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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher

History of Cornell
Chapter III

Two colleges preceded the foundation of Cornell University, which exercised an immediate influence upon its history and determined in part the form which it assumed. The one most nearly related to it was the People's College, situated in Havana, N. Y. The foundation of this College is due, pre-eminently, to the enthusiasm and labors of one man, Mr. Henry HOWARD, afterward a resident of Ithaca; and especially to his labors in connection with an organization called the Mechanics' Mutual Protection, which had numerous affiliated societies throughout the State of New York. This society arose in that unsettled period which followed the panic of 1837. This was the era of the rise of corporations with a maximum of wealth and a minimum of responsibility. A spirit of wild speculation pervaded the country. The public lands, one source of the national revenue, were sold and paid for in depreciated local currency. Banks were even organized whose sole object was to issue money to acquire possession of such lands. The removal of the United States deposit fund from the various State banks in which it had been placed, and its distribution among the States, deprived these banks of funds which had furnished their capital, and upon which their prosperity rested. Financial distress followed immediately. Banks throughout the country failed; manufactories were closed and laborers deprived of means of support, or were paid in depreciated currency: The nation seemed on the verge of financial ruin. A wild panic spread throughout the country. Bread riots broke out in the metropolis, and agitators fanned the excitement of the oppressed and suffering people. A special session of Congress was called to take measures to avert national bankruptcy and to relieve popular distress. The relations of labor to capital became subjects of earnest and often excited discussion. At this time a convention of mechanics was called to meet in the city of Buffalo, and an organization was formed called the Mechanics' Mutual Protection (July 13, 1843). Its object was a noble one. It sought to diffuse a more general knowledge of the scientific principles governing mechanics and the arts, and to elevate workmen, by making them independent, and increasing their proficiency in their several callings, by rendering to each other counsel and mutual assistance, which would elevate the life of the mechanic, and protect them from the encroachments of wealth and power, which might combine against them, and to enable them to secure remunerative wages, and above all to awaken a common interest in their profession.

In the winter of 1848 three men met at the house of Mr. HOWARD, in Lockport, to discuss plans for a technical school, which, if approved, were to be presented to the society of their order in Lockport. These men were Henry HOWARD, D. H. BURTIS, J. P. MURPHY and R. P. BUTRICK. The Hon. Washington HUNT, at that time comptroller of the State and afterward governor, approved of the plan. The address which Mr. HOWARD prepared embodied a history of efforts to establish agricultural and technical schools in Europe and in the various States of this country, and also the results of manual labor schools in Switzerland and other countries of Europe. During the years 1848 and 1849, Mr. HOWARD, although called a visionary, delivered this address before various associations of the Mutual Protection. The purpose to found such an institution met the views of the most thoughtful members of the local society, and the address was published and distributed among the lodges, "Protections," throughout the State, about seventy in number.

Mr. Horace GREELEY, with his large interest in whatever concerned the welfare of humanity, published an editorial in the Tribune in June, 1850, warmly advocating the project of founding a State college of practical science; and proposed, first, that the college should embrace instruction in agriculture as well as in mechanics, and that the farmers should be invited to co-operate in founding it; that it should be erected on a square mile of land, which should contain a model farm and nursery; that all students should attend the lectures on mechanical and agricultural subjects, and labor in the field in the brightest and best farming weather, and in the mechanical department in sour and inclement weather. Mr. GREELEY believed that an education should not be a gift of charity, but that the future mechanics and artisans of our State would prefer to win it by labor. He proposed that the institution should be founded by a stock company, with a capital of $200,000, and that each contributor should be paid five per cent. interest upon his stock. Subscribers should have the right to designate a pupil for the university, but the pupil should pay his own expenses. Mr. GREELEY thought that the pupil could earn his expenses within fifty dollars the first year; that he could earn his entire expenses the second year; fifty dollars more than his expenses the third, and seventy-five dollars more than his expenses the fourth year; and that he would thus be gradually equipped for work with ample knowledge, by his own efforts.

Mr. GREELEY believed that the cost of establishing a complete university would amount to $100,000, and stated that he knew where $1,000 of that sum could be obtained. Even supposing that the university should ultimately cost $200,000, he believed that it could provide board and instruction for 1,000 boys, who would earn an interest of five per cent. on the capital; or, in other words, that the labor of each student, apart from the cost of his education, would amount to ten dollars a year. The citizen who subscribed $1,000 should be entitled to designate one pupil for the university; subscribers of less amounts might associate, and their joint contributions amounting to $1,000 would authorize them to nominate a pupil.

The labor question was at this time paramount, and the influence of a society like this mechanics' organization was able to exercise a powerful influence in any election.

On August 15, 1851, a company of seventeen men met in Lockport in the hall of the Mechanics' Mutual Protection, No. 1, and formed an organization to promote a mechanical college. They elected many of the most prominent men of the State as members. Among the names which appear in their records at this time are those of William H. SEWARD, Martin VAN BUREN, Sanford E. CHURCH, afterwards chief judge of the State of New York, Erastus CORNING, Thurlow WEED and General James F. WADSWORTH. A week later Horace GREELEY was elected a member, and from this time his active participation in founding the People's College, and his later connection with Cornell University, dates.

The first officers of the association were Samuel WRIGHT, president; Joel CRANSON, vice-president; Harrison HOWARD, secretary; James P. MURPHY, treasurer. This organization proposed to make its power felt in the choice of candidates for the Legislature and State officers. With this purpose, letters were sent to candidates of both parties, inquiring as to their attitude toward the proposed college. Before the election of Washington HUNT as governor, Mr. HOWARD wrote to him asking him if he would recommend the college to the State in his inaugural message. Mr. HUNT stated that he had already in a letter to the president of the American Institute, expressed himself in favor of a mechanical school, such as was proposed, and added, "Whether in or out of office, I shall go with you and your friends in establishing such an institution and securing for it, not only a charter, but its full share in any bounty of the State. There is no doubt but that the State will endow an agricultural college. Why should not the mechanical interests be placed on the same footing? My impressions are in favor of one institution divided into two departments, one agricultural, the other mechanical. I made out a statement recently for some friends in New York, showing what the State had expended for colleges, while nothing had been done for the men who toil in farming or mechanical pursuits. I wish to see these pursuits made intellectual as they should be."

As Governor HUNT was elected by a majority of only 262, it is reasonable to suppose that the mechanical organizations throughout the State (seventy in number), which united to support his candidacy, contributed to determine his election. Similarly, when the Hon. Horatio SEYMOUR was a candidate for governor in 1852, an inquiry was addressed to him as to whether he would favor the new college. While prudently refraining from entering into any engagement which would limit his action thereafter, his attitude was known to be favorable to an enterprise in which so much public interest had been aroused, and he commended the subject of such a college to the favorable consideration of the legislature, in his first message.

An important meeting of the People's College Association, as it was now called, was held in Rochester, Thursday, August 20, 1851, when resolutions were passed setting forth the need of an institution of this kind, and emphasizing the fact that education, to be universal, must be practical; that the security and power of the State rest upon the intelligence and virtue of the people; and that no free community can suffer any portion of its youth to grow up in ignorance without damage to its vital interests and peril to its liberties. Among other resolutions it was

Resolved, That education, to be universal, must be eminently and thoroughly practical, must be adapted to the wants morally, intellectually and physically, of individuals, in every sphere of life; and that the only rational hope of interest in the great majority for higher education, capable of inducing them to make sacrifices for its acquirements, must be based on its adaptation to the needs of industry and the uses of every day life.

Resolved, That while many departments of professional life would seem to be crowded with aspirants for employment and success therein, there is a manifest and deplorable deficiency of scientific and thoroughly qualified farmers, architects, miners, etc., who should bring the great truths of geology, chemistry, mechanics, etc., to bear intimately and beneficially on all the operations of productive labor, thereby increasing its efficiency and its fruitfulness, and we look to an improved system of c collegiate education for the necessary and proper corrective.

Resolved, That the current system of education is unjust to woman in its higher departments, excluding her from advantages and opportunities which are provided at the common cost for men alone, and we regard the arbitrary separation of the sexes in the pursuit of knowledge as conducive neither to propriety of manners nor purity of heart; and while we recognize the truth that Nature has indicated for the two sexes diverse aptitudes and duties, we insist that woman, like man, shall be left free to acquire such an education and pursue such occupations as her own sense of fitness and propriety shall dictate.

It was further resolved that, as all are commanded to work, and no one can be sure of passing through life exempt from the physical necessity of laboring with the hands for food, therefore, all should be so trained and educated as to qualify theta for usefulness and efficiency in manual labor.

It was provided that the People's College should be subject to the control of no sect or party; that productive labor should be practically honored and inflexibly required of all; that each student should be free to prosecute such studies as might be indicated by his parents or legal guardians, and to graduate master of those only. His employment should be adapted, as far as practicable, to his tastes, his strength and his capacities, and it was expected that after the first two years every student would be able to pay his way and prosecute his studies independently, without reliance on extraneous resources. It is noticeable that here the first plea for coeducation was presented, and after strenuous debate passed almost unanimously, being vigorously supported by Mr. GREELEY, who reported the resolutions. Not all the supporters of the People's College had contemplated coeducation as an inseparable part of the plan. On September 8, 1853, the Hon. Washington HUNT, in a letter commenting upon a proposed address, said: "My impression has been that the department (coeducation) does not properly come within the manual labor system proposed by the People's College. I think that young men and young women should be educated at different institutions. A majority of the trustees think differently, no doubt, and I will not object to having the experiment tried; but I will not (with my present views) profess that I have any faith in its success. At the next meeting of the trustees, which I hope to attend, this subject may be discussed, when I will give my views more fully; meanwhile, if this part of the address is retained, I prefer to have my signature omitted."

In September of this year an industrial congress met in Albany and passed resolutions favoring the proposed university, and recommending that at the State Fair in Rochester the farmers should assemble in mass meeting and discuss this important proposition.

The proposed grand assembly of the farmers of the State in Rochester did not occur; but several men, including Mr. GREELEY, the Hon. T. C. PETERS and one or two others, met at the house of Mr. D. D. T. MOORE and discussed the proposed college. Mr. GREELEY prepared subsequently a draft of a plan of the college and sent it to Mr. PETERS. In correspondence with Mr. HOWARD and Mr. PETERS, the details of this prospectus were agreed upon and it was published. On September 11 the association of the new college met in Lockport and adopted the recommendation of the Hon. T. C. PETERS, editor of the Wool Grower, that the farmers should be invited to participate in founding the new college.

A meeting of the society, announced to be held in Buffalo, January 15, 1852, is interesting as showing how the early conception and support of this movement for the People's College rested upon the enthusiasm of a few individuals. When the secretary reached the city to attend this meeting, a great snow storm had obstructed all communication with the external world. "The few who were interested had previous engagements, one was busy getting the Commercial ready for the press, others had oxen to buy or wives to marry." In consequence of this the secretary was the only member present. This laborious but cheerful individual repaired to his hotel, shut himself in his room, elected officers and passed resolutions, submitted by the absent PETERS and enlarged by himself. Letters were read from men interested in the progress of the movement, several honorary members elected, a committee appointed to memorialize the Legislature for an act of incorporation of the People's College, the shares of which were limited to one dollar each, and an assessment of twenty-five cents was levied upon each member of the Association to meet current expenses. An elaborate report of this meeting was published in the press of the State. At the close of the records the secretary adds: "I hope, when the college is established, I shall be excused for this deception, as I believe that if this meeting had been a failure, much delay would have been the result. Using men for a good purpose, provided it is clear that no injury can come to any human being as a result, is not a sin in my humble opinion."

Subsequent meetings were held, the main purpose of which was to secure an act of incorporation from the Legislature and to issue additional appeals to secure the interest of the public. Meetings in Brooklyn were attended by Horace GREELEY, Henry Ward BEECHER and Professor YOUMANS. The attempt to secure a charter from the Legislature finally succeeded, and an act of incorporation was granted at an extra session, April 12, 1853. Since the period when the foundation of a People's College was first proposed, Mr. HOWARD, the unwearied agent, had canvassed the State, and addressed meetings in nearly all of the large cities, and various agricultural and educational conventions, in behalf of the proposed College. In this work he was engaged until August, 1855, when efforts to raise money were suspended on account of the financial stringency.

The first meeting of the trustees of the People's College was held in Owego, May 25, 1853, at which D. C. McCALLUM was elected president of the board; A. I. WYNKOOP, of Chemung, vice-president; Tracy MORGAN, treasurer; and Henry HOWARD, secretary and general agent.

At a meeting of the stockholders of the People's College held at Binghamton, November 26, 1856, a resolution was presented, "That, as a Board of Trustees, we will use our influence for the location of the college in the county which will first make up the balance of the $50,000 needed to locate." It appears that this resolution was a shrewd parliamentary device, the true object of which was not then recognized, to secure the influence of the trustees to have the college located in Havana. The active agent in securing this location was the Hon. Charles COOK, who later came forward and offered to make up the subscription necessary to authorize the trustees to choose the site for the college. Commissioners were appointed to visit Havana and to examine the location which had been offered for the college by Mr. COOK. Previous failure and discouragement induced the trustees to look favorably upon any proposition that would secure the establishment of the college, for which many of them had labored so long.

At a meeting of the stockholders, held in Havana, January 15, 1857, the question of location was voted upon. The previous excitement had been intense, and efforts had been made to secure favorable ballots and proxies in favor of the location in Havana. Amidst what is reported as a perfect tempest of applause and the wildest enthusiasm, the number of votes in favor of such location was reported as 1,847, and opposed as 1,137, leaving a majority of 710 in behalf of Havana. Active measures were now taken to organize the college. The site and the farm which had been offered were regarded as satisfactory, and an effort was made to raise a sum of $250,000 in order to secure the success of the enterprise. Committees were appointed to superintend the erection of buildings, to arrange a course of study, and to nominate professors. At the meeting of August 12, 1857, plans for the new college were presented, the main building of which should contain a chapel which would seat 500 students, also lecture rooms, a chemical laboratory, library, cabinets, etc. On the following day the Rev. Amos BROWN was elected president of the college, and Mr. COOK was made chairman of the Executive Committee and also of the Building Committee. Soon after, the national Land Grant Act in behalf of scientific and practical education, known as the MORRILL Bill, was introduced in Congress, and the trustees made an appropriation to send President BROWN to Washington in order to promote the purposes of the bill. In the mean time, the erection of the proposed college building proceeded, the funds for which were largely contributed by Mr. COOK. It is probable that all the subscriptions which had been made during previous years had lapsed or that their collection had proved impossible. The financial crisis of 1857 now began, and all hope of securing an endowment from popular subscription was at an end. The only hope of fulfilling the conditions upon which the charter was given was based on the national aid expected in the passage of the MORRILL Bill. It is of interest to notice the provisions of the charter of the People's College. It was provided that the capital stock of the corporation of the college should consist of $250,000, that the stock should be in shares of one dollar each, and that every stockholder should be entitled to but one vote in the choice of trustees or in any other business to be determined by the votes of the stock holders. Whenever the sum of $50,000 was subscribed and paid in to the trustees, it was their duty to call a meeting of said stockholders to elect commissioners, who should select the most advantageous location for the college, and report at a subsequent meeting. The dissemination of practical science, including chemistry, mineralogy and those sciences most immediately and vitally essential to agriculture and the useful arts, also for instruction in the classics, was said to be the aim of the new college. Manual labor for five days in the week in some branch of productive industry was required from every teacher and pupil, such labor in no case to exceed twenty nor to fall below ten hours; and each student was to be credited with and ultimately paid for the product of his labor, less the cost of qualifying him to perform it effectively. No student was to be permitted to graduate with honor until he had passed a certain examination with regard to his proficiency in agriculture, or some branch of manufacturing or mechanical industry, and a free choice was accorded to the student to pursue such branches of learning as he might select. The special line of work which the student had followed was to be specified in his diploma.

The corner stone of the college was laid on September 2, 1858, when it is estimated that 15,000 people were present. The address on that occasion was delivered by President Mark HOPKINS of Williams College. The enthusiasm and hopes manifested throughout the State in favor of the new college were very great. The failure of Congress to pass the Land Grant Act, upon which so much depended, followed by the sickness of Mr. COOK, practically put an end to the further progress and formal opening of the college. Mr. COOK had frequently stated that he purposed to endow the college with four hundred thousand dollars and to bequeath to it his entire fortune. After the erection of the college building, his interest ceased, possibly on account of serious illness. A faculty, eminent in their various departments, had been appointed, a few of whom met at the time of the proposed opening of the college.

By an act of the Legislature, passed April 24, 1862, the sum of $10,000 a year for two years was given by the Legislature to the college; but the comptroller refused to pay this sum, upon the grounds that the conditions of the grant had not been fulfilled. The Faculty, therefore, disappointed in any prospect of recompense for their services, with the exception of four professors, resigned. One further prospect of a successful existence arose after the passage by Congress of the Land Grant Act of July 2, 1862. After an exciting session of the Legislature, in which all the recognized ability of Mr. COOK as a lobbyist, and his remarkable power of managing men, were required, the transfer of this noble national gift to the People's College was effected on May 14, 1863.This gift was upon the condition the trustees should show to the satisfaction of the Regents of the University within three years from the passage of the act that the college was provided with at least ten professors competent to give instruction in such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, including military tactics, as required by the act of Congress, and that the said trustees owned and were possessed of suitable college grounds, and buildings properly arranged and furnished for the care and accommodation of at least 250 students, with a suitable library, philosophical and chemical apparatus and cabinets of natural history, and also a suitable farm, of at least 200 acres, for the proper teaching of agriculture, with suitable farm buildings, farming implements and stock, and also the necessary shops, tools, machinery and other arrangements for teaching mechanic arts, all of which property must be held by the said trustees absolutely and fully paid for. One striking feature of the act of the Legislature bestowing this land upon the People's College was the provision for the free education of students from each county of the State. The number of such students was to be designated from time to time by the Regents of the University, and the students themselves to be selected or caused to be selected by the Chancellor of the University and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who should jointly publish such rules and regulations in regard thereto as would in their opinion secure proper selections and stimulate competition in the academies and public and private schools in this State. Such students were to be exempt from any payment for board, tuition and room rent. Preference was to be given to the sons of those who had died in the military and naval service of the United States. The provision in the charter of Cornell University for free scholarships, by which it annually receives and educates free of charge 128 students, making a total of 512 who receive the privileges of the university without charge, was thus based upon this provision in the act bestowing the Land Grant upon the People's College. In receiving, therefore, this gift from the State, Cornell University voluntarily assumed, with the advantage of a more elaborate and definite specification of conditions, this provision of the People's College. It is also noticeable that in the charter of the People's College, as passed by the Legislature, the provision for coeducation and for the instruction of women students in various branches of female industry was omitted.

One subject of instruction which had been advocated by the secretary in his various addresses in connection with the People's College, was military science and tactics. In a note upon his lecture on this subject, he has this memorandum: "Handle the above carefully in country places; only refer to West Point and the order that military duties produce."

In drawing up the proposed plan of study in 1854, Mr. GREELEY was opposed to having military science in the course. Mr. HOWARD and Professor LINDSLEY took the opposite view in the committee, and after long discussion, Mr. GREELEY assented to the following statement: "The students of the college shall be instructed in the principles of the tactics provided for the discipline of the militia of the State of New York, and shall be familiarized with their practice at stated and regular drills; but the performance of military duty shall not conflict with the proper prosecution of academic or other studies, nor shall it be required of any whose convictions or principles are incompatible with the bearing of arms." Later, in 1862, Mr. GREELEY thought it well to have a few well drilled men scattered about the country in case of war.

The location of the People's College in Havana, may be regarded as its death warrant; it fell by that act under the immediate domination of Mr. COOK, upon whom, as the largest contributor to its funds, it became absolutely dependent. The long duration of the struggle to raise funds had necessarily consumed in expenses most of what had been realized. The personal ascendancy of Mr. COOK was manifest in the choice of a location, and in the election of a president. The weary subscribers, who had planned with enthusiasm a popular college, saw their influence weakened, and the future of the institution, for which they had sacrificed so much, imperiled in its fundamental character. The Hon. T. C. PETERS, one of the first presidents of the Board of Trustees, who had espoused the cause among its earliest advocates and had labored for its interests in the Legislature, resigned his office on December 6, 1858, from distrust of the influences under which the college had fallen, and from a certain pretentious, extravagant and impractical character which the college building had assumed.

The appropriation of the entire national gift to the People's College can only be regarded as a triumph of legislative manipulation. The college was not organized or equipped, while the State Agricultural College, only twenty miles away was the child of the State, and had been founded by a loan of State funds and in obedience to a popular demand. To pass by this institution, whose work had already begun, but been interrupted by the war, and bestow this splendid endowment upon a college not yet constituted, save prospectively, was an extraordinary proof of the power of a third house in legislation.

As early as 1826, the Hon. James TALMADGE, then lieutenant-governor of the State, in his report as chairman of the committee appointed to inquire into the condition of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, said: "Notwithstanding the liberal endowments made by this State in the support of its various literary institutions, yet great deficiencies exist in supplying the requirements of society, and in the adaptation of the sciences to actual practice in the pursuits of common life. The rapid growth of this State, its multiplied resources, and the industry and enterprise of its citizens, make large demands upon the sciences to aid and co-operate in advancing the general prosperity. It is not sufficient that the sciences connected with agriculture and the mechanic arts should be diligently studied and correctly understood by a few votaries in our literary institutions. It seems very necessary that those sciences essential to the prosperity of manufacturing industry should be especially promoted."

The report proposed that citizens to whom circumstances forbade the opportunities of an academic life, should have the opportunity to study arts as applied to manufacturing industries. A system of lectures in the public schools, having this purpose, would have great advantages. "The moral effect, justly to be anticipated, upon the youth and middle classes of society should also induce to the proposed object. It will diffuse intelligence among a portion of society whose condition has been hitherto almost inaccessible to improvement, and remove that state of ignorance and oppression usually incident to and often urged against mechanical pursuits and manufacturing industries." It was suggested that in the existing colleges, and possibly in certain academies, courses of lectures should be established for the purpose of promoting instruction in agriculture, mechanics and the useful arts.

After various memorials by the State Agricultural Society and reports by legislative committees, a charter was granted for an agricultural college on May 6, 1836. It was proposed to purchase a farm near the city of Albany and erect an agricultural college; but as the funds for the support of such an institution were to be raised by shares in a stock company, the project failed. Later, commissioners from the eight Judicial Districts of the State met to mature a plan for an agricultural college and experimental farm, in obedience to a concurrent resolution of the Legislature, passed April 6, 1849. Their report was presented at the session of the legislature of 1850. After various efforts, in which no result was reached, a charter was granted April 15, 1853, for the New York State Agricultural College. The passage of this act was largely due to the labor of John DELAFIELD and John A. KING, afterwards governor of the State. It was proposed at first to locate the college, which was to be founded by popular subscription, upon the Oakland farm in Fayette, the home of Mr. DELAFIELD. It is interesting to find among the names of the original trustees that of William KELLY, later one of the charter trustees and warmest friends and benefactors of Cornell University. Owing to the death of Mr. DELAFIELD, action in behalf of the new college ceased. After two years delay, the citizens of Ovid, under the inspiring influence of the Rev. Amos BROWN, (January 22, 1855) appointed a committee to petition the Legislature to locate the college in their vicinity, instead of in Fayette. On August 1 of the same year, the citizens of this county met to dedicate the new Ovid Academy and to hear addresses on the proposal to establish the State Agricultural College among them. The citizens pledged themselves to raise $40,000, and asked $200,000 of the Legislature for its endowment. Through the influence of this meeting, the Legislature passed an act March 31, 1856, authorizing a loan to the trustees of the Agricultural College of the sum of $40,000 from the income of the United States deposit fund for the payment of the land and the erection of buildings, a mortgage upon the same being given to secure the repayment without interest twenty years later, on January 1, 1877. It was provided that $40,000 should be raised and applied by the trustees, as a condition precedent to this loan. Later, by an amendment to this act passed May 6, 1863, the grant was made in money from any funds in the treasury, as the deposit fund had failed to supply the sum. Amid all these proceedings we may, perhaps, properly regard the activity and enthusiasm of Principal BROWN as the moving spring. In the Legislature, the Hon. Erastus BROOKS presented the matter before the Senate in a most vigorous and eloquent address. He begged that body to give practical vitality to the first agricultural college in the State and in the Union, adding that there were in this State between twelve and thirteen million acres of unimproved land, the value of which by intelligent and well directed efforts might be quadrupled. While Great Britain supported seventy agricultural schools and colleges, France seventy-five, Prussia thirty-two, Austria thirty-three, and even despotic Russia sixty-eight, in New York there was not one, and in the United States not one. He added, "I feel mortified for my own State and country." The interest in agricultural education which Mr. Brooks had thus manifested in the Senate of the State of New York was exhibited later in his connection with Cornell University, of which he, in company with Mr. KELLY, became one of the charter members. The passage of the act establishing this college was received with great enthusiasm among the people of Central New York. The question of the location of the new college awakened equal interest. Desirable sites were offered on the west shore of Lake Cayuga, the choice of which was supported by the citizens of Ithaca. The people of Seneca county desired its location upon the shores of the lake of that name. The Ithaca people of that day urged as advantages in behalf of a site upon Lake Cayuga the greater variety of soil, finer shores, and the better railroad connections. The citizens of Geneva supported the interests of the rival site on Seneca Lake. Finally a farm of 670 acres was purchased, the cost of which, at sixty-five dollars an acre, amounted to $43,000, more than the entire amount of the State loan. The trustees took possession of the farm April 1, 1857. The Hon. Samuel CHEEVER had been elected president of the college. In December of this year plans were adopted for the college building. In May, 1858, the erection of the south wing was authorized at a cost not exceeding $30,000. The plan of the college contemplated a central building, ninety feet square, four stories high, surmounted by an observatory and towers, and having a north and south wing. The corner stone was not laid until July 7, 1859. The building progressed rapidly, but could not be completed until the autumn of the following year. On the 14th of November, 1860, a notice was published in the issue of the local paper which contained the news of the election of Abraham LINCOLN, that the college would be open December 5, 1860. Major M. R. PATRICK was president of the faculty; William H. BREWER, now of the Sheffield Scientific School, was professor of agricultural chemistry and botany; Rev. Dr. George KERR, of Franklin, professor of philosophy and astronomy; and Messrs. KIMBALL and MITCHELL professors of chemistry and mathematics respectively. In the three years' course of study proposed, the languages were omitted, and the students at graduation were expected to be familiar with all details of a farmer's work, embracing the scientific knowledge of agriculture, landscape gardening, veterinary science, stock breeding, garden husbandry, plants and grasses, soils, etc. The popular excitement, destined to culminate in the Civil War was so great that students entering the college were but few in number. Soon after the fall of Sumter, the president, a graduate of West Point and a soldier of the Mexican and Florida Wars, was summoned to Albany to assist in organizing the volunteers and preparing them for service. The Southern students who were members of the college returned home; others enlisted, and the college came to an end. It was expected that it would soon reopen, but in March, 1862, it was officially announced that the college doors were closed for the present. Portions of the college domain, which were not covered by the mortgage to the State, were attached by the sheriff and sold. The unfortunate circumstances which had attended the opening of the college, together with its embarrassed financial condition, gave no hope of success in an effort to secure from the State a grant of the land bestowed by Congress for technical and liberal education. In January, 1866, the Willard Asylum for the insane was established on the site of what it had been proposed should be the first agricultural college of the State.

History of Cornell - Chapter IV

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