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provide for them. All honor to those far-sighted ones, who in that time of strife and clamor conceived and established institutions which have been the foundations of Nebraska’s marvelous empirical education. Most notable of these, was, of course, our state university; but Nebraskans, looking into the future saw our state university too heavily burdened, and set to work to devise a method of taking care of a special type cf education which has come to be paramount in the civilization of today. With the advent of a new generation would come a cry for teachers, and people would clamor for scientific and practical instruction in the art of | edagogy. Then it was that the novel system of normal schools came into being, and in 1867, as Nebraska came to her own, as a state, there was conceived and dedicated to the profession of teaching, an institution, little heralded it is true, but one of the greatest educational centers in the west, the Nebraska State Normal of Peru.
Far down in the southeastern corner of Nebraska, tucked away within the encircling arm of the protecting hills, a mere pocket in the bluffs along the river, lies the little town of Peru.
First impressions of Peru differ. To the person first seeing it from the dear antique old bus, it may seem a remnant of the days of John Alden, and it would not be a difficult feat of the imagination to transform the bewhiskered driver into a veritable twentieth century Rip Van Winkle.
To the pilgrim of the open road, seen thru the swimming, smoky light of Indian Summer, it may seem only a shimmering wave upon wave of glistening emerald, dotted by chimneys, and jewelled by a few glinting spires, an arboreal haven of rest, and a green allurement for birds.
In the winter of 1860, a charter was granted for the establishment of a school of college rank in Peru. The matter rested for a term of five years, when it was once more taken up; and in 1866 occurred the real inception of the school in Peru. C. B. McKenzie, a man of unusually commanding personality, a teacher with lofty ideals, was elected principal, and his wife elected preceptress of the then unimportant and little-noticed school. It was planned to turn it over to the Methodist Church conference for a female seminary.
In the early history of Peru, no man stands out with such distinction as C. B. McKenzie. Those were years that tested the mettle of character, and to the man whose wisdom, perseverance and unflinching courage gave us our Peru of today, we owe an incalculable debt.
In the spring of 1867, the present Peru State Normal consisted of one low, ramshackle frame building, crowning the sparsely vegetated crest of the high hill southwest of Peru. It was at the time a struggling Methodist academy, which the townspeople and surrounding countrymen were bending every effort toward keeping in existence. They gave willingly of what they had, their efforts were untiring and unceasing, but several hard years followed one another, and finally, seeing their cause hopeless, rather than see the fruits of their labor come to nothing, it was turned over to the state legislature, a group of men among whom was T. J. Majors, to be given to the State, with the express reservation that the state University be located there. 'Phis proposal
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Time is an ephemeral, mystic thing. To us the hour seems long, the days wear slowly away, imperceptibly lengthening into years, yet aeons are, after all, but tem-irarary and fleeting. Centuries flash quickly by, the dust of ages in the mighty hourglass of time.
That a land, evolved so slowly thru all the great silent spaces of eternity, should be so quickly and marvelously transformed from a primeval wilderness to one of the arteries of commerce in the brief space of fifty years, seems well nigh unbelievable. The span between the rugged frontiersman and the king of finance, it may seem, is a tar cry from the desolate seas of sage to the rippling fields of wheat, hut the consummation of these remarkable phenomena has constituted the kaleidoscopic history of our own young west.
A hundred years ago a few adventurous spirits braved the vastness of the unfathomed west, thru a land of conjecture and romance, and with unquestioning courage pushed forward into the bleak unknown, little dreaming the endless leagues of prairie were the cradle of a new era of progress; or the swirling Missouri, the Jordan of a promised land. With the reckless courage horn of lives of privation and a passionate love of freedom they planted their little huts beside the turbulent Muddy, and then, seeking new worlds to conquer, continued still farther westward. So the west was not destined to long continue a romantic nowhere, a land of song and story. The westering wave of civilization lapped at its edges, broke over it, and its seemingly limitless prairies were harnessed bv fences, its hillsides began to bloom with a new, more radiant glory.
It is not strange that early writers, such as Irving and Marbois consigned Nebraska to eternal desolation, for they, being neither geologists nor prophets, could not sec the marvelous possibilities of Nebraska’s soil, or foretell the coming kingdom of steam and rail. Within a few years the hand of man had wrought miracles, the rapidly increasing vegetation arrested the marching dunes of sand, and arrayed the arid leagues of desert in gay coats of green.
There followed years of varying fortunes for this newly found land, seasons of plenty intermingled with those of want, insects, fire, and the pitiless drouth alternating in their work of destruction and discouragement. Mow deeply we revere those daring ones whose courage bound them to their adopted country, whose fortitude of soul sent them forward in the face of hopeless odds.
After a long period of struggle and stormy council, in the year 1867, a large portion of land west of the Missouri was designated, its boundaries set, and made a sovereign member of the American union. In honor of the great river that divided it, it was christened, Nebraska, “Flat Water.”
Now Nebraska, with the great ports of the world tributary to her wealth, seems indeed the favored of the gods in that she possesses yet another realm of greatness with which we as students arc perhaps more vitally concerned. For, in her swift and steady march to distinction, she never lost sight of the coming generation, or ceased to
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was immediately rejected by the state legislature, the grounds tor the refusal being that they wanted the state university located at the capitol, to aid in its growth.
The system of normal schools was then discussed, and after a long and stormy struggle in the senate, the first state normal school in the state, one of very few in the United States, was brought to Peru. In connection with the school, the names of three men stand out, perhaps, a little above the rest. They are Major Daily, Dr. John F. Neal, and Col. T. J. Majors. Major Daily was largely instrumental in transferring the old school from Pawnee City to Peru. Dr. Neal, aided by Rev. Hiram Burch and Mrs. C. B. McKenzie, donated the ground upon which it stands, and Colonel Majors has always had its best interests at heart in all ways.
The first appropriation for the maintenance of the new school was one of three thousand dollars. Another of ten thousand was soon secured ; and later, through the efforts of Colonel Majors and his associates a third of thirty-five thousand dollars was secured for the erection of the oldest building upon the campus today, the old training building. This fiftieth anniversary has been further signalized by its outgrowth and the completion of its successor, the magnificent structure which bears the name of the man to whom, among others, we owe the existence of our school, T. J. Majors.
For the last half century since her establishment, the history of Peru has been practically that of the great state with which she was originated. A steady, symmetrical expansion, at all times proportionate to, at times exceeding, the demands made upon her. Starting with the inevitably few, through the whole-hearted support and sacrifice of her backers, she has attained that eminence which only wise jurisdiction and excellence of ideals can bring. Year by year she has grown. Year by year she has strengthened and broadened, her alumni going to the four corners of the world as her best advertisements, her colors upheld on many a hard-fought football field. Under her present administration she stands at what is now the zenith of her greatness. May she grow greater with the years.
Peru the Cibola of many a youthful Coronado, the sunny little city of our dreams; can we ever forget her! With the coming of the warm days of spring, the awakening of the roadsides and fence corners, can we help a retrospective thought, tinged, perhaps warmly with regret? Will we want to come back?
The clear Sunday afternoon, warm with the breath of a laggard summer, the inevitable walk to the river, the bluish, sun-crowned bluffs of Iowa, the lagging steps as home and supper draw near; they arc indelible in our memory. Unforgetablc is the thrill of a Peruvian dawn, or the gold and purple glory of her sunset hills. Ask an alumnus what days of his life he values most, and his answer will be that those nearest his heart arc those spent in a quaint, old-fashioned town on the river, days born in the rosclight of a dream, buried in the gold of its attainment among the hills and hollows of old Peru. G. Talbot Hunt, ’17.
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