ITS HISTORY, ENDOWMENT AND OBJECTS.
BY PROF. J. D. WALTERS.
The Kansas State Agricultural College owes its location and initiative momentum to the pioneers of Manhattan, who, unlike the first settlers of many western towns, were mostly people of education and culture. The city was founded in 1855 by the co-operation of two colonies - one from New England, arriving March 24th, and one from Cincinnati, arriving June 1st. Among the members of the New England colony were several college graduates, and it is stated that the founding of a college was discussed and decided upon during the voyage long before reaching the objective point of the expedition, the confluence of the Big Blue and Kaw Rivers.
From necessity the project had to be deferred for a while, but it was not abandoned. As early as 1857, when the buffaloes were yet numerous in the northern part of Riley county, and less than three summers had bleached the roof of the first house west of the Blue river, an association was formed to build a college in or near Manhattan, to be under control of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Kansas, and to be called "Bluemont Central College."
The charter was approved February 9th, 1858. It provided for the establishment of a classical college, but contained the following, in the light of future history, interesting section:
"The said Association shall have power and authority to establish, in addition to the Literary Department of Arts and Sciences, an Agricultural Department, with separate professors, to test soils, experiment in the raising of crops, the cultivation of trees, etc., upon a farm set apart for the purpose, so as to bring out to the utmost practical results the agricultural advantages of Kansas, especially the capabilities of the high prairie lands."
The leading members of the Association were Rev. Joseph Denison, D. D., afterwards President of the College; Isaac T. Goodnow, elected State Superintendent in 1862, re-elected in 1864, Rev. Marlatt, now a model farmer on College Hill; C. S. Pomeroy, afterwards U. S. Senator from Kansas; and Geo. S. Park, a Missourian, who had settled just below the mouth of Wild Cat Creek and had laid out a town there some weeks previous to the arrival of the New England colony.
A site of one hundred and sixty acres was selected for the institution upon the rising ground about one mile west from the town, and the title secured by special act of Congress introduced and fathered by Senator Pomeroy. The Cincinnati Town Company promised liberal aid in town lots and town stock, but coupled their promise with the illiberal clause, that the aid should not be delivered until the College Association could show property to the amount of $100,000. The New England Town Company gave fifty shares of stock in the north half of Manhattan, representing one hundred city lots. I. T. Goodnow, assisted by Dr. Denison, sold these, and by personal solicitation here and in the East obtained funds for a building. Many of the founders must have taxed themselves quite heavily. G. S. Park, S. D. Houston, Joseph Denisoq, John Kimball, J. S. Goodnow, I. T. Goodnow, and Washington Marlatt, gave three hundred dollars each, which were princely gifts when measured by the financial condition of these pioneers. The whole amount of cash collected from all sources at the time amounted to four thousand dollars.
The corner stone was laid with elaborate ceremony, May 10th, 1859, with speeches from Gen. Pomeroy and others, and the institution was opened for the reception of students about one year thereafter. It was a poor time and place, however, for building up a college. The squatters had nothing to give, the students were scarce, the M. E. Conference of the State had two other educational institutions to support, and the whole territory was disturbed by the bloody preambles of the War of the Rebellion.
Upon the admission of Kansas as a State, January 29th, 1861, the founding of a State University became a probability, and the Trustees of Bluemount College, represented by Hon. I. T. Goodnow, were nearly successful in locating that institution at Manhattan by offering their building for this purpose. On March 1st the measure passed both Houses of the Legislature, but met with a veto from Gov. Cbas. Robinson, who was determined that the State University or the State Capitol should go to Lawrence. A little over a year later, another chance presented itself for the College to become a State institution. When, on July 2d, 1862, the "Agricultural College Act" was passed by Congress, the Trustees offered it once more to the Legislature, and this time the offer, consisting of one hundred acres of land, a plain three-story stone building, a library of several hundred volumes, and some illustrative apparatus, valued altogether at about twenty-five thousand dollars, was accepted.
The act referred to is "An Act donating public lands to the several States and Territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts," giving to each State lands to the amount of 30,000 acres for each senator and representative in Congress for "the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college" for the benefit of "agriculture and the mechanic arts." The bill originated with Representative Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, and was passed by Congress in 1859; but was vetoed by President James Buchanan under the pressure of the States Rights party. In 1862 the act was again passed, championed once more by the same philanthropist, who was at this time a member of the Senate, and the same pen that wrote the proclamation of emancipation - the death warrant of American slavery - approved it.
Kansas was among the first of the galaxy of States to accept the proffered endowment. The resolution of the Legislature to "agree and obligate itself to comply with all the provisions of said act" was approved by Governor Carney, February 3d, 1863, and the resolution to accept the offer of the Trustees of Bluemont Central College in "fee simple" February 16th of the same year. Thus Manhattan became the seat of the Kansas State Agricultural College.
Three commissioners were immediately appointed by the Governor to select the lands. The grant gave 90,000 acres; but as a portion of the selected tracts supposed to be within the railroad limits counted double, the college received but 82,313.52 acres. In the fall of 1866, Hon. J. M. Harvey commenced the appraisal of these lands, and July 27th, 1867, reported his work completed. Hon. I. T. Goodnow was appointed land agent in 1867, Hon. S. D. Houston, having, as temporary agent, previously sold a few acres. Mr. Goodnow held the office until the reorganization of the college in 1873, and sold about 42,000 acres for about $180,000. His successor, L. R. Elliott, held the office of land agent from 1873 to 1883, and sold over 32,000 acres for about $240,000. The remainder, some 000 acres, was sold for over $30,000 by Mr. J. B. Gifford, who held the office of land agent until after all the land was sold in 1888. The total fund derived from these sales is $501,426.33, all of which, except $13,046.47 in unpaid land contracts, is invested in Kansas bonds paying six per cent interest. The State has made good losses from this fund by unfortunate investment or fraud to the amount of $3,775.57.
The deficiency of 7,686.48 acres in the amount of land received by the College was closely inquired into, and the still valid claim was presented before the Department of the Interior by Hon. S. J. Crawford, in 1880, and aGain in 1887, with added proof of its character, afforded by later decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. When the Secretary of the Interior refused to reopen the case decided adversely in 1880, the matter was brought to the attention of Congress by a joint resolution offered in the House of Representatives by Hon. John A. Anderson, granting to the State the privilege of selecting from public lands still unsold within the limits of the State the amount needed to make up the loss from the original 90,000 acres. The resolution was favorably reported by the Committee on Public Lands, and passed both Houses without objection. President Cleveland, however, vetoed it upon the ground that this State, having selected lands which fell within the limits of the railroad afterwards located, had received all to which it was rightly entitled.
In March,1887, Congress passed the so-called" Hatch Bill, "which provided for the organization in each State of a station for agricultural experiments, and gave to each station an annual appropriation of $15,000 for this purpose. The Legislature designated this College as the proper place for such experimental work, and the institution has received since April, 1888, when the first payment was made, $60,000 from this source. Further particulars with regard to this appropriation, and the very valuable work which it has enabled the College to do in the interest of western agriculture, will be found in another part of this historic sketch.
On August 30th, 1890, another act was passed by Congress, the so-called "College Aid Bill," an act applying a portion of the proceeds of the public lands to the more complete endowment and support of the colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts established under the provisions of the "Morrill Act." It provides for an annual appropriation, beginning with fifteen thousand dollars for 1890, with an annual increase for ten years by an additional sum of one thousand dollars over the preceding year, the annual amount thereafter to each State to be twenty-five thousand dollars. A provision attached to this bill demands that the appropriation is to be applied only to instruction in agriculture, the mechanic arts, the English lanouage, and the various branches of mathematical, physical, natural and economic science, with special reference to their applications in the industries of life, and to the facilities for such instructions. No money shall be paid out under this act to any State for the support of a college where a distinction of race or color is made in the admission of students, though the establishment and maintenance of such colleges separately for white and colored people shall be held to be a compliance with the provisions of the act, if the funds received be equally divided. Another provision requires that no portion of this appropriation shall be applied, directly or indirectly, under any pretense whatever, to the purchase, erection, preservation or repair of any building or buildings.
In miscellaneous appropriations, the College has received from the State since its organization, and including the years 1892 and 1893, for which appropriations have been made, about $283,000, and from the township of Manhattan, in 1871, $12,000 in bonds. These appropriations were made partly for permanent improvements and partly for running expenses or cancelling debts, and do not include pay of Regents, land and loan agents, and for selecting lands. Those of 1866-70 were first made in shape of a loan, but were donated again in 1870. It will be seen that the average annual State appropriation has been less than $10,000, while a comparison of the aggregate with the inventory of last year amounting to $256,249.95, shows a difference of less than $20,000. In other words, the present inventory practically accounts for or compensates for every cent the taxpayers of Kansas have contributed toward the upbuilding of the institution.
Tom & Carolyn Ward