Henry Barnard


Henry Barnard Famous memorial

Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Death 5 Jul 1900 (aged 89)
Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Burial Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Memorial ID 6688421 View Source

Educator, Reformer, Politician. He was born one of seven children in Hartford, Connecticut, to Captain Chauncey Bigelow Barnard (1764-1837), and his wife Elizabeth Andrews Barnard (1770-1831), on January 24, 1811. He was educated locally and attended Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and later graduated from the prestigious Yale University in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1835. Following his education, he was admitted to the Connecticut State Bar in 1835, and became a full-fledged lawyer by 1836. A Member of the Whig Party, he then entered politics and served as a Member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives from 1837 to 1839. While in office, he introduced legislation meant to aid the deaf, blind, and "insane." This activism soon brought him to focus on improving public education in the United States, which he believed was essential to keeping Americans able to self-govern. During his time in the Connecticut State House of Representatives, he also affected the passage of a bill which he drafted and introduced himself which provided for "the better supervision of the common schools" and established a board of "commissioners of common schools" in the State of Rhode Island. He also served as Secretary of the Board from 1838 until 1842, when the post was abolished. He worked hard during that time to reorganize and reform the common school system of the State of Rhode Island and went onto become a great and treasured reformer. In 1843, he was appointed by the then-Governor of Rhode Island James Fenner (1771-1846), to examine the public schools of the State of Rhode Island, and after his examination, he recommended such improvements and his work resulted in a massive reorganization and cleanup of the school system over the next couple of years. He then served as the First Commissioner of Public Schools in the State of Rhode Island from 1845 to 1849, and during his time in office, his administration was marked by a decided step in educational progress. The year he took office he also established the "Rhode Island Teachers Institute" at Smithville Seminary in Smithville, Rhode Island. After his time in Rhode Island, he returned to Connecticut and served as Superintendent of Common Schools and Principal of the Connecticut State Normal School in New Britain, Connecticut, from 1851 to 1855. He was also offered the newly created position of President of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1852, but he kindly declined the offer. He did, however, serve as the Agent of the Board of Regrets of the Normal School Funds and as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, from 1859 to 1860. He also served as the President of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1866, and as the first United States Commissioner of Education from March 11, 1867, to March 15, 1870, under both United States President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), and United States President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885). While serving in that position he was instrumental in laying down the foundation for the subsequent work of the Bureau of Education. He was also the founder and editor of several educational journals most notably the "Journal Of The Rhode Island Institute of Instruction" from 1846 to 1849, the "Connecticut Common School Journal" from 1851 to 1854, and the thirty-one volumes of the "American Journal Of Education" from 1855 to 1881, which are considered one of the most valuable compendiums of information on the subject ever brought together through the agency of one man. He continued to be involved in education and politics until his death. He was married to Josephine Sylvania Desnoyers Barnard (1821-1891), in Detroit, Michigan, on September 6, 1847, and the couple had three children together, Henry, Josephine, and Emily. He passed away following a long illness at his home in his native Hartford, Connecticut, on July 5, 1900, at the age of 89. On his passing a Mr. Francis Rexford Cooley (1863-1933), who worked as a clerk said of him, "The work he accomplished and the results he aimed at are shown in the present higher standard of the public schools of this state and the city of Hartford. Most of his work was done without reward other than the approval of his fellow citizens. The Hartford Public High School committee makes this public expression on behalf of the school, of its appreciation of his work and its great value to education in general and this school in particular, and has inscribed, this minute upon its records." His funeral was held in pomp fashion at his home on Main Street with many important people in attendance and with several flower arrangements around his broadcloth casket. A quartet from a local church sang the religious hymns, "Led Kindly Light," and "Abide With Me," before the services were conducted by the Reverend Francis Goodwin (1839-1923). Following the public funeral service at his residence, his body was taken to the cemetery where private family services were then conducted by Reverend Cornelius Gardner Bristol (1863-1901). He was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut, where several other famous personalities are also laid to rest. He was predeceased by his wife, his son, but was survived by his two daughters. The Henry Barnard School at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Henry Barnard School in New Rochelle, New York, are named in his honor. The Henry Barnard Elementary School in Enfield, Connecticut, is also named in his honor.

Bio by: Kris 'Peterborough K' Peterson

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