The city of Gallipolis has long enjoyed a rich heritage in the field of education. Its earliest beginnings were with the French emigrants, who included many persons of learning in the sciences and the arts. During the period of the French dominance of the colony, no attempt was made to establish formal education. In fact, formal public education was not formulated in Gallipolis until 1849. However, in those early years education was not neglected and private schools, along with tutors for the more wealthy families abounded.
Very little is known about education in Gallipolis before 1810. Francis Le Clercq, a man of fine educational attainments, as were many of the early French settlers, is thought to have been the first schoolmaster in the community. Needless to say, instruction must have been extremely limited while the colonists were engaged in the stern business of clearing a wilderness and adapting themselves to their strange environment. Sometime after the town and vicinity became more settled and following the arrival of immigrants from New England and Virginia, a special interest was taken in formal education. This interest resulted in the opening of temporary schools, and long range plans were made for the establishment of a permanent institution of learning.
A giant step was taken on February 8, 1810, when the citizens of Gallipolis and vicinity met to consider the expedience of erecting a building to be appropriated for the instruction of the youth and such other purposes as might be deemed of public utility
for the purpose of establishing Gallia Academy. Colonel Robert Safford, distinguished for felling the first tree on the site of Gallipolis, was appointed chairman, with Nathaniel Gates serving as clerk.
The group formed a stockholders' company for the establishment of an academic institution in Gallipolis, with each shareholder having a vote for ten shares each of privately owned stock. This group of stockholders included: Edward W. Tupper, Francis Le Clercq, John P.R. Bureau, C.R. Menager, Henry Duc, Joseph Fletcher, Charles Clendenin, Matthew Buell, Lewis Thomas Rodgers, Lewis Newsom, Peter H Steenbergen, Rene Carel, Pereguine P. Foster, Luther Rees, John Kerr, Andrew Johnson, John B. Ferrard, Peter Ferrard, Christian Etienne, Lewis Vimont, John Atchinson, Charles Dinay, Andrew Lewis, David Irwin, Levi Mercer, Lewis V. Von Schrittz, John Bing, Orasha Strong, and James Wilson. These early stockholders made payment in carpenters and joiners work, beef, cattle, pork, hemp, flour, and other staple items.
A company was then organized, and by a special Act of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, was on January 29, 1811, “made a Corporation and Body Politic for ‘Seminary benefits’ in the name and style of ‘The Gallia Academy,’ with powers to remain and have perpetual succession forever.”
A location opposite the Public Square and on the north side of Second Street was purchased. It included Lots 117, 118, and a part of 116, and extended as nearly as can be ascertained, from the Ohio Valley Bank corner to the Empire Furniture Company in the Adams building. Later Lot 119, occupied by the First Presbyterian Church and Lot 120, from the Public Library to the W.R. Tanner residence on Third Avenue were added. It is a note-worthy fact that the section made up of Lots 116-120 is today called the “Academy Subdivision,” being so designated on the plat at the Court House.
The school was quickly erected on the site of the Roedell and Fontana business establishments. It was a commodious two-story brick building, mounted by a cupola and having two large rooms downstairs with a hall between, and one large room on the second floor which was later divided into two rooms. Because of the exhaustion of funds it was not completed until 1818, but it was used in an unfinished state for religious services as early as 1812 and for Masonic meetings at a somewhat later date. Gallia Academy commenced its first formal session on May 24, 1819.
The drive for materials and funds continued for several years and the first Gallia Academy continued in its location at Second Avenue and State Street until it burned to the ground on July 15, 1847. Following the fire, Mr. J.C. Robinson opened on lower Second Street near the present Gallia Hotel, a school called the Collegiate Institute, which was attended by the older and more advanced pupils of the town. During this period the younger children attended a few private schools and the two district schools.
Gallia Academy occupied temporary quarters until 1853, when the new Gallia Academy was built on the site of the present Junior High. The two-story brick building was completed and opened for its first session on May 17, 1854. It was marked by a stone tablet placed in the front gable, on which was carved “Gallia Academy, A.D. 1853.” Twelve years later, in 1866, an addition was built. That building was torn down in 1916, and what now serves as the Gallia Academy Junior High School was erected.
From 1854-1867, the teachers in charge were Mr. and Mrs. Amos G. Sears. Beginning with their tenure, boys and girls were no longer segregated into different rooms as had been the custom, though they were seated apart in the same room and had their recess at different hours. The school was divided into two departments, the Preparatory and the Academic. Some of the subjects taught in the higher department were Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, Geology, Botany, Astronomy, Greek, Latin, and French, styled “Ornamental,” Music, Drawing and Painting and Book-keeping; also General History, Algebra, Geometry, Surveying, and English Grammar. Strange to say, young people were not formally graduated from the Academy at this time, though a number were prepared for Eastern colleges.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, a large number of Gallia Academy students answered the call to serve under the Northern and Southern flags. In 1863, the military authorities took over the building for hospital purposes. School was thus discontinued until reopening in 1864. The school now enrolled about three hundred pupils.
Gallia Academy was one of the first schools to be founded in the Old Northwest. Toward the close of the nineteenth century it was reestablished as Gallipolis High School in the old Union School building, and before the turn of the century the schools were combined to form what is today Gallia Academy High School, which is located on lands still owned by Gallia Academy trustees.
Public education in Gallipolis got its earliest start in 1849, when a meeting was held to promote public graded education. It was put to a vote of the people in 1857, and with a favorable vote plans were moved forward for the building of the first public school on the site of the present Washington Elementary School. By 1872, all of the sub-districts surrounding Gallipolis were brought into the City System, with those reaching grammar school to attend schools in the city of Gallipolis.
A leaflet in the form of a prospectus for the year 1869-1870, when Mr. S. T. Skidmore was principal, shows a reconstruction of the academic year into three terms, and a revision of the course of study. Beginning at this time, three distinct courses were offered in the higher department: English, Classical and College Preparatory.
The first was a “normal and scientific course fitting students for business or teaching,” and requiring either two or three years for completion; the second, “a liberal course of collegiate culture for ladies and gentlemen,” requiring four years for completion; and the third, “a course for young men desiring to enter college,” demanding two years of earnest effort and application.
The Course of Study for 1872-73, shows that the time occupied by the Classical and College Preparatory courses was then three years, and that the essential difference between them was in the requirement of Greek in the latter, it being substituted for certain English branches.
The leaflet of 1869-70, announced also the awarding of diplomas for the completion of the higher courses and the giving of certificates to young men who satisfactorily passed the examinations for college entrance. It is not certain in what year the first class was graduated from Gallia Academy in the courses named above. The records of the Trustees, which from the first were imperfectly kept, show the granting of diplomas to a Commercial class in 1867, but contain no further mention of graduation until 1872. One of the diplomas awarded in 1872 was made of parchment. Mr. James E. Langley, said to have been a brilliant conversationalist and one of the finest young men ever produced by Gallipolis and Mr. James H. Clendenin, reported to have been an exceptionally gifted student, were both admitted to Yale by certificates from Gallia Academy.
From 1870 to 1873, Gallia Academy instituted Physical Training. There were classes in gymnastics which furnished pleasant and healthful recreation for the young people. The instructor was Miss Amelia Dickinson. Mrs. S.F. Neal, formerly Miss Luella Hibbard, from Mt. Holyoke, holds the distinction of directing the first class in gymnastics at Gallia Academy and likely the first in any Gallipolis school. Miss Hibbard had Miss Dickinson’s class in 1872-73, was composed of both boys and girls. There were by this time organized athletics at Gallia Academy and called into existence by the establishment of the Union High School. Each school had its champions.
In 1889, military training was introduced for the boys and a military company, the “Nash Cadets” was organized, but lasted for only one year. By 1891, the enrollment of Gallia Academy had dwindled to twenty-one and the school was closed. It was not to be opened again until 1895.
By way of one last effort to maintain Gallia Academy, the Trustees in 1895, invited Dr. H.W. Simpson, President of Marietta College, to come to Gallipolis to advise them concerning the reopening of the institution. At their request he outlined for the school a new course of study of high academic grade and recommended as teachers two young men soon to be graduated from Marietta. Accordingly, Gallia Academy was reopened in September 1895, with Mr. Robert Brown, principal and Mr. Charles W. Boetticher, assistant. It was operated on high academic standards with a small graduating class each year after 1897, but the number in attendance was not sufficiently large to justify the continuance of the school, and in 1900, it was closed for the last time.
For “seminary benefits,” the public high school had come to take the place of the academy. Full realizing this fact, the Trustees nobly took the only step whereby Gallia Academy might continue to fulfill the mission for which it had been founded. They leased to the Board of Education the building and grounds to become the home of the High School. They also arranged for the endowment of the Academy to be used for repairing and equipping the building and further providing that the scholastic standards of the High School, which at that time were not so high as those of the Academy, be raised to admit graduates to college without examination. In 1917, the Trustees formally deeded to the Board of Education the grounds and building; and with the consummation of that act, the Gallipolis High School entered into splendid heritage, being known thereafter by the name Gallia Academy High School.
Sometime around the turn of the century the schools in the district included Union, later changed to Washington, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, and Douglas, and Gallia Academy. Later additions to the system included schools in East Gallipolis and Kanauga.
Although education had transitioned from a private school to a public system, the city schools retained a very high level of course offerings. In the early part of the century one finds that Gallia Academy under public sponsorship still believed in the classic education. The curriculum included Greek, German, and higher levels of mathematics and sciences. Gallia Academy has the distinction of being one of the first secondary schools in the United States to be accredited by the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, and has continuously maintained that distinction since 1906.
One of the developments that took place in recent years is the centralization of the various city schools. Grant, Garfield, and Lincoln Schools, including the Lincoln High School, were absorbed into the Central System. East Gallipolis and the Kanauga School buildings were eliminated during this time.
With the growth of the suburban areas, townships surrounding the city of Gallipolis built new elementary schools. A vote was taken by the schools in Clay and Green Townships and their buildings became a part of the Gallipolis City School District on May 23, 1958 and August 19, 1958, respectively.
In 1956, one of the major additions to the Gallipolis City School District was the building of a new Gallia Academy High School at a cost of approximately $900,000.00. Prior to its construction and at the same site, a music, industrial arts and agriculture building was erected in 1952. With these expansions Gallia Academy High School now served grades 7-12.
In 1940, the individual building enrollment was Kanauga 33, Lincoln 91, Maple Shade, 32, Washington 754 and Gallia Academy 466, for a total of 1376. At the close of the 1964-65 school year the building enrollment was Washington 1059, Clay 143, Green 284, and Gallia Academy 1060, for a total enrollment of 2,546.
Today the Gallipolis City School District is a monument to the foresight and the efforts of those individuals who were committed to public education. The present school district includes a NEW Gallia Academy High School, Renovated Gallia Academy Middle School and Alternative School, NEW Green Elementary School, NEW Rio Grande Elementary School, and Renovated Washington Elementary School.
The NEW Gallia Academy High School is located in Centenary, Ohio, on a very spacious 100 acre campus. The 135,290 square foot facility consists of a single state of the art building dedicated in 2009. Today the school houses approximately 760 ninth through twelfth grade students.
The Gallia Academy Middle School is presently located in the 1916 building on Fourth Avenue in downtown Gallipolis. The 1956 wing, which formerly served as the Gallia Academy High School, is now being renovated for the 529 sixth through eighth grade middle school students to move into sometime in the Spring of 2011. Following this transition, the 1916 wing will be demolished and further construction will be completed to finalize the renovation of the 1956 wing and occupy 74,260 square feet as the NEW Gallia Academy Middle School.
The Clay AlternativeSchool is now located within the complex of buildings that make up Gallia Academy Middle School. Following renovation and construction of the GAMS, the Alternative School with both short and long-term units, will continue to be housed within Gallia Academy Middle School in downtown Gallipolis.
The NEW Green Elementary School is situated to the rear of the original building site in Centenary and was dedicated in 2010. The 43,527 square foot structure sits on a nine-acre site with a new entrance, parking and play areas. The school presently serves 361 students in PreK through the Fifth Grade on its eastern Gallipolis campus.
The district bus garage is located to the rear of the NEW Green Elementary. The district now owns 100 acres of land which is also occupied by the NEW GAHS campus and is located directly adjacent to and across the tertiary road that accesses this school site. A soccer field has been constructed on this property enclosed with a chain length fence and having an electronic scoreboard.
The NEW Rio Grande Elementary School is located on Lake Drive in Rio Grande and was dedicated in 2010. The 43,389 square foot facility houses 288 students in PreK - Fifth Grade.
Washington Elementary School is a handsome Tudor English style masonry building that was originally constructed in 1930. The 1945 and 1965 additions have provided more classroom/cafeteria space and kitchen space respectively. Following the recent renovation, Washington Elementary was rededicated in 2010. Today, this 56,175 square foot facility houses 480 students in PreK through the Fifth Grade. On October 8, 1948, Memorial Field, the district's sports complex adjacent to Washington, was dedicated to all veterans of World War I and World War II.
On June 10, 1968, the State of Ohio Department of Education granted a charter to the Gallipolis City School District to operate schools in accordance with the adopted policies and regulations of the State Board of Education. Mr. Jack W. Payton is the present superintendent in a long line of administrators that stretch back over a century and a half. The total Gallipolis City School District enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year stands at 2,417 students. Presently, 174 Certified Staff and 91 Classified Staff Members are employed by the district which covers 99 square miles. The present board of education is: Ryan Smith, President, Robert Cornwell, Vice President, Dr. Timothy Kyger, Board Member, Lynn Angell, Board Member and JR Sauer, Board Member. Ellen M. Marple has served as school district treasurer for the past 35 years.
The Gallipolis City School District, encompassing the city of Gallipolis, the village of Rio Grande and sections of rural Gallia County, serves a community rich in history. The instructional program in the Gallipolis City Schools is designed to provide a learning environment that will promote social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. The district's mission is "to create a nurturing environment that enables each student to develop to the best of his/her abilities, the lifelong learning skills necessary to communicate clearly, to solve problems, to use technology effectively, to appreciate the arts and to meet the obligations of a productive citizen in a democracy."
The Gallipolis City School District is working very dilligently to raise the achievement of its students. For the 2009-2010 school year, Green Elementary School was rated Excellent by the Ohio Department of Education while Gallia Academy High School, Rio Grande Elementary School and Washington Elementary School were all given a rating of Effective.
Teachers in Gallipolis were from the first held in the highest esteem, and have learned from the pen of that distinguished teacher, Miss Hannah U. Maxon, that the early settlers and citizens spoke with pride and almost veneration of those who officially conducted the schools.
“An institution may have all the other requisites, but until it has hoary years replete with honor behind it, the atmosphere will lack the bracing quality that makes young blood tingle.” Dr. Guy Potter Benton: A Real College
"We earnestly hope that there will go forth each year from this school graduates with vision and high ideals, whose lives will add still more honor to the institution, which through the illustrious past possess in an eminent degree 'the bracing quality that makes young blood tingle.'”