Ottawa University.When the Kansas Baptist state convention held its first meeting at Atchison, in June, 1860, an educational committee which had been appointed from the Kansas River and East Kansas associations reported that it had obtained a charter under the name of Roger Williams University, "whose corporate body consists of leading Baptists in Kansas, with power to locate in one year from date of charter." At this meeting was present Rev. John T. Jones, a delegate from the First Baptist church (Indian) of Ottawa. Mr. Jones was a member of the Ojibway tribe in Michigan, who had been educated at Colgate College, Hamilton, N. Y., and was working among the Indians. He suggested that the white Baptists join with the Ottawa Indians in establishing a school on their reservation in Franklin county. The Indians had land that might be given as endowment and the whites had money and teachers. A committee, consisting of the college trustees conferred with the Indians at Ottawa in Dec., 1860. The Indians agreed to give 20,000 acres of their land to endow the school, and the trustees promised to board, clothe and educate all the children of the nation between the ages of 4 and 14 years. The secretary of the interior giving his approval to the plan, the Indians were permitted, by an act of Congress, to donate 20,646 acres of land for the founding of the institution of learning, which should be under a board of trustees consisting of Indians and whites, the majority of whom were Indians. The first meeting of the board was held in Aug., 1862. It authorized the sale of 5,000 acres of land to aid the erection of a college building.
In 1865, at the request of the Indians who wished to perpetuate their name, the "Roger Williams University" was reincorporated under the name of "Ottawa University," which began its work in Sept., 1869, with about 30 children in the Indian department, with Mrs. R. S. Mayhew as matron in charge, and about 40 pupils in the white department, with Prof. Philetus Fales as principal. The school continued almost two years when financial difficulties caused it to suspend operations. The American Baptist Home Mission Society sent an agent to investigate the conditions of the university. This agent, Rev. Robert Atkinson, settled the indebtedness and proceeded to get funds from the East to erect a college building, the school up to that time having been held in a dwelling house. In the meantime most of the Ottawa Indians were moving to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and became dissatisfied with their contract with the Baptists about the university. In 1873, in an adjustment of interests, the Indians agreed to withdraw and leave the school entirely to the whites. A tract of 640 acres was granted to the university by the United States government and the remainder was given back to the Indians. The land was intrusted to the American Baptist Home Mission Society jointly with the university trustees. The society surrendered its interests to the Kansas Baptist state convention, on condition that the land should never be mortgaged. The school started again in 1873 with a board of 24 trustees. Rev. E. C. Anderson was elected president of the college. In 1875 the college building was destroyed by fire. While it was being rebuilt school was conducted in the city hall at Ottawa. In 1877 Prof. P. J. Williams became president and served successfully four years, the number of students increasing from 34 to 93. His successor in 1881 was Prof. T. M. Stewart, who remained at Ottawa two years. In 1883 Prof. M. L. Ward, who had been with the school as teacher in its earliest days, returned as president. Mr. Ward was president four years and acting president for one year. Prof. George Sutherland followed Mr. Ward and served as president pro tempore for two years. Rev. Franklin Johnson was president from 1889 to 1891. In 1892 Dr. F. W. Colegrove was elected to succeed him. Dr. J. D. S. Riggs followed Mr. Colegrove and his successor was Mr. R. A. Schwegler as president pro tempore. Dr. Silas Eber Price has occupied the executive chair since. The Ottawa University has grown until it occupies four buildings, has an endowment of $150,000, and a corps of 30 instructors. The original 640 acres has been sold with the exception of 33 acres, which comprises the campus, and a few town lots.
The meager curriculum of early days has expanded and developed until there are four departments embracing numerous courses. The departments are the college of liberal arts, with 142 students in attendance; the academy, 119; the school of fine arts, 275, and the business college, 81.Pages 427-429 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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