Monday, April 27, 2009

Electa Quinney

It would not be difficult for me to write up a timeline of the succession of Calvinist (Congregational and Presbyterian) ministers serving the Stockbridge Mohicans from the first John Sergeant to well into the 1900's. On the other hand, although notable schoolteachers also served the tribe, their comings and goings are not nearly as well documented. One reason for this is that teachers weren't always paid out of the same pot. Sometimes the mission society would hire a teacher, but at other times funds came from the federal government or from the tribe's own treasury. That increased the level of turnover.

I can remember the names of a few of the tribe's teachers: Timothy Woodbridge, John Konkapot (son of the first Konkapot), Daniel Simon (a Narragansett), Jedidiah Stevens, Chauncey Hall, Jeremiah Slingerland, Sarah Slingerland, and, of course, Electa Quinney.

Electa Quinney is relatively well-known as the first schoolmistress of what is now Wisconsin. It is generally believed she took on the job for the children of her tribe beginning in 1828. Within about two years after that, Jedidiah Stevens was hired to teach. But it seems that Stevens' teaching was somewhat sporadic because he was busy farming at certain times of the year - something the mission societies appear to have been in support of.

J.N. Davidson appears to have been the first to proclaim Electa Quinney as Wisconsin's first schoolmistress. I really don't know how he determined that she was the tribe's schoolteacher in 1828. Nevertheless, I've never come across anything that would prove him wrong on that point and I hope I never will.

However, in the early days of Cutting Marsh's ministry with the Stockbridges, Jedidiah Stevens was the schoolteacher. Since Stevens also farmed, his teaching was rather sporadic. In the ABCFM records Cutting Marsh noted - circa 1831 - that Stevens wasn't teaching and the tribe went ahead and hired one of their own members (a woman, and I'm not aware of any other Stockbridge woman from that era who was qualified to teach). What may have happened was that Electa Quinney taught from 1828 to about 1830 and then Stevens taught for a while and then Ms. Quinney taught again.

More than any other author, we have J.N. Davidson to thank for recording Electa Quinney's career:

Miss Quinney, Wisconsin's first school mistress, was educated at Clinton, New York, and at Cornwall, Connecticut. At the latter place she spent six years. It was in 1828 that she began to teach the mission school at Statesburg, probably, as I have said, the first free school in Wisconsin.

The [Judge] E. S. Miner of Necedah, one of her [former] pupils [and son of the missionary Jesse Miner], says that she was a better teacher than the average of teachers to-day [the 1890's]. Her methods, many of them, were similar to those of the present day. The pupils were mostly Indian children, but the language used was English.... She rarely whipped; opened her school with prayer. It was modeled after the best public schools of New England at that time.
The quote is from Muh-He-Ka-Ne-Ok, pages 56-57.


Addendum of June 17, 2009: An article from 1888 appears to be Davidson's source.

7 comments :

Marty said...

Electa Quinney and Daniel Adams ( Methodist missionary to Oneida Indians) were the parents of John C. Adams. Susan Hendricks and Adams had a daughter.. Ida Adams who married my great-grandfather Henry Jacobs. They had a daughter Anna who was married to William O'Grady .. and they had two sons:Lyle and Lovell O'Grady.

Jeff Siemers said...

Marty, you're giving away some of the good stuff I've been planning for an upcoming post! But thanks for participating.

Jeff Siemers said...

Blogger's note: For this post I took the date of 1828 from J.N. Davidson as correct, but it isn't necessarily so. I don't know where he got that date from, but no other historians have tried to prove otherwise. (Cutting Marsh never wrote that Electa Quinney had been "Re-hired," he just said they "hired" one of their own people.)

Anonymous said...

The claim is that Electa Quinney was the first female public school teacher, hence the use of the term "Schoolmistress". So the claim is correct, in spite of the male school teacher whose place she took.....Leah

Jeff Siemers said...

Leah,
You are correct that there was a "schoolmaster" or male school teacher in what is now Wisconsin before Electa Quinney.
However, I'm now of the impression that Electa Quinney did teach in the 1820's for a while and then again in the early 1830's.

Here's what we get from the state historical society's website:
Wisconsin's first public schoolteacher was Electa Quinney, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans. Quinney had come to Wisconsin in the massive Indian removal from New York in 1827 and was especially interested in teaching the children of the Stockbridge-Munsee settlement around Kaukauna. In 1828, she opened the first school in the state without an enrollment fee, allowing families who had been unable to afford school fees the luxury of an education.


So not only was she the first schoolmistress, but also the first public school teacher in what is now Wisconsin.

Martin Zank said...

The father of Ida Adams was Eleazar Adams, older brother of John C. Adams. Otherwise, the information I gave April 29,2009 is correct.

Martin Zank said...

The father of Ida Adams was Eleazar Adams, older brother of John C. Adams. Otherwise, the information I gave 4-29-2009 is correct.