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The State of Iowa
Iowa College for the Blind

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 195-197, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.


Vinton, Benton County.

In August of 1852, Prof. Samuel Bacon, himself blind, established an Institution for the Instruction of the Blind of Iowa, at Keokuk.

By act of the General Assembly, entitled "An act to establish an Asylum for the Blind," approved Jnauary 18, 1853, the institution was adopted by the State, removed to Iowa City, February 3d, and opened for the reception of pupils April 4, 1853, free to all the blind in the State.

The first Board of Trustees were James D. Eads, President; George W. McClary, Secretary; James H. Gower, Treasurer; Martin L. Morris, Stephen Hempstead, Morgan Reno and John McCaddon. The Board appointed Prof. Samuel Bacon, Principal; T. J. McGittigen, Teacher of Music, and Mrs. Sarah K. Bacon, Matron. Twenty-three pupils were admitted during the first term.

In his first report, made in 1854, Prof. Bacon suggested that the name should be changed from "Asylum for the Blind," to that of "Institution for the Instruction of the Blind." This was done in 1855, when the General Assembly made an annual appropriation for the College of $55 per quarter for each pupil. This was subsequently changed to $3,000 per annum, and a charge of $25 as an admission fee for each pupil, which sum, with the amounts realized from the sale of articles manufactured by the blind pupils, proved sufficient for the expenses of the institution during Mr. Bacon's administration. Although Mr. Bacon was blind, he was a fine scholar and an eocnomical manager, and had founded the Blind Asylum at Jacksonville, Illinois. As a mathematician he had few superiors.

On the 8th of May, 1858, the Trustees met at Vinton, and made arrangements for securing the donation of $5,000 made by the citizens of that town.

In June of that year, a quarter section of land was donated for the College, by John W. O. Webb and others, and the Trustees adopted a plan for the erection of a suitable building. In 1860, the plan was modified, and the contract for enclosing let to Messrs. Finkbine & Lovelace, for $10,420.

In August, 1862, the building was so far completed that the goods and furniture of the institution were removed from Iowa City to Vinton, and early in October, the school was opened there with twenty-four pupils. At this time, Rev. Orlando Clark was Principal.

In August, 1864, a new Board of Trustees were appointed by the Legislature, consisting of James McQuin, President; Reed Wilkinson, Secretary; Jas. Chapin, Treasurer; Robert Gilchrist, Elijah Sells and Joseph Dysart, organized and made important changes. Rev. Reed. Wilkinson and Miss Amelia Butler were appointed Assistant Teachers; Mrs. N. A. Morton, Matron.

Mr. Wilkinson resigned in June, 1867, and Gen. James L. Geddes was appointed in his place. In September, 1869, Mr. Geddes retired, and was succeeded by Prof. S. A. Knapp. Prof. Knapp resigned July 1, 1875, and Prof. Orlando Clark was elected Principal, who died April 2, 1876, and was succeeded by John B. Parmalee, who retired in July, 1877, when the present incumbent, Rev. Robert Carothers, was elected.

Trustees, 1877-8.--Jeremiah L. Gay, President; S. H. Watson, Treasurer; H. C. Piatt, Jacob Springer, C. L. Flint and P. F. Sturgis.

Faculty.--Principal. Rev. Robert Carothers, A. M.; Matron, Mrs. Emeline E. Carothers; Teachers, Thomas F. McCune, A. B., Miss Grace A. Hill, Mrs. C. A. Spencer, Miss Mary Baker, Miss C. R. Miller, Miss Lorana Mattice, Miss A. M. McCutcheon; Musical Director, S. O. Spencer.

The Legislative Committee who visited this institution in 1878 expressed their astonishment at the vast expenditure of money in proportion to the needs of the State. The structure is well built, and the money properly expended; yet it was enormously beyond the necessities of the State, and shows an utter disregard of the fitness of things. The Committee could not understand why $282,000 should have been expended for a massive building covering about two and a half acres for the accommodation of 120 people, costing over eight thousand dollars a year to heat it, and costing the State about five hundred dollars a year for each pupil.

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