School at Gilmer.

 

 

 

School at Gilmer.

 — For a continuous period of ten years, previous to the summer of 1870, Prof. Morgan H. Looney kept an excellent school at Gilmer, averaging largely over 200 students annually of all classes, male and female, young men and young women, as well as the minor children of the town and neighborhood, during ten months of each year. The school was attended by advanced scholars from a hundred miles in every direction. His pupils were taught from the lowest to a high grade in the English and ancient languages, in mathematics, and in composition and other studies. He was a man of medium size, vigorous in speech and action, had been thoroughly educated at the college at Middleville, Ga., had taught school as a profession, and had two brothers that were teachers. One of them, Mr. Bud Looney, assisted him part of the time at Gilmer, though his assistants were generally scholars that he had educated, consisting of two young women who taught classes of girls and two young men who taught classes of boys.

Professor Looney taught classes of both male and female students together. As a teacher of both high and low classes he had an extraordinary capacity of explanation that made even the dullest student understand him. He artfully excited a lively interest in all of his pupils to learn, and with many of them to become well educated in the higher branches of learning. Equal to any other of his remarkable powers as a teacher was that of the systematic government of his school in the schoolrooms, and of his students when not in the school building. He took general supervision of his students everywhere, day and night, from the time of their enrollment till they left the school. Nearly every residence in town received his students as boarders, and any misconduct there, or upon the streets, or in the public houses, would be reported to Professor Looney, his school and its management being the leading business enterprise of the little town.

As part of his government he had a set of rules regulating the conduct of his pupils, both in and out of school hours. Some of them were: That there must be no arguments leading to contentions about politics or religion; that there must be no criticism upon the dress of any pupil, whether it was coarse or fine; that everywhere young men were to act as gentlemen, and young women as ladies; that they must govern themselves according to his rules, otherwise leave the school; that while attending his school they must make learning their exclusive business as a regular occupation. To enforce these and many other requirements he opened his school every Monday morning with a brilliant lecture upon one or more of the rules, which were illustrated by interesting dissertations upon government generally. So interesting were these lectures that citizens of the town who had leisure would attend them frequently, and some of them regularly. A feature and object of the lectures was. that if any of the larger students had been guilty of any violation of the rules or other impropriety during the previous week, it would be discussed, without naming the guilty party, in a way to make such improper conduct look extremely objectionable, and sometimes ridiculous or odious, according to its magnitude. It had a wonderful corrective effect. If he became fully satisfied that any of his larger students would not voluntarily comply with his rules he quietly gave them notice in person to leave the school. There were no trustees and no trials for misconduct, and it was not publicly known why the student left. One of his rules was that there was to be no familiar communication between the girls and the boys. That rule was suspended occasionally, with permission for the boys, large and small, to call upon the girls Saturday evening (not longer than 9 o'clock at night), and accompany them to church on Sunday, which was generally done in the most genteel manner. None of the churches was particularly favored.

Composition was taught as a special study each Saturday forenoon by Professor Looney himself for an extra tuition fee of S5 per session. Those students who sought to be taught composition were divided into three classes — first, second, and third — according to their advance in education, each class being taught separately. The manner of teaching was as follows: Professor Looney would write upon the blackboard a subject, it usually being a sentence taken from some book, either very simple or otherwise, according to the grade of the class present. He would divide and subdivide the subject as might be necessary. The members of the class, with paper and pencil, would copy/ the subject as presented on the blackboard. The professor would then deliver a lecture on the subject, making pointed explanations of each part of the subject in the hearing of the class, which each member of the class would reproduce and read before him at a given time, for his verbal correction as to the matter and style, and pronunciation in the reading. In his advanced classes he would select subjects at different times that admitted of a wide range of discussion upon government, ethics, literature, history, and science, that furnished his students with an immense amount of varied information and excellent style of expression and speaking that soon enabled them to write compositions that excited the surprise and admiration of their hearers. This was conspicuous at the examinations, lasting three days at the end of each session, which were usually attended by at least six or eight hundred visitors, who were seated in the large room of the second story of the building during the examinations. It should not be omitted to state, as a part of his system of elementary education, that for each one of the five days of each week of the session there was a lesson in English grammar, in which all those studying it, or who had studied it, participated, though it might not last one-half an hour, and the school at its close each day had a general spelling lesson. Everything considered, it was a model school, under the direction and control of one man, and many were the young women and young men who received a good, substantial education at the school.

During three years— 1868, 1869, and 1870— Judge O. M. Roberts, afterwards Governor Roberts, moved with his family to Gilmer to send his children to that school, and to teach a law school in connection with Professor Looney's school. He also taught bookkeeping for the benefit of young men who were not able to go off to a school for that purpose. His habit was to give two or three hours to his law classes, and, having a successful law practice, to devote the balance of the day to his office and law business, much the same as if he had not been engaged in teaching. The courts of that county were attended by very able lawyers, among whom were Cols. Lafayette Camp and David B. Culberson, which made the practice there very interesting. Judge Roberts, in addition to his teaching, delivered weekly lectures in the school upon law, the State, and scientific subjects, synopses of which were made and published in the local paper. His law school turned out a number of students who made successful lawyers, among whom may be mentioned Judge Sawnie Robertson, of the supreme court, Attorney -General John D. Templeton, Judge Aldredge, and Mr. Thomas Mont rose. Hon. Charles A. Culberson, governor of Texas, attended the Looney school. Unfortunately, when Professor Looney's school was at the zenith of great prosperity, the professor was induced, on account of the failing health of his wife, to move, in the fall of 1870, to northwest Arkansas. He abandoned his great work, shedding tears on his departure, and the Looney School was closed at Gilmer.

History of Education in Texas - Page 329

by John J. Lane- 1903 - 334 pages


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