John Collins Covell

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John Collins Covell
John Collins Covell.png
Principal of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind
In office
1874–1887
Preceded by Leveus Eddy
Succeeded by Henry Bell Gilkeson
Principal of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind
In office
1862–1872
Preceded by Jean Merillat
Succeeded by Charles D. McCoy
Personal details
Born (1823-12-19)December 19, 1823
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Died June 4, 1887(1887-06-04) (aged 63)
Romney, West Virginia, United States
Resting place Indian Mound Cemetery, Romney, West Virginia, United States
Spouse(s) Anita "Annie" Elizabeth Eskridge
Relations Joseph S. Covell (father)
John Collins (grandfather)
Children five children including:
Mary Avery Covell Parsons
Annie Baldwin Covell Heiskell
Residence Romney, West Virginia, United States
Alma mater Trinity College (A.B.)
Profession educator, school administrator
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861
Rank Confederate States of America Major.png Major
Battles/wars American Civil War

John Collins Covell (December 19, 1823 – June 4, 1887) was a 19th-century American educator and school administrator specializing in deaf education in the U.S. states of Virginia and West Virginia.

Covell was born in 1823 in Rhode Island and was the son of Episcopal minister, Reverend Joseph S. Covell, and the grandson of Rhode Island Governor John Collins. Covell attended Trinity College and graduated from the institution in 1847. Covell was recommended as a candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and received the orders of a deacon.

Covell accepted a teaching position in the Deaf Department of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind and relocated there in 1847. Covell was made a vice-principal of the institution and given charge of the entire Deaf Mute Department in 1852. During the American Civil War, Covell entered the Confederate States Army with the rank of major and served on the staff of Brigadier General Henry A. Wise. Covell served on General Wise's staff only briefly before returning to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind to serve as its principal in 1862, a position in which he served until 1872. In 1874, Covell was selected to serve as the principal of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Under his leadership, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind experienced "unprecedented success" and its student body began to grow due to Covell's initiatives. Covell served as the institution's principal until his death in 1887.

Covell was an active and prominent member of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia and was appointed the first churchwarden of Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church in Romney. Covell played an instrumental role in the construction of the church through his donation of property for the building site and financial contribution of the majority of its construction costs.

Early life and education[edit]

John Collins Covell was born on December 19, 1823 in Newport, Rhode Island and was the son of Episcopal minister, Reverend Joseph S. Covell.[1][2][3][4] Covell was named for his maternal grandfather, Rhode Island Governor John Collins.[4] He spent his childhood in Princess Anne, Maryland, where he received his education from the common schools for eight years before attending an academy in Connecticut.[1] Covell then worked as a store clerk for three years.[1] Seeking to further his education, Covell attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from the institution in 1847.[1][2][3] After graduating from Trinity College, Covell was recommended as a candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and received the orders of a deacon in the Episcopal Church.[3][5][6][7]

Educator and school administrator[edit]

Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind[edit]

Upon graduating from Trinity College, Covell accepted a teaching position in the Deaf Department of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, Virginia and relocated there in September 1847.[1][2] Covell continued teaching until 1852 when he was made a vice-principal of the institution and given charge of the entire Deaf Mute Department.[1][2]

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Covell entered the Confederate States Army with the rank of major and served on the staff of Brigadier General Henry A. Wise.[2] Covell served on General Wise's staff only briefly before the state of Virginia recalled him to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in 1862 to become the institution's principal.[2][3] According to the National Conference of Superintendents and Principals of Institutions for Deaf Mutes in 1888, the state of Virginia considered Covell's services "of more value as manager of one of her noblest public institutions than as a soldier in the field."[2] While serving as principal, Covell continued to head and instruct in the school's Deaf Mute Department.[8] Covell remained principal of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind for nine years until his resignation from the institution in 1872.[1][2]

In an 1870 address entitled "The Nobility, Dignity, and Antiquity of the Sign Language" which Covell delivered at the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf in Indianapolis, Indiana, he asserted that sign language would gain in popularity among hearing people and would be taught alongside philology as part of the basic curricula of universities.[9][10] Over a century after Covell's 1870 prediction, American Sign Language has been added to curricula of language departments in a growing number of American universities.[9][11]

West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind[edit]

Administration Building of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney, West Virginia in 1880 during Covell's tenure as its principal.

In June–July 1874, Covell was selected by the Board of Regents of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney, West Virginia to serve as the institution's principal and he began his tenure there in August of that year.[1][2][12][13] Upon his arrival, Covell found the schools "in a chaotic condition" with decreasing attendance, but atmospherics improved after Covell provided leadership, order, and a process of reorganization.[3][12][13] Under his leadership, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind experienced "unprecedented success" and its student body began to grow due to Covell's initiatives.[12] Covell found that 12 out of West Virginia's 54 counties had no representatives at the schools, so he urged the Board of Regents to canvass the state for students eligible to attend the institution.[14] The board approved Covell's recommendation and the resulting investigation validated his hypothesis.[15] By the schools' tenth anniversary in 1880, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind's attendance reached 120 consisting of 87 "deaf-mute" and 33 blind students.[16] At his death in 1887, the institution had grown from a student body of 60 pupils in 1874 to 130.[17]

Among his other reforms, Covell undertook a process of modernization of the facilities of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind by urging the state to install gas lighting and plumbing for the purposes of providing tap water.[15] In addition to the school's infrastructure, Covell overhauled the school's levels of comprehension in 1875 by introducing a classification system in which students were arranged in grades.[15] Covell also introduced the tradition of publishing biennial reports, then annual reports, which have continued to be released every year since 1876.[15] In 1877, at Covell's recommendation, the schools' board established the Department of Visible Speech in which deaf-mute students were instructed in the manner of articulation and lip reading.[15]

Faculty and staff at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in 1884. Standing left to right: Mr. Shaeffer, Principal John Collins Covell, Abraham D. Hays, and math professor E. L. Chapin; Seated left to right: school founder Howard Hille Johnson, J. B. McGann, Lulie Kern, Martha Clelland, Sarah Caruthers, and deaf school principal H. H. Chidester.

As an educator, Covell was described as "an instructor of rare ability, being well versed in literature, science, and the arts" and as "a gentleman of fine abilities and ripe experience."[3][13] He had great personal influence on his students and took an interest in their religious well-being.[18] Covell continued serving as principal of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind until his death from stomach cancer on Saturday, June 4, 1887 in Romney.[1][2][3][13][17] Known for his excellence as an executive and administrative officer, all his affairs were found by the president of the school's Board of Regents "to be finished, so that nothing remained to be done" on the day of his death.[3]

Following his death, Covell was honored in 1888 at the National Conference of Superintendents and Principals of Institutions for Deaf Mutes in Jackson, Mississippi by W. O. Connor, Principal of the Georgia School for the Deaf, who stated: "we greatly deplore [Covell's] loss to the Institution over which he presided with such universal acceptability; and that in his death we recognize the loss of a friend worthy of the fullest confidence, and an official of marked ability and adaptation to his duties, which he always performed with a faithfulness and efficiency unexcelled."[19] His obituary in The Churchman remarked of Covell: "with untiring zeal and fidelity, he has labored in the noble work of elevating and educating the deaf, dumb and the blind. He stood without an equal in methods entirely original."[3]

Personal life[edit]

Covell married on December 24, 1850 in Staunton, Virginia to Anita "Annie" E. Eskridge (June 18, 1810 – July 26, 1895).[2][20] Covell is interred with his wife Annie at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney.[20] He and his wife had five children together, including two daughters:[2]

Name Birth date Death date Spouse
Mary Avery Covell Parsons[21] January 23, 1852[22] October 14, 1913[23] Married Garrett Williams Parsons, son of Col. Isaac Parsons and Susan Blue Parsons of Wappocomo, in Romney on November 12, 1878.[21][22]
Annie Baldwin Covell Heiskell[24] June 7, 1859[25] April 13, 1938[25] Married David Hopkins Heiskell on June 15, 1886.[24]

Covell was an active and prominent member of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia and belonged to Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church in Romney.[3][26][27][28] He was appointed the first churchwarden of Saint Stephen's by Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, George William Peterkin.[28] Covell played an instrumental role in the construction of a church for Saint Stephen's in 1885 through his donation of property for the building site across the Northwestern Turnpike from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind and through his financial contribution of the majority of the $1,800 USD construction cost.[3][27][28] Covell's efforts were described in The Churchman as the "crowning work of his life."[3] Prior to the church's construction, it is likely Covell that allowed Saint Stephen's to utilize the chapel at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind to hold their services.[28] In addition to his affiliation with the Episcopal Church, Covell was a Mason of "high standing" and a member of the Romney Literary Society.[3][29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Atkinson & Gibbens 1890, p. 897.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l National Conference of Superintendents and Principals of Institutions for Deaf Mutes 1888, p. 220.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "In Memoriam: John Collins Covell", The Churchman (New York City, New York) 55 (1), January 1, 1887, retrieved March 8, 2014 
  4. ^ a b Bass 1949, p. 76.
  5. ^ Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut 1850, p. 6.
  6. ^ Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut 1850, p. 13.
  7. ^ Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut 1850, p. 22.
  8. ^ Virginia General Assembly 1865, p. 47.
  9. ^ a b Covell 1870, pp. 133–136.
  10. ^ Baynton 1998, p. 93.
  11. ^ Baynton 1998, p. 197.
  12. ^ a b c Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 472.
  13. ^ a b c d Whitehill 1902, p. 110.
  14. ^ Maxwell & Swisher 1897, pp. 472–473.
  15. ^ a b c d e Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 473.
  16. ^ Maxwell & Swisher 1897, pp. 473–474.
  17. ^ a b Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 474.
  18. ^ Peterkin 1902, p. 303.
  19. ^ National Conference of Superintendents and Principals of Institutions for Deaf Mutes 1888, pp. 220–221.
  20. ^ a b "Indian Mound Cemetery: Hampshire County's Most Historic Cemetery - List of Interments", HistoricHampshire.org (HistoricHampshire.org, Charles C. Hall), retrieved March 8, 2014 
  21. ^ a b "Marriage Record Detail: Mary Avery Covell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved March 8, 2014 
  22. ^ a b MacCabe 1913, p. 279.
  23. ^ "Death Record Detail: Mary Avery Parsons", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved March 8, 2014 
  24. ^ a b "Marriage Record Detail: Annie Baldwin Covell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved March 8, 2014 
  25. ^ a b "Death Record Detail: Annie Heiskell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved March 8, 2014 
  26. ^ Peterkin 1902, p. 302.
  27. ^ a b National Conference of Superintendents and Principals of Institutions for Deaf Mutes 1888, p. 221.
  28. ^ a b c d Peterkin 1902, p. 578.
  29. ^ Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 436.

Bibliography[edit]

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