Natchitoches History: The Academy of Natchitoches

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Many years ago, Mrs. Cora Carver came to my place of business and said, “I know you are interested in history,” and gave me this red booklet. Henry “Buddy” Maggio. The following are historical stories from that booklet. They are published exactly as written by the original author.

Buddy Maggio

A state-subsidized school

The first secondary school in America was the Latin grammar school, a distinctly English aristocratic school copied by the early colonial settlers. The Latin grammar school was a college preparatory school pure and simple. The core of tis curriculum was Latin and Greek, and it was aristocratic; but as the democratic spirit developed in America, a distinctly American institution arose to supply the needs of the new-born movement. The academy supplied this need through an enriched curriculum which not only included Latin and Greek, but such subjects as astronomy, navigation, surveying and numerous others which prepared for life rather than for college. In the evolution of secondary education in America the academy was its “stop-gap” between the Latin grammar school and the still more democratic American public high school.
At first the academies were private, but gradually they were subsidized by the state on condition that a certain number of indigent students be admitted free of tuition. Louisiana along with other states in the union subsidized a number of these academies. One of them was located in Natchitoches on the hill where the convent now stands. It bore the legal name “The Academy of Natchitoches.” The act of incorporation was passed by the legislature in 1819.
Superintendent T.H. Harris, in “The Story of Public Education in Louisiana” says, “The list of state-supported academies and so-called colleges in Louisiana was a long one. Among them were: Louisiana College (New Orleans), Jefferson College (Convent), College of Baton Rouge, College of Franklin (Opelousas), College of Catahoula, College of Greensburg, Pine Grove Academy (St. Helena), Minden Seminary and College, College of Rapides, Academy of Natchitoches, Academy of Ouachita, Academy of Covington, Montpelier Academy. Most of them were established between 1820 and 1840; by 1845 state aid was discontinued and by 1875 they had been closed, though some of them are still in existence.”

This article published in the Aug 25, 2022, print edition.

The records of the Academy of Natchitoches are not available, but Dr. John Sibley, in a letter to his son George (1821), refers to an “Excellent School” in Natchitoches taught by one Samuel Ruddock; “We have here an Excellent School under the Superintendency of Mr. Samuel Ruddock last of Charleston S. C. where he had kept an academy for many hears, he excels in Astronomy and the higher branches of Mathematick you would be pleased with the progress Ana and Eliza are making.”
There can be no doubt that the “Excellent School” referred to by Mr. Sibley was the Academy of Natchitoches established by an Act of the Legislature in 1819. One should not wonder at an academy in Natchitoches with a faculty of one professor since famed Harvard College began with one teacher and three students.
The Story of Public Education in Louisiana – T.H. Harris
Letters of Dr. Sibley to His Son, 1803 – 1821 – The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, October, 1927. – L.J. Alleman