Chet Orloff

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On December 6, 1851, the following advertisement appeared in The Oregonian newspaper:

In pursuance of a vote of the Portland school district at their annual meeting, the directors have established a free school. The first term will commence on Monday, the 15th inst., at the schoolhouse in this city, near the City Hotel. (John Outhouse, teacher.) The directors would recommend the following books to be used in the school, viz.: Sandler’s Series of Readers and Spellers, Goodrich’s Geography, Thompson’s Arithmetics, and Bullion’s Grammar.

John Outhouse, the schoolteacher, was paid 100 dollars a month. The school was held in a schoolhouse at the corner of First and Oak Streets, in what is now downtown Portland and had just 20 students at first. Abigail Clarke was hired at the beginning of the third term in 1852, due to increased attendance. Miss Clarke was paid 75 dollars a month, and taught at a new school building, on First and Taylor Streets. By the third term, 126 students were enrolled in all, and an average of 90 showed up each day. Clarke was known to "thrash" boys who made a sport of rapping on the windows of the school, which faced out to the street. She continued to teach until the summer of 1853, when she moved to Oregon City. *


Central School, where today’s Pioneer Courthouse Square sits.

In 1858, only seven years after the first school opened and when free education was still a new concept, yet a new schoolhouse was built, financed by canceling all classes for a year! The building, located at Southwest Sixth and Morrison and named the Central School, later served as the location of the Portland Hotel and today’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Students and teachers were afforded daily views of the construction, across Sixth Avenue, of the new Federal Building, today named Pioneer Courthouse. As Central School’s students progressed through the grades, demand for classes serving older students grew and Portland High School was opened in1869. The high school began in two rooms of the old North School located at NW 11th and Davis Street. The first graduation exercise was held in 1975 when five students received their diplomas.

In the 1860s, the school budget was very low, about $10 per student per year. Mayor William S. Ladd (known for being so thrifty that he’d take a letter he’d received and write back between the lines!) raised objections to the school paying for supplies such as ink, requiring students to instead make their own by boiling oak bark and carrying it in animal horns.

Portland schools were further questioned in 1880 by Harvey W. Scott, editor of The Oregonian newspaper and brother of suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway, regarding the practicality of public high schools. He called public instruction “education for drones.” (Let’s bear in mind that the yearly cost to educate a student in 1879 in Portland was $24.06, to give us a sense of what education was worth to 19th-century Portlanders!)


The 1885 high school building at SW 14th and Morrison Street that, in 1909, became the first to take the name Lincoln High School.

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Copyright © Lincoln High School Alumni Association, Portland, Oregon. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy
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