Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

The report of the Indiana state superintendent of public instruction for 1857 reveals that there were 17 private schools in Kosciusko county. It is possible that at that particular time there were more children enrolled in private schools in our county than in the public schools. That is not at all surprising, because there were many who favored the private school with its tuition over the public school with its tax rate.

Although the Second Indiana Constitution, which went into effect in 1852, committed us to a policy of free public schools, many public systems didn't really get going until after the Civil War.

The columns of the Warsaw "Northern Indianian" newspaper carried many advertisements of these early private schools. The Oswego Select School carried ads in the paper on several occasions. Of all the private schools in Kosciusko county, however, the one which was probably the most outstanding was Cowen's Seminary, located on South Detroit street in Warsaw.

Mrs. Cowen moved to Warsaw from Logansport in either 1849 or 1850. The school which she started at that time flourished for some thirty years as an outstanding educational institution in this area. Even after the public schools were started many parents preferred to send their children to Mrs. Cowen's seminary. Her two daughters, Martha and Samarimas, helped her with the instruction. Mrs. Cowen died on September 27, 1876, but the school continued on after her death.

In an advertisement in the Northern Indianian in 1856 Mrs. Cowen said: "We will continue our school in Cowen seminary as usual. A lecture will be given every week on the natural sciences; and the art of teaching. The school room will be furnished with geographical and physiological maps." Continuing on the advertisement states that the aim of the school was to "infuse into pupils a proper sense of propriety, that they may act from moral principle."

The tuition fro the pupils would range from $3.00 to $7.00 per term. There would usually be about 3 terms of around 13 weeks each during the school year. Examinations which were open to the public were usually held at the end of each term.

Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Apr. 27, 1954