Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week: Honoring Warrenville’s First Teacher Seraph Warren Holmes

Seraph Warren was born to her parents Peter and Anna Warren in New York State in 1813. As a young woman in those days, she was grateful that my parents allowed her to get an education.  She was given a good elementary education and trained as a teacher in New York. Her passion for education grew as she taught students on the east coast and when her aunt, uncle and cousins headed west (the Daniel and Nancy Warren family including Colonel Warren and his seven sisters), her family followed them to a settlement along the DuPage River.

Seraph Warren Holmes

Seraph Warren Holmes

Their family made a new home in the new community of Warrenville which was named after her cousin Julius. As soon as Julius’s first boarding house for lodgers was built in 1835, he arranged for Seraph to take charge of the upstairs room as a schoolroom and she began teaching the children who were arriving to the growing town.

Seraph felt that all children, especially the children in the growing area of DuPage County, needed a good education to ensure that they learned how to make the community great. Seraph had a high standard of education and taught any child who wanted to learn.

Although she loved her life as an educator, on January 3, 1849, she married Albert Holmes and they began what they hoped would be a long and happy life filled with love. In those days, women were not allowed to work once they were married, so we know how much she must have loved Albert to leave her other love of teaching for him. Sadly, only five months after their wedding, Albert died tragically and suddenly of cholera while the couple was visiting Galena, Illinois. Seraph returned to Warrenville as a widow to continue her work as a teacher.

3S432 Fourth Street, once home to the Warrenville Seminary, now a private residence

3S432 Fourth Street, once home to the Warrenville Seminary, now a private residence

On September 14, 1851, she helped open and then ran the Warrenville Seminary. The boarding school drew students from the local area, but also from as far away as Chicago and Rockford. Two of our graduates, General Frederick Starring and Dr. John Maynard Woodworth of Chicago, the first surgeon general of the United States, are just two examples of the results of the fine education the school provided students in Warrenville.  The Seminary turned Fourth Street into the school’s campus. Seraph’s father’s house, north on Fourth Street, was the boardinghouse for the boy students, while the girls slept on the second floor of the school house, which still stands at 3S432 Fourth Street and is now a private home.

Peter Warren home as seen in the 1876 DuPage Atlas

Peter Warren home as seen in the 1876 DuPage Atlas, once located on north Fourth Street

After the seminary closed following the Civil War, Seraph and her mother moved to Rockford. There she opened “Mrs. Holmes School for Young Ladies,” to help train new teachers. Her Rockford school would later be incorporated into Rockford College, still known for its good teaching program. After her death in 1905, her body was brought back to be buried in Warrenville. Nine years later, our great community paid her the most ultimate honor when they named the new elementary school after Seraph. The Seraph Warren Holmes School welcomed Warrenville students until 1991 when it closed.

Holmes School which was located at , where the current Police Station is located

Holmes School, where the current Police Station is located on Warren Avenue

Warrenville and the American Civil War: March 1864

March 1864 brought more sadness to those in Warrenville when two villagers passed away. On March 7th, Dan Kenyon’s wife, Esther Warner Kenyon died.  The Kenyons were a family of early Warrenville settlers. On the 8th, she was buried at Big Woods Cemetery.

Just one day later, Samuel Williams died suddenly in his family home at the age of 35. Samuel’s father was a War of 1812 veteran who had moved his family of 8 children to Warrenville from New York in 1834. On his way west, Mr. Williams had stopped at Fort Dearborn to secure a loan of $43 which he used to purchase land on what is now known as Williams Road, named for their family farm. Samuel was the third Williams child to die since they had arrived in Warrenville. Community residents rallied around the family and did what they could to help Mrs. Williams through her grief.

The day after Samuel was buried, George Potter returned to Warrenville from his station in the war, suffering from eye problems.  George was married to Hiram Leonard’s former housekeeper’s daughter, Elizabeth.  Hiram had raised Elizabeth and her brother William Wray; George lived with Hiram while he was home on leave, as his wife had been staying with her adopted father in his absence. George’s eye problems continued throughout the month, and became so severe that on March 24th he made a trip into Chicago to see an eye doctor. Many Civil War soldiers were not lucky enough to receive such care, but George, living so near to Chicago, would take return trips into the big city until his eyes healed and he was able to return to the fighting.

Taken from the Warrenville Historical Society’s program “1864 in 48 Minutes” that was held on January 26, 2014.

Artifact of the Month: Joseph B. Munk Photograph

Joseph Munk

Joseph Munk

Joseph B. Munk was born on May 24, 1840.  At the age of 21, he joined the 15th Cavalry Company H on September 23, 1861.  Sadly, Joseph was one of 17 Warrenville men killed in the Civil War.  He is buried in the Warrenville Cemetery.

Join the Historical Society at the Warrenville Library this Sunday, January 27th at 2:00 p.m. for “1863 in 48 Minutes” to learn more about the brave men who left our community to fight in the Civil War.  Please see our post on the program here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/1863-in-48-minutes/ to learn more.