Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Theodore Perry Shonts - Jerome Teacher
Nearly every short history of Jerome mentions that Theodore Perry Shonts became more famous than any other person who taught in the Jerome schools. The following information is taken from his obituary printed in The New York Times on 21 September 1919.
Theodore Perry Shonts died early in the morning on 21 September 1919 at his home, 930 Park Avenue, New York City, after an illness extending over a period of three months. He was first a railroad organizer, construction expert and manager, and later a traction expert in charge of almost the entire transportation system of New York City as President of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to serve as the Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission (1905-1907) and organize the forces that dug the Panama Canal.
He was born 5 May 1856 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, a son of Dr. Henry Daniels Shonts and Margaret Nevin Marshall. In boyhood Theodore came with his parents to Appanoose County and attended the public schools. In Centerville, where the family settled, the young man passed the early years of his life until he was sent to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois.
"During an interval in the process of his own education, when he was only 15 years old, the overseers of [the Jerome school] had trouble getting a teacher whom the pupils would not 'induce' to leave. The directors called on Mr. Shonts's father and through him offered the teaching post to Theodore. Dr. Shonts at first demurred, on the ground that Theodore was too young to assume the responsibility of the education of the youth of the countryside, but he was finally persuaded, and the 16-year-old student became a school master. The story goes that the most noteworthy phase of the conduct of the classes in that rural school thereafter was the sepulchral silence that overhung the room when the teacher was speaking to the pupils."