Volume 2


Printed by the Clio Press Iowa City, Iowa 1918
Copyright 1918 by Clarence Ray Aurner

Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, June 21, 2013

pgs 132-141

pg 132

Sometime before Iowa became a State there were a number of plans for academies or schools to prepare young men and women for college. Not very many of the large number planned, however, ever got so far as to have teachers and classes or even a building. There was one at Denmark, in Lee County, which lasted from 1843 to 1912. Many hundreds of boys and girls, not only from Iowa but from other states also, have been in attendance there. They became teachers in the common schools and some of them later were well-known scholars. Not far from Denmark, at the town of Mt. Pleasant, there was another school known for many years as Howe's Academy. It was opened in 1844 and to this day, it is said, one of the Howe family conducts it. From that school, also, many young men and women were set out to teach the schools in Iowa and neighboring states.

Most of the colleges which were begun by different groups of church people had to commence as academies and to grow into colleges as they got money and students. Their history is full of difficulty; and much hard labor was necessary before they succeeded in their plans. Among the first of these was an institute or an academy (these were often called institutes) at Mt. Pleasant which was begun in 1842. That was the beginning of Iowa Wesleyan University, which got its present name in 1855.

pg 134

In 1846 the trustees of a new college decided to put their school at Davenport. It was named Iowa College, because long before that time a group of young men in New England, while they were college students, had made up their minds to come to the Territory of Iowa on purpose to become ministers and to build a college for their church people. They held meetings and talked a great deal about the college in Iowa—the one they were going to build. When they reached Iowa in 1843, they wanted to buy a large piece of land and to put their college just where the present city of Independence is built; but the wise men in New England said that it would not be best to do that. Since the money to buy the land would have to be raised in New England, there was nothing to do but find another place. That was the reason Iowa College happened to be placed at Davenport. But in 1859 it was moved to Grinnell.

The group of young men who were so much interested in the future of Iowa has been called the Iowa Band of 1843, because they had bound themselves together to go into the western territory as missionaries. They became ministers and at the same time helped to support the new college and the public schools which were being opened. Very many interesting things have been written about them and their work in Iowa. They were students at Yale College and at Andover Seminary before they set out for Iowa, and at those two schools their plans were first laid for the Iowa College they intended to build.

About 1853, while a minister was riding across the Iowa prairies, he came to a hill from which he had a fine view of the surrounding country. He could see in all directions, but toward the south there was a beautiful valley; and toward the north the level country stretched away for many miles. This minister had tried nearly ten years before to build a college in another place. He had really found a teacher to become the head of his college and at one time it promised to be a success. But it was too early, it seems, to open such a school.

Now he determined to place a college on the very hill where he stood and looked about on the rich country. For that very purpose he bought the land. He began to raise the money to put up a building for the students who, he felt, would be certain to come there after the college was ready. Within a very short time a small brick building had been completed—it is still in use—and the first students were admitted to the Mt. Vernon seminary. That was the beginning of Cornell College.

pg 137

It was at the same time (1853) that another group of church people held a meeting or convention to decide where they should commence a college in Iowa. They had a hard time to agree, but it was finally put at Burlington. It had a large name—Burlington University—although it never got very far beyond an academy. The same people not long afterward began to talk about another college nearer the central part of the State. To settle this matter they held another meeting at which they agreed to build such a college at Pella. That was the beginning of Central University which these people supported until 1916.

Before 1857 the first steps had been taken to build other colleges. For example, Mr. Coe, whose name Coe College bears, had given some money and a large piece of land near Cedar Rapids to build a school. Perhaps he did not know how long it would be before the school would become a college; but he gave the land and money for some kind of a school which at first was called Coe Institute. It took much courage and plenty of hard work to build a college from such small beginnings as some of the Iowa colleges had.

Another group of church people selected an open prairie in the southern part of Linn County for their future college. There was not one building there when they started to make a home for the students. Indeed, they expected to build a town along with the college, for by the sale of the town lots they planned to raise the money for the college buildings. That was the beginning of Western College, now known as Leander Clark College at Toledo, for it, too, was moved.

People were determined to have right here, at home, the schools which they had known in the states from which they had come. It was too far to send boys and girls to the old home colleges; and the only thing they could do was to build them in Iowa. To be sure, there were other reasons also, since people were anxious to make Iowa a good State in which to live. Men and women were ready to give time and hard-earned money to build schools if their families could be given such advantages.

pg 140
Perhaps the reason for so many academies as were planned before there were any high schools was to prepare boys for college; and the seminaries were to teach the girls something about the fine things in painting, music, fancy sewing, and a little out of books. Of course, now much better opportunities are provided.

Page created June 27, 2013 by Lynn McCleary

Return to Iowa Stories Volume 2 Contents

Return to Cedar Co. IAGenWeb Home Page