KANSAS CITY UNIVERSITY - DR. MATHERS' OFFER ACCEPTED - DEATH OF THE FOUNDER - THE CORNER STONE LAYING - TO BECOME A GREAT UNIVERSITY - DESCENDANT OF THE PURITANS - A JOURNEY TO THE WEST - GIFTS TO THE YOUNG - KANSAS CITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY - ITS COURSES - WESTERN UNIVERSITY AND INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL - TEACHING THE NEGROES TRADES - FRUGALITY THE CHIEF AIM - EFFECT OF SCHOOL TRAINING - THOROUGHNESS IN THE COURSES - THE KANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND.
Kansas City, Kansas, and the state at large prove their advanced position intellectually, as well as their fine sympathies and practical Christianity, by firmly and successfully supporting a number of splendid institutions of higher learning, common sense education and broad helpfulness. The following are representative of this worthy phase of higher life.
The Kansas City University, located in the western suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas, is an institution that had its origin in the philanthropic purpose of Dr. Samuel F. Mather. Doctor Mather was for many years a practicing physician of that city. He was a descendant of Cotton Mather, the famous New England divine.
In a letter to Dr. D. S. Stephens, now chancellor of the Kansas City University written from Kansas City, Kansas, December 15, 1894, Doctor Mather said: "Many years ago, before leaving Troy, New York, for Chicago, I resolved, if ever able to do so, to establish or endow an institution of learning, to educate young women for the duties and responsibilities of domestic life - renewed it when I left Michigan for Kansas, and again after I came here. No step was taken to carry out this purpose (which was resolved upon about 1845) until some time in 1887. The plan then decided upon by Doctor Mather, who had associated with himself Mr. S. N. Simpson and Mr. Chester Bullock, both of Kansas City, Kansas, was to dispose of real estate which Doctor Mather owned and of which they had secured control and from the proceeds build and endow an institution of learning. It was intended that all of the proceeds from the sale of Doctor Mather's lands should be devoted to this purpose. Two-thirds of the amount received from the sale of lands upon which the syndicate held an option and owned, were to be devoted to the same purpose. At that time Kansas City, Kansas, was growing with phenomenal rapidity. There appeared to be no difficulty in the way of realizing the plan proposed. Two or three years were required to mature the plan and get control of the property necessary to carry it out. Before matters had reached the point where they were ready to market the property, a great financial depression swept over the country. The two Kansas Cities had been over-developed and demand for property suddenly ceased. Values of real estate diminished, and no purchasers for property at any figure were to be found. As a consequence the original plan for establishing this institution of learning collapsed.
Doctor Mather, however, was not disposed to change his life-long purpose. He sought, therefore, to find some other way by which to establish an educational enterprise. In the meantime he had become acquainted with Dr. D. S. Stephens, who was then editor of the Methodist Recorder, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was acquainted with the fact that Doctor Stephens was a member of a board of commissioners of trustees that had been appointed by the General Conference of the Methodist Protestant church in 1892, to establish an institution of learning in some city of the west. In 1894 Doctor Mather wrote to Doctor Stephens that he would like to have this board co-operate with him in the realization of his purpose. He made a proposition to contribute toward the establishment of such an institution several tracts of land, aggregating one hundred and twenty-two acres, located in the suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas, provided that at least $25,000 should be expended in buildings within two years.
This board, of which Mr. H. J. Heinz, the great food products manufacturer of Pittsburg, was president, met in Kansas City in October, 1894, to consider Doctor Mather's offer. It was decided to accept his offer, in case funds sufficient could be secured to erect a building. In order to ascertain what support the denomination would give to this enterprise, the Board of Trustees asked for six months' time to canvass the church. A contract was entered into between the board and Dr. Mather, extending to May 1, 1895, the time for final decision on this proposition.
The board again assembled two or three days prior to that date, pledges and funds having been secured for building purposes amounting to more than $50,000. After a careful consideration of all the interests involved in the enterprise, the board, by unanimous vote, decided to accept Doctor Mather's offer, and undertake the work of building and conducting the institution. This final vote was taken late on the evening of April 30, 1895, the temporary contract which had been entered into expiring on that date. Doctor Mather was not present at the meeting of the board when this action was passed as he was not in very good health. Next morning, the committee, for the board, notified him that it had accepted his offer and had determined to go on with the enterprise. Doctor Mather expressed himself as greatly gratified with the course taken by the board, adding that his advanced years and feeble health made it an unwelcome thought for him to contemplate starting out anew to negotiate with some other organization, to help him realize his purpose. He was then in his eighty-fourth year.
Not more than one or two hours after his interview with this committee, strange to say, Doctor Mather passed away in death. No one anticipated that his illness was of such a serious character. It is difficult to account for the event on any other supposition than that the reaction, following relief from the strain and anxiety due to suspense while awaiting the decision of the board, was too much for his enfeebled condition. It would seem as though Providence permitted him to remain on earth just long enough to know that his life purpose was about to be realized, and then took him away.
Much concern existed in the minds of members of the board as to whether the contract which had been made would be valid under existing conditions. It was decided, however, to go on with the work just the same as though Doctor Mather had lived. Some days after Doctor Mather's funeral, his will was opened. It was found that he had made provision that this board of trustees should inherit the residue of his property, provided they should decide to go on with the enterprise, as contemplated in the contract. The property conveyed to the board by will was about as much as the property that had previously been covered by contract. Perhaps, altogether, the value of this property at that time would have been something near $150,000.
Doctor Mather had no children and his wife had died some years previous to his own death. Nevertheless the Board of Trustees thought it possible that they might not be able to come into undisputed possession of the property, as indicated by the will, but Doctor Mather had carefully considered this contingency. He left small legacies to all his heirs, the most of whom were nephews and nieces and more distant relatives. He prepared a form of receipt which each relative should sign, in case the legacy was accepted. This receipt bound the signer under no circumstance to contest the will. When the estate was settled, all of the heirs thus remembered accepted these legacies and signed the receipts which Dr. Mather had prepared. But some months after the legacies had been distributed some of the heirs conceived the idea that they had not been sufficiently remembered and sought to break the will. When the case was called before the court, the attorney for the estate arose and read the receipts which had been signed by the parties who sought to break the will. Upon being assured that these documents were genuine, the court at once dismissed the case. This was the only effort made to prevent the university from coming into the possession of the property left by Doctor Mather.
Another evidence of Dr. Mather's foresight and careful planning was the fact that he had made a provision by which the ownership of the property received by the university, should not become absolute until the institution had been successfully carried on for a period of ten years. In case the enterprise should not prove to be permanent, it was his intention that the property should revert to his heirs.
The General Conference of the Methodist Protestant church was held in Kansas City, Kansas, in the month of May, 1896. During the session of this body, the corner stone of the building to be known as "Mather Hall" was laid. This building cost about $40,000. When an auditorium, which is part of the plan of the building is added, it will probably cost about $60,000.
On the 23rd of September, 1896, the institution was opened for work, and has been used for that purpose from that to the present time.
Wilson Hall was erected in 1907, and was opened for occupancy by the Wilson High School in September, 1908. The building has a large room used as a gymnasium, in the basement, with lockers, bath-rooms, etc. The building has cost about $35,000. The late Mr. W. S. Wilson, for a number of years president of the Board of Trustees, contributed largely to its erection,
In the corporation known as "The Kansas City University," are seven departments. The Collegiate department is known as "Mather College." Students for the ministry are prepared in the School of Theology. The Wilson High School, with a four year course of instruction, serves as a preparatory school to the college. The Normal School prepares teachers for their work. In addition to these departments which are conducted on the University grounds, the University is affiliated with the Kansas City Hahnemann Medical College, the Dillenbeck School of Oratory and the College of Music. These last three departments are conducted in Kansas City, Missouri. The business affairs of the university are in the hands of a board of twenty-four trustees, twelve of whom are held quadrenially for a season of eight years.
While the university is known as a denominational institution, yet it is different from most institutions of this kind. Doctor Mather, who was the founder of the institution, was a Congregationalist. Mr. H. J. Heinz, for many years president of the board of trustees and one of the most liberal supporters of the institution, is a Presbyterian. Mr. C. L. Brokaw, treasurer of the university at the present time, is also a Presbyterian. Members of several other denominations are on the board of trustees. The broad and liberal policy of the institution is such as to commend it to the support of all the better elements in the community.
The value of the property owned by the Kansas City University is estimated to be over $500,000. This includes the real estate left by Doctor Mather, the building, appliances and equipments, and the legacies and bequests left to the institution, by various persons.
While the institution has not yet developed to a point where its facilities are equal to the educational demands of the two Kansas Cities, yet it is the purpose of those in control of the institution to make it, in time, such a university as will be adequate to the demands of the community in which it is located. The total attendance of students for the year ending in June, 1910, was 445. This includes the attendance in the affiliated professional schools; the attendance in Mather College and Wilson High School was 179.
The policy of the Board of Trustees has been to hold the real estate owned by the institution until its maximum value, resulting from the growth of the city, should be reached. When this property is converted into productive funds, it is hoped that it will produce an endowment that will support the work of the institution.
For a number of years the university was handicapped for the want of transportation facilities. Some years ago the completion of the Kansas City Western Electric Railway, which passes in front of the institution, made it possible to get direct communication with the two Kansas Cities. An extension of the Metropolitan Street Railway, in Kansas City, is now being made that will bring the university in direct connection with all parts of the two cities, for one street car fare. This undoubtedly will prove to be a great advantage to the institution.
It is the purpose of the Board of Trustees to increase the facilities of the university and add to the number of buildings as rapidly as conditions will permit. The progress so far made by the institution will compare favorably with that in the early history of other institutions generally. Those who have its interests in charge look forward with confidence to the time when it will be ranked among the great educational institutions of the country.
Dr. SamueI F. Mather, whose benefactions made possible the Kansas City University, was born at Woodstock, Vermont, in the year 1811. His father was of Puritan stock, and only three generations later, directly in line of descent, and related to the last eminent Puritan divine and sermon writer, Cotton Mather, who following his father, Increase, and with his grandfather,, Richard, the pilgrim, form an illustrious trio in early American history. This fact is recorded in an old epitaph written for its founder:
Samuel Mather was one of seven brothers and sisters. His father, for some years, operated a woolen factory at Woodstock. The childhood and youth of Samuel was spent upon a farm and in the factory, and attending school and academy at Woodstock, until, when about thirteen or fourteen years of age, he left home and parents, going to Berkshire in the northern part of his native state, and joined himself to an apothecary. At the age of twenty, having gained a thorough knowledge of the drug business and medicine, he formed a partnership with the oldest physician in the place in the practice of medicine. After three years, desiring to enter a larger field of operation, he removed to Troy, New York, and there engaged in the dry-goods business - at first, for a time, as a salesman. It was during this time that he married Miss Mary A. Reed, a very estimable young lady of Chester, Massachusetts. Soon going into business for himself, he continued at Troy in the wholesale and retail dry-goods business for about fourteen years, extending his trade as far west as the Mississippi river, during which time the financial depression of 1836 and 1837, with careful management, was safely weathered.
In 1848 he packed his stock of goods and started for Chicago. Being late in the season, upon reaching the end of the railroad then at Marshall, Michigan, and the lake freezing up, he was compelled to stop. So he opened up his stock of goods and engaged in business, remaining in Marshall until 1858. In that year he removed to Wyandotte, now Kansas City, Kansas. Again he engaged in the drug business, continuing thus to October, 1888, practicing medicine only in connection with his drug business.
During the thirty years of his business life in Kansas City Dr. Mather kept investing his savings in real estate. The development of and care of the same made it necessary for him to retire from business in 1888, and he afterwards devoted his time to his property interests.
Before leaving New York state Dr. Mather's wife became an invalid, and for many of the later years was helpless. All that could be done was done for her comfort, but she finally died in 1889, leaving no children behind to comfort home and husband. It was this phase of Dr. Mather's domestic life that first suggested to him the idea of founding an educational institution. The difficulty of getting good domestic help and housekeepers led him to determine, if possible, to be the means of furnishing to some of the young American women the means of procuring an education in practical domestic home-life.
In after years, through frugal management coming into possession of valuable lands adjoining the growing city, he proposed to parties interested with him that the best of the lands should be occupied by and dedicated to an institution of learning. One pleasant day in the autumn of 1887 the most prominent outlook on the land was selected; and, looking down upon the two cities near by, at the junction of the two rivers - the Kansas and Missouri - the exclamation was made, "Here is the spot that shall be used for this purpose." So earnest were they that, kneeling down upon the hilltop, they lifted their voices and hearts to God in prayer that the ground should be consecrated to the one purpose in view. That ground is the present site of the Kansas City University.
This school is just completing a successful tenth year with prospects of large increase for the next. It is the only Baptist Theological Seminary west of Chicago and Louisville. The field it commands includes twelve entire states and territories and parts of three others, with an area of 1,120,000 square miles and a population of over 11,000,000, and is destined to be the most prosperous and populous section of the country.
Kansas City is the natural distributing point for the whole southwest, and no more accessible situation for such an institution could be found. The location of the school in a large city furnishes fine opportunities for self-help, and contact with modern methods of church work. The field presents all the elements which demand and should produce a school of the largest proportions and the widest usefulness. It may be questioned whether such another opportunity to invest money effectively for religious work exists anywhere.
The magnificent seminary building occupies the center of a city block on a commanding eminence at Troup avenue and Walnut street in Kansas City, Kansas. It contains thirty rooms, including chapel, reception rooms, class rooms, library, dining-room, etc., etc., with dormitories for a large number of students. It is heated by steam and lighted by gas. Extensive grounds afford opportunity for out-door exercise in season.
The Pratt-Journeycake Memorial Library contains a fine collection of theological and general reference and other books, to which large additions are constantly making from the Pratt-Journeycake fund ($3,000, payable in five annual installments).
The building has been named Lovelace Hall, after Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lovelace, of Turner, Kansas, who contributed so munificently toward endowment and current expenses.
The aim of the institution is to meet the demand of every section of its wide and advancing field, in furnishing its graduates with an equipment adapted to conditions among which they are to work. Its watchwords may be considered to be three: Conservatism, Evangelism, Practicality. It is not a clearing house for new theological ideas, but a training school for the hand to hand, intensely earnest work of the active ministry, and seeks to hold fast the form of sound words, the faith once delivered to the saints, while it aims to make the student a well equipped soulwinner and practical administrator.
It represents three courses:
(1) The Regular course, including both Greek and Hebrew, lasting three years and leading to the degree of B. D.
(2) The Greek course, including Greek, but not Hebrew, lasting three years and leading to the degree of B. Th.
(3) The Shorter course, lasting two years. When successfully completed, a certificate of graduation will be granted.
The departments of instruction include systematic theology, English scriptures, church history, Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Homiletics, pastoral theology, elocution and public speaking. Occasional lectures are given by prominent leaders. Several supplemental courses on allied subjects of the highest practical importance are given by distinguished specialists, as for instance, on "The Minister and the Law," "The Minister and Medicine," "The Minister and Business," and "Sunday School Management and Pedagogy."
It is distinctly a Theological Seminary, and in no sense a substitute for a college. Its aim is to furnish a place where any student for the ministry, whatever his grade of preparation, can gain all of which he is capable in the way of theological training. No one for whom a college course is practicable, should forego that inestimable advantage. There are many worthy and useful men for whom the full college course is for various good reasons impracticable. These, as well as college graduates, are welcomed.
Properly indorsed students for the ministry of other denominations are also admitted, and any who wish to avail themselves of its advantages in preparation for other Christian work. The fullest preparatory training practicable is urged on all.
No charge is made for tuition or room rent. A fee of $15 a year is charged those who room in the building for incidentals, and $5 to those who room outside. A limited amount of aid can be given to approved students. They will also be given all practical assistance toward various forms of self-support.
A minister, the Rev. Edwin Blatchley, gave some of his money and much of his time to the foundation of a school for negroes at Quindaro about the time Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves. He called it the Freedman University and for several years it was in operation, but without marked success. It is said that Mr. Blatchley selected Quindaro as the seat of the school because Horace Greeley, a few years before, told the people of the town that they were living on the site of a future great city. Mr. Greeley was not far wrong in his prophecy, for today the town is a part of Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. Blatchley's choice of the school site was not a failure, however, for no college could ask a location more fit for the purpose. The buildings are on hills overlooking a great bend in the Missouri river and, with tree-planting, the site could be made ideal.
Just before his death Mr. Blatchley expressed the hope that the little building then standing and the one hundred and thirty acres of land be always devoted to the education of negro youth. For years there was small prospect that his wish would be even partly fulfilled, for sometimes neither money, pupils or instructors were available. Fifteen years ago William T. Vernon, of a fine African type, came to the school as instructor. He had been graduated from Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City and had taken lectures at Wilberforce University, Ohio. The Freedman University became the Western University, under control of the African Methodist Episcopal church, with one instructor and twelve pupils. With an increase in pupils Professor Vernon hired two or three other teachers from Kansas City, Kansas, to give a few hours a week to the school. In fifteen years the school has so grown that today there are nine instructors and one hundred and two pupils. Seventy-five of the pupils board and sleep at the school. New buildings have been erected from time to time and the state industrial department has been made the main point in the instruction.
"The negro went into the higher branches too early," was the idea advanced by Professor Vernon. "Their first schools turned out lawyers, preachers or teachers nearly exclusively until the country was flooded with men of my race who wanted to make their way in the professions. The industrial side was overlooked. Teach the negro a trade and the commercial opportunity will follow. Every pupil in this school, unless ill health prevents, must put in half the time learning a trade. Maybe there's a chance for another Tuskegee here."
That policy is followed closely, it appears, in the Quindaro school. The girls are taught to sew and cook, and millinery has been added to the course. Half of the day is given to dress-making or cooking, printing or bookmaking, and the rest of the time the pupils may devote to the common school branches, or to music, English or Latin, typewriting, stenography or bookkeeping. The boys must give either the afternoon or morning to the carpenter shop, cabinet-making, printing, mechanical drawing or building work about the school. The other half of the day is given to recitations. A tailoring department has been added and land is used to teach practical farming.
From an announcement sent out by the institution this is taken: "It is not necessary that extravagant tastes be encouraged here; students are advised to bring strong, substantial clothing, but expensive apparel is not needed by one struggling for an education."
There is certainly little opportunity for extravagance at Quindaro and the student's expenses are surprisingly low. Tuition is $1 a month, room rent costs another dollar and board is $5.50 a month. The boys and girls eat together in the dining hall, always under the supervision of an instructor, and there is great effort to teach them the table proprieties. The dining hall is in charge of a man and his wife, who are supposed to buy supplies with the money paid for board, reserving a stated percentage for their pay. Pupils, both boys and girls, do a certain amount of the work in the kitchen, in that manner holding down expenses and at the same time learning the rudiments of cooking. The food, of course is plain, but there is no restriction in the amount. The boys sleep in the second floor of Stanley hall, named for the late governor of Kansas, and the girls are in a separate building. In classes and recitations they are together.
What effect the school's training may have on the later life of the pupil is yet to be proved, but the present influence is very apparent. The scholars are orderly and more quiet, not only in the halls of the building, but about the grounds as well; possibly more so than the average lot of white college students. Their clothes are plain and, in many cases, show hard wear, but the mending has not been overlooked.
Fifteen or twenty young negroes from sixteen to twenty-four years of age, at work in a carpenter shop, present a sight that makes the visitor stop to think. They handle the saws and planes as gravely as if they were really working for a contractor and there is not much to show they are boys trying to learn a trade that they can apply only under a strong handicap. In the printing office they stand at the case as earnestly as if they were working on a regular newspaper. The cylinder press looks as if it were ready to run off a heavy edition for a small daily, and the little stationary engine throbs away with the business-like air that is apparent about the whole place. The teachers have at least given their charges a spirit of earnestness that is not evident in many manual training schools and is particularly surprising when found among the light-hearted Africans.
The school's plans, at least, are for thoroughness. In the sewing department, for instance, this is what is expected for the first year:
First term: - Position, threading needles, using thimbles; practice on odd bits of cloth; basting, running, overhanding; hemming, stitching, overcasting.
Second term : - Felling - flat, bias and French fell; gathering, putting on bands; French hem on damask; blind stitching; putting in gusset, sewing on tape and buttons; making eyelets, buttonholes.
Third term: - Making an apron, hemming towels; darning, patching, mending; tucking, whipping, ruffles; hemstitching, herring bone stitch on flannels; making plain garments and fancy underwear; freehand drawing, simple bookkeeping.
In the last year of dressmaking instruction, following is the course:
First term: - Instruction in choice of material; draughting and
making skirts from measurements; cutting sleeves, collars and waist patterns; basting, trimming, finishing; free-hand drawing.
Second term: - Study of form and proportion in relation to draughting and trimming; draughting basques, sleeves, etc., from measurement; draughting basque with extra under arm piece for stout figures-, cutting and fitting plain, close and double breasted garments; free-hand drawing.
Third term: - Cutting and matching plaids, figured and striped waists; practice in the use of colors; cutting, fitting, pressing; talks on the choice of materials for house, street and evening wear; collars, pockets, jacket making; advanced work in making complete dresses from different materials; free-hand drawing.
The state of Kansas, by legislative appropriation, has contributed liberally to the support of the industrial department, while the African Methodist Episcopal church, in the states west of the Mississippi river, has maintained the university proper.
Professor Vernon, who was registrar of the United States treasury under President Roosevelt and also under President Taft, resigned his position at the head of the school in 1910 and was succeeded by Professor H. T. Kealing, A. M., a distinguished educator of the south.
No state institution has wrought with grander glory than has the Kansas Institution for the Education of the Blind, situated on a commanding eminence and rising from a restful mass of foliage at what was once the western edge of old Wyandotte, but now almost in the very center of Kansas City, Kansas. The naturally beautiful grove of ten acres, which comprises the ground, has been tastefully improved and the number of imposing buildings which have been erected during the forty-four years of its existence make the scene a stately, as well as a beautiful one.
What, is now the south wing of the main building was erected in 1867, an appropriation of twenty thousand dollars having been obtained from the state for the erection of the building and the improvement of the grounds. The institution was opened September 7, 1868, under the supervision of the late Hubbard H. Sawyer, and with an attendance of seven. From the first the aim of the management was to educate pupils and not to treat them as patients. They were, and are now required to be, healthy mentally, morally and physically.
In March, 1867, the act was passed by the legislature to regulate an institution for the education of the blind, and appointing Dr. Fred Speck of Wyandotte, Hon. F. P. Baker of Topeka, and General William Larimer of Leavenworth, as a commission to locate the institution. They selected Wyandotte. In March, 1870, Dr. W. W. Updegraft assumed charge, and in 1871 he was succeeded by Professor J. A Parker.
It was during Professor Parker's able administration (in 1872) that, the scope of the institution's usefulness was further enlarged by the establishment of an industrial department. The educational department had been in existence from the first, and the study of music was brought into the course in 1869. In 1872 the legislature appropriated three thousand dollars for the erection of a shop, in which the boy students of the asylum could learn to make brooms, brushes, mattresses, cane seated chairs, etc. It was occupied in the spring of 1873. The hospital building, a substantial three story brick structure, was erected in 1879. Dr. Speck was the physician for many years.
The main or executive building, was erected in 1882, being occupied in June of that year. It is a commodious brick building, three stories and basement, with lofty tower, the schoolroom being in the first story, the chapel in the second and the dormitories in the third, with the dining room in the basement.
In the years that have followed, the Kansas legislature has pursued a liberal policy with reference to expenditures for this worthy institution. New buildings have been erected, new equipments have been added, and, in fact, nothing has been left undone that would aid in the education and wise treatment of the sightless boys and girls of the state. It has for years been recognized as among the model schools for the blind in the United States.
Professor Parker was succeeded as superintendent, in 1875, by George H. Miller, who filled the position with honor until the administration of Governor Lewelling, in 1893-5, when the position was filled by the Rev. W. G. Todd. Mr. Miller was returned in 1895 and remained until the administration of Governor John W. Leedy, when William H. Toothaker came to serve two years. Mr. Toothaker was succeeded by Professor Lapier Williams, who was succeeded in 1909 by W. B. Hall, the present superintendent.
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