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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 26

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Iowa As It Is in 1856

N. Howe Parker

Chicago and Philadelphia, 1856

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 28
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p241  Chapter XXVII


School System. — A very liberal provision is made for the permanent support of common and academic institutions in this State. By an act of Congress, 500,000 acres of land have been set apart for the promotion of the cause of education. Some of these lands have been sold, and the proceeds safely invested for the benefit of schools. Much, however, remains still in the market, and will be disposed of as the wants and interests of these nurseries of knowledge demand.

There is to‑day about one million of dollars in the hands of the School Fund Commissioners, within the State, which is loaned at ten per cent, yielding an income of nearly one hundred thousand dollars. This amount, distributed among the schools of the Commonwealth, places them upon a footing not surpassed by any new State in the north-west.

State University of Iowa

This institution opened in some of its departments recently. It has been permanently located at Iowa City, the site of the Capitol, and is to have the use of the public buildings, together with ten acres of land, on which the same are situated. Two townships of land, granted by act of Congress, July 20th, 1840, for the support of a university,  p242 have been donated by the State to this institution, and constitute a permanent and munificent fund, upon whose interest to lean for support.

Branches of the State University

The Medical Department of the State University, is the College of Physicians and Surgeons, located at Keokuk, in Lee County. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction says: "The best interests of the State University demand that the law making the College of Physicians and Surgeons the medical department of the State University of Iowa, should be repealed, and that the University Fund be concentrated upon one object, and the building up of one institution, and not have it squandered by dividing it on different schools in various parts of the State, as by such means we will not be able to sustain a respectable institution in the State. One institution of learning, well sustained, is of more advantage to the people at large, than twenty only in name, as many of our colleges are in this State. One university, with an able corps of professors, and properly managed, will be sufficient for the accommodation of all the students who will attend a State University, and besides that, will be a credit to the State."

Branch at Fairfield. — One branch of the State University is established at Fairfield, Jefferson County, and is put upon the same footing with respect to funds and other details, as the present Seminary.

Branch at Dubuque. — Another branch of the State University is to be established at Dubuque. The trustees have  p243 been appointed, the site selected, and most of the measures necessary to the enterprise taken.

Normal Schools. — The State is divided into three districts, in each of which there was to be established a Normal School, for the education of teachers for our common schools. The law establishing these schools, located them at Oskaloosa, Mount Pleasant, and Andrew.

District Schools. — Of these, Jas. D. Eads, Esq., late State Superintendent, says:

"In many of the older counties that I have travelled through, the citizens have gone to work with a liberal and praiseworthy spirit, in erecting large and commodious buildings for educational purposes. The city of Keokuk takes the lead in having the finest building in the State, in the erection of which the citizens have expended nearly ten thousand dollars; and with a liberal spirit, they pay the Superintendent of the school eight hundred dollars per annum.

"Fort Madison, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, Lyons, Anamosa, Colesburgh, Marion, Rochester, Tipton, Denmark, Primrose, West Point, Centreville, Oskaloosa, Cedar Falls, and many other towns, have erected buildings which will stand as lasting monuments of the liberality of those engaged in so glorious an enterprise, and an honour to our young State.

"Iowa, young as she is, already commands a prominent position, not only in reference to the magnitude of her School Fund, but in the progress she has made in the organization of her districts, and the general establishment of free schools.

 p244  "According to the returns of the County Commissioners, there are twenty-three hundred and fifty-five organized school districts in Iowa, and over one hundred and eleven thousand children between the ages of five and twenty-one years. When we consider, in connection with these facts, that our population is increasing with a rapidity almost unparalleled in the history of any country, and that in a very few years we shall equal in numbers the most populous of the Eastern States, it becomes apparent that we cannot be too active and vigilant in all that pertains to the education of the youth of our State, who are so soon to control the destiny of a great Commonwealth.

"While we congratulate ourselves upon the possession of so magnificent a school fund, as has been secured to us by the action of the General Government, and our State Legislature, we must not forget that much remains to be done on the part of the people themselves, before we shall fully enjoy the advantages of a universal system of free schools, of a character commensurate with the object of their organization, viz.: to give to every son and daughter of Iowa a thorough knowledge of all the essential elements of a good practical education.

"I have had the pleasure, during the past season, of visiting a large number of union or graded schools, in the larger towns of the State, and have been by highly gratified in witnessing the many advantages they possess, when properly conducted, over those schools which maintain separate organizations.

"As appears from the returns of the County Commissioners,  p245 the average sum paid to the district school teacher is less than twenty dollars to the male, and less than ten dollars per month to female teachers."

In all the thickly settled counties, common schools are convenient, and should the tide of immigration continue to flow as it has done, in five years not one county in ten will be destitute of the facilities for a sound education. The number and condition of public schools are given more particularly in the sketches of the counties, in another portion of this work.​a

Blind Asylum. — An institution for the instruction of the blind was organized and put into operation in Iowa City, in the spring of 1853. It has been impossible, thus far, to procure suitable buildings for the accommodation of those wishing to attend, and an appropriation of $6000 has been made for the erection of appropriate buildings. The number of pupils at present in attendance is twenty-three.

Deaf and Dumb Asylum. — An institution for the instruction of the deaf and dumb, has recently been opened in Iowa City, which bids fair to do great service, even the present year, in extending to this unfortunate class, the light and knowledge which, but for education, they must be deprived of.

Academies and Colleges. — This State is well supplied with academies and colleges, some of which will compare favorably with those in the Atlantic States, while  all reflect credit upon the patriotism and enterprise of the Hawkeye State. We give herein a sketch of the condition of those  p246 of the principal schools of this class, concerning which we have been able to gain satisfactory data:—

The Burlington University

This is a literary institution of the Baptist denomination, located at Burlington, in April, 1852. The college edifice was erected in 1853‑4, and dedicated on the 4th of July, 1854. This building is 44 by 65 feet, three stories high, and its style of architecture and economic arrangement reflect great credit upon its founders and architects. The first annual catalogue of the institution was issued on the first of January, 1855, which reports 167 pupils, and a faculty of eight different teachers, with Geo. W. Gunnison, A. M., as principal. The school is now in a flourishing condition. The institution possesses available property to the amount of $20,000, and is nearly free from debt, besides $5000 secured and drawing interest, as the commencement towards a fund for enlarging their buildings. The plan of the institution provides for preparatory and collegiate departments, with courses of study for gentlemen and ladies. The gentlemen's course embraces 7 years — 3 preparatory, and 4 collegiate; the ladies' 5 years — 1 primary, and 4 advanced. Those desiring further information of the institution, may address the Principal, at Burlington, or Rev. Jas. A. Nash, President of the Board of Trustees, at Ft. Des Moines.

Davenport Female University

Female Eclectic Institute. — This institution, still in the first year of its history, is the only female seminary in the United States which, in the character and extent  p247 of its instruction, is founded upon the broad basis of a university.

By the scheme of its organization, provision is made for

1st, Twelve professor­ships in the sciences and letters, viz.: one each in Mathematical Sciences, Experimental Sciences, Natural Sciences, Ancient Languages, Modern Languages, English Language and Literature, Historical and Political Sciences, Logical and Aesthetical Sciences, Moral and Mental Sciences, Vocal and Instrumental Music, Drawing and Painting, Chirography and Book-Keeping.

2d. Two professor­ships upon the professions of the sex, viz.: one upon the Principles of Study in general and in particular; one upon the Principles of Teaching in general and in particular.

3d. One professor­ship upon Conversation and the Proprieties.

4th. One professor­ship upon the Trades taught in the University.

5th. One professor­ship upon Domestic Economy and Domestic Duties.

By the scheme of its organization provision is also made for granting eighteen species of diploma.

We cannot better exhibit the leading features of the Davenport Female University, than by an extract from a letter addressed by the talented and accomplished principal, Mrs. Caroline P. Lindsley, A. M., to the editor of the "Rock Islander." In her communication she states that the University "is designed to supply not only the great wants in the female educational systems of the times, but the wants  p248 of divers classes of our countrywomen, the wealthy as well as the indigent, genius as well as mediocrity. To this end it will furnish an extensive and thorough training:

"1st. For those who aim chiefly at distinction in the field of science and letters;

"2d. For those who aim chiefly at distinction in the professions permitted to woman;

"3d. For those who aim chiefly at distinction in the trades taught in the institution;

"4th. For those who aim chiefly at superior knowledge of the duties of domestic life;

"5th. For those who aim at commendable eminence in each of these general divisions of female effort and enterprise."

Three departments of the University are already opened, and if demanded by the proficiency of applicants, eight will admit pupils by the first Wednesday of September next, the commencement of the collegiate year.

The character and extent of the instructions, unapproached as they are by any female institute in the country, do not constitute, however, the only evidence of superiority. The University, while it takes the title of a great school of industry and learning, does not overlook the interests of those who have claims upon its beneficence. Accordingly it opens its halls, with scarcely the shadow of tribute, to those who seek its groves, to lessen the expenses of instruction by the pursuit of some trade, or to enjoy its advantages at reduced consideration. Hence —

1. Employment at the trades taught in the University is  p249 invariably given at living rates to young ladies who may desire to support themselves, in part at least, while prosecuting their studies.

2. The daughters of the clergy, without regard to faith, are entitled to tuition at half the established prices, and, upon the opening of the full term, will receive their tuition free, in every branch except painting and instrumental music, provided they board with the Principal.

Iowa Female Collegiate Institute, at Iowa City,
under the auspices of the I. O. of O. F.

"Articles of incorporation were adopted and recorded on the 29th of July, 1853, which place the institution under the particular auspices of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Iowa, and secures in the instruction and government of the school the same broad and liberal basis, and the same freedom from every species of sectarianism, which distinguishes that Order.

"It also offers to all Lodges and Encampments, contributing one hundred dollars to the funds of the institution, a perpetual scholar­ship; and to each individual contributor of the same amount, a scholar­ship for twenty years, or during his natural life. By this arrangement we hope to be able, at some future day, to offer free instruction to all poor orphan daughters of Order in the State. This, indeed, is a primary object had in view by the Board in the establishment of their institution, and will not be lost sight of in their future plans and labor for the permanent organization of their school.

 p250  "During the past year the attention of the Board has been directed chiefly towards the collection of funds, and to the preparations for the erection of a suitable College edifice for the use of the institution.

"In this effort, very gratifying success has rewarded their labor. Notwithstanding the protracted illness of their agent has deprived the Board of his services for nearly one-half of the past year, yet they are happy to report the collection of about $8000 in cash, notes, valid subscriptions, and other property, as the result of their efforts.

"The City Council at Iowa City, at their regular meeting in September, 1853, donated to the Board an eligible site for their College edifice; and the Grand Lodge of the I. O. of O. F. of the State of Iowa laid the corner-stone of the College, October 27th, 1853, with the usual ceremonies of the Order."

[image ALT: An engraving of a three-story rectangular building the upper stories of which have eight windows on the long side and six on the short side. It is sited in a flat area with a few small trees, both conifers and deciduous. A fence around it fronts on a sidewalk, on which two women walk, heavily draped in 19c dress. It is the Female College operated by the International Order of Odd Fellows in Iowa City, Iowa, in around 1856.]

Female College, under the auspices of the I. O. O. F. of Iowa.

The edifice will be completed and ready for occupation by the first of July, 1855.

For further particulars, address F. H. Lee, Secretary, Iowa City.

See particulars of "Iowa Conference Seminary," of Mt. Vernon, and of the "Iowa Wesleyan University," "Mt. Pleasant High School, and Female Academy," in the sketches of Linn and Henry Counties.

Iowa College

This College is located in the city of Davenport, and occupies grounds of great natural beauty, over­looking a wide  p251 expanse of prairie on the north, and commanding on the south a fine view of the Mississippi River, and the adjacent cities.

It was founded in 1848, and is sharing in the general prosperity attending every enterprise in this attractive State.

The institution, under the care of well-qualified instructors, is furnished with a chemical and philosophical apparatus, and has a library of some 2000 volumes. With the new building soon to be erected, and a commodious boarding-house already in use, the College will be prepared to offer facilities for a thorough education, both in the preparatory and college departments.

"Ladies' College"

The above is the name of an institution soon be opened in the city of Davenport (we write under date of April 1st), under the direction of T. H. Codding, Esq., who is also its proprietor. The building, when completed, at a cost of $20,000, will present a front of 120 feet, and four stories in height, with a depth of 80 feet. The main building will be ready for reception of scholars on the 1st of May. Upon the selection of the site for the "Ladies' College," too much praise can scarcely be bestowed. Standing upon a lofty bluff, it commands a sweep of landscape scarce excelled throughout the region of the Upper Mississippi, while the broad summit of the hill, whose centre it decks, affords ample room for extensive promenades, and the gentle  p252 slopes which decline towards the lowlands, render it easy of access to pedestrians and carriages.

[image ALT: An engraving of a four-story rectangular building with a central projecting core and two symmetrical wings. Taken as a whole, the upper stories of the building have twelve windows on the long side, which faces the viewer. It is sited in a gently sloping area with a number of deciduous trees, some reaching the same height as the roof of the building. It is the Ladies' College of Davenport, Iowa, in around 1856.]

Ladies' College, Davenport.

The aim of the "Ladies' College" is to prepare young ladies for the active and practical duties of life, which aim it is proposed to effect by a judicious combination of mental, moral, and physical training. Its proprietor says:

"The course of instruction will be thorough and complete, and at the same time very discriminating and select, avoiding everything of an entirely useless character, and substituting those branches whose tendency is to give vigor and elasticity to the youthful mind.

"The manner of teaching will be the most approved and improved known in our country or in Europe, giving the pupil the full understanding of her subject, while it is presented by the teacher in a style entirely new and fascinating."

To insure to pupils a thorough English and classical education, and familiarity with the languages, a large corps of experienced and accomplished teachers have been engaged as assistants to Mr. T. H. Codding and Mrs. O. Codding, the Principals and Superintendents of the Institute.

Thayer's Note:

a I.e., Chapters 16 thru 20 of this book.

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