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Picture: Wilton Acaemy and boarding hall 1880 - Courtesy of Curtis Frymoyer.

The Wilton College
by Frances Frymoyer

Transcribed by Sarah Boye, December 4, 2015

(Editor's note: in preparation of this article reference was made to a lengthy story on the history of the college, including interviews with many of the alumni, written by Marian Henderson and printed as a series in the "S-R Advocate News" January 10 through February 14, 1974.)

    "In December, 1865, the attention of the people of Wilton was first called to the importance of building in their village a seminary of learning. In the summer following, the work was commenced. In October, 1886, the Institution, with its financial and educational interests, were committed to the general supervision of Rev. O. E. Baker. Teachers were employed and the first term opened on the third day of December, 1866."

    The above quotation is from the second annual catalog of Wilton seminary, Wilton, Muscatine Co., Iowa, dated January 1869.

    The original trustees in 1866 were F. Butterfield, S. L. Lawrence, I. K. Terry, S. Wildasin and William McClain. By 1869 the last two men named were dropped and the following were added – A.C. Blizzard, L. H. Covell, Sidney Dodge, J. D. Walker, O. T. Walker and Israel Windus. Benj. Tufts was secretary of the board.

    A deed to four acres of ground (which later formed the west half of the campus) was given to the trustees May 1, 1866, by Benedict and Elizabeth Maurer, to be used for school purposes, the trustees agreeing to erect a good seminary building within one year. Forthwith an academy brick structure, 48 x 72 feet, of 3 stories with the basement for storage and fuel was built on the west side of the campus.

    In 1868 Elizabeth Maurer just deeded another four acres (the east half of the campus) to the trustees. That your they entered into an agreement with the Free – Will Baptists of Iowa to let that denomination have use of the seminary (then called Wilton…

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Picture: Science class in the Wilton German-English College 1887 - Courtesy N.N.C.
From left to right - ?, Mary Bacon, ?, Molly Scott Chandler, C.R. Buchanan, Principal Will Porter, Edwin A Wise, ?, ?.

… Institute) for a term of years and then give them a majority of the directorate in consideration of their keeping up a school and erecting near the seminary a boarding hall to cost from $12,000 to $15,000. The building they constructed, which stood at the extreme eastern edge of the campus, was of brick, 40 by 70 feet, and had three stories in the basement. When completed it could accommodate about 50 students. The basement had a nicely arranged pantry, kitchen and eating area. The first floor was given over to public rooms and teachers' apartments. There were two separate stairways from the first floor, one leading to the second floor which was the young ladies' dormitory and the other going directly to the young gentleman's' rooms on the third floor.

    The young Academy grew rapidly as evidenced by the fact that there were 233 students enrolled in 1869. The school offered a college preparatory course with classes in Arithmetic, History, Grammar, Elocution, Latin, Greek, Natural Pphilosophy and Algebra. There were 13 students in this department. The 1869 catalog states concerning this department, "we hope to prepare students to enter college more or less advanced, shortening their time and reducing their ordinary expenses at college." Twenty pupils were in the Normal department which trained them to be teachers. The Commercial department had 29 students. The largest department was called the English course and had 143 registered members. The classes included History, Geography, Algebra, Geometry, Physiology, Rhetoric, Latin, Astronomy, Trigonometry and Surveying, Logic, Natural Philosophy, Botany, and French or German. There was also a primary department with 57 students. Students who had completed 8th grade were accepted. About 2/3 of the students had a Wilton address. Others came from as far as Golden city, Colorado in the west and Chicago on the east. There were more …

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Picture: Wilton College, preparatory department, graduating class 1896 - Courtesy of Charles Norton From upper left corner reading clockwise- Hattie Baker, Paul Hoffman, Jenny Kelley, Goerge R. Rise, Florence Norton, Carl Zumstein, Mildred Naftgzer, ?, Louise E. Maurer, David Knouse, J.J. Thiel, Nera Gabriel. The classroom building is shown in the middle of the picture.

… gentlemen than young ladies in the school.

    Expenses in 1869 were listed as tuition, per term $5.50; incidentals, per term $1.50; extra branches, each $0.75; board per week $3.00. Board included room and meals. In September 1882 meals were $0.73 each; in November of that year they were reduced to $0.65.

    In the 1869 catalog of the Wilton seminary it is noted that "the several departments meet for worship daily. Students are also re- …

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Picture: Norton Hall, the college dormitory - Courtesty of Melroy Thede

… quired to attend services on the Sabbath. The place of worship is the is chosen by the student, under the direction of the parent or guardian.

    There was a strict supervision of the students as is evidenced by the "Rules of the Boarding House" as published in the 1869 catalog. They are as follows:

1. Occupants of rooms must keep them clean – floors, walls, stoves and furniture; and must carefully abstain from marking or otherwise damaging any part of the building or its furniture. Otherwise cleaning and repairing maybe done by the Proprietor at the expense of the violator of this rule.
2. Ashes, water, etc. must not be thrown anywhere about the building, but where the proprietor may direct. No smoking is allowed either within the building or anywhere on the premises.
3. Every precaution must be taken against fire.
4. Students are not allowed in the parlor nor in the family room except on business, nor at the Professor's rooms except at hours appointed for the reception of visitors.
Students are not allowed to visit each other's rooms during study hours, or on the Sabbath, except by permission of the Principal or Preceptress.
5. Ladies and gentlemen are not allowed to interchange visits, either at their own rooms or elsewhere, or to indulge any private interviews. When occasion requires, they may meet briefly at the parlor only by permission of the Principal or the Preceptress.
6. Wrestling, running and loud noise are forbidden within the building at any time.
7. Study hours must be strictly observed.
8. The house must be still in the doors will be locked at 10:00 PM.
9. All rules for the regulation of the Boarding House apply to occupants alike in vacation and term time.

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    The faculty in 1869 included Samuel R Manning, Principal and teacher of Mathematics and Greek; Rev. Oscar E. Baker, Lecturer on Moral Science and Evidences of Christianity; Rev. William T Strobel, Teacher of German; Prof. Charles D. Eaton, Teacher of Vocal Music ; Mrs. Carrie Dunten Manning, Preceptress and Teacher of Latin; Miss F. Julia Holt, Teacher of instrumental Music and French; Miss Luthera Bixby, Assistant; and Mrs. Mary J Long, Teacher in the Primary Department.

    In 1871 new articles of incorporation were filed which stated its object to be "to establish and maintain an institution of learning at Wilton Iowa, which shall have power to confer such degrees as are usually conferred by other colleges." With this aim the name was changed to the Wilton Collegiate Institute.

    By 1875 dissatisfaction had arisen among the stockholders and attendance and greatly falling off. The school was put up for public sale and was purchased by the Baptists. The following year Franklin Butterfield, as Dallas Baptist and ardent worker for the school, pay off a huge indebtedness which the school had accumulated, bringing his contribution to the Academy for nearly $10,000. In appreciation the seminary building was named Butterfield Hall. The school affairs went from bad to worse and it was about to expire in 1880 when the editor of the Wilton review, J. M. Ryder, urged the trustees to consider making a bid to have Western College of Lynn County, Iowa moved to Wilton under the supervision of the United Brethren Church. He said, "An academy would be a grand thing, but a college would be better." Other elements were pulling for an academy under the congruent Congregational Church. Mr. Rider lost and Western College went to western Iowa.

    The fall of 1880 the Baptists sold Wilton school to Davenport Congressional Association. They renamed it "The Wilton Academy" which meant that the courses were of high school level. The fall term open September 6 with Professor F. W. Robins principal. Mrs. A. P. Partridge was in charge of the ladies department. Miss Isabel F. Jones capably handled musical instruction. Prof. J. H. Harris, an enthusiastic and efficient instructor, had charge of a teacher's training course and also taught English, Grammar, German and Mathematics.

    The good feeling between the faculty and students is shown by a letter printed in the December 8, 1881 issue of the Wilton review describing Thanksgiving day at the boarding home. A resume follows: principal heart and his wife invited all inmates of the hall to dine and spend the day with them. A bell called them into the dining room at 3 o'clock. They had turkey and chicken pie followed by plum pudding. They lingered long at the table having pleasant chat and no school bell to disturb them. After dinner they retired to the parlor where readings, music and games made the hours pass quickly followed by a candy pull. A bell rang. "The instant hush which fell over on all showed it was neither unfamiliar or unwelcome. A hymn, well-known, was sung, a few well-chosen passages from the 'Sweet Word of Truth' read and our little company knelt as one household. Later apples and nuts were served and games that improved as well as amused followed till nearly nine o'clock. After a few appropriate remarks by Mr. Hart, …

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Wilton German English College 1901 - Courtesy of Catherine Herr
Back row (left to right)- ?, Prof. E. A. Ricksecker, Theodore Siel, Katherine Christensen, - Ricker, ?, Elroy Rorick, ?, John Zacker, - Scwein, Preston Conant, ?, Irwin Port, Prof. Harms, Prof Siel.
Center row- Mrs. E. A. Ricksecker (teacher), Miss Mina Collins (teacher), - Doehn, Catharine Herr, Nora Wacker, Maytie Henderson, Kathryn Plitt, Prof. J. B. Harris.
Front row ?, G. Raymond Woodhosue, George Teufel, Harry Woodhouse, Clarence Klein, Albert B. Kelley, Tullis Hall, George Norton, Ernest Murrison, ?.

… several of the young gentleman at his request, spoke very feeling and appropriately upon "Cause for Thanksgiving" and kindred subjects, thanking the teachers generally and the principal and wife particularly, for the pleasant home life enjoyed and especially the pleasure of Thanksgiving day. - By a participant."

    In 1883 there was a debt of about $2500 which was paid off by C.W. Norton. It is in his honor the school was renamed to the "Norton Normal and Scientific Academy" and the boarding house was termed "Norton Hall."

    In the Wilton review of Aug. 23, 1883, there appeared the following article "Norton Academy, Wilton, Iowa.

    "The institution has from the start been devoted to the idea of furnishing the best quality of education at so low a cost as to place the advantages it offers within the reach of all.

    "The managers have sought to bring the most healthful and helpful influences to bear upon the mind and character of its students.

    "It has sought to discover the exact needs of young people in attendance and to meet those needs. It is a school of people. It is devoted to their interests. The great question is, how can we best and most fully serve the coming generation? It turns its instruction therefore in the most useful and practical directions. It aims to teach not so much books as life. It's delights in such knowledge – has practical bearings on the great question how to make life most valuable and worthy. The course of study are therefore arrange so broadly as to satisfy every reasonable demand."

    The article continued that the school offered the following – Commercial Course, Normal Course, Collegiate Course (especially Latin, Greek and Mathematics), Higher English Course and also Vocal Music and Elocution and Instruction and Organ and Piano.

    In 1883 the tuition was – Fall term $9.00, Winter term $10, Summer term $8.00, Commercial Course (1 term) $15.00, Class instruction in Music or Elocution (per term)$2.00 Private instruction in Music or Elocution $10.00, Room rent in the Home (per term) $1.10 to $1.60, Board is furnished at the Home at actual cost $2.00 to $2.25, Room and …

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… Board can be had in town at from three dollars to $3.75.

    "Rooms in the Academy home are furnished with bedstead, stove, table and chairs. Other articles of comfort and convenience are provided by the student.

    "The Academy, though not sectarian, is intended to be thoroughly Christian. The aim is the best moral as well as mental and physical development. The molding of right character is no less important than mental discipline and stores of knowledge. The whole general welfare of the students will be its special care."

    The school enrollment increased so greatly that by 1885 a faculty of 12 instructors was necessary.

    The board of directors in 1889 was composed of Rev. A.B. Robbins, President; C.B. Strong, Secretary; C.W. Norton, H.S. Hollister, Dr. A.A. Cooling, Rev. E. P. Smith, and Rev. M.S. Bullock.

    In September 1894 the school came under the auspices of the German Congregational Church and the name became "The Wilton German – English college." By 1904 the majority of the members of the German Congressional church had moved west and they desire to relocate their school in Redfield, South Dakota. This aroused the people of Wilton and buy an injunction they manage to keep the apparatus, furniture and college equipment here in Wilton. On June 12, 1904, Henry K Brammeier became responsible for the indebtedness of $4,346.12 and as a result the cup the college property was deeded to him. Although the school faltered, the Commercial Department was kept alive through the greatly revered and longtime teacher Prof J.B. Harris.

    On Feb. 20 1907 Dr. John R. H. Latachaw, a former student at the Wilton Collegiate Institute, purchased the property from Mr. Brammeier.

    The young students enjoyed many activities. In 1874 there was a very lively Literary Society called the Didacton Society that met every month and gave programs that usually included music, an address, a select reading, an essay, a declamation, 3 minute speeches, a dialogue and a debate. Two people acted as critics. The society was composed of "ladies and gentlemen of the town and school" and met in room No. 2 of the College Building. Topics for debate were such as, "Does the Pulpit and have greater influence than the Press?" And "Was it right to execute John Brown?" From the Wilton Exponent, Feb.12, 1875 is taken the following concerning their entertainment: "a musical, literary and social entertainment will be provided by the Normal Class, in the College Chapel, next Wednesday evening, commencing at 7 o'clock. This is the program: Part I – musical ; The Lord is my Portion – Anthem ; Mother Let the Angels in - Solo and Chorus; Father Take My Hand – Musical Dialogue; Agur's Prayer – Solo; Wake of the Song of Jubilee – Anthem; Part II Literary; Scriptural Difficulties – Essay – Miss Jenny Baker; A Plea for Normal Classes – by various members of the class; Inspiration- Essay– A.G. ; Part III – Musical; Gather up the Sunbeams – Solo and Chorus; Trip Lightly over Trouble – Quartette; Won't You Buy My Pretty Flowers – Duet; Enchantments; The days Tthat are no More – Quartette; Part IV – Social; oysters, crackers and coffee – $0.35; cake and peaches – extra." About 1900 basketball is enjoyed by the boys. In 1902 Newton Lange was the basketball coach.The college team played the Wilton High …

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Wilton German-English College Basketball Team, 1902 - Courtesy of Mrs. Newton Lang
Newton Lngg, basketball coach, with his team in 1902 style uniforms

School and also the state university teams. At Iowa city they lost by a score of 18 to 14, but they had hopes of "getting even" when the return match was played at home.

    There were other ways the students found to enjoy themselves. From the Sharon notes in the Wilton-Advocate review of March 10, 1900 is taken the following: "three or four sled loads of young people, we suppose collegiates from town, passed through our streets Thursday evening. They were evidently enjoying themselves for they made the moonlight fairly ring with us their shouts and peals of laughter, keeping time to the jingle of the bells."

    Teenagers are always active and exciting, but one of the liveliest of those who attend attended the Wilton German-English college was Grace Noll (Crowel). The following incident was reported by an observer. The principal was showing some VIP out-of-town visitors, around the campus as they entered Butterfield Hall, Grace Noll came sliding down the stairway banister and landed at the feet of the surprised investigating group. The principal burst forth in German "You little witch!" But who could really be angry with such a charming young lady?

    The 1911 Muscatine County History in speaking of the college, says "it is an ideal spot for study, in one of the most beautiful and quiet, yet thrifty, villages and one of the greatest state in the Union."

    In spite of these advantages the Wilton College soon came to an end. Norton Hall was converted into the Thede Apartments by Henry Thede. The building was later torn down in the eastern half of the campus was converted into the lovely Wilton Park. Butterfield Hall is now the Norton Apartments. The remainder of the campus has been become privately owned lots and homes were built many years ago.

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