half a century. There is significance in such lives."
PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN INDIANA. A native of New England, Professor Mills, was in full sympathy with its system of popular education. He believed the State ought to provide free education for every child, sufficient to enable him to be an intelligent citizen. This thought originated in Boston, in 1643,* and whilst it quickly spread throughout the New England States, it did not for a century and a half find a home elsewhere. In 1787 it became a constitutional element in the civil institutions that were to shape the destinies of that vast region which now includes ten States in the valley of the Mississippi, and, indeed, of all the States and Territories west . of the Alleghenies, reaching to the Pacific Ocean..
Professor Mills, after his graduation at Dartmouth, had spent a year in the Theological Seminary at Andover, and then two years in extensive tours through Southern Indiana and Kentucky on an agency for Sundayschools. This led him to determine to settle in the valley of the Wabash. In the January number, 1833, of the “Home Missionary” he saw an article written by Rev. James Thomson, of Crawfordsville, de. scribing the Wabash country, and mentioning the classical school to be started at that place," where a competent number of teachers may be trained to be spread over the country to teach the children of this rapidly populating district.”
This led Professor Mills, then in his last year at Andover, to write to Mr. Thomson, a letter dated March 18, 1833, from which I may quote some sentences, which show that as early as 1833, while he was still a student, he had planned what may be called his “Common school campaign” in Indiana. He ranks together “the cause of common schools and the preaching of the Gospel, as claiming the attention of a patriotic and Christian community." The Sunday-school is good, but “not sufficient for the mighty mass of mind that is now rising up." “My thoughts have been directed of late to the subject of commonschools, and the best means of awakening a more lively interest in their establishment in the Western country. Public sentiment must be changed in regard to free schools; prejudice must be overcome, and the public mind awakened to the importance of carrying the means of education to every door. Though it is the work of years, yet it must and can be done. The sooner we embark in this enterprise the better, It can be effected only by convincing the mass of the people that the
* Where is the evidence of such a genesis 8–H. B.
scheme we propose is practicable; is the best and most economical way." of giving their children an education. Introductory to and in connect tion with these efforts, we must furnish them with teachers of a higher order of intellectual culture than the present race of pedagogues."
Professor Mills, in this letter, speaks of his purpose to come West, and adds: “I hope to reach the Wabash country the last of October, Can you find me a good parish and a log house to dwell in ?” .
In June he again wrote Mr. Thomson, and says: "I am happy to learn that you intend to make the preparation of school teachers a prominenti object in the establishment of your institution.” It is a matter of higher importance to secure the right teacher for the English department than for the classical, because he will fit teachers for the common schools. He wants "to open the eyes of people to the incompetency of the present race of pedagogues.” It seems as if he could not write a letter without filling it with pleas for the common schools, which Indiana needed so much.
He had been invited to locate himself at Paris, Jefferson county, Ind., and also to become agent for Marietta Collegiate Institute, in Ohio, but he says: “I cannot think of relinquishing my long-cherished plans of settling in Wabash county.” It is also evident that he is gradually coming to the conviction that he ought to make teaching his own life work. He wrote Mr. Thomson what kind of a principal was needed for the new school at Crawfordsville, and in so doing, described himself unwittingly. “He should emphatically be a working man. He should not only teach, but lecture on popular education during vacations. An institution of this character, where teachers, both male and female, should be trained, would prepare the way for the ultimate establishment of a college."
And he also implies that Mr. Thomson had been speaking of him as ! a "candidate for the professorship of the English department in the new institution. Brother Hovey knows me, and is acquainted with my fitness and qualifications for such an office. Should I engage in such business I should devote my energies to it.” He also says that when he comes he is to bring, besides his wife, two young ladies as instructors.
On the 18th of July, 1833, “Caleb Mills was nominated to fill the English department, and it was resolved that Mr. Mills be invited to open a school as soon as practicable.”
His marriage took place on the 13th of September, soon after which he started for Indiana, and after a tedious and roundabout journey of six weeks reached Crawfordsville the 8th of November, accompanied by his wife and four teachers—three ladies, all of whom found schools.
I have sketched this part of Professor Mills' life to show the purpose he had in coming to Indiana. In his mind, long before he came to this State, lay the purpose of awakening public sentiment to the ikaportance of organizing the public schools so as to carry the means of education to every door, and even when he consented to become principal