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The 1878 History of Benton County, Iowa
pages 187-193
STATE UNIVERSITY

In the famous Ordinance of 1787, enacted by Congress before the Territory of the United States extended beyond the Mississippi River, it was declared that in all the territory northwest of the Ohio River, "Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." By act of Congress, approved July 20, 1840, the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized "to set apart and reserve from sale, out of any of the public lands within the Territory of Iowa, to which the Indian title has been or may be extinguished, and not otherwise appropriated, a quantity of land, not exceeding the entire townships, for the use and support of a university within said Territory when it becomes a State, and for no other use or purpose whatever; to be located in tracts of not less than an entire section, corresponding with any of the large divisions into which the public land are authorized to be surveyed."

William W. Dodge, of Scott County, was appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury to make the selections. He selected Section 5 in Township 78, north of Range 3, east of the Fifth Principal Meridian, and then removed from the Territory. No more lands were selected until 146, when, at the request of the Assembly, John M. Whitaker of Van Buren County, was appointed, who selected the remainder of the grant -- except about 122 acres.

In the first Constitution, under which Iowa was admitted to the Union, the people directed the disposition of the proceeds of this munificent grant in accordance with its terms, and instructed the General Assembly to provide, as soon as may be, effectual means for the improvement and permanent security of the funds of the university derived from the lands.

The first General Assembly, by act approved February 25, 1847, established the "State University of Iowa" at Iowa City, then the capital of the State, "with such other branches as public convenience may hereafter require." The "public buildings at Iowa City, together with the ten acres of land in which they are situated," were granted for the use of said university, provided, however, that the sessions of the Legislature and State offices should be held in the capitol until otherwise provided by law. The control and management of the University were committed to a board of fifteen Trustees, to be appointed by the Legislature, five of whom were to be chosen biennially. The Superintendent of Public Instruction was made President of this Board. Provisions were made for the disposal of the two townships of land, and for the investment of the funds arising therefrom. The act further provides that the University shall never be under the exclusive control of any religious denomination whatever," and as soon as the revenue for the grant and donations amounts to $2,000 a year, the University should commence and continue the instruction, free of charge, of fifty students annually. The General Assembly retained full supervision over the University, its officers and the grants and donations made and to be made to it by the State.

Section 5 of the act appointed James P. Carleton, H. D. Downey, Thomas Snyder, Samuel McCrory, Curtis Bates, Silas Foster, E. C. Lyon, James H. Gower, George G. Vincent, Wm. G. Woodward, Theodore S. Parvin, George Atchinson, S. G. Matson, H. W. Starr and Ansel Briggs, the first Board of Trustees.

The organization of the University at Iowa City was impracticable, however, so long as the seat of government was retained there.

In January, 1849, two branches of the University and three Normal Schools were established. The branches were located – one at Fairfield, and the other at Dubuque, and were placed upon an equal footing, in respect to funds and all other matters, with the University established at Iowa City. "This act," says Col. Benton, "created three State Universities, with equal rights and powers, instead of a ‘University with such branches as public convenience may hereafter demand,’ as provided by the Constitution."

The Board of Directors of the Fairfield Branch consisted of Barnet Ristine, Christian W. Slagle, Daniel Rider, Horace Gaylord, Bernhart Henn and Samuel S. Bayard. At the first meeting of the Board, Mr. Henn was elected President, Mr. Slagle Secretary, and Mr. Gaylord Treasurer. Twenty acres of land were purchased, and a building erected thereon, costing $2,500. This building was nearly destroyed by a hurricane, in 1850, but was rebuilt more substantially, all by contributions of the citizens of Fairfield. This branch never received any aid from the State or from the University Fund, and by act approved January 24, 1853, at the request of the Board, the General Assembly terminated its relation to the State.

The branch at Dubuque was placed under the control of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and John King, Caleb H. Booth, James M. Emerson, Michael J. Sullivan, Richard Benson and the Governor of the State as Trustees. The Trustees never organized, and its existence was only nominal.

The Normal Schools were located at Andrew, Oskaloosa and Mount Pleasant, respectively. Each was to be governed by a board of seven Trustees, to be appointed by the Trustees of the University. Each was to receive $500 annually from the income of the University Fund, upon condition that they should education eight common school teachers, free of charge for tuition, and that the citizens should contribute an equal sum for the erection of the requisite buildings. The several Boards of Trustees were appointed. At Andrew, the school was organized Nov. 21, 1849; Samuel Ray, Principal; Miss J. S. Dorr, Assistant. A building was commenced and over $1,000 expended on it, but it was never completed. At Oskaloosa, the Trustees organized in April, 1852. This school was opened in the Court House, September 13, 1852, under the charge of Prof. G. M. Drake and wife. A two story brick building was completed in 1853, costing $2,473. The school at Mount Pleasant was never organized. Neither of these schools received any aid from the University Fund, but in 1857 the Legislature appropriated $1,000 each for those at Oskaloosa and Andrew, and repealed the law authorizing the payment of money to them from the University Fund. From that time they made no further effort to continue in operation.

At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, held February 21, 1850, the "College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Upper Mississippi," established at Davenport, was recognized as the "College of Physicians and Surgeons of the State University of Iowa," expressly stipulating, however, that such recognition should not render the University liable for any pecuniary aid, nor was the Board to have any control over the property or management of the Medical Association. Soon after, this College was removed to Keokuk, its second session being opened there in November, 1850. In 1851, the General Assembly confirmed the action of the Board, and by act approved January 22, 1855, placed the Medical College under the supervision of the Board of Trustees of the University, and it continued in operation until this arrangement was terminated by the new Constitution, September 3, 1857.

From 1847 to 1855, the Board of Trustees was kept full by regular elections by the Legislature, and the Trustees held frequent meetings, but there was no effectual organization of the University. In March, 1855, it was partially opened for a term of sixteen weeks. July 16, 1855, Amos Dean, of Albany, N. Y., was elected President, but he never entered fully upon its duties. The University was again opened in September, 1855, and continued in operation until June, 1856, under Professors Johnson, Welton, Van Valkenberg and Guffin.

In the Spring of 1856, the capital of the State was located at Des Moines; but there were no buildings there, and the capitol at Iowa City was not vacated by the State until December, 1857.

In June, 1856, the faculty was re-organized, with some changes, and the University was again opened on the third Wednesday of September, 1856. There were one hundred and twenty-four students – eighty-three males and forty-one females – in attendance during the year 1856-7, and the first regular catalogue was published.

At a special meeting of the Board, September 22, 1857, the honorary degree of Bachelor of Arts was conferred on D. Franklin Wells. This was the first degree conferred by the Board.

Article IX, Section 11, of the new State Constitution, which went into force September 3, 1857, provided as follows:

The State University shall be established at one place, without branches at any other place; and the University fund shall be applied to that institution, and no other.

Article XI, Section 8, provided that

The seat of Government is hereby permanently established, as now fixed by law, at the city of Des Moines, in the county of Polk; and the State University at Iowa City, in the county of Johnson.

The new Constitution created the Board of Education, consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, who was ex officio President, and one member to be elected from each judicial district in the State. This Board was endowed with "full power and authority to legislate and make all needful rules and regulations in relation to common schools and other educational institutions," subject to alteration, amendment or repeal by the General Assembly, which was vested with authority to abolish or re-organize the Board at any time after 1863.

In December, 1857, the old capitol building, now known as Central Hall of the University, except the rooms occupied by the United States District Court, and the property, with that exception, passed under the control of the Trustees, and became the seat of the University. The old building had had hard usage, and its arrangement was ill adapted for University purposes. Extensive repairs and changes were necessary, but the Board was without funds for these purposes.

The last meeting of the Board, under the old law, was held in January, 1858. At this meeting, a resolution was introduced, and seriously considered, to exclude females from the University; but it finally failed.

March 12, 1858, the first Legislature under the new Constitution enacted a new law in relation to the University, but it was not materially different from the former. March 11, 1858, the Legislature appropriated $3,000 for the repair and modification of the old capitol building, and $10,000 for the erection of a boarding house, now known as South Hall.

The Board of Trustees created by the new law met and duly organized April 27, 1858, and determined to close the University until the income from its fund should be adequate to meet the current expenses, and the buildings should be ready for occupation. Until this term, the building known as the "Mechanics’ Academy" had been used for the school. The Faculty, except the Chancellor (Dean), was dismissed, and all further instruction suspended, from the close of the term then in progress until September, 1859. At this meeting, a resolution was adopted excluding females from the University after the close of the existing term; but this was afterward, in August, modified, so as to admit them to the Normal Department.

At the meeting of the Board, August 4, 1858, the degree of Bachelor of Science was conferred upon a student of the University. Diplomas were awarded to the members of the first graduating class of the Normal Department as follows: Levi P. Aylworth, Cellina H. Aylworth, Elizabeth L. Humphrey, Annie A. Pinney and Sylvia M. Thompson.

An "Act for the Government and regulation of the State University of Iowa," approved December 25, 1858, as mainly a re-enactment of the law of March 12, 1858, except that changes were made in the Board of Trustees, and manner of their appointment. This law provided that both sexes were to be admitted on equal terms to all departments of the institution, leaving the Board no discretion in the matter.

The new Board met and organized, February 2, 1859, and decided to continue the Normal Department only to the end of the current term, and that it was unwise to re-open the University at that time; but at the annual meeting of the Board, in June of the same year, it was resolved to continue the Normal Department in operation; and at a special meeting, October 25, 1859, it was decided to re-open the University in September, 1860. Mr. Dean had resigned as Chancellor prior to this meeting, and Silas Totten, D. D., LL.D., was elected President, at a salary of $2,000 and his term commenced June, 1860.

At the annual meeting, June 28, 1860, a full Faculty was appointed, and the University re-opened, under this new organization, September 19, 1860 (third Wednesday); and at this date the actual existence of the University may be said to commence.

August 19, 1862, Dr. Totten having resigned, Prof. Oliver M. Spencer was elected President and the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon Judge Samuel F. Miller, of Keokuk.

At the commencement, in June, 1863, was the first class of graduates in the Collegiate Department.

THE Board of Education was abolished March 19, 1864, and the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction was restored; the General Assembly resumed control of the subject of education, and on March 21, an act was approved for the government of the University. It was substantially the same as the former law, but provided that the Governor should be ex officio President of the Board of Trustees. Until 1858, the Superintendent of Public Instruction had been ex officio President. During the period of the Board of Education, the University Trustees were elected by it, and elected their own President.

President Spencer was granted leave of absence from April 10, 1866, for fifteen months, to visit Europe; and Prof. Nathan R. Leonard was elected President pro tem.

The North Hall was completed late in 1866.

At the annual meeting in June, 1867, the resignation of President Spencer (absent in Europe) was accepted, and Prof. Leonard continued as President pro tem., until March 4, 1868, when James Black, D. D., Vice President of Washington and Jefferson College, Penn., was elected President. Dr. Black entered upon his duties in September, 1868.

The Law Department was established in June, 1868, and, in September following, an arrangement was perfected with the Iowa Law School, at Des Moines, which had been in successful operation for three years, under the management of Messrs. George G Wright, Chester C. Cole and William G. Hammond, by which that institution was transferred to Iowa City and merged in the Law Department of the University. The Faculty of this department consisted of the President of the University, Hon. Wm. G. Hammond, Resident Professor and Principal of the Department, and Professors G. G. Wright and C. C. Cole.

Nine students entered at the commencement of the first term, and during the year ending June, 1877, there were 103 students in this department.

At a special meting of the Board, on the 17th of September, 1868, a Committee was appointed to consider the expediency of establishing a Medical Department. This Committee reported at once in favor of the proposition, the Faculty to consist of the President of the University and seven Professors, and recommended that, if practicable, the new department should be opened at the commencement of the University year, in 1869-70. At this meeting, Hon. Ezekiel Clark was elected Treasurer of the University.

By an act of the General Assembly, approved April 11, 1870, the "Board of Regents" was instituted as the governing power of the University, and since that time it has been the fundamental law of the institution. The Board of Regents held its first meeting June 28, 1870. Wm. J. Haddock was elected Secretary, and Mr. Clark, Treasurer.

Dr. Black tendered his resignation as President, at a special meeting of the Board, held August 18, 1870, to take effect on the 1st of December following. His resignation was accepted.

The South Hall having been fitted up for the purpose, the first term of the Medical department was opened October 24, 1870, and continued until March, 1871, at which time there were three graduates and thirty-nine students.

March 1, 1871, Rev. George Thacher was elected President of the University. Mr. Thacher accepted, entered upon his duties April 1st, and was formally inaugurated at the annual meeting in June, 1861.

In June, 1874, the "Chair of Military Instruction" was established, and the President of the United States was requested to detail an officer to perform its duties. In compliance with this request, Lieut. A. D. Schenck, Second Artillery, U. S. A., was detailed as "Professor of Military Science and Tactics," at Iowa State University, by order of the War Department, August 26, 1874, who reported for duty on the 10th of September following. Lieut. Schenck was relived by Lieut. James Chester, Third Artillery, January 1, 1877.

Treasurer Clark resigned November 3, 1875, and John N. Coldren elected in his stead.

At the annual meeting, in 1876, a Department of Homoeopathy was established.

In March, 1877, a resolution was adopted affiliating the High Schools of the State with the University.

In June, 1877, Dr. Thacher’s connection with the University was terminated, and C. W. Slagle, a member of the Board of Regents, was elected President.

In 1872, the ex officio membership of the Superintendent of Public Instruction was abolished; but it was restored in 1876. Following is a catalogue of the officers of this important institution, from 1847 to 1878:


                              Trustees or Regents 

                                 Presidents
                                                                         From    To
James Harlan, Superintendent Public Instruction, ex officio..............1847   1848
Thomas H. Benton, Jr., Superintendent Public Instruction, ex officio.....1848   1854
James D. Eads, Superintendent Public Instruction, ex officio.............1854   1857
Maturin L. Fisher, Superintendent Public Instruction, ex officio.........1857   1858 
Amos Dean, Chancellor, ex officio........................................1858   1859
Thomas H. Benton, Jr.....................................................1859   1863
Francis Springer.........................................................1863   1864
William M. Stone, Governor, ex officio...................................1864   1868
Samuel Merrill, Governor, ex officio.....................................1868   1872
Cyrus C. Carpenter, Governor, ex officio.................................1872   1876
Samuel J. Kirkwood, Governor, ex officio.................................1876   1877
Joshua G. Newbold, Governor, ex officio..................................1877   1878
John H. Gear.............................................................1878   ....

                                Vice Presidents

Silas Foster.............................................................1847   1851
Robert Lucas.............................................................1851   1853
Edward Connelly..........................................................1854   1855
Moses J. Morsman.........................................................1855   1858

                                 Secretaries

Hugh D. Downey...........................................................1847   1851
Anson Hart...............................................................1851   1857
Elijah Sells.............................................................1857   1858
Anson Hart...............................................................1858   1864
William J. Haddock.......................................................1864   ....

                                 Treasurers

Morgan Reno, State Treasurer, ex officio.................................1847   1850
Israel Kister, State Treasurer, ex officio...............................1850   1852
Martin L. Morris, State Treasurer, ex officio............................1852   1855
Henry W. Lathrop.........................................................1855   1862
William Crum.............................................................1862   1868
Ezekiel Clark............................................................1868   1876
John N. Coldren..........................................................1876   ....

                        Presidents of the University

Amos Dean, LL. D.........................................................1855   1858
Silas Totten, D. D., LL. D...............................................1860   1862
Oliver M. Spencer, D. D..................................................1862   1867
James Black, D. D........................................................1867   1870
George Thacher, D. D.....................................................1871   1877
C. W. Slagle.............................................................1877   ....

The present educational corps of the University consists of the President, none Professors in the Collegiate Department, one Professor and six Instructors in Military Science; Chancellor, three Professors and four Lecturers in the Law Department; eight Professor Demonstrators of Anatomy; Prosector of Surgery and two Lecturers in the Medical Department, and two Professors in the Homoeopathic Medical Department.


Transcribed, 2006, by Tierney Ratti.



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