Volta Bureau (U.S.).

Histories of American schools for the deaf, 1817-1893 online

. (page 14 of 52)
Online LibraryVolta Bureau (U.S.)Histories of American schools for the deaf, 1817-1893 → online text (page 14 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

asked to prepare plans, specifications, and estimates for a
substantial, foor-story stone building. This having been
done, wiih the $15,000 available, the Board decided to lay the
fcMindations and raise the walls as far as the water table, Ihen
ask the Legislature for funds sufficient to complete and
furnish the building. They did so, accordingly.

The year 1866 was probably the most eventful and
memorable in the history of the School. It marked the
foundation of the permanent building ; of the generous
donation, by the citizens of Faribault, of 25 additional acres of
land to the School site ; of the opening of a department for the
blind ; and, finally, of the retirement of Supt. E. H. Kinney, and
the selection, in his stead, of Mr. J. L. Noyes, who, after
nearly three decades, still remains at the head of the School.

Minnesota School for the Deaf. 13

It is fitting to pause here for a moment and speak a few
■svords concerning those first three years of the School's his-
tory. A minute account of the difliculties encountered in
starting the School, the discomforts and vexations experienc-
ed from poverty of resources Avhen it was once started, and
the ingenuity displayed by the officials in meeting and over-
coming every fresh obstacle, would fill a volume, in which
both the pathetic and humorous would form a part. It is
not to be marvelled at that such an experience, coupled with
family affliction and impaired health, should have led Mr.
Kinney to retire from the superintendency. But his inter-
est in the work of teaching the deaf did not cease. He
■continued his connection with it in other schools, and was in
the profession thirty-three years in all. In 1S85, his death
was announced, and drew forth many testimonials as to liis
excellence of character and abilit}' as a teacher, from those
who had known him. A life-size crayon portrait of Mr.
Xinney now hangs in the main hall of our Institution as a
Tiiemorial of its first superintendent.

The Board of Directors were fully impressed with the ini -
portance of a reliable and competent head for the School, and
after careful and thoughtful consideration, they offered the
place to Mr. Jonathan L. Noyes, of Hartford, Conn. He
came West in May, 18G6, to look over the ground and confer
with the Directors. Everything having been arranged sat-
isfactorily, he returned to Hartford to prepare for his re-
moval to what his eastern friends then considered almost be-
yond the pale of civilization. INIr. Noycs ^vtis peculiarly
•qualified, both by character and experience, to take charge
■of such pioneer work. He was a descendant of those
sturdy people who landed from the Mayflower in mid-winter
■upon the bleak New England coast, and, sigainst infinite
odds, laid the foundation of our nation. Mr. Noyes

tittend Phillips's Academy at Andover, Mass., and
afterwards entered Yale College, whence he graduated
in 1852. At the time of graduation, several invitmg fields

■of labor were offered him, one a tutorship in Illinois College,
und about the same time, the office of teacher in the Pennsyl-

14 Historical Sketch.

vania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Piiiladelphia. Ho
was drawn toward the latter by reason of the opportunities
offered in the city for study and improvement. It was
his ultimate aim to enter the ministry, but he very soon
perceived that a broad field of usefulness lay before him in
teaching the deaf, and concluded to devote himself to it.
He remained in Philadelphia six years, and then accepted a.
similar position in the Louisiana Institution at Baton Eouge.
While there, one of his fellow-teachers was Mr. E. S. Thomas,
afterward "Warden of Seabury Divinity School, in Faribault,
and for a short time a member of the Board of Directors of
this School, but now the Episcopal Bishop of Kansas.

From 1858 tilM860, Mr. Noyes remained at Baton
Rouge. Then came the angry muttcrings of war, the
arousal of the " war spirit " in the South, the talk of
secession, etc. Mr. Xoyes was not the man to dissemble
his convictions as to light and wrong, and being a Xew
Englander, it is needless to ask which way his sympathies
tended. His position in Baton Rouge became more and
more anomalous and unpleasant, and would ultimately have
involved him in danger. Bidding adieu to the Sunny
South, he returned North on the last boat that went up the
river before it was blockaded. He soon received an
appointment as a teacher in the American Asylum, at
Hartford, where he continued six years, or until his
appointment to the superintendency of the Minnesota School,
to which he came with fourteen years of experience as a

While corresponding with the Board of Directors re-
lative to the superintendency, Mr. Ncyes made it a condition
of his acceptance that he should have the right to nominate
all the teachers and subordinate officers, subject to confirma-
tion by the Board. This was readily acquiesced in, the
Board only reserving to itself the right of removal as a pre-
cautionary measure. Very little thought is necessary to
convince any one how important it is that the superintendent
should be the nominating power. The harmonious work-
ing of the complicated mechanism of such a school, especial-

Minnesota School ]-ok the Dkap. 15

ly as it grows liivge and larger, readers it imperative tli^t all
the subordinates should be in perfect accord with the head,
which they are much more likely to be if they arc of his own

Supt. Noyes was on hand at the opening of School in
September, 1866, and immediately went to work to familiar-
ize himself with his new sphere and to get every l.hing into
systematic order. His task was made all the harder by the
fact that the School Was unpleasantly crowded, and in a
building ill adapted to the ficcommodation of deaf children
of both sexes. Before the close of the year he was under

the painful necessity of refusing applications for admission,
as there was actually no room.

A small class for the instruction of the blind was opened
this same year under the charge of Miss Harriet N. Tucker,
in the Fitzgerald house in the southeast part of the town,
across the river nearly west from the present site occupied
by the blind. About a year later, they moved to the north
part of the town and occupied the Tanner house, near the
City Gas Works, directly ^test across the river from
Shattuck School. Here they remained till 1868, when
they were removed to the new building with the deaf
children, where they were under the immediate supervision
of the Superintendent of the School. For six years

following, 1868-1874, the fortunes of the deaf and blind
wards of the state were united under one roof.

At the session of the Legislature in 1867, sufEcient funds
were appropriated for the completion of the new building.
As soon as the weather permitted in the spring, the work of
construction was recommenced. Leonard and Shiere, of
St. Paul, had the contract. The work was to be complet-
ed in December, but unavoidable obstacles delayed it until
early in the following year.

- This first building, a cut of which is shown, was design-
ed as but one wing of a proposed structure. It was plan-
ned to accommodate fifty pupils, with sixty as the maximum.
In the basement were four wood furnaces for hot air heating.

IG Historical Sketch.

Gas pipes were laid, thougli, at tlie time, there was no gas-
manufactory in town.

March 17, 1868, St. Patrick's Day, was the long antici-
pated day for removal. As evening fell, the last load of
furniture and household goods was.,tra,nsported, and the
Minnesota School for the Deaf was established in its per-
manent quarters. Who can picture the delight of one and
all, from the Superintendent down to, the youngest pupil, at
taking possession of their Avarm, bright, and roomy home on
the hill, and bidding adieu forever to the old wooden struc-
ture, Avith its cold draughts, its rats and mice, and the hun-
dred and one other discomforts that had been endured for
five years ? That old building has long since disappeared.
No trace of it now remains save the excavation that once did
duty as a cellar and rat rendezvous.

The opening of the school year follov/ing the occupation
of the new building, witnessed a large increase in the number
of pupils. The Annual Eeport, submitted in December,
showed an attendance of 53. As the building had been
originally planned to accommodate 50 pupils comfortably, it
will be seen that the Board of Directors and the Superintend-
ent were fully justified in urging upon the Legislature the
desirability of at once commencing the erection of the South
AVing. They were so far successful that sufficient money
was appropriated to lay the foundations of the building up
to the first story level.

The year 1870 was memorable in the history of the
School as mai king two important events. The first of
these was the introduction of manual training by the open-
ing of a cooper shop in January. More will be said on this
point under the head of "Industrial Training" further on.
The second event was the completion of the regular course of
study of five years, together with the special addition of two
years, by a class of five pupils, and the severance of tl<W'
connection with the School, in June. Two of the five rcr
ceived the regular diplomas of graduates, while the other,
three were given certificates of honorable discharge. The
two graduates were

Minnesota School foe thk Deaf. 17

George A. Harmon,
Cora A. Howe.

Both of these " tirst fruits " of the School have comport-
ed themselves in a manner to reflect the highest credit upon
the School that educated them- George A- Harmon has,
for many years, been one of Faribaulfs most sober and in-
dustrious citizens. He- i^ a cooper by trade, and there is
no better workman in this part of the State. He married
Miss Ora E. Wood, a hearing lady, and is the father of two
fine boys, the older of whom is now sixteen. Cora A.
Howe was a young lady of superior mind and character.
For several years she was employed by her Alma Mate)' as an
jissistant teacher, but, m 1874, a chronic weakness of the eyes
became so serious that she was compelled to resign her posi-
tion for good. Since then she has been living quietly at
home, a refined, Christian Avoman.

Although the foundations of the South Wing were laid
in 1869, it was not until 1871 that the walls were built up and
the structure enclosed. After that, another long period of
waiting occurred, for it was, only in the fall of 1873 that the
building was ready for the reception of pupils. During
this interval, the condition of matters in the North Wing be-
came more and more uncomfortable, as it was greatly over-
crowded. Originally planned for 50 pupils, it now contain-
(d as many as 76, and the Superintendent was obliged to per-, .
-emptorily refuse all applipatipns for admission. The writer
of this little history was one of the applicants for admission
in the fall of '72. When the Superintendent's letter was
received, announcing that he must Ayait at home a year, he
was so disappointed that he sat down and cried. He was a
little fellow, only ten years old, and he did want to go to
school so badly.

Whenschool opened^ September 9, 1873, thirty-four new
pupils were admitted,- — thirty deaf and four blind- The
interior arrangement of the Sobool was reorganized. The
■deaf and the blind girls occupied the Nofth Wing, which re-
mained the general domestic headquarters. , The deaf and
the blind boys were transferred to the South Wing, which

IS Historical Sketch.

also contained rooms for some of the officers and teachers.

The two wings were, outwardly, almost exact counter-
parts, as will be seen by reference to the accompanying cuts.
They were 96 feet apart, and were joined by a covered pas-
sage-way, on a level with the first story. In 1877, when the
walls of the Main Building began to rise, this passage-way
was cut into three sections, which were safely transported to
the boys' playground and re-united. A fine bowling alley
was fitted up inside, and, for several years, it was a source of
healthful recreation for the officers and pupils of the School.
Many a marvellous " ten-strike " was made therein. But
the end of the old passage-way, with its many. memories,
came, and came in a way very similar to that of the deacon's
"One Hoss Shay." Nature was the - destroyer, though
not through the agency of an eartliquake. It was in the
fall of 1SS7, that, one afternoon, a violent little tornado paid
its respects to our School. It raised theroof of the shop
building half a foot, peeled the tin from other roofs, and,—
alas ! — it lifted the bowling alley right up .and dashed it over
on the ground, — a mass of kindling wood.

In the Annual Report of 1872, the Board of Dii'ectors
asked the Legislature to furnish the necessary funds for a
new shop building, for a separate building for . the blind, and
for the foundations of the Main Building. The first two
only were provided for. A two-story wooden building was
erected, which was occupied in 1874 by a tailor-shop, a shoe-
shop, and, later, by a printing office.-

But the most important steja was the permanent separa-
tion of the deaf and the blind. The Legislature appro-
priated $12,000 for this purpose. The Board of Directors,
after careful deliberation, decided to purchase the beautiful
homestead of Alexander Faribault, situated on the bluff, half
a mile south of the School for the Deaf. The sum of
SS,500 was paid for it. By this most fortunate purchase, a
lovely tract of 97 acres was secured, together with a spacious
house and good out-buildings. The remainder of the
appropriation was spent in erecting a brick addition to the
Faribault house. In the fall of 1874, the transfer of the

00 px


Minnesota School for the Deaf. 19

blind pupils to their new home took place. Mr. A. N.
Pratt, one of the teachers of the Deaf Department, was
appointed principal, under the direction of Supt. Noyes.
At th^end of one year, he resigned, and Mr. James J. Dow,
a graduate of Carleton College and a Union soldier daring
the Civil War, and at that time superintendent of the city
schools in Austin, Minn., Avas selected in his stead. Under
his wise and efficient administration, the School for the Blind
has made steady progress along all lines of improvement.

With the wise foresight of which they always gave
evidence, the Board of Directors urged upon tho Legislature,
as early as 1872, the necessity of taking steps to erect the
Main Building. But it was not until the session of 1875 that
any appropriation was provided for that purpose, when the
sum of $15,000 was made available for laying the founda-
tions. This work was completed during the year. For
the two years following, the Legislature did not deem it
expedient to make any further appropriation for building
purposes. But, in 1877, $10,000 was voted, and work
recommenced. Slowly but steadily the walls of the great
building rose ; then came the putting on of the roof and the
erection of the lofty dome. To finish the interior and
furnish it for occupation, to erect an engine and boiler
room, and to fit up the entire building for steam heating,
required a further appropriation. Accordingly, it was not
until the fall of 1S79, that the building was ready for
occupation. Instead of attempting to give a description of
the completed edifice, the writer prefers to lake the following
accurate account from the Annual Eeport ( 1870 ) of Supt.
Xoyes :

The style of the building deserves a passing notice. The object
kept in view has been to build substantially, in good taste, v/ith an
eye to utility and tlie wants of the future, and in a manner
becoming a State enterprise.

In order to keep the building within the demands and means of
the State, the architect in 1866 was instructed to draw plans of the
north wing only, leaving the remainder of the building to be
determined mainly by the circumstances of the future. The same
is true also in regard to the plans and erection of the south v/ing,
the next addition in order. It was the result of nopre-arrangement
or contract that the same architect drew the plans nf the entire

20 Historical Sketch.

building— the main cfentre and'^fihe twb witigs— at three different
times and under threje different contracts., Whatever, therefore, of
success has been attained in the effort to unite the three portions
in one symmetrical, hatnioriioufe whole, is due to the architect in
carrying out the instructions, pf the.Jaoard of, , trustees. And fortu-
nately a majority of the trustees have remained on the board from
1866 to the present timel ; and -they ' haSv^ had ideas more or less
definite in regard; to ith^dea^ an^idumb, and the nature and size of
the building required in providing for them.

Concerning the bui]ding;'the architect, Monroe Sheire, Esq., of
St. Paul, says: "Th? p.lan of ,t,he building is rectangular, and
consists of a central portion one hundred feet north and south, and
one hundred and eight' f efet east and West, exclusive of piazzas ; and
two wings, one on ,the,nortlj and the other on the south side, each
of these wings being eighty feet by forty-five. This makes the
extreme length tw6' hundred and sixty feet, and the width one
hundred and eight feet. The entire building is fpur stories in
height above the basement. The first story of the main part is
fourteen and a half feet; the second story twelve and a half feet; the
third fourteen and a half, and the fourth story sixteen feet ; all in
the clear. Each story is divided into good airy rooms, for the
convenience of the institution ; also into good light, roomy halls
and staircases, for the use of the occupants, and their escape in
case of fire.

"The exterior walls are built of the splendid blue limestone from
the Faribault quarries, showing the natural rock face on the body
of the walls, but with dressed stone trimmings, such as water table
or base, corners of the building, pier caps, and facings to the doors
and windows ; which openings are also finished with moulded caps
and corbels of the same kind of stone. Architecturally, the style
of the building may be termed Romanesque combined with the
French. The whole building is surmounted with a curved mansard
roof , covered with slate laid in flgrtres of various colors. In the
centre of the roof rises a cupola of liberal dimensions, the top of
the dome at the base of the flagstaff being one hundred and fifty
feet above the surface of the ground. The proportions of the
cupola are such that when viewed from any point it charms the eye
with its symrnetry and harmonious proportions, notwithstanding
the great length of the building."

The site, consisting of fifty-four acres of land, selected and
donated by the citizens of Faribault, is "beautiful for situation."
It lies east of the city, on a bluff from seventy-five to one hundred
feet above the level of Straight river, which separates it from the
city, and yet is witliin ten minutes' walk of the post office and the
business part of the city. East of the institution buildings, the
land rises gradually to the height of over one hundred feet ; so that,
at a distance of 2,100 feet from the building, a never failing supply
of pure spring water is obtained, with forty-five feet fall. This
spring, with the land immediately around it, the institution owns
and protects for its own exclusive use.

The entire cost to the State of the buildings erected for the deaf
and dumb, and the improvements made up to date, amounts to
about 11.50,000, exclusive of bviildlng for the blind. When
completed, it is estimated the building will accommodate two
hundred pupils. All of the large rooms, such as the chapel, dining-
rooms, school- rooms, play-room for the little girls, public parlor,
reception room, offices, library, and rooms for the superintendent's

"1 '-t . -

I ^

,1 . •sari a! - .rl'j


1 -i. ' * •


'» *'h ''

*Vl i-


\ '

r: =^ - Sr^S ^


A 2

•w J * . - — ,' '■-*.irtSll!¥.

■I «


fr-"^ " -! I ^ ft- ,


1' /

li''" riSi





MixxESOTA School for the Djcaf. . 21

family and the matron, will be in the central portion. The male
pupils will occupy one wing and the females the other; with
assistant officers located at convenient points to facilitate proper
care and supervision by day and night. Most of the dormitories
are on the third and fourth floors, each of which has access to five
different stairways-, besides a fire escape. Each wing is provided
with hospital rooms, closets, and bath-rooms with hot and cold
water on the first and second story. The entire building is lighted
with gas from the city, and provided with a good system of
ventilation; and when the steam heating apparatus is properly
introduced, it is confidently predicted that the building and its
various apartments will be admirably adapted to the uses for which
it has been erected, and will prove to be a timelv, wise, and
economical investment en the part of the State.

Minnsota stands honorably beside her sister States in her care
and treatment of her deaf and dumb children. It is only a little
more than sixty years since the first institution of the liind was
estabhshed in America, and during the past year over six thousand
deaf-mute children and youths in the United States and Canada
have been under instruction, at a cost of $1,500,000 or an annual
expense of ^250 per capita.

Estimating the population of Minnesota at 700,000, and one deaf
and dumb person in every 1,500— a proportion not too large for the
United States— and one third under twenty-five years of age, and it
gives 153 deaf-mute children in the Sta,te to be educated. Ninety-
three are to-day in the institution at Faribault, and enough more are
expected daily to make the number one hundred, while the names
and residences are known of one hundred more in the State, who
liave not as yet been- educated. Let no one then say that too
much has been done for these unfortunate children till all within
this commonwealth have received the benefits of at least a common
school education.

From a " Historical Sketch " of the school, written in
1884, and designed to form a part of Minnesota's Educational
Exhibit at the New Orleans Exposition, iB taken the follow-
ing paragraph, which very properly has a place hero :

It is worthy of note to mark the steady growtli of the insti
tution in periods of five years each. Five years after the pas-
sage of the first act establishing the institute in Faribault, the
school was opened. Five years later, the north wing was
completed and ready for occupancy. In five years more, the
south wing was erected and occupied by sixty pupils, and the
completion, furnishing and heating of the main centre building
marks a period of five years more. Every advance has been
made as the circumstances of the school demanded it, and not-
upon conjecture, or mere^ptobahilities. It is confidently expect-
ed that the buildings, now provided will afford ample accommoda-
tions for the deaf-mutes of the state for the next ten or fifteen
years. The object kept in view has been to build substantially,
in good taste, with an eye to utility, wants of the futu'e, and' in
a manner becoming a state enterprise.

22 Historical, Sketch.

As early as 1868, Superintendent Noyes, in his Annual'
Report, called public- attention to the fact that there were, in
the State, a certain number of children who were of too-
feeble intellect to . be editcated in the common schools.
Several such had been sent to the School for the Deaf, but
nothing could be done for them, for want of facilities. In
later Eeports, both the Board of Directors and the Super-
intendent repeatedly called the attention of the Legislature
to the importance of making some provision for the care and
training of these unfortunate children. The State Board
of Health exerted its influence toward the same end.
Finally, in 1879, the Lcgislatiire made a small appropriation
and granted the Board authority to open an experimental
department for feeble-minded children. In the fall of that
year a small class of such children was organized in part of a
large vacant building on the bluff, known by the name of
Fairview Seminarj^, now the residence of Mr. George jM.
Gilmore. The school, started at first as an experiment,
very soon more than proved its right to existence and the
support of the State. The late Dr. H. M. Knight, founder

Online LibraryVolta Bureau (U.S.)Histories of American schools for the deaf, 1817-1893 → online text (page 14 of 52)