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Page 40 text:
the land which served as the site tor the first building, which stood where Mt. Vernon Hall now stands. Times then were not as prosperous and money not so plentiful as now, but what people had, they gave freely The village brickyard furnished brick. Some donated rock quarried from their farms. Others gave a few acres of land or a horse. These were traded for usable building materials. The most common donation was cottonwood lumber.
Let us picture this building when finally ready for use, with its window openings boarded up with cottonwood planks, the roof only temporary, and not exactly satisfactory in stormy weather, standing on the summit of a treeless, wind-swept hill, the pride and joy of the surrounding community, from which eventually was to spring the renowned and far-sung institution—The Peru State Normal.
Great was the joy and enthusiasm when the building was opened for use. Little did it matter if the floor and furnishings were of crude lumber. The north part of the building served as the chapel room, and a rough cottonwood slab, swung on leather hinges, opened by the aid of a wooden knob, furnished a door. The platform was crudely set up with an equally crude blackboard back of it.
Today, within a stone’s throw of the spot where this building stood, stands the beautiful new T. J. Majors Training Building. What a contrast, with its marble furnishings, most efficient lighting and heating, and other modern conveniences.
The first building served not alone for school purposes. The upper part furnished a home for I)r. and Mrs. McKenzie, as well as Rev. and Mrs. Burch, who cared for financial conditions of the school. There was also in the upper part of the building, a juvenile department, under the instruction of Mrs. McKenzie.
Dr. McKenzie acted as principal and faculty as well as janitor, cutting and carrying the wood necessary for the fires. The course of study too, formed a contrast to the one now pursued. Much time was given to spelling, grammar, and mental arithmetic, rather than psychology, theory and methods.
So the school was carried on, not always without sacrifice and privations, but always with eager enthusiasm. The management of the school, however, became too much for a few, and they found it necessary to seek aid. Some who were greatly interested hoped that it might become a Methodist Seminary. The Methodist Conference was consulted, but they felt at that time unable to assume greater responsibilities, so this hope was abandoned. Col. '1'. J. Majors and Major William Daily were members of the legislature, and through their efforts and influence the legislature arranged for the support of the school. It was hoped that it might become a state university, but when this was found impossible, it was suggested that it be made a normal school. Thus it was that the little school became, in 1867, the Nebraska State Normal. The legislature appropriated a sum of about three thousand dollars and the building was improved.
Under the direction of Dr. McKenzie, in October, 1868, the Philomathean Society was founded in the little chapel room of the original building. Twelve or fifteen people constituted the membership. Mr. Wilson E. Majors was elected the first president. The program consisted mostly of debates carried on in true forensic style.
Page 39 text:
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$foru Aliunui Assuriation
(Incorporated May 11, 1916)
I'. W. Bi.ackblrx, 78, Pres.
B. (’. Hendricks. '06, Vice Pres. W. N. Dei. ei.i., '94, Secretary M. C. Lefi.er, '09, Treasurer
Hoard of Directors
J. F. Winters, 78 R. R. McGee, ’07 H. II. Riemlnd, '06 C. Ray Gates, '07 Fred M. Morrow, ’91
Thomas W. Blackburn . President, Omaha. Nebraska.
Conquest of Peru
Hidden among the hills, visited only by the steamboats plying their way up the old Missouri river, lay the historic village of Peru. The forest was being cleared and prairies broken by the best citizens the nation had to offer, gathered from the east and the south. From this community, seventeen representatives met in an old store building in September. 1865, and laid the first plans for an educational conquest of frontier Peru. Thus the little school had its beginning. I.ater it was necessary for the school sessions to be held in the basement of a nearby residence, while plans were under way for the erection of a school building.
I)r. J. M. McKenzie was persuaded to leave a private school at Pawnee City to take charge of the school here.
I)r. John Neal, Major William Daily, Rev. Burch, and Mrs. McKenzie, purchased
I). W. Hayes, 1917
J. N1. McKenzie, 1867
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Imagine the school today under the social rules of 1868. No young man should come within ten feet of a young lady when on the street or campus. When “seeing” a friend home in the evening, he must take one side of the road and she the other. If these rules were broken, the culprits were called before the assembly in chapel. Upon one occasion when a party of students planned a trip to the city of Brownville, the president gave his permission, provided the young ladies should ride in one wagon and the young men in another. Traditional rumors arc that the party were obedient— until some distance from Peru. The “ten-foot” rule also seemed to cause the students considerable worry, lest “unmeaningly” they might be guilty of breaking it. To prevent such a catastrophe, ten-foot poles of willow were brought into use. Hence it was not uncommon to see a lad and lassie strolling about grasping opposite ends of a ten-foot pole.
The Peru training school, where students were expected to do actual teaching, was among the first in the United States and was the first in the West.
I)r. McKenzie left his work here to enter into a still broader field of educational service. He became the first State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Nebraska. It was he who wrote the first educational laws of our state. Later he returned to Peru as a member of the faculty. At present Dr. and Mrs. McKenzie are living in llvron, California.
In January, 1871, Prof. Henry II. Straight, of Overland College, Ohio, was chosen to complete Mr. McKenzie’s term. Prof. Straight was a great biologist and his work along this line is to be remembered.
Dr. A. I). Williams became the next president in September, 1871. The work of a normal was so different from his former theological work that he resigned after one year’s service to take up frontier life in Western Nebraska. He later became president of the Oakland City College, Indiana, which position he held at the time of his death, in 1894.
The newly elected president was (ien. T. J. Morgan. He had served with great honor in the Civil War, becoming brigadier general before its close. Previous to his work at Peru, he was connected with educational work in Chicago.
During his presidency another milestone of Peru’s history was passed. In 1872-3 a new building was in the process of erection. For many years this building stood alone, its stately tower rising above the surrounding hills in lordly and majestic dignity, commanding a view of four states. Long and faithfully it has served and the many feet passing up and down its stairs have hallowed as well as hollowed their surface. Today we cannot resist a feeling of awe and reverence as we look upon it, a monument to the pioneer life of our school.
The building which previous to this time had served as a school ami home for faculty and students, now became exclusively a dormitory.
I)r. Morgan stood for strong moral development among the students. His attitude is shown by the following paragraph taken from the Peru catalogue of 1874: "Candidates for admission, who are not personally known to the Principal, will be required to furnish certificates of good moral character from some reliable person.”
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