Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Early Naperville College Days

North Central College celebrates its 150th Anniversary in November. Originally founded as Plainfield College by the regional Evangelical Association, the school moved to Naperville in 1870, attracted by access to the railroad and some funding deals by the city.

Women as well as men were both students and faculty, but there were limits to the college’s progressiveness.

Local young people in those first Naperville classes included Guy Ellis Sabin and Hattie Peaslee. Hattie’s father served as DuPage County Coroner and operated a store on Chicago Avenue in the building just to the east of the old red Rosebud building.

The following are some excerpts from Guy’s diary while he was attending North Central College:

February 28, 1871: Went up to the depot at 2 o’clock to give a letter to Fred. Pres. Smith was there; can’t tell what he will say, as it was in study hours; expect a lecture.

April 5, 1871: Commenced school today in earnest. Prof. gave us 8 pages in Geometry. Smith gave us a lesson in Virgil. My book cost $1.10. Paid for my scholarships this noon, $6.00. Fred B. gave Hattie a cigar. She said she would smoke it.

January 30, 1873: Mary was called up before the “faculty” today for going to a dance last week. They sent away Hattie Peaslee. Prof. Heidner came up this p.m. to see the folks. The Faculty is thinking of expelling her.

The Mary mentioned above was Guy’s sister and her diary completes his college career with this entry:

Next fall he went back to College and boarded at Ellsworth with Wallace Bush. We drove to Naperville first year after leaving, and attended commencement, and had a picnic at Butterfield Lake.

“Studious” Guy married fellow student, Nannie Sevier, but unfortunately was killed at age 35 while responding as a volunteer fireman. “Wild” Hattie settled down enough to marry W.E. Moore and helped him pursue his Regenerator Furnace patent.

Even Earlier College Days

Just after North Central celebrates their 150th birthday, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois will be celebrating their 175th starting in January. Like North Central College, Knox was built on a religious foundation, in this case Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

George Washington Gale of New York graduated from Union College and was later ordained in the St. Laurence Presbytery, He started as a preacher, but became increasingly interested in higher education. Gale experimented with manual labor training by offering to educate young men in exchange for their labor. The experiment was such a success that he incorporated the Oneida Institute in 1827.

The manual labor training plan was expanded and by 1836, Gale released his "Circular and Plan" for a "prairie college" in Illinois. His town, Galesburg, was built around the college and by 1837, Knox Manual Labor College was admitting its first students.

Sylvanus Ferris was a close friend of Gale and a great supporter of his educational vision, helping to make the college a reality. Syrvanus' grandson, George Washington Gale Ferris, was obviously named after this friend of the family, although he moved from Galesburg by the time he was five years old. George Ferris became pretty well-known himself in later years, debuting an invention of his at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition called the Ferris Wheel.

Where History Is Happening

World War II Days

Saturday, September 24
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday, September 25
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM

A tribute to America's veterans and the largest World War II re-enactment in North America with more than 800 soliders including dozens of tanks and WWII vintage military vehicles. Narrated field battles with pyrotechnics, village skirmishes, demonstrations and displays of 1940s military and civilian life, military vendors and a USO-style dance on Saturday Night. On Saturday Bob Persinger will provide a talk on his eye witness account of the liberation of concentration camps in the Courtyard Room.

Sunday, September 25
11:00 AM - 3:30 PM

An autumn tradition in the Fox Valley, the Society presents the Elgin Cemetery Walk on the fourth Sunday in September. Visitors to scenic Bluff City Cemetery are guided to gravesites of "former" residents, portrayed by actors in period costumes, who share something of their lives and times. Among them may be a founding pioneer or early doctor, a war hero or crafty politician, a teacher or banker. The cast changes each year. These vignettes provide a glimpse of Elgin's rich heritage through the lives of its citizens. Buy tickets online.

Presentation and Needle Felting Workshop at Ellwood House

Saturday, September 24
2:00 PM

Natasha Lehrer will present an engaging talk about the founding of her fiber arts studio, Esther’s Place. The presentation will be followed by a hands-on workshop on needle felting. The lecture is free and open to the public. The cost of the workshop is $10.00 (payable at the time of the workshop—approximately 3:00pm).