As I write this, it is Teacher Appreciation Week and I am reminded of all the wonderful teachers I have encountered over the years. Whether they have been my children's teachers, my teachers, or I have worked with them during the course of my career, they have all had a lasting impression on me.
Denver's educational history is full of wonderful teachers. Many, such as Owen J. Goldrick and Indiana Sopris (Cushman) have lived on in our history books. Goldrick was the first school teacher in Denver and Sopris followed shortly behind him.
One lesser known teacher, Lydia Maria Ring, opened the third private school in Denver sometime after her arrival in late May of 1860. Ring was said to have been a more experienced teacher then her predecessors and she continued to teach the longest. Her first school was located at today's 14th and Market Streets, on the banks of Cherry Creek. One of her former students wrote of the school, "It had been chinked and daubed, but in places the daubing had fallen out until we could put our hands through the opening. We sat on pine benches, with box-like desks of the same" (The Trail, Nov. 1908).
In time, Ring moved her school to a better building at 16th and Market Streets. It appears as if she taught there for the next four years, teaching the children of some of Denver's most notable families. Little is known about Ring's time in Denver. By all accounts she was part of early Denver's popular society and was well liked. One of her former students described her as "good and kind and her pupils loved her and learned fast. If anything was going on at the home of one of them it was never complete without her. She was a great favorite of young and old." After closing her school around 1870--71, Ring returned to Kansas to live with her niece. She returned to Denver once, likely around 1888, and was "given a most cordial reception." Lydia Maria Ring died in Kansas on March 12, 1899.
One of Ring's prized possessions is an autograph book that contains signatures, short notes, and photographs of some of her pupils. William N. Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, wrote, “With pleasant memories of early days at ‘Pike’s Peak’.” Harry B. Rollins lovingly signed, “The boy you used to wollop.” The book clearly shows how well loved Ring was by her students and the community.
This autograph book, along with a few photographs and Ring's school bell, said to be the first in Denver, can be found in History Colorado’s collection. Ring's schools are also included in the Denver Diorama, which is currently on display in the lobby of the History Colorado Center. Next time you visit, see if you can locate them. And as always, don’t forget to appreciate your teachers!
Leigh Jeremias, Associate Curator of Archives
History Colorado, May 2013