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St. Johns County Public School History

This information is provided by the St. Augustine Genealogical Society for genealogical research purposes only.

St. Johns County Public School History – American Freedmen’s Union


In January 1862 Mr. E. L. Pierce wrote to Rev. Manning of Boston and Mrs. Samuel Cabot discussing the conditions of the Freedmen at Port Royal, South Carolina. An organization was formed on February 7, 1862 called the Education Commission. The object of the commission was to be: “the industrial, intellectual, moral and religious improvement of persons released from slavery in the course of the war for the Union.”


By March 30 1862, thirty-one teachers set sail for Port Royal. The teachers received transportation, subsistence, and quarters. In April, twenty more teachers were sent out. In all, seventy-two teachers were sent to Port Royal in the first year. Auxiliary societies were organized town by town until about seventy societies were supporting teachers. Sometimes churches would adopt teachers, even members of a different church.


The different societies came together on May 9, 1865 to form the American Freedmen’s Aid Union which was composed of the aid societies from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New England. Pittsburgh and west joined in August of 1865 to form the American Freedmen’s Commission.


The next step was to link with the American Union Commission that provided aid to both whites and freedmen. The new name was “The Freedmen’s Aid Union Commission. The new constitution read that the schools should be open to “all applicants without distinction of race or color.” While all the schools were now open to whites or blacks this did not translate into a real program. A few white children would come in but the schools remained different shades of black.


Finnaly, all the societies throught the U.S. joined into one group. In May of 1866, without any sectarian connection, the organization became The Freedmen’s Union Commission.


The journal of the organization was published beginning in January, 1865. The name of the journal was the Freedmen’s Record. All teachers received copies of the Journal but others could subscibe to it. The organization also published a book for freedmen for eight cents a copy called Handbook for American Citizens. This book contained the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, parliamentary rules and a few important historical dates.


The Union adopted a seven-point program for its mission in the south: 1. Systematic organization and grading of the schools; 2. Thorough training of all pupils in the elementary branches; 3. Careful preparation of the best pupils for normal classes; 4. Normal instruction and employment of pupils in teaching as far as possible; 5. Engaging southern white and colored teachers in the work; 6. Enlisting the cooperation of the people in the work of supporting the schools to a still greater extent; and 7. Keeping carefully in view the ultimate object of paving the way for a free school system in the South, sustained by their own people of and for all classes and races.


Teachers Sent to St.Augustine by the American Freedmen’s Union through the New York Branch



Miss K. D. Connant

Julia M Bartlett



Kate Foote

Eliza J Smith (Syracuse, NY)

Kate D. Connant

Mary M. Harris

Cornelia N Smith (No Pitcher, NY)

Emily M. Wood


Special note: Three teachers were assigned to the 1st S. C. Vol’s or 33 Regt USCT where many St. Augustine men were soldiers. Mrs. William Hawks and Mrs. H. Dewhurst, and Prince Lamkin (African-American) were the assigned teachers.



Cornelia J. Smith

Eliza Smith

Fannie J.Botts (Syracuse, NY)

Mary M. Harris

Miss F.A Morgan (New Haven, CN)



Cornelia Smith

Mrs. M. M. Williams (NY, NY)

Charlotte J. Smith

Federal School Petition 1845

School Petition

[Referred February 28, 1845]


To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress, Assembled.


Your petitioners, inhabitants of the City of St. Augustine Florida, respectfully represent, that most of the youths of this ancient town are growing up without education and that their parents in many instances are too indigent to pay for their instruction. The government of Spain made no provision for any School or College in East Florida, and consequently many of our inhabitants are without that education so indispensable to a free people. Without education, neither our Constitution or laws will be understood or maintained. The rights and liberties of our Citizens, though Secured by the great Charter of our union, will serve but little purpose unless the principles on which it is founded shall be firmly and clearly impressed on the minds of our rising generation. The protection and blessings we have enjoyed under your patronage for more than twenty-three years, has taught us the value of liberty, and inspired us with devoted attachment to the United States. The salubrity of St. Augustine is known throughout the United States, and a Site more advantageous for the establishment of a college, will not be found in all the South. The catholic congregation, represent that their Church covers most of the lot on which it Stands, and they have not ground Sufficient to erect a college thereon. That the grants to private persons made by the Spanish authorities, long Since, covers all the land in the vecinity of St. Augustine, so that for many miles around, no School Sections could be reserved, thus leaving the inhabitants of this City destitute of the donation which Congress has so liberally provided for the inhabitants of other Townships.


Your petitioners State that many of our citizens are descended from Spanish ancestors who Settled in this City, while this province was in possession of Great Britain and had been kept under the Military Government of Spain until the transfer of Florida to the United States. They have during that time enjoyed but few privileges of improvement or education.


Your petitioners therefore pray that fifteen Sections of land may be granted to the Catholic Congregation in this City to enable them to erect a Suitable Institution of learning, and that a lot in the said city known in the Plan and Survey of the Same, as the Custom House lot, adjoining the lot on which the Catholic Church Stands, may also be granted to said congregation, on which to found a college. Your petitioners state, that the Custom House was many years since destroyed by fire and has ever since remained unoccupied and is now a heap of ruins. That the United States will never need at this place a Custom house, and the said lot is in the middle of the City and cannot be built upon while owned by the United States: — its condition renders it a nuisance.


The Catholic Clergy at their own and the congregation’s expense, have now a common school and from their zeal and untiring energy they have under tuition about seventy five boys, many of whom are taught gratis and the other spay but a nominal Sum for the learning they receive. With the aid Solicited of Congress your petitioners entertain no doubt that the Catholic Congregation here will establish an institution that will do credit to our country. Youths from every quarter of the South will find it most advantageous to enter the College, not only for education, but for the security of health.


With these views and for a purpose so important and beneficial, we your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray &c


Pedro Benet   )   Wardens of the              Laurence Andreu

Thomas Andrew )   R.C. Church of         John Ponce

John M. Fontane   )       St Augustine     Vancy Mel

Manuel Crespo  )                                        Gabriel Andrew


W.H. Williams                                       B. Oliveros

Cristobal Bravo                                     Gabriel Pacetty


E.B. Usina                                   Gabriel Pomar

E. J. Medicis                                Andres Papy

Joseph A. Strischka                   Juan Capo

Jaime Hrnandes                         Frederick Weedon

Juan S. Pacetty                          John Ferreira

Bartolo Pacetty                          Geronimo Alvarez

Venancio Sanches                      Francis Gue

Edward Garey                           Louis Costter

Joseph Sanches                          Geo Center

James R. Sanches                      Jos Hernandez

Edw A. DeCottes                        Vesante Leonardy

J.I. Papy                                       Joseph F. Pappy Junior

Roque Leonardy                        Joseph Masters

H.L. P. Woolf                               Bernardo Segui

Donato Bravo                            John Pellicer

Felipe Gomez                            Emanl Solana

Jose Papy                                   John Manucy

S.J. Segui                                    Matias Leonardy

Michael Neligan                        Enrique Tomas

Anthony J. Noda                       Martin Canobas

Joseph Noda                             John C. Canovas

Andre Ximenes                          Martin Stevens

Victorno Frey                            Raph Bleanove

G.N. Papy                                   Robt. Marti

C. Borcaudy                                Jose E. Pomar

Antonio Canovas Sr                   Bartolo Pons

Gabriel Marten                          Jose Benet

Jose Canovas

Rafael Oliveros


[Endorsed] Florida memorial of Trustees of Roman Catholic Church & citizens of St. Augustine for grant of land, & lot for school purposes — 1845 Feby. 28. Refd to Com on Pub. Lands 74 Levy




74 House Journal, 28 Cong., 2 sess. p. 532. No further action noted.

List of Teachers and Schools 1881

St Johns County School History – 1881 Teacher and School List


Note:  Image of List follows transcription


School #1 – St. Augustine

Principal – Geo H Frick

Miss M. Watkins

Principal Primary Department M. L. Kunkan

1st Assistant – Miss Rogero

Catholic Department – Aloysio Andrew, Miss Hernandez, Miss W Fauce, Miss Gertrude Capo


School #2 – St. Augustine

Principal Jacob Jordan

Assistant – Miss L C Fleming

2nd Assistant – Miss C Pomar


School #4 – Fruit Cove

Miss Sadie Read


School #6 – Sampson Branch

W H Patterson


School #7 – Mill Creek

Miss L. E. Rolf


School #9 – Near Picolata

R F Speisseggar


School # 11 Tocoi Creek

Morrice E Cone


School # 12 Colson Branch

Miss Nellie Mickler


School # 13 Moccasin Branch

Miss L S Watkins


School # 14  Cowpen Branch

Miss Mary Jenks


School # 15 Mantanzas

Mrs. M R Graves


School # 16 Pellicer Creek

Miss Mattie Carter


School # 17 Piney Grove,  Moultrie Creek

Rev. L. W. Moor


School # 21 Trout Creek

Miss L. V. Jones


School # 22 Bakersville

Mrs. H. B. Davies


School # 24 Magnolia Hall

Miss Hinda Reyes


School # 25 Moses Creek

Miss Lula Dupont


List of Teachers and Schools 1882


School # 1 – St. Augustine

Principal Geo. A Frick

1st Assistant Miss M Watkins

Primary Department

Miss Fannie Rogero

Assistant Miss Nellie Mickler


School #1 – Catholic Department

Sister Alegisa Andreu, F Hernandez,

M Fance, G. Capo


School #2 – St. Augustine

Principal Jacob C Jordan

1st Assistant Miss M. E. Pomar

2nd Assistant Miss Anita Rolf


School #3 – Fruit Cove

Samuel Henley


School #8 – Coxcetterville

Miss L. V. Jones


School #9 – Picolata

Mrs. H. B. Davis


School # 10 – Near Picolata

Moses Jones replaced by

Saml W. Alvarez


School # 11 – Tocoi Creek

N A Patterson


School # 13 – Moccain Branch

Rev Sister Clotilda


School # 14 – Cowpen Branch

L W Moss Resigned replaced by Miss Nellie Pellicer


School # 15 – Matanza

Miss Belle Floyd resigned replaced by Dr. J S Lanning


School # 16 – Pellicer Creek

Miss Mattie Carter


School # 17 – Piney Grove Moultrie Creek

Miss Iva Rainey


School # 22 – Bakersville

Miss E. B. Jones


School # 23 – Haw Creek

opened by citizens, the Board of Public Instruction agreeing to assist in defraying expenses

Miss Nancy Durrance


School # 25 – Moses Creek

Miss B Dupont replaced

by Mr. John P Weeks


School # 26 – Diego

John W. David

History of St. Johns County Schools –  Peabody Fund 1868


Funding for the 1st School


The Fund:


After the Civil War, the South received educational assistance through the Peabody Fund.  The purpose of this fund was to promote elementary education. This fund was established in 1867 by George Peabody a banker and financier from Massachusetts.  In 1867 Peabody bequeathed $1 million for the fund with the investment   income to be used and applied “for the promotion and enocuragement of intellectual, moral or industrial educaion among the more destitute portions of the south and south Western States of our Union.” In 1869 he donated another $1 million for the promotion of Southern education.


This fund was especially instrumental in funding Public School Number 1. While this school was started from the building that the St. Augustine City government had built in the 1850s, it was small and in need of repair. Teachers also needed to be paid. Payments from this fund would continue for many years.


St. Augustine Acquires Grant:


In the spring of 1868 Barnas Sears, the agent for the Peabody Fund visited St. Augustine and found that the only school in operation for white students was the one run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. At Sears request, a Peabody Free School Committee was formed to direct the establishment of a free school for white children in St. Augustine. A circular was prepared to get subscribers to raise money to match the Peabody grant.




Whereas the Commissioners of the Peabody School Fund have offered to contribute two-fifths of the annual expenses necessary to the maintenance of Free Common Schools for the education of white childrehe ten Seceding States —


And whereas, it is desired to establish such a school in the city of St. Augustine the annual ses of which it is estmated will amount to $2500


Now therefore for the considerations and purposes above mentioned and on condition that three fifths of said sum viz $1500 shall be raised by subscription and also that the building now occupied by the common council, originally build out of the school fund and for school purposes shall be obtained free of charge, we the undersigned agree to pay the sums placed opposite our respective names whenever the total of individual subscription shall amount to said sum of $1500. St. Augustine April 13 1868 (MC1 Burt Papers Box 7, File 10 – St. Augustine Historical Society)


Geo Burt $100 FRANCIS ANDREU $2 CHAR? JOHN $5 W? $1


Jno E Peck $30 Bartolo Pacitty $2 Andreu ? $1 CHAS d. SEGUI $1


C W ALLEN $10.00 Jno Minucy $1 IGNITIO LOPEZ $! ? $2




City Committee


bv December 2 the City organized to created the following committee to organize and establish a free School for the education of whren composed of The Mayor of St. Augustine ex officio “as Chairman”, Reverend Canova, B F Olivero, E F Dimedicis, Oliver Bronson, Dr. N. D. Benedict, Dr. Andrew Anderson, Dr. John E. Peck, B E Carr, Fatio Dunham, Geo Burt and Godfrey Forter.


School Leased to Committee


Whereas a committee has been organized for the purpose of establishing in the City of St. Augustine County of St Johns and of Florida a free School for the education of white children. composed of the following members and their successors ….


And whereas by an ordinance of the May and Council of said City of St Augustine passed on 1st day of December inst certain rights and privileges powers and duties were conferred upon said Committee and the manner in which it shall be maintained was therein defined.


And whereas by an ordinance the Mayor was directed to execute a lease of the building and grounds situated in St. Augustine aforesaid and known as the City Hall under certain conditionsions then in mentioned with the said Peabody Free School Committee for the terms of one year and for such further time as a Free School shall be maintained aconducted in the manner and under the restrictions presented in said ordinance.


Now therefor this indenture witnesseth that for the land in consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand paid to the City of St. Augustine by the said Peabody Free School Committee and for other considerations the said City of St. Augustine by their presents doth leave let and hire unto the said Peabody Free School Committee to their successors all that attain for a parcel and lot of land with the building, thereon, and grounds belonging thereto siuate in St. Augustine aforesaid known as the City Hall for the term of one year for the date hereof such further time as a Free School for the education of White children shall be maintained by said Com. and conducted in the manner anductions prescribed in the Ordinance heretofore mentioned to while inferences here made at an annual reof to be paid to the City of St Augustine by said Committee of one cent.


The condition of this indenture is such tf said pervious be used for any other than educational purposes without consent of the Council of said city ? shall be permitted to be thought therein if any cause a Free School for the educaiton of children conducted in thder the restrictions prescribed in the aforesaid ordinance shall fail to be maintained by said Committee then this indenture to be null and void and the City of St. Augustine shall have the right to reenter with the possession of said premises.


In witness whereof the Mayor of the City of St. Augustine has here met his hand and caused the seal of said city to be herewith affixed the members of said of said Peabody Free School Com have herein to subscribed themselves this ___ day of ___ A. D. 1868. In presence of ________.




The Mayor and Council City of St. Augustine


A L Rogero             F Fortez                  B E ?        O Bronson


Ramon Canova       Fatio Dunham          G Burt


B G Oliveras                 B E Camron            A Anderson


Earl J deMedicees (sp)  A D Benedict           John E. Peck

Letter from Dr. Oliver Bronson, First Superintendent, Page 1

2 pages of a 5 page letter dated December 14, 1872.

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