ILLINOIS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY.
As early as 1849, public spirited citizens of central Illinois began to agitate for the establishment of a college
at Bloomington. The minutes of the Illinois conference of the Methodist church for 1849 show that a committee composed
of Rev. Thomas A. McGhee and Rev. John S. Barger was named to confer with Bloomington citizens on the subject.
The first meeting is believed to have been held Dec. 2, 1850, and another on the 11th of the same month. The constitution
was adopted Dec. 18, 1850, and that date is forever afterward celebrated as "Founders' Day." The conference
minutes of 1850 show that a committee composed of Peter Cartwright, John S. Barger, W. D. R. Trotter, J. C. Rucker
and W. J. Newman were named to visit the Illinois Wesleyan at Bloomington, hence it must have been fully organized
at that time. The Methodists had previously established the Female College at Jacksonville, Georgetown and Paris
and Waynesville seminaries and had started seminaries at Danville, Marshall and Quincy.
In July, 1851, Rev. William Goodfellow and Rev. Reuben Andrus were elected professors and Rev. Erastus Wentworth
as president. Wentworth did not accept, but Andrus and Goodfellow conducted the school from September, 1851. In
July, 1852. Rev. John Dempster was chosen president, and his name remained as president for two years, although
he did not perform many of the duties of president, as he had taken a better position with Garrett Biblical Institute.
In the session of the Legislature in 1853, the Wesleyan received a special charter vesting the ownership in the
Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church. Soon after the organizaton of the corporation, the question of a site
for the buildings came up. James Allin deeded a ten acre tract north of the Chicago & Alton Railroad in Bloomington,
and much building material was unloaded there, when it was discovered that the site was totally unsuitable, and
in June, 1854, the present site was chosen and the materials removed from the former site. The first structure
erected was the small two story brick long used for the preparatory classes, and now used for some of the class
rooms. Its use as the library was abandoned in 1923 on the completion of the Buck Memorial Library.
In the first few years the school led a precarious existence. On the close of the fall term of 1854 work was suspended.
In the same months Rev. Peter Akers was elected president, but declined. In 1855 Rev. C. W. Sears was for the second
time offered the presidency, and under his management the school reopened in October, 1855. Work was again suspended
in 1856, owing to lack of funds and the debts which had accumulated. In 1857, Oliver S. Munsell was elected president,
although the university was little more than a name. It had ten acres of land and the bare walls of a three story
brick building, with a debt of $5,000, which was increased by $10,000 when the building was completed. President
Munsell and his brother, Rev. C. W. C. Munsell, raised funds to pay the debts and start the school again. Girls
were admitted with equal rights with boys as students early in the history of the university, and co-education
has ever since proved popular.
By 1868, a new and larger building was needed, and $40,000 was raised for this purpose. The corner stone of the
main building on the campus was laid in 1870, and it was dedicated in June, 1871, having cost $100,000. In addition
to the erection of the building, President Munsell was instrumental in securing important natural history collections,
including the R. H. Holder collection of ornithology, Prof. George Vasey's botannical collection, and Prof. C.
D. Wilber's collection of fossils and minerals, etc.
Dr. Munsell resigned as president in 1873 and Rev. Samuel Fallows was chosen to succeed him. He served two years
and left a profound impression of his scholarship upon the history of the university. The law school was organized
under his presidency. In 1875, Dr. W. H. H. Adams became president in succession to Bishop Fallows. He had served
in the Civil War and was a man of great energy and ability. He increased the funds of the university, raising the
endowment to over $72,000. For 13 years he served with fidelity and unending effort for every cause of the school.
He literally gave his life for Wesleyan.
In 1888, Dr. W. H. Wilder, who had graduated in 1873, was elected president of Wesleyan, and served until 1897.
An athletic field, named Wilder field in his honor, was acquired while he was president. About $15,000 was expended
in improvements, including ground for janitor's house and gymnasium. The H. S. Swayne and Shellenbarger chemical
laboratories were added to the science department. The Lichtenthaler collection of sea specimens, the G. B. Harrison
collection of fossils, and the Weems archaelogical collections were added during this period. A. C. Behr gave the
university a telescope, for which a suitable building was erected.
Dr. Edgar M. Smith served as president from 1897 to 1905, during which time a period of steady growth was maintained,
although no outstanding additions were made. In 1905, Dr. Frank G. Barnes was chosen president and came to the
school with a young man's enthusiasm. During his term, Andrew Carnegie gave $30,000 for a Science Hail, provided
$60,000 were raised as an endowment, which was successfully accomplished.
However, the required $60,000 was not wholly secured when President Barnes resigned and Dr. Theodore Kemp was chosen
to succeed him. This was in 1908. Dr. Kemp at once raised the balance of $18,000 to close the Carnegie contract
and secure the Science Hall. The building of this structure was the first new building which had been done on the
campus in a period of forty two years.
Like all the other schools of the country, the Wesleyan University lost many of the young men from its classes
during the spring and fall of 1917, for they answered the call to the colors and served in many branches of the
army and navy. Several gold stars were added to Wesleyan's service flag before the war was over, and a memorial
service after the close of the war took note of the following Wesleyan men who had died for liberty: George Herman
Anna, Lyle Best, Howard Bolin, Elmer T. Doocey, Vergne Greiner, Allington Jolly, Sergt. Lemuel Jones, Frank Jordan,
Henry R. Peckmann, Herbert Quarnstrom, William Ralston, Maurice Roberts, Edmund W. Sutherland.
In the opening of the fall term in 1918, Wesleyan, like many other colleges, became in fact a military academy
by the formation there of the Student Army Training Corps, sponsored and managed by the war department of the government.
All academic work was planned on military lines, and drills were carried on certain hours each day under Captain
Wheaton, a regular army officer assigned to this camp. Barracks were erected on the vacant ground north of the
campus, at a cost of $25,000, this fund being guaranteed by Bloomington business men, who were later reimbursed
by the government. But the war ended all plans on this line, and in fact the armistice came before the S. A. T.
C. had a chance to show its true worth as a military asset of the country.
Dr. Kemp continued in the office of president for 14 years, resigned May, 1922. In that period was covered a period
of renewed growth for the school, which for some years previously had been caught in a season of depression and
stagnation. There was a debt of $57,000 against the school, owing to many years' annual deficits. The endowment
fund aggregated only $131,783, which with other resources of $185,500 made the total property of the school amount
to only S327,283. During the incumbency of President Kemp the endowment fund was increased to $869,366; other general
assets were raised to $232,807; and the buildings and grounds were appraised at $364,600; making total resources
of the University $1,466,774.
The greatest campaign for funds ever undertaken in the history of the Wesleyan was that of June, 1921, when
in a strenuous drive of one month's duration a total of $692,000 was pledged by citizens of Bloomington and McLean
County. This made the grand total of resources at the close of Dr. Kemp's term, $2,158,774. Debts aggregating $110,000
were paid off during the same period. There were also bequests written into wills but not yet realized during this
term of years. The total assets of the university at the close of President Kemp's incumbency indicated that five
times as much money had been subscribed or written into wills in the fourteen years as had been previously obtained
in the fifty eight years of the university's history. E. M. Evans, as chairman of the Association of Commerce Committee
on Wesleyan Affairs had charge of this campaign and put in many strenuous days in planning for it. He had the assistance
and co-operation of hundreds of citizens who gave up their own business to a large extent during the campaign.
Dr. Kemp was personally instrumental in securing the girls' dormitory and adding it to the property of the Wesleyan.
This was the magnificent three story brick residence built by A. E. DeMange on Main Street, two blocks from the
campus. It was bought on President Kemp's personal responsibility for $30,000 and it was several years later that
the funds were forthcoming for making good the personal risk which Dr. Kemp had incurred for the building. The
attendance at the Wesleyan increased in corresponding ratio with its material growth. The enrollment in the liberal
arts college grew from 174 to 352. The law school also had a healthy growth.
The board of trustees in July, 1922, selected Rev. Dr. William J. Davidson as president of the Wesleyan. At the
time of his selection, he was executive secretary of the life service commission of the Methodist Church, with
headquarters in Chicago. He holds the degree of LL. D. from Nebraska Wesleyan, the degree of S. T. B. and D.D.
from Garrett Biblical Institute, and had performed undergraduate work at Boston College, Cornell and Harvard. For
28 years he was member of the Illinois Conference and two years was chancellor of Nebraska Wesleyan. After six
years of pastorate of First M. E. Church in Decatur, he returned to Garrett Biblical Institute as professor of
religious education. Dr. Davidson was formally installed as president of Illinois Wesleyan on Dec. 13, 1922. President
Harker, of Illinois Woman's College, made an address, as did President David Felmley, of Normal University. E.
M. Evans, chairman of the Wesleyan Board, presented Dr. Davidson, who responded in an address. The exercises were
held in the new memorial gymnasium of the Wesleyan.
The Wesleyan under Dr. Davidson has had a wonderful growth, and the enrollment of students and personnel of the
faculty is more notable than at any other previous period.
According to the latest statistics during the current year is a new total enrollment of 1,162 students. These students
are divided among the three colleges as follows:
College of Liberal Arts: Seniors, 65; juniors, 74; sophomores, 140; freshmen, 249; unclassified, 46; total, 574.
College of Law: Third year, 36; second year, 34; first year, 63; total, 133.
College of Music: Music, expression and art, 535.
Grand totals of all colleges, 1,242; duplication, 80; net total, 1,162.