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The Upper High School Grade from 1872-1876

 

Watertown High School Orbit, 1920

 

From 1871 to 1873, two rooms on the upper floor of Union School, No. 1, later remodeled to make the High School on Main Street, accommodated a High School of two grades with one teacher for each grade, and an average attendance of seventy-five -twenty-nine boys and forty-six girls.

 

The First, or highest grade, taught by Bernhard, occupied the room which was the west half of the second floor. The heating system for the room consisted of a huge, drum topped box stove, behind which was a big pile of wood, and on the other side zinc-lined shuttered screens, regulated by those sitting nearest. Needless to say real comfort was somewhere midway between the stove and the outside walls. Along the west wall, tall wooden cupboards concealed such illustrative and experimental materials, such as mineralogical and geological specimens, cases of mounted insects, a planetarium, a tellurian, a centrifugal machine, a gyroscope, and electric friction machine, a Grove's battery, and an air pump. At the blackboards, which covered three sides of the room, frequently every bit of available space was occupied by eager pupils doing some assignment of Mr. Bernhards.  Over these blackboards hung numerous maps and charts:  in many studies these had to do the work of the free text books, which were not introduced until 1877.

 

Every operation at the blackboard was closely watched by Mr. Bernhard, who demanded thoroughness and exactness in everything.  In fact, no study was ever looked upon as finished, but could be brought up again when the least expected. All the branches were co-related; and-whenever a weak spot was discovered, the lesson under discussion was dropped until by means of drilling and numerous other examples in subjects that gave additional light, all had been made perfectly clear. And always the principles were the important things, rules and theorems, easily derived from them were secondary.

 

Thus, since it was general practice to have every branch well correlated and thoroughly revived, the program was, of necessity a very flexible one, and if at any, time during the day, interest seemed to flag, the lesson plan was never too rigid to permit a few songs, with Mr. Bernhard at the organ.

 

Taken as a whole, the course of study, as well as, the methods of teaching, aimed not to fit the pupils for some higher institution of learning, but to give them a "lucid perception of the general, natural and therefore necessary connection of all branches of knowledge, and of all those scientific facts and truths, which have a practical bearing upon moral, social, and civil life"  The knowledge imparted was to be "popular, but not superficial, selective, but not fragmentary." 

 

Besides the regular curse of study, the high school also contained an incipient normal department, which was taken advantage of by a considerable number of non-residents, as well as those living in Watertown. This course included the studies required by the law of the state for obtaining first, second and third grade teachers' certificates.

 

The first graduates, twelve in number, passed their examinations in 1873 and received their diplomas a year or two later. But on this occasion there were no graduation gowns; in those days linsey-woolsey was the popular material for winter, and good strong calico for summer. There were no class colors, no class yell; there were really no graduation exercises. To the twelve graduates, standing near their benches, Mr. Bernhard made a few appropriate remarks, then he handed each his diploma. That was all.

 

The graduates were as follows:

 

Emma Griffith, (Mrs. Frank Powers), Chicago, Illinois.

Emma Charboneau, (Mrs. J. B. Murphy), Watertown, Wisconsin.

Jennie Ross, Cleveland, Ohio.

Albert Bellack, Columbus, Wisconsin.

Rosa Bernhard, died in 1886.

Anna Shillcox, (Mrs. Thomas L. Smith), Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Josephine Ruebhausen, (Mrs. C. F. Viebahn), Watertown,, Wisconsin.

Ida C. Wilder, died in 1887.

Minnie Voss, ( Mrs. George France), died in 1898.

Addie Randall, (Mrs. James D. Baker), Eugene, Oregon.

Josie Kern, (Mrs. Paul Fontaine), Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    [ 11 are listed in Orbit article ]

 

Hope, enthusiasm, joy, and good will dominated the spirit of the class of 1873. Going to school was so great a delight that no weather was too inclement, no snowdrift too deep. Such was the enthusiasm for learning that many continued to go to school from one to three years after passing their final examinations, in order to take advantage of the ever broadening curriculum. Their inspirer, guide and friend, in praise of whom too much can hardly be said, was Theodore Bernhard, teacher and scholar, who for many years so ably and faithfully directed all educational matters in Watertown. His memory is held in the highest regard by all who had the good fortune to come under his personal instruction.

 

JOSEPHINE A. VIEBAHN.

 

 

 

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