RE: Public education and Republic of Texas
Light Cummins []
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 1:30 PM
To:

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It is my historical conviction that the Pease Elementary School is vital and integral to the history of education in Texas. It would be impossible to find a more historic school than Pease, which traces its origins back to the year 1839.

 

Mirabeau  B. Lamar, the second elected President of the Republic of Texas, was a great champion of public education. He dreamed that Texas would provide a public education for all of its school children. Concurrently, Lamar was also  great advocate for the founding of the City of Austin, which he envisioned at the capital of the Republic.

 

Lamar took decisive action as a result of these two interests in the late 1830s. Under his leadership, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed a general education law in 1839 that created the foundations of public education in Texas. That same year, largely because of Lamar’s advocacy, surveyors laid out the town of Austin, which became the capital of the republic. As part of that survey, the Congress of the Republic of Texas set aside a plot of land that today lies on the west side of modern Rio Grande Street just south of 12th. This survey plot was designated as the site for a public school for the children of the new town of Austin.

 

Today, Pease Elementary School sits on that very plot of land, which exists today as the oldest parcel of land within the boundaries of the state continuously dedicated to the cause of public education. Due to problems of financial support, however, a school was not located on that piece of ground until after the Civil War when, in 1876, it opened as the Austin Graded School.

 

Pease Elementary School thus traces its beginnings back to the very establishment of public education in Texas and to the founding of the City Austin. It has survived almost a century and a half as a touchstone of public education in Texas. It is part of the historical fabric of this state, and constitutes a truly unique and singular part of the history of this state.

 

It would be my hope that the school has many for decades of useful history ahead. I would appreciate your making my opinions about the historical importance of Pease Elementary School known to anyone who might be interested in this important part of our state’s history.

 

Sincerely,

 

Light T. Cummins, Ph.D.

State Historian of Texas and

Bryan Professor of History

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Austin College

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Sherman, Texas 75090