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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - August 18, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




   Central City's offer for the new university was, in addition to the building and its campus and lots, $10,000 cash and about an equal amount in land. The principal competitors were, aside from Central City, York, Lincoln and Omaha. The struggle for the new institution was an earnest one, and especially so as the promoters of the Central City seminary had made their original investment on the strength of their belief that it would in time bring the state Methodist institution to Central City. But Lincoln possessed the strongest attractions in best location and financial aid, and the ambition of the Central City school was forced to return to its former dimension.
   It may be safely said that with the establishment of the university at Lincoln, the decline of the seminary-which had since the fall of 1885, however, been running under the name of the "Nebraska Central College "--began. Whether this was, as claimed by many, the result of a deliberate "throttling" policy on the part of the university, or the mere natural results of over-ambition and incipient "hard times," we shall not attempt to decide. Nor need it be thought that the decline was rapid. The years 1886 to 1889 were, to all outward appearances, the healthiest of its life, it having reached during that time an attendance of about one hundred and fifty students.
   Ill health compelled the resignation, in 1887, of Dr. Maxfield, and in his place was chosen Rev. David Marquette, who retained that position for only a few months. Rev. Marquette was succeeded temporarily until the session of the district conference--by Rev. J. W. Shank, and in the fall of 1888 a new president, in the person of Rev. H. A. Crane, assumed the responsibilities of management.
   During the third week of June, 1889, the college sent out its first graduating class, consisting of Messrs. Joseph Sparks and Geo. W. Fowler.
   Rev. Crane resigning the presidency in the spring of 1889, Rev. F. W. Ware was chosen in his place, and an almost entirely new faculty succeeded the previous one. Under this management the college ran through one more year, the name of the institution in the meanwhile reverting to the original "North Nebraska Conference Seminary." In the spring of 1890 the second and last commencement took place, the graduates being Miss Jessie Benton and Messrs. Henry O. Chapman and E. Russel Leedom.
   The financial burden, however, was proving too heavy for the shoulders of those upon whom it was falling, and the college failed to open in the fall of 1890, the commencement of 1890 closing what may be termed the first chapter of the college history.
   The second chapter of the history begins with the attempt at reorganization in the early fall of 1891. From the Courier of August 6th, 1891, we glean the following account of the attempt first made:

    The meeting at the Tabernacle Tuesday evening in behalf of the college was quite well attended. Chairman Heywood, of the board of trustees, Presiding Elder Moore, Revs. Marquette, Worley and, Rodebaugh, Hons. N. R. Persinger and J. W. Sparks and Mr. Jas. Stephen discussed the situation, and all seemed to regard it as more encouraging than it had been for a long time--in fact, that the "early morning of a better day" had been reached. The college has succeeded in funding its debt at a low rate of interest--six per cent--through the medium of bonds secured by about all of its resources, said resources to be disposed of as far as necessary for the payment of said bonds through the agency of C. F. Bently, of Grand Island, who acts as trustee for both the college and the bondholders.

    A commission was appointed to attend to the opening of the college in the fall of 1891, and it succeeded in making arrangements with Professor J. A. Smith, at that time principal of the Indianola public schools, whereby he took charge of it upon his own financial responsibility, thus rendering the school, so far as the church was concerned, self-supporting. A public reception was tendered Professor and Mrs. Smith upon their coming, and school was formally opened again in the fall.
   Public confidence in the institution, however, had been more or less destroyed, and the attendance upon the reopening was very small, the year's average not amounting to fifty students. Professor Smith and his faculty completed the year's work for 1891, and conducted a summer school during July and the early part of August, with the intention of continuing the regular school work in the fall of 1892 if circumstances seemed to justify it. But the promise of success grew less as the weeks went by, and the second and last chapter of college history with which our work deals was ended by the entire cessation of work in the latter part of the summer of 1892.



   To those who have honored this history with a careful reading, I wish to make this grateful acknowledgement. The work has been done in odd moments of a business life which has itself demanded my most careful and continuous attention, and which has made me less particular, in both accuracy and composition, thaan should be the case with work of this character. A review of the history reveals several minor errors, but I believe nothing of a serious nature. To those who have by their co-operation aided me in my work I wish to especially express my appreciation, and I must acknowledge my deep obligations to Messrs. Albert and George Fitch for the use of the Courier files, which have been of great value to me in the absence of those of the Nonpareil.
   Hoping the history may have proven worthy of the reading, and not altogether useless as a work of reference, I give above the concluding chapter, and leave the work to the tender mercies of the old and new inhabitants of the county whose record I have attempted to present.


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