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Hazel Knoll School

Mary Kay Kuhfittig has contributed this article about Hazel Knoll from The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sunday, October 26, 1958, p. 21, col. 1

This ad appeared in the Anamosa Journal in 1859 and was sent in by Becky Dirks.

Photo:Becky Dirks

Family Boarding School: 1859
Set Up in Jones by 5 Isbells
By Walt Carstens

ANAMOSA—Jones County's first school for adult education was established by the Isbells, a family of Massachusetts school teachers who founded the Hazel Knoll Family Boarding School in 1859.
This was just 21 years after George Russ and Sherebiah Dakin, Anamosa's first settlers, built their log cabin at the Buffalo Forks of the Wapsipinicon River.

Family of 5
Native New Englanders, educators and religious workers, the Isbells originated at Williamstown, Mass. There were 5 in the family: the Rev. and Mrs. Bishop Isbell, and their daughters, Eliza, Adelaide and Emily.
The Rev. Mr. Isbell, the first to make the westward trek, arrived in Anamosa in May, 1858, and for the next 2 months conducted a survey preparatory to establishing a home and a private school.
For 25 years before coming west, since he was 21, he had been a member of the Troy conference. Ill health caused by overwork prompted his move to Iowa.
Mrs. Isbell and her daughters followed in July, 1858, at which time the family formulated plans for the Hazel Knoll institution, selecting a location a mile north of Anamosa, just inside the northern limits of Fairview township. Area of the original site was about 3 acres.
However, acquisition of the land was not completed until March 30, 1859, when, according to Jones county records, William H. Gibbs conveyed lots 1, 2 and 3 of Peter's subdivision to Bishop Isbell for $650. In a previous transaction, March 29, 1859, R.A. Peters by warranty deed transferred lot 4 of the same subdivision to the Isbells for $2000.

School House
Erection of 2 buildings, the Isbell residence and the school house, started immediately.
The house, of native stone, and the first to be built, was a T-shaped structure, the main part of which was 2 stories high. A one-story wing, evidently the kitchen, was attached to the north side of the living quarters.
The educational annex, to the rear and directly west of the house, was a 2 story wooden building with classrooms on the ground floor and dormitories on the upper. A weathertight walkway, extending from the kitchen of the home, connected the 2 buildings.
A third and smaller structure, the carriage house, was located on the northwest corner of the property. The grounds, on a eastern hillside, overlooking the old Anamosa fairground, were landscaped with a picket fence enclosing a formal garden along the front of the house.

Finishing School
Organized as a girls' finishing school, Hazel Knoll's curriculum consisted of subjects deemed most beneficial to the cultural aura of young women of marriageable age. Besides the all-important rules of mid-victorian etiquette the girls were taught grammar, mathematics, and a smattering of domesticity. Electives included foreign languages, music and art.
The location, isolated alongside a winding and dead-end road, however, was not advantageous to a young woman looking for a husband. Instead the "charming and secluded school" was more conducive to producing "thinkers" than to providing registers of male admirers. Periodic adventures into the outside world occurred when the school observed open house.
Enrollment included young women from the local area and from cities as far east as Dubuque, Clinton and Davenport. Railroads were non-existent until 1860 when the Dubuque Western reached Anamosa; otherwise, travel was either by stagecoach or private rig. Therefore, the distance of 50 to 70 miles from Anamosa to the river towns was considered, superlatively: "as far east as."
Hazel Knoll opened its doors either in the fall of 1859 or 1860. Several historians aver that the school was founded in 1858, but Jones county real estate transfers record that the site was not acquired until 1859, after which the buildings had to be erected.
The Staff
Mrs. Isbell, who had taught at Williamstown and Adams, Mass., naturally acceded to the superintendency and with her daughters took over the instruction and management. Eliza, the eldest, assumed the major share of the teaching responsibility. Emily, the youngest, was in charge of music. Adelaide, registered as an assistant, taught only occasionally.
After the school was in operation, the Rev. Mr. Isbell returned to ecclesiastical work as supply pastor for the Anamosa Methodist church.
For several years during the 70s, he conducted services on alternate Sundays at a church in Cass township, walking the 18 mile roundtrip between his home and the church. Besides being an ordained minister, he was a writer of both prose and poetry, and an advanced student of Latin and Greek. He died January 21, 1893.
Mrs. Isbell, formerly Olive P. Martin, spent her girlhood days in Williamstown, Mass., where she was married to Bishop Isbell in 1833.
Born in 1835, Eliza was 24 when she started teaching in the Isbell school. Besides being the principal, she was director of art, and later, assumed total responsibility when her mother's health failed. However, her death on July 9, 1872, when she was 37, occurred 7 years previous to the death of her mother, April 25, 1879.
Closed School
The exigency resulting from Eliza's death and Mrs. Isbell's ill health made it advisable in 1872 to close the school. Furthermore, the Jones County Academy, a coeducational institution founded in 1870 and located in downtown Anamosa, had taken its toll from the enrollment to such an extent that operation became unprofitable.
The Rev. and Mrs. Isbell remained at the Knoll, residing in the stone house. They were joined later by Adelaide and Emily; Adelaide to make her home, and Emily briefly during 1873 following a 5-year sojurn in Colorado. Her marriage to J.M. King of Cascade, occurred that same year.
No changes were made in the physical effects at Hazel Knoll except those wrought by time.
No traces are visible of the school building, the formal garden, or the shaded lane alongside. The 2-story section, the living quarters in the original Isbell residence, is the only vestige standing today. For a decade or more the house was vacant; however, at present it is occupied by the Lawrence Bruce family.
Adelaide, the well-educated second daughter never participated in the family enterprise, except to provide financial support. She taught in advanced schools in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and later in Iowa, where she was preceptress at Marion and Upper Iowa University at Fayette.
She was married to Colonel Charles F. Springer, a civil war veteran, at Anamosa on December 5, 1866. The couple located at Edwardsville, Ill., where Springer, 36, died on November 11, 1870.
She returned to Iowa in the summer of 1872 and that fall accepted the principalship in the Jones County Academy. The Academy, located on the second floor of the I.O.O.F. building in Anamosa, was founded in 1870 and continued for 17 years, according to dates on an honor roll kept by Mrs. Springer.
Honor Roll
Names on the 1883 to 1887 honor roll include the following, many of which are maiden names and some of which because of illegibilty may be mispelled:
1883-1884: Tede Wheeler, May Brown, Vina Holcomb, Minnie Weaver, Eloise O'Brien, Mary McDonnell, Bertha Booth, Lucy Niles, Mabel Booth, Fred Weaver, Gilbert Blayney, Eugene Wood, Nichols [Nicholas] Holt, Luella Sams, Rachel Wagner, Elma Wagner, Ella Lawrence, Mate [Matt] Daly, Ross Porter, Jennie Vehan.
1884-1885: Flemming Evans, Hattie Stacy, Jessie Yule, Mate Minehart, Sylvia Sones, Jay Musson, Henry Hall, Allie McGowan, John Chesire, Charles Yule.
1885-1886: Lena Soper, Carrie Hale, Kittie Reymour, Mertie Bayles, Aggie Hokes, Maggie Fogerty, Jennie Porter, Matt Chesire, John Daly, Willie McMillan, Willie McGarry, Joe Soper.
1886-1887: Elva Atkinson, Ella Manley, James Lacey, George Belknap, Maggie McGovern and Mary Dunning.
Afternoon Teas
After the Jones County Academy closed, probably 1887, Mrs. Springer retired to the family home at Hazel Knoll. She died June 8, 1908.
Clifford L. Niles, publisher of the Anamosa Eureka and a Jones county historian, in a sketch about Hazel Knoll printed the following comment about Mrs. Springer Aug. 8, 1938:
"In later years, when only Adelaide was left at the home, she made it her custom to entertain at afternoon teas. Upon arriving, before taking off their coats, friends were taken into the room of the house where on the wall were portraits of Adelaide's dead mother and sister, and a picture of her father. Always the visitors were introduced to them as the 'Sainted Mother,' the 'Beloved Husband,' and the 'Angel Eliza.'"
The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Isbell, Col. and Mrs. Charles F. Springer are buried in the Springer lot on a knoll overlooking the entrance to Riverside cemtery at Anamosa

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