Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

CONGREGATIONAL COLLEGE HISTORY IN NEBRASKA.

BY REV. WILLARD SCOTT.

[Delivered at the fifteenth anniversary exercises of Doane College, Crete, Ne

braska, June 22, 1887.]

II.-EARLY HISTORY OF DOANE COLLEGE.

*

*

On December 15th, 1873, Mr. Thomas Doane wrote from Charlestown, Mass., to Rev. D. B. Perry, at that time professor of Latin and Greek in Doane College:

"I advise, on reflection, without hesitation, the purchase of the letter-press of which I spoke to you.

All the correspondence, bills, etc., etc., going forth from the college, will then be copied in order of time, and, being the property of the college, will become valuable matter of history in the ages to come.”

The word "ages" he underscored with a vigorous stroke of his pen, thereby expressing the same confidence contained in a previous letter of five closely written letter pages to the same individual (October 28th, 1873), in which he said:

“We will look forward to a university. We must not so meanly and unwisely plan that future generations will have occasion to regret that we were ever born, or had to do with planning for them; but boldly look forward to great things. Time and things hasten on, and, oh! how rapidly in our Nebraska.”

So a letter-press and book were purchased and set in operation, about the middle of January, 1874, the first entry, after the list of officers and trustees, being a copy of the certificate, duly attested and subscribed (January 14th, 1874) in the presence of H. S. Fuller, notary public, to the effect that the thirty thousand ($30,000) dollars required to be raised to secure the grant of six hundred (600) acres of land from the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska, as by their offer of May 25th, 1872, were secured: In notes and cash outside the state...

$10,000.00 In notes and cash and land inside the state..

11,114.87 In notes and cash by Thomas Doane..

12,000.00

$33,414.87 Nearly upon the same date Mr. Doane himself was moved to act more definitely upon his own suggestion, and opened a letter-book (January 23d, 1874) for his personal correspondence in connection with the college, labeling it upon its back: "Doane College from January 23, 1874, to .." This book, not yet full, contains to date six hundred and forty (640) pages of compact and invaluable history, its last entry being that of January 19th, 1887. From this it appears that the record, narrative, or, if the largest word be preferable, history, of Doane College, is reasonably secure from January, 1874, to the present time, unless these copies should by some mishap be destroyed; and we may leave, for this occasion, the story of these later years to some other reviewer, thankful that so early in the growth of the institution two copy-books were procured and opened in the interest of ourselves and others.

But what shall we say of those who failed to do this earlier? It is not surprising that the beginnings of present great institutions, which have continued for centuries, are in obscurity. Methods of record were not then generally known, and time is a great waster. But Nebraska is younger than the middle-aged among us, and her educational history younger still; while all the methods for preserving records were in possession when these things were begun. Yet years of this really recent story, through which some of us have lived, are accessible only in fragments of memory or of accidental account.

But it is not grateful upon an anniversary to recall omissions. Doubtless we are daily as neglectful in what we are now doing, Some distance is necessary for determining the real importance of facts, and it becomes us chiefly to be grateful that the things we now review were done, the results of which we see, though the steps of their development are not as clear as we would choose.

So far as can now be recalled the first organized educational effort in Nebraska which looked toward something higher than a mere local

school was made by the colonists from Quincy, Ill., whose representatives crossed the state of Iowa in wagons, and the Missouri river at Omaha by ferry in 1854, and, proceeding northwestward, located their new home upon the uplands overlooking the Elkhorn and the Platte valleys at their junction, naming it Fontenelle, after Logan Fontenelle, chief of the Omahas. Here, as they selected their homes, they planned a college, assigning for these purposes one hundred acres of land and calling it College Hill. They secured also, from the first territorial legislature of Nebraska at its first session in Omaha, a charter under the “name and style of Nebraska University,” and, because most of the colonists were Baptists, they made it of that denominational order. During the succeeding seasons, however, the relative religious strength of the Congregationalists increased. A church of that polity was organized at Fontenelle, as also at Omaha and at Fremont, and a Congregational General Association of the three churches at Omaha on August 8th, 1857. One of its first solicitudes was a college for itself, and a committee was appointed in that interest. This resulted, the following February (1858), in a transfer by the Baptists of their title in the Nebraska University to them under certain mutual pledges, to be under the control of a board of trustees elected by the General Association from year to year at its annual meetings. Under this new management a building for the preparatory department was begun and its corner-stone laid with appropriate ceremonies on July 27th. It was occupied in the fall, with Professor J. S. Burt as its first principal. Everything seemed promising. But hard times came and stayed. Professor Burt resigned the following season. “It passed through a period,” says one who knew the facts well, “in which to keep it alive was all we could do.” Year by year they brought their reports to the meetings of the General Association; told the story of their trials, needs, and hopes; re-elected as trustees those whose term of office had expired; or added occasionally a new name which might bring a friend and helper. The churches of the state were few; in 1865 seven; in 1869 fifteen. They were poor and struggling. The general population was not large.

. The East was distant and uninterested. But they were well agreed among themselves, and as strong as their fewness and poverty would permit.

In the fall of 1864 a new beginning was made, and the following

A gift

year a boarding house was purchased and opened. Professor H. E. Brown accepted the position of principal and began his duties, when suddenly the school building was destroyed by fire. It was a severe blow, but they fitted up a part of the boarding house for school purposes and continued the work. In 1866 an addition to the boarding house was made, and Professor Brown went East for funds, of five hundred ($500) dollars, received during 1867, enabled the trustees to put their building in good repair. Rev. C. G. Bisbee succeeded Professor Brown as principal, and, with two assistants, a flourishing school was maintained during the winter. The accommodations were full.

At the meeting of the General Association at Omaha in June, 1868, the usual items concerning the college were presented; an historical sketch, a financial report, a statement by the principal, and resolutions:

61st. That we recognize in this institution an agency that is worthy to enlist the earnest co-operation and support of all our churches.

“2d. That we recommend to the trustees to take immediate steps to liquidate all the floating debts of the institution, and that we hereby pledge ourselves to do what we can to forward this object.”

The resolutions were “unanimously" adopted, and the word italicised in the record. Trustees were elected as usual. But the following month (July, 1868), at a meeting of the board of trustees, a proposition was made by the people of Weeping Water, through Rev. Frederick Alley, pastor of the Congregational Church there,' a member of the board, to furnish property basis of nine thousand (89,000) dollars for the college, provided it was removed to that place. The proposal was discussed, and referred to the executive committee, which, after careful investigation, reported (June, 1869) unfavorably to the change. But the question was not thereby settled. It arose again in the General Association at Fremont, June, 1869, in the form of a resolution, presented by Rev. Roswell Foster, to the effect that bids be asked from all the towns in the state with a view to securing the best possible location. A general discussion followed, continued during parts of two sessions, when the motion was lost. But trustees of the university were not elected as heretofore, and the Association finally declared itself as follows:

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to have power to convey all the property, right and title we possess in the Nebraska University to the citizens of Fontenelle, as per original contract, or to such other persons as the trustees may decide upon.”

This ended the formal connection of the college with the Association. Henceforth it was dependent entirely upon its own resources, which in some respects was an advantage.

The following year (1870) at the meeting at Camp Creek, the condition of the school-not now styled university-was presented, as also for the first time, that of the school at Milford, and neither school asked the Association for the present to take any immediate responsibility in it. But the subject of education was considered, questions were asked, views expressed, and the whole matter left in the hands of the standing committee appointed for that purpose. This was new—a standing committee on education. Its members were Rev. F. Alley, Rev. 0. W. Merrill, and Rev. T. N. Skinner. Mr. Alley was now at Plattsmouth, in charge of a new church just received into fellowship; Mr. Merrill was the successor of Mr. Gaylord as superintendent of Home Missions, and Mr. Skinner was the pastor at Milford. Fontenelle had no representative on the committee.

Our attention is now directed to Plattsmouth. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska was operating it's construction from that place, and pressing westward. At the Brooks House we are asked into a room, in the winter of 1870-1. It is small; so small that when the necessary articles of furniture are placed there is room only for two large easy chairs and a fur robe, kept rolled up and strapped ready for use at short notice, in a nook between the bureau and the table. Here evening by evening—and long evenings they seemed to the lady seated on the fur robe—sit in the easy chairs two gentlemen, a civil engineer of the railroad and a preacher, the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Plattsmouth. The theme is a college, and the idea seems to the lady on the fur robe “as impossible as establishing one in the moon.” "Can we secure the land? Where is the best place for it?” Crete is proposed “as being beautifully situated on the Big Blue.” But Lincoln seems very young; what may Crete be? In May the lady goes to see and finds two or three houses, others being built," and dines in a hotel where “they

[ocr errors]

66

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »