Education

THE first school in the Oregon country was conducted at Fort Van-
couver for the half-breed children of the Hudson's Bay Company
trappers. Its teacher was John Ball, a Dartmouth graduate who came
west in 1832 with the first Wyeth party. Not wishing to accept free
lodging from the factor, Dr. John McLoughlin, Ball asked for work
and was assigned to teaching. Early in 1833 he was succeeded by an-
other member of the Wyeth party, Solomon H. Smith, who taught for
a year and a half, and then eloped with the Indian wife of the fort's
baker. Thereafter, Smith taught in a school at French Prairie, and
later established a school at Clatsop Plains. By the end of 1834, Jason
Lee and his three co-workers in the newly-founded Methodist mission
school at French Prairie were teaching the Indian and half-breed chil-
dren of the region to read and write.

The pioneer schools of Oregon received little public support, but were
usually maintained by individuals or church organizations. At the pri-
mary school conducted in Oregon City during the winter of 1853-4,
tuition was free because Sidney Walter Moss, Oregon's first writer of
fiction, paid most of the expenses. While some communities provided
primitive schoolhouses, many of the early classes were held in settlers'
cabins, where the teacher was often a pioneer mother or other person
familiar with the rudiments of learning. Teachers in privately con-
ducted schools that charged a fee were paid meager stipends, in addition
to being "boarded around." Such a "rate bill" school was established
in Portland as early as 1847. The tuition fees were commonly no less
meager than the pay of the teachers. An announcement of the Lone
Butte school, in Marion County, states in 1854: "One quarter taught
at $5 per schollar. The other two quarters cost $4 per schollar each."

In the early agitation for free schools, a prominent part was taken by
the Reverend George H. Atkinson, often referred to as "the father of
public education in Oregon." But this agitation produced little in the
way of concrete results until the Territory of Oregon was officially
organized in 1849. Then, under the terms of the Nathan Dane Act, two