Monmouth College is a small school with a history like no other. The era of Monmouth College started in the 1800s as an educational academy. As it grew to become a college, it gained a series of influential presidents, and eventually added a sports curriculum to the school. These three key factors played the history of Monmouth College.
The Beginning Monmouth College was founded on April 18, 1853. The name of the college comes from the town in which it's located: Monmouth, Illinois. Monmouth College was founded by Presbyterian religious pioneers, who were from the western side of Illinois (“Monmouth,” Box 1). These pioneers felt that the city of Monmouth needed a higher institution of learning around the area. In the same year of 1853 a small group of lawyers, farmers, and businessmen donated $1,150 dollars to establish Monmouth College (“Monmouth,” Box 1).
Monmouth College did not start off as Monmouth College. Monmouth College was first known as Monmouth Academy when it was established. Monmouth Academy was a one room schoolhouse that had 100 students enrolled (Meyers and Rankins, 5). In these early days the main purpose of the academy was to prepare ministers to serve the Presbyterian Church (“Monmouth,” 1). The academy was essentially a high school, providing a quality of education that was not found within other schools in the community.
As enrollment in the Academy grew, there was a need for a much bigger place. In 1855, a petition was circulated to transition Monmouth Academy into a college. A field was donated by Abner Clark Harding, and the schoolboard decided to construct a new two-story building upon that land. The building was made out of federal style brick with large windows, and 8 classrooms with a seating of 300 people (Meyers and Rankins, 7). At the time of constructing, the institution lacked money, resulting in a possibility of putting the construction on hold due to a cold winter coming through in 1855 (Meyers and Rankins, 7). The new building was complete before winter rolled in but lacked a roof. The board had a resolution for this issue. Due to lack of money, the board decided that in order to solve this problem each faculty member would loan $50 dollars to complete the roof (Meyers and Rankins, 9). By October of 1856 the new building was complete and faculty and students were able to move in.
On February 16, 1857, the state of Illinois granted Monmouth College the license for “Instruction of youth in the various branches and literature, use of arts, learning, and foreign languages” (Meyers and Rankins, 9). As Monmouth College started its era the college needed a president to run the school. The first president was a 30-year-old minister from a Presbyterian church, David Alexander Wallace.
Presidents David Wallace was born in Fairview, Ohio in 1826 (Meyers and Rankins, 10). At the age of 12, Wallace attended Madison College in Antrim, Ohio. As a teenager he taught for several years in Ohio to support himself and his family (Meyers and Rankins, 10). Wallace arrived at Monmouth on October 1856 to take position as president of Monmouth College. Once he arrived, he viewed Monmouth very differently, as a place full of challenges. The years that Wallace served, he blossomed the growth of Monmouth College and became one of the most successful educators in the Midwest (Meyers and Rankins, 9). Wallace retired in 1878 and Jackson Burgess McMichael took over (“Monmouth,” Box 1). McMichael helped the college curriculum: “new departments were added, classroom and laboratories were better equipped, and faculty was increased” (“Monmouth,” Box 1). President McMichael retired in 1897. Reverend Samuel Ross Lyons picked up the position for president and later retired in 1901 (“Monmouth,” Box 1). Lyon established a $100,000 endowment fund and increased the English staff for Monmouth College. In 1903, Thomas Hanne McMichael, the son of former president Jackson McMichael, became president (“Monmouth,” Box 1). McMichael changed the school’s appearance dramatically by building a library, Wallace Hall, a central heating plant place, a science building, a gymnasium, and a dorm for girls named McMichael. Thomas Hanne McMichael all added more curriculum and buildings for education (“Monmouth,” Box 1).
Sports In 1906 the first gymnasium was open and intercollegiate sports were hosted (Meyers and Rankins, 71). In 1924 Herbert L. Hart became the director for physical sports at Monmouth college and swimming, wrestling, boxing were added to the curriculum. Such sports as baseball, football, basketball, track were competing in the Midwest conference in 1924 when Monmouth became a member (Meyers and Rankins, 71). In 1928, the Monmouth football team decided to create a Thanksgiving tradition with Knox College to play a football game to win a bronze turkey every year. Throughout time other sports were added to Monmouth’s curriculum and now there are 12 varsity men sports and 12 varsity women sports.
Conclusion Monmouth College has grown rapidly throughout since its beginning. An academy that was held in a house with a capacity of 100 students has now grown to a school that has an enrollment of 1500 students in this day.
Davenport, F. Garvin. Monmouth College: The First Hundred Years 1853-1953. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press,1953. Print.
Meyer, Daniel, and Jeffrey D. Rankin. A Thousand Hearts' Devotion: A History of Monmouth College. Monmouth, IL: Monmouth College, 2002. Print.
“Monmouth College History”, N.D. Archival material; Boxes: 1,2,3. Monmouth College Hewes Library, Monmouth, IL. Call number: AR003.
Urban, Williams and Mary Crow, Charles Speel and Samuel Thompson. A History of Monmouth College Through Its Fifth Quarter-Century. Monmouth, IL: Monmouth College, 1979. Print.