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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - August 11, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




LetterROM the joint "boom edition" of the Courier and Nonpareil of June 9th, 1887, we take the following brief historical statement of the founding of the institution with which this chapter is concerned:

   Methodism in Nebraska has ever been progressing, and especially so in the educational line. The North Nebraska Conference--lying north of the Platte River and occupying all of the territory lying east of the west line of Hall County extended to the north line of the state--wisely looking forward to the demands of the time for moral as well as intellectual training, at their second annual conference, in September, 1884, appointed a Commission of their members, consisting of J. B. Maxfield, N. H. Gale, Wm. Worley, D. Marquett, J. S. St. Clair, J. B. Leedom and J. Fowler, with extraordinary powers to locate and establish an "institution of learning" within the bounds of the conference. This commission advertised that they would receive applications: from localities desiring the institution, but that no application would be considered that would not endow the institution with a gift of at least twenty thousand dollars either in land or money. Lying contiguous to and northwest of Central City, was a section of unoccupied land, owned by two parties. The land was a beautiful plateau and was at one time considered as and offered to the state legislature of Nebraska for the location of its capitol buildings, and from its natural fitness came near being selected against the strong combinations of other competitors, and was defeated only by the adoption of what was known as the 'capital removal coupon" to the new constitution. Dr. O. L. Barton, of Central City--an enthusiast on the subject of higher education--having seen the advertisement of the commission above named, proposed to the citizens of Central City that they purchase this section of land and tender 320 acres of it to the Methodist church for the location of the institution proposed. The suggestion was acted upon, and a syndicate, composed of N. R. Persinger, Jas. G. Holden, James Stephen, John W. Sparks and Orin L. Barton, did buy the land, and on the 9th day of December, 1884, at Fremont, Nebraska, the commission accepted the offer made and located the institution at Central City, Nebraska, upon Section 5, Tp. 13, N. R. 6 W., and christened it as "The North Nebraska Conference Seminary," and elected its first board of trustees.

   How the proposition for location was regarded at Central City at. the time is shown by the following extract from the Courier of November 27th, 1884:

    A considerable number of our citizens gathered at the rooms over Berryman Bros' store Monday evening for the purpose of seeing if anything could be done toward securing the location at this point of the new M. E. College, to be established by the North Nebraska Conference. It was represented that the matter was largely to be decided by bids from various towns, $20,000 being the minimum that would be received. The advantages of such an institution in our midst did not of course need to be discussed, and the only question was the raising of the bid. After some discussion, Dr. Barton, who seemed to be mainly responsible for the movement, proceeded to elucidate a scheme by which the citizens might not only secure the college for nothing, but even come out some thousands of dollars ahead--viz: the purchase of a designated section of land near the city, the donation of 100 acres required for the college, and the sale of the remainder in 10-acre lots. The "scheme" looked very practicable, and was received with loud applause. A paper was then drawn up, guaranteeing the $20,000 in cash or its equivalent, and an additional $10,000 to be paid by one hundred citizens, contributing ten dollars per annum for ten years. A committee, consisting of N. R. Persinger, J. K. Stableton, and Dr. Barton, was appointed to visit the conference committee.

   As stated in the first of the foregoing extracts, Central City's bid was accepted. The tract of land was divided into lots, separated by pleasant prairie streets, and the lots placed on sale. Aside from the pledges given above for financial aid, scholarship certificates were issued to the amount of $12,500, each share of $100 entitling its owner to a scholarship of ten years' duration. Public meetings were held at Central City and some of the neighboring cities to arouse enthusiasm in the new enterprise, and the start was well and favorably made.
   The first faculty of the new institution was headed by Dr. J. B. Maxfield as president, and consisted of the following instructors: J. K. Stableton (Principal), Mathematics and Science; Mrs. M. M. Maxfield (Preceptress), English and Lower Academic Branches; Miss Mary A. Henry, Language; Miss Bertha Morrison, Music. The first session of the college was held in the fall of 1885, in the upstairs rooms of the building at that time occupied by M. E. McDonald & Co., just west of the Newton Hotel, with an attendance of fifty-five students.
   In May or June, 1885, work was begun on the new college building northwest of town, and on the 28th of July of that year the corner stone was laid and the building dedicated in the presence of a large audience and with appropriate ceremonies. In the Courier of July 30th, 1885, may be found a list of the contents of the corner stone, which list, however, we shall not take space to include in this chapter.
   The building was pushed toward completion rapidly, and was nearing the point of occupancy when, on the fourth of December, 1885, a heavy wind storm which passed over the country blew down the northern and western walls of the building. The damage was repaired as quickly as possible, and on January 11th, 1886, the winter term of the first year was opened in the college building.
   In the latter part of the year 1886 the ambition of those connected with the college was further stirred by the decision of the Methodist church of the state to locate and erect a state university of their denomination. Of the coming of this new factor the first record we have in a local way is the following article, found in the Courier of September 23rd, 1886:

   The Methodist church of this state has appointed a committee, consisting of five from each conference and mission, and three from each of the church's educational institutions, making twenty-nine in all, to locate the M. E. state university. As soon as this is done, we are informed by Bishop Fowler, the institution will be presented by a New York gentlemen with $150,000, $100,000 of which is to constitute an endowment fund, the remaining $50,000 to be expended in building fund. It is probable that one of the three places in which the academies are now located--Central City, York and Red Willow--will be selected, and, as Central City enjoys advantages of railroad connection. far superior to those of the other two we think it quite likely that she will be the chosen locality. We understand that a large portion of the commission is already known to be in favor of this place. It is needless to enlarge upon the good fortune which the securing of this institution would be considered by our citizens, or to say that the decision of the committee will be awaited by them with much interest.

(Chapter XXIV concluded next week)


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller