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Illinois Agricultural College
Irvington, Washington County, Illinois
Illinois Agricultural College at Irvington plaque  
Illinois Agricultural College

      Illinois Agricultural College At
Irvington Was The First College In
The State For Instruction In Scientific
And Practical Agricultural Methods. It
Was Chartered By The Illinois General
Assembly In 1861 And Opened In 1866. The
Main Buildings Were Southwest Of Here On
560 Acres Of Farmland. Almost From
Its Beginning,The School Encountered
Financial Difficulties. In 1878 Title
To The College And Land Was Vested in
The State Of Illinois. The Property Was
Sold And The Proceeds Given To Southern
Illinois Normal University. Irvington
College And The Hudelson Baptist
Orphanage, 1907-1936, Later Occupied
The Campus.

Erected By The Washington County Historical Society And
The Illinois State Historical Society, 1975
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This Is Washington County -- 1818 - 1968 -- Illinois Sesquincentennial
      by the Sesquincentennial Committee of the Historical Society of Washington County
The Illinois Agricultural College at Irvington
      In the present tumult about Federal aid to education, may surprise some to learn that Federal aid to education (with some strings attached) began well over 150 years ago. In 1816, the government with benevolent paternalism donated an entire township to the Territory of Illinois, to be used only for establishment of colleges or seminaries, and on entering statehood another township was presented in like manner.
      Our early politicians, taking rather a dim view of education in general, perhaps because of the pro-slavery leanings of many of them, immediately proceeded to sell these townships at the sacrifice price of $1.25 per acre to get some ready cash easy to their hands. They placed the nearly $60,000 thus acquired in a general education fund, and then proceeded to borrow from it for general state use at a very low interest rate.
      It may also be a little surprising that people with some interest in general education got organized and proceeded to do some very effective lobbying by 1830. Leaders in this activity were not only the rather few teachers and professors in the state but a number of prominent leaders of several churches, as well as one politician of note. Judge Sidney Breese, and later on, the Prairie Farmer, as well as an organization called the Industrial League of Illinois.
      Beginning in 1833, these groups staged a yearly educational convention in the state capitol at Vandalia, and apparently made it hot for the legislators. In 1854 they won their first victory, the creation of the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Then in 1855 they won passage of the basic bill which created public schools in Illinois. They had other goals as well, a state agricultural school, a state normal school for training teachers.
      In 1861 they attained the agricultural school when the legislature created the Illinois Agricultural College. Nine men were named trustees of a corporation chartered for the purpose of instruction in science and agriculture, practical and scientific, as well as the mechanical arts. The capital stock was fixed at $50,000 in shares of $100 each. The legislature also discovered that 4½ sections of the long-ago federal college gift-land remained unsold in Iroquois County, and it was turned over to the corporation. They also provided for the corporation to make a full biennial report to the legislature when in session: financial position, progress,number of pupils and the residence of each.
      It might be construed that this was quite a project to undertake in the first year of the Civil War, but the trustees never wavered in their tasks. even though then- were irritating delays.
      It seems one of the leading spirits on the board was Mr. Thomas Quick of Irvington, who very quickly convinced his fellow trustees that his home town of Irvington was just the place for the college, rather a surprising thing considering there were representatives from Mt. Vernon, Centralia and other enterprising towns, with Irvington a little known farming village of some 300 people.
      The gift land was sold for $58,000, and a considerable sale of stock was made. All money was deposited in the bank of Mr. A. D. Hay at Centralia, who was treasurer of the trustees. A 500-acre farm was purchased al the edge of Irvington, the idea being to provide jobs for worthy and needy students. It took time to erect suitable buildings and secure a faculty, but five years later, on September 10, 1866, the school opened with Rev. I. S. Mahan. in as president. One of the faculty of six was Mr. Thomas Quick of Irvington, the guiding genius of the corporation who was to head the law department when, and if, it was organized.
      A boarding hall and dormitory had been erected but there was an overflow of students, numbering over three hundred, which taxed the capacity of Irvington to house. Suddenly there was a building boom to accommodate parents who moved to Irvington to be with their children while school as in session.
      At the opening of the second year, a new president, Rev. D. P. French, took charge. He was succeeded in 1871 by Rev. A. C. Hillman who served until 1874. At that time Rev. D. W. Philips took over and remained until the untimely demise of the institution in 1877.
      The trustees for some unknown reason never made the required biennial report to the legislature as required by the charter. Neither did the charter require the bonding of the treasurer. And now Mr. Hay's bank failed and the nearly $60,000 on deposit there was lost not one cent being recovered.
      One assumes the impression that the corporation presumed it could make a lot of money and continue practically independent of the state, snubbing the legislature. But now the only source of income was tuition and sale of farm produce, which was never enough to pay the bills. And now, instead of a benevolent legislature ready to foot these bills, that body began to view the corporation as a very neglectful and negligent group who had not fulfilled their obligations as officers in what was at least a quasi-state institution.
      The upshot of it all was the enacting of a law by the legislature which stated that if the treasurer of said board of trustees did not make a full and complete report in three months to the state auditor, to account for all state gifts, other moneys and chattels, then the attorney general of the state should take steps to secure what he could of the remaining assets.
      To add insult to injury, the snubbed legislature provided that any such funds secured were to be presented to a new southern Illinois Normal University to be presently established. In short, the treasurer didn't, and the attorney general did, and the April 1878 term of circuit court of Washington County vested the title to the land and build the state. Accordingly the state sold the farm. After claims against the school were liquified, the net proceeds were $9,000, which was put in the endowment fund to the new university at Carbondale.
      The Rev. Mr. Clark, a Presbyterian minister, occupied the buildings for a short time as an academy, but it too failed. The Baptist Church later purchased it, to become the Huddleston Orphan's Home, until that institution was moved to Centralia. Later the buildings were razed.
      Possibly the most noted person connected with the old school was Dr. George Hazen French who began his career there and went on to long tenure at SIU, where he pioneered in several scientific fields, achieving international fame. While at Irvington he began to systematically botanize this county, some of his original specimens still being in existence at Carbondale.
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Prairie Farmer, Chicago, Illinois, June 20, 1868, Page 1
History of the Enterprise, -- Present Prospects.
      EDS. PRAIRIE FARMER. -- As a considerable amount of space in your paper has been filled, during the last two years, with matter pertaining to the Industrial University, at Champaign, perhaps it would be well to devote a few columns to the history and condition of the "Illinois Agricultural College," chartered in 1861, and located at Irvington, Washington County. From the fact that no public meetings of the Directors have ever been held, and as all records of their doings, have been scrupulously kept from the public, it has been a matter of considerable difficulty to obtain an account of their doings; but by searching the State papers in the Library of the "Chicago Historical Society;" by consulting prominent members of the "Constitutional Convention" of 1862, and members of the Legislature of 1861 and 1867, and from admissions made by persons who have been, or are now members of the Board of Directors, we have been able to obtain the following facts which may be relied on as being authentic.
History of the "Agricultural College" Movement.
      Prior to and during the session of the Illinois Legislature in 1861, various plans were proposed for disposing of the "College and Seminary Lands," located in the counties of Cook and Iroquois. Among other Institutions, which sought to obtain the grants of these lands, were the "State Normal University," and the "University of Chicago," which was desirous of establishing a Department of Agriculture. While this was being discussed by the friends of these and other institutions, one Thomas Quick, a politician of Southern Illinois, and a member of that branch of the Legislature known as the Lobby, conceived the idea of appropriating these lands for a purpose which will be shown in the sequel.
      A Charter was hurriedly drawn up, in a room in one of the Springfield hotels. Before this charter was submitted, a strong sectional feeling was excited, and a plea was raised that there had been no State Institution located in Southern Illinois.
      Within a day or two this bill, which was not printed, though an effort was made to have it done, was read amid the usual noise attendant upon such occasions, and with but few realizing its import, it became a law.
Abstract of the Original Charter.
      The charter contains thirteen sections: Section first declares that "J. W. Singleton, Thomas Quick and others as may become associated with them, are hereby constituted a body corporate, by the name and style of the Illinois Agricultural College, for the purpose of instruction and science in practical and scientific agriculture and in the mechanic arts."
      Section 2nd states that the Capital Stock shall be $50,000, with the liberty to increase it to $200,000, and that it shall be exclusively devoted to the purposes named in first section of this act, including military tactics. Section 3rd, states that books shall be opened for subscription of stock, fourteen days notice being given in at least two newspapers, and provides that ten per cent of the amount subscribed shall be paid at the time of subscription. Section 4th, states that whenever $25,000 shall have been subscribed, the stock-holders shall elect five Directors, including a President, and a Secretary who shall be Treasurer ex officio. Section 5th, defines the duties and tenure of office of the Directors. Section 6th, requires the pupils to labor "on the farm, in the workshop, or in the Laboratory" one half of each day, for nine months in each year. Section 7th, declares that the College shall be located south of the center of the State. Section 8th, declares that the College and Seminary lands be donated to this Institution. Section 9th, provides for the free tuition to one pupil from each county in the State. Section 10th, requires the corporators to make a full Biennial report to the Legislature of their financial condition &c. Section 11th pertains to the College Seal. Section 12th, was not in the original draft of the bill, but it was finally found necessary to insert it to insure its passage. It is as follows: "Provided that no part of the proceeds derived from the sales of the lands herein granted, shall be expended in purchasing lands, or in the erection of buildings, or for liquidating the debts of any institution to which said fund may be donated, or for expenses of Commissioners in locating the Institute." Section 13th states when the act shall take effect.
How they Satisfied the Requirements of the Charter.
      The manner in which they proceeded to take subscriptions for stock, may perhaps be sufficiently shown by reports which were required to be made to the "Constitutional Convention," in 1862.
      Walter Buchanan of Lawrenceville, slates that he gave his consent to open books at Richview, and that he "received notice that all the stock was taken, and that some parties had taken the same to the prejudice of all other persons"; and further, a well known citizen of Richview, states substantially as follows; He was at the meeting at Richview when the books for subscription were opened. A delegation from Salem arrived, and asked if the books were opened; Thomas Quick, stated they were not. He busied himself for a few moments writing, then subscribing for himself $5,000, for Nathaniel Niles $5,000, -- Doyle $5,000, and other parties to the amount of $10,100; in all $25,100, an amount sufficient to secure the location and management of the College. He then offered the books to those outside the ring, who seeing the condition of affairs did not subscribe anything. The entire amount of stock was assigned to A. D. Hay, of Centralia, within a short time. He did not see any money paid in.
Starting the Institution.
      The speed in erecting buildings and getting the school in operation was not so great as in procuring the Charter and subscribing the stock. Nearly six years were consumed in building fences, and erecting one small wooden school building. The style of architecture of this building, is at once original and peculiar. It has eight main entrances, eight spacious halls corresponding to these entrances. The remaining space except a hall above is occupied by eight recitation rooms of uniform size, each provided with two doors. The first session was advertised to commence in the fall of 1866, by issuing a circular in which was represented a faculty nearly us numerous as Harvard or Yale. Rev. I. S. Mahan was named as Vice President; Rev. Dr. Finly, Prof, of Horticulture, while numerous other persons of unknown fame, bearing pompous titles, were mentioned in connection with the other chairs. Of all this number but two were resident Professors. This term of school not being a financial success, was shortened by the Directors. To obviate financial loss in the future, the buildings (the boarding house being now completed), and a portion of the adjoining lands were leased for the term of five years to Rev. D. P. French, late President of Almira College, on condition of his continuing the school without aid from the fund. He has continued the school till the present time at a loss of several thousand dollars.
Revising the Charter.
      During the session of 1867, a revised charter was engineered through the Legislature by Representative Hay, son of A. D. Hay, with the assistance of Thomas Quick and I. S. Mahan. The main object of this charter was to exempt from taxation and execution all the College property, all buildings erected by private individuals on college grounds, among others a large hay barn erected by Quick and Hay : to confer collegiate degrees by which they would be enabled to procure a cabinet of minerals from the State Geological Survey, and to repeal Section twelve of the original charter. This last clause however, was stricken off by the Committee, to which it was referred; nevertheless it was recorded on the books of the Secretary, and so represented by the President of the Board.
Plans for Disposing of the College Property.
      Having thus obtained this revised charter A. D. Hay, through Thomas Quick and I. S. Mahan and others, sought to dispose of the Institution, they to pay Hay a certain amount, and themselves to retain the balance. Propositions to dispose of the property were made to the "University of Chicago," and informally to Shurtleff College. The same is true of the "Grand Lodge of Masons" "Oddfellows," "German Methodists' Society," "Turners Association," -- and to several private parties, among whom were Mr. Webster, of Ohio, and several fruit-growers from Western New York. On inquiries as to what was for sale, they replied the College buildings and most of the farm, but that the "Endowment fund and unsold lands would remain the property of the present Stockholders." The price demanded for the property was at first $70,000, but it has since been offered for a much less sum. As an inducement to purchase, it was stated that the Directors intended to procure the repeal of that clause in the Charter which gives free tuition to one student from each county. It was also stated that the Boarding house was available as a hotel and general boarding house. It was also stated by some parties, that the Hall in the College building could be rented to religious Societies, Lecturers and Traveling Showmen, and some of the small rooms could be leased for the accommodation of the District School and private families.
Condition of the Modal Farm.
      The model farm is, perhaps, the finest example of bad farming to be met with even in Southern Illinois. It has been, and is rented since its enclosure, in small tracts, for a year or two at a time, to bad tenants, and it is in such a condition as would naturally be supposed by such management. During no year has all of it been under cultivation, the remaining portions being suffered to grow up to weeds and bushes. Several hundred seedling peach trees were planted out which have remained unpruned and untended till the present time. This orchard is the only permanent improvement belonging to the farm and now presents somewhat the appearance of a scrub-oak opening. In fencing this farm, the length of posts which is usually inserted in the ground, projects above the top board, so that swine in their efforts to crawl under, in many instances, throw down portions of the fence, rods in length.
How They have failed to comply with the Requirements of the Charter.
      Loosely drawn as this Charter was, it has, nevertheless been violated in every essential particular. No certificates of stock have ever been issued, and there is no evidence that any portion has ever been paid in -- and most of the original subscribers were irresponsible parties.
      There has never been any farm for illustrating improved Agriculture; no Workshop, Library or Laboratory; there has never been any means afforded for teaching agriculture, mechanic arts, or military tactics. But one Report of the condition of the school and its finances can be found in any volume of state papers. This was in the year 1865, and from the admissions of the Directors who signed it, is a tissue of Falsehood. It states that the capital stock of $25,000 has been expended in the purchase and improvement of the farm and the erection of buildings. Whereas the President of the Board admits that the shares have never been assessed. It affirms that $50,000 obtained by the sale of the state lands, remains entire, and drawing interest; whereas the treasurer, A. D. Hay, has stated to Mr. Linn Bedell, of Alton, and to other persons that the entire amount has been expended by order of the Directors, on the farm and buildings (which in itself would be a violation of Section 12) and that the school must now stand or fall by its own merits. It affirms that $4,000 were expended in purchasing 560 acres of land, whereas the Records of the Ill. Cen. R. R. company show the "consideration" to have been $5 per acre. It has also been stated by Newton E. Way, for a long time and now one of the Directors, that the "proceedings of the managers were never intended to see the light."
J. H. LOOMIS.       

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