George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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as the proceeds of the sale of the four and one half sections of the college
and seminary land, within three months, then the attorney general should
take steps to secure the said amounts of money, etc.

Section 3 of this act is as follows : " It shall be lawful in case of the
establishment of the Southern Illinois Normal University, for the said
college to transfer and make over to the trustees thereof the said trust
fund, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon between
the trustees of said college and said university, and which shall be ap-
proved by the governor, to be used only for purposes of endowment of
said university." There was a bill then before the legislature for the
founding of a state normal school south of the St. Louis and Terre
Haute Railroad, and it was the intention of this third section to trans-


fer any money which could be recovered from the Illinois Agricultural
College to this proposed normal school.

At some date prior to April 1878 the state entered suit against the
trustees of the Illinois Agricultural College for the recovery of the col-
lege and seminary funds amounting to some $58,000. In the April term,
1878, of the circuit court in Washington county a decree was entered
vesting the title to the "farm" of the Illinois Agricultural College in the
state of Illinois, and on the 31st of May, 1879, the legislature passed an
act authorizing the sale of the farm of five hundred and sixty acres. The
act provided that when the land is sold the money shall be turned into the
state treasury and that all liens and incumbrances on the "farm" shall
be paid and that the residue shall be applied to educational purposes as
may hereafter be provided by law.

There were several claims against the school probably amounting to
several thousand dollars. When the lands were sold and all claims paid
there remained the sum of nine thousand dollars which was turned into
the endowment fund of the Southern Illinois Normal University.

The school was well attended from the different parts of the state.
As many as from two to three hundred students were enrolled at one
time and the entire school seemed to have the air of prosperity about it.
There was a preparatory department which accommodated those stu-
dents whose preliminary training had been too limited to enable them to
enter the regular college courses.

A large boarding hall and dormitory was erected which was under
the supervision of the wife of Dr. French. The demand for accommoda-
tions for students was difficult to supply in a village of only three hun-
dred people, and so there were many houses erected in order to accom-
modate parents who wished to move to the village in order to school their
children. These farmers and others would move away at the end of the
school year and then the town consisted largely of tenantless houses.


The unfortunate loss of the funds from the college and seminary
lands and the decree of the circuit court vesting the state with the
"farm" were blows the school could not stand. The number of stu-
dents decreased, the teachers sought other fields, and the Illinois Agri-
cultural College was a thing of the past. A Mr. Clark, a Presbyterian
minister, occupied the college buildings and carried on a school of the
academy grade for some time, and eventually this was abandoned. There
was no longer any reason for the people 's remaining in the village, and
college buildings and residences were left for the bats and owls.

In later years the main college building was used as a residence, and
some five or six years ago the building and grounds were purchased by
the trustees of the Huddleston Orphans' Home, an institution under the
auspices of the Baptist church.



The story of educational progress is only partly told when we have
recited the part the state has played in education in Illinois. Private
enterprise must always receive its share of the honor which comes to any
people. Indeed private effort is always the pioneer, and only steps aside
when the public conscience has been stimulated by the achievement of
individual effort. Upon a cursory view of the matter it may appear
that private effort is selfish. This is true to some extent but it is only the
first step in the order of development. Public movements are always the
outgrowth of private effort. This is well illustrated in the beginnings of
higher education in Illinois.

The first schools were for the masses provided they had the neces-
sary funds to pay the quarterly subscription. The house was provided
through private or community effort. The teacher was the creature of
no law. He was wholly independent of legislative enactment. He was
amenable to his patrons under the common law of contracts. If boys
and girls desired to extend their knowledge and training beyond the cur-
riculum of the subscription school reading, writing, spelling, and arith-
metic to the rule of three the state presented no opportunity nor gave
any encouragement. This matter was left wholly to private enterprise.
Many young people in Illinois in the first third of the 19th century who
had exhausted the supply of educational pabulum to be found in the sub-
scription schools and who desired to pursue higher courses of learning
were obliged to put themselves under the tutorage of ministers of the
gospel or go to the older states where private colleges had been estab-

Governor Reynolds tells how he was obliged to return to Knoxville,
Tennessee, for advanced studies. He arrived in Illinois in 1800 at the
age of eleven. After attending the subscription schools, he attended a
sort of private academy or advanced subscription school a few miles
northeast of Belleville on the site of the now famous Rock Spring Semi-
nary. This infant academy was taught by John Messenger, a very noted
pioneer, educator, surveyor, and legislator. Under Mr. Messenger Gov-
ernor Reynolds studied higher mathematics, surveying, the sciences and
some astronomy. Having "finished" in this school, his parents sent
him to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he remained two years. The minis-
ters of those days were usually men of education and culture and often
gave private instruction in Latin, Algebra, and other advanced studies.




It will he remembered that tradition has it that there was a college
in Kaskaskia in the first half of the eighteenth century but that it was
abandoned in 1765. Let this be as it may, there can be no doubt that
to the Rev. John M. Peck belongs the credit of establishing the first
school for higher education in Illinois. The Rev. Mr. Peck was born in
Connecticut, October 31, 1789, and came to St. Louis late in the year
1817. In 1819 he examined the present site of Upper Alton as a location
for a seminary. In 1820 he selected lands some eight and one half
miles north east of Belleville. A group of springs issues forth near the
roadside, hence the name Rock Spring. Dr. Peck was a missionary and
was commissioned "to spread the gospel and promote common schools."


He moved his family to Rock Spring in the summer of 1822. From
1822 to 1824 he was absorbed in the fight against slavery, and was not
able to give his attention to the matter of founding a school for higher
education. In the early part of 1825 one John M. Ellis, a Presbyterian
missionary was passing along the public road leading eastward from
East St. Louis past Rock Spring and on to Lebanon. At the spring he
heard the sounds of an axe. He stopped and upon investigation he
discovered the Rev. Dr. Peck hard at work in the woods and when ques-
tioned by the Rev. Mr. Ellis as to what he was doing, Dr. Peck replied
that he was building a theological seminary. The Rev. Mr. Ellis was
greatly impressed with his short visit with the builder of a theological
seminary, for the facts are that in less than a year he had drawn up a
plan for the founding of a college which eventually came to be Illinois
College, Jacksonville.

In this early day there were few buildings other than log cabins, but
Mr. Peck was building for many years to come and the seminary build-
ing was a frame structure two stories high, the walls filled in with
brick and plastered over. The building was twenty feet by thirty-two


feet, the upper story being used as a dormitory for boys. The lower
story was used for school purposes. There were two wings each one
story high attached to the sides of the front of the building. There were
two log cabins near and these three buildings constituted the "plant" of
the Rock Spring Seminary, the first school established as a higher insti-
tution of learning.

The Rock Spring Seminary was opened in November, 1827. One of
the few pupils to enter was William H. Rider from Carrollton, Greene
county, Illinois. Young Rider was twelve years old when he entered
Rock Spring Seminary in November, 1827. He says the small boys slept
in the second story on straw beds laid on the floor. It appears, however,
that Mr. Rider stayed nearly all his time in the home of the president,
Mr. Peck. "He was one of the most industrious men I ever knew."

The Rev. James Bradley was a sort of vice principal and had charge
of the school in the absence of Dr. Peck. Dr. John Russell, the noted
pioneer scholar, of Bluffdale, Greene county, was a teacher from the first.
He served as principal or vice president during the second year. The
school had an average attendance during the first four years of fifty
and the southern end of the state was well represented.


In 1831 by action of board of trustees the school was removed to
Upper Alton and became in 1832 the Alton Seminary. Later in 1835 or
'36 the school received a charter, and the name was changed to Alton
College and in honor of Benjamin Shurtleff, of Boston, the name was
changed to that of Shurtleff.

This school has had a long and useful career. It has been hampered
for lack of funds, but its friends have never weakened in their loyalty
and the interest in the school has always been good. John M. Palmer
and his brother, Elihu J. Palmer, entered the school in 1835. They were
poor boys and needed to earn at least a part of their school expenses.
They cleared a road or street as it came to be, of trees and received pay
for their work from the school. The street leads westward from the
college to the present city of Alton. There were three graduates in 1837
and none other till 1842. From that day to the present, with few ex-
ceptions, classes have been graduated each year.

"During the war the number of students greatly decreased, and the
very life of the school was threatened for a time. Of former students,
and those in attendance at the outbreak of the war, about one hundred
and forty enlisted in the service of their country. Several of the stu-
dents rose to great distinction as soldiers, becoming majors, colonels,
brigadier generals, and major generals.

"Shurtleff College has been of incalculable benefit to the Baptist
denomination in the state of Illinois, and its graduates are occupying
positions of influence and responsibility in all parts of the union. They
have distinguished themsetlves, not only by their patriotism and bravery
in times of war, but as editors, jurists and statesmen, preachers and
men of business.

"The future of the College was never so well assured, or so full of
bright promise as it is today."

The school is under the immediate control of the Rev. David G. Ray,
L. H. D., senior regent. The school has a number of beautiful build-


ings in a campus set with native oaks on a high bluff overlooking the
Father of Waters.


There can be little doubt that the vision of the Rev. Dr. Peck as he
chopped away on the logs which would enter the Rock Spring Seminary
as lumber, was also seen by others beside Dr. Peck and the Rev. Mr.
Ellis, for the people of Lebanon, a straggling village not more than three
miles from Rock Spring, were shortly dreaming of a college which
should eventually adorn one of the beautiful hills in the outskirts of
their future city. Peter Cartwright attended the Methodist conference
held at Mt. Carmel in September 1827. He presented a memorial from
Greene county to the conference asking that body to take steps to estab-
lish a "Conference Seminary." A committee was appointed to look
into the matter. In February 1828 the people of Lebanon, then a town
of two hundred people, drew up articles of association ' ' for the erection
of an edifice for a seminary of learning." There was bitter rivalry in
those days between the sects, or denominations, and no doubt the people
of Lebanon were greatly stirred to start their school by the success than
attending the Rev. Mr. Peck's school at Rock Spring. A subscription
list signed by 104 persons for $1,385.00 was soon secured. Trustees were
selected and buildings put under construction.

The school was opened in the fall of 1828, one year after the open-
ing of Rock Spring Seminary, with an enrollment of seventy-two stu-
dents. The first year the school was housed in two buildings belonging
to the public and used for subscription schools. Mr. E. R. Ames, after-
wards Bishop in the M. E. church, was the first principal. His assistant
was a Miss McMurphy. Principal Ames received $115.00 for his services
for the first term, while Miss McMurphy received $83.33.

The college building was completed by the fall of 1829. (It burned
in 1856.) In 1830 the Methodist conference accepted the offer of the
board of trustees and the school was taken under the "fostering care"
of the Methodist church. Up to this time the school was known as the
Lebanon Seminary. About 1831 Bishop McKendree made a gift to the
school of four hundred and eighty acres of land and the name was
changed to McKendree College. In 1835 a bill was drawn in the legis-
lature and enacted into law creating four corporations to be known as :
"The Trustees of the Alton College of Illinois," "The Trustees of Illi-
nois College," "The Trustees of the McKendreean College," "The
Trustees of the Jonesboro College." The bill named the board of trus-
tees for each college, and locates the schools respectively in Upper Al-
ton, in Morgan county, in Lebanon, and at or near Jonesboro. This
charter contained a clause which shut out any chance for theological de-
partments, for it "provided, however, that nothing herein contained
shall authorize the establishment of a theological department in either
of said colleges." It provided further that "The said colleges and their
preparatory departments shall be open to all denominations of Chris-
tians." The four colleges were to serve respectively the four leading
denominations in Illinois at that time, namely the Baptist, the Pres-
byterian, the Methodist, and the Christian.

McKendree Collesre at Lebanon claims to be the oldest Methodist
college west of the Alleghany mountains. It has lived long and has had


an honorable career. To be sure in its earlier years it was obliged to ac-
cept students whose preparation was necessarily of a very limited char-
acter. In recent years all lines of work not purely collegiate have been
eliminated and only two courses are offered classical and scientific,
with seventy-six per cent of the students taking the classical course.

The first president under the charter was the Rev. Peter Akers. The
first class was graduated in 1841 seven in all and all classical students.
In 1848 a paper was started known as the Illinois Advocate and Lebanon
Journal. It was a religious paper, and was eventually moved to St.
Louis and called the Central Christian Advocate. It is now published
in Kansas City. Its editor while it was in Lebanon was Dr. Erastus

Within the past few years the school has come into some prominence
in Southern Illinois because of the interest which Governor Charles S.
Deneen has taken in it. His father was a teacher in the school for many
years and the Governor was a student there. He has greatly assisted
the school by liberal donations and by lending his counsel to the board
of trustees. The Rev. Dr. John Harmon is the present president, under
whose direction the college is enjoying a gratfying prosperity.

The Illinois College provided for in the "Omnibus" charter of 1835
was founded in 1829 and has had an interesting history. For a full
history of Illinois College see the life and works of Dr. Edward Beecher,
Dr. Sturtevant, Jonathan Turner, and the "Yale Band." The school is
located in the western edge of Jacksonville and being beyond our terri-
torial limits we shall not attempt a sketch of its founding and life work.

The fourth college provided for was to be known as the Jonesboro
College. It was to be located at or near Jonesboro in Union county.
The trustees named in the charter were : B. W. Brooks, Augustus Rix-
leben, Winstead Davie, John S. Hacker, and others.

There is no record or knowledge of any steps having been taken to
organize this school. A careful inquiry among the old settlers does not
reveal any satisfactory information concerning the project.


Ewing College, located in the town of Ewing, some eight miles north
of Benton, the county seat of Franklin county, though not so old nor so
flourishing as either McKendree or Shurtleff, has nevertheless been an
important factor in the work of education in Southern Illinois. The
school had its beginning in a high school organized in December 1867.
Professor John Washburn, D. D., was the first principal. In 1874 a
charter was secured which created the school Ewing College. Dr. Wash-
burn continued as president of the college. He has served in that ca-
pacity three different terms. Rev. William Shelton, D. D., was presi-
dent four years and Dr. J. A. Leavitt served for ten years. Dr. W. A.
Mathews is now the president. There are some sixteen members of the
faculty with an enrollment of some two hundred students. Ewing is
not on any railroad and the town is small and these facts are urged as
advantages in sending young people to school. Considerable stress is
placed upon Bible study and upon the genuine religious character of
teachers, students, and citizens. Several prizes are given in oratory,
music, literary production, etc. The college is under the control of the
Baptist brotherhood.

Vol. 125



This school is located at Albion, and is a Junior College which grew
out of a county normal which was begun in Albion about the year 1889.
In 1891 the school was turned over to the Association of Congregational
Churches in Southern Illinois. The college has an endowment of $50,000,
andi is just now completing a beautiful new three story college building.
The school has grown in numbers from 8 to 150 students. The president
of the school is Rev. Prank B. Hines. The aim of the school is to develop
a high grade of Christian character. The environment is very favorable
to this end. Albion and Edwards county have for many years occupied
a unique place in Southern Illinois. It is a healthful region. The town
has not had a saloon for forty years. The calaboose and jail are rarely
occupied. Circuit court is held twice a year and three days are usually
sufficient time to dispose of all litigation. The explanation of all this is
found in the character of the early settlers English Quakers, Puritans,
and Moravians.

While the college is under the auspices of the Congregational church,
young men and young women of all denominations are welcomed to the
advantages of the school. Much stress is put upon the importance and
value of Christian culture. The school numbers among its graduates law-
yers, doctors, legislators, educators, and other valuable members of


Greenville College was founded in 1892 under the auspices of the
Free Methodist Church. The property was formerly known as Almira
College, and was a school of collegiate grade for young ladies, opened in
1855. The principal contributors making possible the original purchase
in 1892 were Mrs. Ellen Rowland, James T. Grice, James H. Moss, and
W. S. Dann.

Ministerial scholarships have been founded to the number of ten by
John A. Augsbury of Watertown, New York.

The first president was Rev. Wilson Thomas Hogue, Ph. D., holding
his office for twelve years. His successor was Rev. Augustin L. Whit-
comb, M. S., who was president for three and one-half years. He was suc-
ceeded by Eldon G. Burritt, A. M., who is the present incumbent.

The organization of the college includes in addition to the College of
Liberal Arts and the preparatory department, the associated depart-
partments of theology, education, music, commercial science and public

The average attendance is three hundred students, with about one
hundred in the college department. The college emphasizes strongly the
importance of religion as a factor in education. This emphasis has at-
tracted students from widely separated sections, some twenty-five states
being represented from year to year in the student body.

The college has been from the first a strongly missionary institution,
and thirty of its students have gone to the foreign field. In the com-
paratively brief history of its existence, an unusually large number of
students and graduates have become prominent in business and pro-
fessional life.



In the catalogue of the Southern Illinois College for the year ending
June 1868, the following occurs as a part of the historical sketch of that
school : ' ' The project of a college in Southern Illinois originated in the
Presbyterian Synod held at Decatur in 1856. Here it was resolved to
build a college in Southern Illinois at some point on the Illinois Central
railroad, and that it should be located where the most money should be
subscribed by the citizens." In a history of Presbyterianism in Illinois
there is no mention of the action of the Synod in this matter for the
year 1856. But in the minutes of the Presbytery of Alton held in Mt.
Vernon in April 1856, and in an adjourned or called session held in
Carbondale in June 17, 1856, there is a a reference to "measures taken
to establish Carbondale College."

The catalogue referred to above further says as a part of the histori-
cal sketch: "Circulars were distributed along the road announcing the
design of the Synod, and making this offer to the citizens. On May 26,
1856, a meeting was held in the west side school-house in Carbondale of
representatives of the various competing places, when it was found
Carbondale had subscribed nearly double the amount of any other lo-
cality, and, of course it was determined to locate the school here (in
Carbondale). Henry Sanders, J. M. Campbell, D. H. Bush, Asgil Con-
ner, - - Barrow, and others were prominent for their liberality."

Nothing further seems to have been done until 1858 when Messrs.
Rapp, Edwards, Hill, and Burdic began erecting a building which stood
for many years and was known as the college.


The structure was a two story brick with basement, and was nearly
completed in 1861, lacking some of the interior furnishings. Before the
building was completed a school had been advertised and opened as the
Carbondale College. This school was begun in the upper story of the
store of J. M. Campbell. When the college building was completed this
school was moved into the new quarters in the southeastern part of the
city. The school which was started in the Campbell building was in
charge of the Rev. W. S. Post, at that time pastor of the Presbyterian
church of Carbondale. The Rev. Mr. Post was pastor or supply for the
Presbyterian church from 1856 to 1861 when he enlisted in the army as



chaplain. When Mr. Post left the church at the beginning of the war
his place as pastor and teacher was taken by the Rev. J. Russell Johnson
who taught in the college from '62 to '64. The school was not self-sup-
porting, the Synod and Presbytery failed to come to its rescue, and it
was closed. The building cost some ten or twelve thousand dollars. A

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 49 of 65)