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Stephens Academy, the first classical academy in Greene County,
was established by Professor J. A. Stephens in 1845. This followed
the founding of Springfield by 14 years and its first school by
13 years. The marker is located on the west side of the northwest
corner of the TraveLodge Motel at 505 St. Louis Street. The text
reads as follows:
"JUST EAST OF THIS POINT IN A BLACK WALNUT GROVE WAS THE SITE
OF THE FIRST CLASSICAL ACADEMY IN GREENE COUNTY. ESTABLISHED
IN 1845, 15 YEARS AFTER THE FOUNDING OF SPRINGFIELD. PROF. J.
A. STEPHENS PRINCIPAL. MARKER ERECTED, 1921 BY THE SOUTHWEST
MISSOURI STATE TEACHERS COLLEGE."
Following is a lengthy advertisement by Professor Stephens in the
Springfield Advertiser on August 9, 1845:
"The subscriber respectfully solicits the patronage of patients
and guardians at his school in this place. Having studied the course
of education at Cumberland College, Kentucky, and having been engaged
in teaching, both the higher and lower branches of education for
five years, he feels sure he will have the approbation of all candid
judges. It has been, and will be, his greatest endeavor to conduct
his school on the principles of strict morality. Students will be
critically prepared for the regular classes in college, or they
may pursue the course of study with him.
"The books used in the higher department will be Adams' Latin Grammar,
Liber Primus, Entick's Latin Dictionary, Virgil Defini, Cicero's
Orations, Sallust, Horace, Valpley's Greek Grammar, Greek and English
Lexicon, Davies' Course of Mathematics, Olmstead's Natural Philosophy
"In the lower department, after the present session, the prices
will be $7.50 per session of five months and in the higher $12.50.
"The subscriber would further say that so soon as it is necessary
he will rent or purchase a suitable house for the purpose of lodging
those students who may be committed of using the hours of the night
and morning to a very great advantage. In this way they will have
the advantage of instruction at all times and use of a literary
library. The subscriber mentions this because he is anxious to establish
himself permanently here, and wishes to have a fair opportunity
of trying his skill. J. A. Stephens"
Miss Lucy Dow of Walden, Vermont was hired by Professor Stephens
to teach at his school. She was the first female school teacher
in Springfield. Until around 1850 all instruction was by men. Lucy
Dow was first wife of Charles Sheppard. Later, Marie Burden also
taught music at the Stephens Academy.
There is no certain account of how Stephens Academy fared. At least
it existed until Christmas Day, 1861, when its principal met a tragic
death. The city was being threatened by Confederate troops; and
zealous, tense Federal soldiers cried, "Halt!" at John Andrew Stephens
as he walked from downtown to his home in the 300 block of Mount
Vernon Street. He had been warned of danger in doing so but said
that he must go to his wife and daughters. Hard of hearing, he did
not hear the command and he was shot and killed by soldiers whose
cause he had supported.
—Prepared by G. Bruce Lemmon, Jr.
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