Excerpts dealing with the period from the school's chartering in 1852 to the exclusion of male residential students in 1866, from various accounts of Shimer College. Paragraphs are kept intact.
This list is in reverse chronological order by date of publication. The dates of McKee (1928) and Nicholson (c. 1973) are approximate.
More informative ways of organizing these excerpts are left as an exercise to the reader.
- Doris Malkmus' 2003 article is omitted, since including it would require blockquoting virtually the entire text, violating any reasonable definition of "fair use".
- Jencks & Riesman's 1966 profile of Shimer is omitted because the relevant section was dropped from the version published in Phi Delta Kappan, leaving less than a complete sentence in a footnote. (The full version of the profile was to have appeared in a second volume of The Academic Revolution; this second volume was never published.)
- The 1944 Survey and 1963 Time article contain no more than 1 sentence dealing with this period.
Shimer College traces its origins back to 1852. In that year, residents of the small town of Mount Carroll in northwestern Illinois, which had no public schools at the time, sought to provide education for the local citizenry. Influential citizens successfully led an effort to persuade the Illinois state legislature to incorporate the Mount Carroll Seminary, which officially opened on May 11, 1853 in the town‘s Presbyterian Church. Two young women, Frances Ann Wood and Cinderella Gregory, were invited to relocate from New York State to operate the school. In October 1854, the Seminary relocated to a building that had been erected on what would soon become its campus on the south side of Mount Carroll. The Board of the Seminary then offered to sell the property to Wood and Gregory, who accepted the proposal and thus became full owners.
From 1853 until 1896, the Mount Carroll Seminary operated under the direction of Frances Ann Wood, who married Henry Shimer in 1857. From its inception, the school was coeducational, although during the latter part of the 19th century, girls outnumbered boys by a significant margin. Beginning in 1866, shortage of space led the seminary to accept only female resident students. While non-resident male students occasionally attended after that date, the seminary became noted as a women‘s school. In the 19th century, women rarely received formal education, and few institutions granted women access to higher education. Mount Carroll Seminary was therefore historically significant.
"America's Great Books Colleges and Their Curious Histories of Success, Struggle, and Failure", Kent Thomas Cubbage, p. 34:
Shimer College was founded in 1853 by two feminists, Frances Wood Shimer and Cinderella Gregory, on a large, scenic, semi-rural parcel of land in Mount Carroll, Illinois. It became a prominent women’s school (Mt. Carroll Seminary) and operated for nearly one hundred years in various incarnations before its shift to the Great Books. Shimer College was moved to Waukegan, Illinois in 1977 in an attempt to alleviate a series of problems it was experiencing. It was moved recently from Waukegan to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in downtown Chicago.
"Changing Images at Shimer College", Ned Crankshaw:
Originally chartered by the Illinois General Assembly as the Mount Carroll Seminary in 1852, Shimer College was incorporated by a group of local citizens as a coeducational day school. Illinois Representative William T. Miller of Carroll County wrote to Isaac Nash—a Saratoga County, New York, businessman— in search of teachers. Nash recommended Frances Wood—his sister-inlaw— and Cinderella M. Gregory, who were hired as the seminary's first teachers. At first, school was held on the second floor of the Ashway Building in downtown Mount Carroll, but by 1854 construction began on a school building on the south edge of town. The brick building was 42 by 46 feet, two and a half stories high, with a full basement.
A series of additions was made to the original building. Period engravings and maps depict the growth of the building complex (figures 1, 2, and 3). Shimer (Frances Wood married Dr. Henry Shimer in 1857) carried out much of the design, financing, and construction supervision for the building complex. She designed an 1857 addition to the original building and supervised the day laborers and craftsmen who built it. Shimer then designed and supervised construction of the northeast addition from 1865 to 1867. She contracted to have lumber floated down the Mississippi River from Minnesota, had the wood sawed and planed to dimensions in Savanna, Illinois, and had it brought by rail to Mount Carroll. Shimer also directed the quarrying of rock for the basement and foundation. Although pictorial representations of the seminary campus depict a stylized landscape, by 1857 the seminary had "increased its domain there to twenty-five acres. These grounds were enclosed by a substantial fencing and planted with trees, shrubs, vines, etc., until it has become a garden of beauty, as well as an ornament, not only to the seminary, but to the town in which it is located."
"Big Ideas", Harold Henderson, Chicago Reader:
In 1852, Mount Carroll, Illinois, was a pioneer village huddled around a gristmill. Few towns in the state had any kind of schools, not even public grade schools, but this town's boosters got the Illinois General Assembly to incorporate a Mount Carroll Seminary. Once the institution existed on paper, all the locals had to provide were land, money, buildings, and teachers.[....]
They imported the teachers through a bit of 19th-century networking: local attorney John Wilson wrote to Isaac Nash, a friend in rural New York State, to ask whether Nash's wife's younger sister, Frances Wood, would be interested. Wood, an orphan, had worked her way through New York Normal School and was teaching in the town of Milton, New York. Letters from an older brother about the 1849 California gold rush had whetted her appetite for western adventure, and that spring (1853), Frances and her classmate and friend Cindarella Gregory set out for the northwestern Illinois frontier.
Frontier it was; the railroad ended at Janesville, Wisconsin, and the young women spent two full days traveling the last 90 miles by horse-drawn wagon. They spent much of the time stuck in apparently bottomless mud. On May 11, three days after their arrival in Mount Carroll, they began classes with 11 pupils in the Presbyterian church.
"The morning was cold and dismal," according to one account written 30 years later, "and all day long the rain fell drearily on the roof, penetrating the weather beaten boards and leaving long lines of wet upon the floor." The school that was to become Shimer College was open for business, and no minor detail like the lack of an adequate building was going to hold it up.
Shimer's recurrent financial story--great expectations to be fulfilled (if at all) only by hope, hard work, and heavy borrowing--took shape early. In 1853, the incorporators of the Mount Carroll Seminary convinced 83 people to sign up for shares totaling $2,000, a goodly sum for that time and place--but only six paid in full, and the board wound up with less than $14,000 for land and buildings. With borrowed money and help from the land sellers, in 1854 they started to build a two-and-a-half-story brick building anyway.
They sent Wood back east to buy the needed furniture wholesale. Then, according to the college's centennial history, she returned to Milton and "engaged women and children to pick great quantities of fruit, which she dried and canned, as fruit was not to be had in the pioneer settlement of Mount Carroll." How do you ship hundreds of glass jars over the rutted roads of Illinois? "She also had a big supply of bedding made up and pillows from old feather-beds. These she packed around the fruit jars and shipped back to the school."
That fall 75 pupils came to the new building. But by the spring of 1855 the school's finances had so discouraged the board that they offered to sell the seminary to its two faculty members at a good price, if they would promise to run it for at least ten more years. Wood and Gregory dug deep, borrowed, and bought. "It required the most exact skill in finances to meet obligations," according to a eulogy delivered after Frances's death in 1901. "In the purchase of household supplies in large quantities a very trifling difference in price was a matter of so great importance that a single transaction might turn the scale for ultimate failure or success, and, to those who did not know the facts, might seem unnecessary economy."
Austerity did not make Wood and Gregory compromise what were, for the 1850s, some fairly radical principles. The seminary's first publication stated flatly, "As we claim the female mind is susceptible of the same cultivation as the male, and that there is equal demand for it, the same graduating course is prescribed for both. . . . The time devoted to each study is not specified as students will be advanced from class to class according to their progress."
This egalitarianism and flexibility apparently didn't hurt enrollment, because the seminary was in the midst of another physical expansion when the financial panic of 1857 brought all construction to a halt. In order to get the unfinished additional rooms in shape for the looming fall term, "Miss Wood did the work of two men, helped handle brick, laid floors, bought glass, paint and paper at wholesale, glazed forty windows, painted the building inside and the trim, except for the cornice, outside. She also papered and repainted most of the rooms in the main building. When the opening day arrived all was ready."
That December Frances Wood married Henry Shimer, a local naturalist, stonemason, and teacher. It has become one of Shimer College's most popular if least verified legends that it was to some degree a marriage of convenience; certainly it was unusual for its time. Apparently Shimer had worked on either the 1854 building or the 1857 addition or both, and the seminary owed him money it couldn't pay. In the words of Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, writing in Phi Delta Kappan for April 1966, "Perhaps in obedience to an imperative which few of today's idealistic and sincere Shimer undergraduates would understand, she married her creditor and became Mrs. Frances Shimer." Present-day Shimerites enjoy retelling this story, but no one seems to have evidence of its truth.
In any event, the marriage did not terminate Frances Wood's schoolteaching career, as marriage would have for most 19th-century women schoolteachers. Henry Shimer, who became a doctor, served the seminary on occasion as resident physician and natural science instructor, but mostly he pursued his own interests and was not a partner in the enterprise.
In 1866, crowding forced the school to go all-female, except for the occasional male day student--a matter of convenience rather than principle. In 1895, when the seminary's literary magazine Oread published a selection of "kind words from former students"--some of them men--the editors slyly explained "that the institution was for both sexes in its earlier days, and that young men were then fitted for college."
"Shimer College Presidency", Patrick Moorhead:
With the population growth in the northwest section of Illinois, it became more apparent that there was a critical need for education, especially educational programs that would offer opportunities beyond the elementary school level. Wilson feit strongly about this issue, and he was one of several individuals who encouraged the passage of a bill incorporating the Mount Carroll Seminary. Once the school was established on paper, there developed an immediate need for a teacher to staff and coordinate the educational program for the children. Wilson had, over the years, been communicating with the Nash family with whom Frances had been staying. Mrs. Nash was the older sister of Frances. Wilson was aware that Frances had been taking courses at the Normal school, and he wrote to invite her to come out to Illinois and teach.
Prior to this time, Frances had been periodically receiving letters from her brother, Talmadge, who had gone to Missouri. His letters were full of enthusiasm, and thepicture he portrayed of life on the new frontier was a very exciting one. Wilson's invitation, therefore, was all that Frances needed to convince her to set out for Illinois and take up a new role. Miss Cinderella Gregory, a friend of Frances and also a resident in the Nash household, agreed to go along with Frances. No sooner had Wood and Gregory arrived in Mount Carroll than school was opened on May 11, 1853, to educate eleven young female pupils. The initial facility, which was temporary, was located in the Presbyterian Church. Six weeks later the school moved to better equipped and more comfortable surroundings in the only brick building in town. The enrollment grew rapidly to forty students by the close of the term. Because of demand, a boys' division was opened on the third floor of the building the following term.
The growth of the Mount Carroll Seminary under Frances Wood. Within a short period of time, both Wood and Gregory came to realize that more physical space was necessary in order to meet the growing demand for the edu cation offered at the Seminary. They, as well as the Board of Trustees of the Seminary, agreed that a more permanent location would be in the best interest of the school. The residents of the Mount Carroll area were both excited and supportive of the idea of having a new facility to house the Seminary, and many volunteered to purchase shares of 39stock in the proposed Seminary Corporation in order to help underwrite the cost of constructing the new school building. The price was set at $5.00 per share. Initially, there was a great flurry of activity and interest when the stock became available, but eventually only 548 shares were sold or guaranteed by pledges. When it came time for those who had pledged to pay for the stock which they had purchased, several decided they were no longer interested in the investment. The cash realized from the stock sale was considerably less than had been anticipated.
Miss Wood, in the meantime, had been searching for property on which to locate her school. Five acres of land were purchased from the prominent Mount Carroll residents, Mr. Halderman and Mr. Rinewalt, in exchange for 500 shares of Seminary stock. Miss Wood immediately contracted for the construction of a building with dimensions of 42 feet by 46 feet to house 20 rooms. The site of the purchase was flat open prairie.
Miss Wood traveled to New York while the building was still being completed. She had been issued $2,000 by the Board of Trustees to be used for the purchase of fumishings. In addition to the fumiture she had managed to buy, she also brought back sheets, linens, and food supplies.
Some investors who had purchased shares of stock began to realize that they would not be receiving any dividends from their Investment, and they wanted to dissolve their relationships with the Seminary. At the same time, members of the Board of Trustees were becoming discouraged at the increasing expenses connected with the Seminary, and they finally agreed to seil the school to Miss Wood. The agreement called for Wood and Gregory to purchase the Seminary for the original construction price of $4,500. The Board agreed to donate both land and furnishings provided that the two ladies would stay on for a period of ten years as Principals of the school. Miss Wood used inheritance money from her father, as well as private backing from interested Eastem investors, to purchase the Mount Carroll Seminary. She later purchased another 20 acres of land adjoining the campus. A new charter was issued in 1855 by the State of Illinois showing ownership as vested in the two women as proprietors of the Corporation.
Shortly after they assumed ownership of the Seminary, another additicn to the facility was planned. In 1857, however, the country was shaken by a rather severe financial panic, and construction of the new building was forced to a standstill. Pressed by the commitment for space by the opening of the Fall term, Miss Wood literally took up the tools and completed the remainder of the work herseif from cement and brick work to painting. She was the architect, engineer, and interior designer.
In December of 1857, Frances Wood became the bride of Henry Shimer. She had first met him briefly when he worked as a stonemason on the construction of the original seminary building in 1854. She later came to know him socially through her association in Mount Carroll church circles. Henry Shimer came to Illinois from Chester County in Pennsylvania where he had first learned the trade of stonemason. The money earned from his construction work paid for his medical education, as well as his master's degree from the University of Chicago. He was a doctor as well as a naturalist, and while he did teach on the Seminary faculty and worked as a medical resource person in the area and for the school, he developed quite a reputation as a taxidermist.
The circumstances surrounding the engagement and marriage of Dr. Shimer and Frances Wood are subject to much discussion. Palmer (1933) remembers the efforts of Miss Wood to raise money for expenses at the school and, in bargaining with Dr. Shimer over the debt of the school, agreed to marry him providing that he would assume responsibility for the outstanding debt of the Seminary. An alumna (Jacobsen, 1937), reflected on the evening when, during the course of some routine entertainment, and without prior announcement, Dr. Shimer and Wood came into the room and were married in front of the group. Another reference to the somewhat mysterious circumstances surrounding the marriage is mentioned by Jencks and Riesman (1966) which cites the idealism of Miss Wood as the tool which gave her the strength to marry her creditor and become Mrs. Henry Shimer.
Dr. and Mrs. Shimer enjoyed the company of one another, but their interests remained separate. Mrs. Shimer devoted herseif, almost exclusively, to the running of the school. Dr. Shimer, a quiet retiring individual, pursued his hobby as a naturalist, as well as his medical work. The Shimers remained married until July 28, 1895, when Dr. Shimer took his life with a gun.
The Civil War years were significant in the history of the Seminary because it was during this period that the school had its first major change in identity. When the war began, many of the young men who were in attendance at the Seminary joined ranks with the military. The girls stayed behind supporting the war effort by making uniforms, flags, and other useful items. The number of female applicants to the school increased while the number of male applicants decreased markedly. In 1866, a decision was made by Mrs. Shimer to restrict the enrollment to female students.
1977-1978 Catalog, Shimer College, p. 23:
Founded in 1853 by Frances Ann Wood, who later became Mrs. Frances Wood Shimer, the College began as the Mount Carroll Seminary, enrolling both men and women students in its first years. At the close of the Civil War, however, enrollment was limited to women students.
"Phoenix Fly", Eric Nicholson:
They started up a school here back in Eighteen Fifty-three.
They'd been to Normal school together back in Albany.
Frances Ann had started reading when she was only three,
She would have been a doctor if they'd only let her be.
Some folks took out subscriptions and downstate they passed a law.
Six thousand dollars promised: one was all they ever saw.
Carroll County Seminary was chartered for a fall
'till the Misses Wood and Gregory agreed to do it all.
With money borrowed from Isaac Nash, a five acre field
and a building furnished with a debt they decided not to yeild
to doubts about the future. With faith in God, their shield,
they set about determined that His word should be revealed.
Miss Gregory taught the classes and Miss Wood, she kept the books.
She planted trees and gardens beneath their neighbors' scoffing looks,
working in the kitchen trying to find some decent cooks
till it seemed like Eden bloomed again from all the pains they took!
They brought the first piano Carroll County'd ever seen.
They read Plato, Watts and Shakespeare by the Waukarusha's stream.
In society neosophical they discussed what it all could mean.
They couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't all a dream.
They awoke to find the South seceding-- the country at civil war.
Realizing things could never be quite like they'd been before
they read in all the papers about the blood, the death and gore
and wondered who they'd see again and who never more.
Cindarella Gregory, of Naples, Ontario County, New York, a Normal School classmate and friend, who was teaching in Milton and boarding at the Nash home, was urged to join Frances in this undertaking. After corresponding with incorporator, John Wilson, H.G. Grattan and others, the two young women were persuaded to go west in the spring of 1853 and start the school.
Frances Ann was then a slender, dark-haired girl of 26, Cindarella a dignified but sprightly young woman of shorter, slighter build. Frances had shown the symptoms of TB, so, when the invitation to come west arrived, her family thought a change of climate might do her good. Her body may have been frail, but her subsequent activities proved that she had the heart of a lioness, ready to spring into action with singular directness of purpose, force and strategy in pursuit of her aims. As years passed she developed into a woman of heroic mould.
Confidential letters to Sister Caroline from "Frank" and "Cindy," telling of the intrepid school ma'ams' westward journey and early struggles are most revealing. They went by train from Milton to Chicago, thence by lake-boat to Milwaukee, by train again to Janesville, where rail service ended, then toiled on by horse-driven vehicles.
On May 6, having been delayed by a storm, they set out from Janesville in a "spring wagon" over muddy, deeply rutted roads to reach the little hamlet of Mount Carroll, ninety miles farther west, a place nobody along their route had even so much as heard of until they stopped overnight in Cherry Grove, a neighboring settlement.
All along the way they were plagued by wind and rain as they jostled along roads "perfectly awful, almost impassable in places." The lumbering stages "met with accident almost hourly," wrote Frances, "two or three stuck in the mud, passengers being obliged to leave them, one stuck there all night and is there yet for aught I know. Several were upset and passengers bruised, scratched and frightened most to death ... Well, we had as fine a team and good driver as could be scart up, but ... first one whiffletree broke, the driver went back and got another ... that time we were completely slewed. Cinda and I got out and walked a rail out on to solid footing, the horses gave another pull and broke a tug ... men unloaded the baggage, whole kit and cargo! The horses tried again, broke another tug ... Meanwhile it was raining, so Cinda and I took our umbrella and started along on foot ... after about two hours we were snugly loaded up and on our way again ... Sunday morning (May 8) we drove into town and put up at the American Hotel. Isaac (who had accompanied them) called on Mr. Wilson ... who invited us to his house till we should get a boarding place, which we did the next day."
Once settled there, things, began to move. The cooperation of the townspeople was made manifest. "Squire Goss" took them out "prospecting for to admire the beauties of the town and give our opinion about the site for the Seminary buildings ... the books are open for subscription ... something over three hundred shares were taken in one day ... there is considerable excitement ... there seems no doubt that the enterprise will succeed, and even exceed our most sanguine expectations."
The "books opened" were those of the corporation whose Board of Trustees included the Presbyterian minister, Rev. C. Gray, president, John Wilson, secretary, Leonard Goss, treasurer, Hon. David Emmert, Nathaniel Halderman, Dr. B.P. Miller, James Hallett, James Farguson and Rev. John Irvine.
On May 11, three days after their arrival, the teachers opened their school in the Presbyterian Church. In six weeks it was moved to more commodious quarters on the second floor of the only brick building in town, which the trustees had renovated, and partitioned off, installing blackboards, chairs and tables.
On the opening day only eleven pupils appeared, but by the end of the term forty had enrolled. The following year they opened a boys' department on the third floor of this building with Miss Ransom as teacher.
Meanwhile the incorporators took stock in their venture, sold shares at five dollars each to their fellow townsmen and started looking for a place to build. Eighty-three people subscribed 548 shares representing a value of $2,000. However, as faith in their investment waned, only six of the eighty-three paid in full, others paid in part, some settled by notes, most never paid. With less than $1,000 with which to finance the purchase of land and the erection of a building the Board was faced with a serious dilemma.
In spite of this discouraging outlook, stout-hearted Frances writes, "We number but twenty-five as yet, but we are just commencing, its a new thing." "I don't care if we only pay our way for a time, if we can ultimately have a school that will be appreciated." Fannie Bartholomew Bailey, one of the first eleven pupils, comments, "Then was first displayed that perseverence and energy, that courage to combat difficulties, that has ever characterized the work of the Principal, Mrs. F.A. Wood Shimer."
When it came to selecting a site for the school, differences of opinion developed. To further complicate matters, whenever a trustee showed interest in any location, there the price of real estate went up immediately. Misses Wood and Gregory, though urged to do so, hesitated to express a preference for any one location, not wishing to antagonize any of the Board. They knew Trustee Irvine did not share their preference. But before the day of decision they won over Mrs. Irvine to their way of thinking and Frances writes, "having her on our side, of course Mr. Irvine came around all right."
One day Trustee Wilson drove them to Savanna on the Mississippi, ten miles west. On this excursion Miss Wood divulged her bright idea of buying a desirable piece of property in Savanna owned by her brother-in-law. Then, should the Mount Carroll landowners become too grasping, by the mere threat of transferring the whole project to the rival town, these Mount Carroll folk might be brought to terms.
Negotiations to purchase the property were begun, "even if I never go near it" she writes. The townsfolk, as well as the Board, getting wind of these proceedings, were much perturbed. Board members felt they should have been consulted, that the women had not been properly communicative. Throughout her career, Frances Wood kept her own counsel until the strategic moment to speak out.
The following Monday she was taken around to view the six or eight sites under consideration in Mount Carroll. An eminence south of the village was the first choice of the two ladies. The Board, learning of their preference and reasons for it, decided unanimously on that location. There the school stands today.
Here five acres were purchased from Messrs. Halderman and Rinewalt with four years to pay. These public-spirited gentlemen, in turn, took $500 worth of stock in the Seminary corporation.
The Board of Trustees now organized the Seminary under the charter granted by the state and contracted for the services of Misses Wood and Gregory at the princely stipend of $300 a year each, plus room and board. They also contracted for the erection of a brick building of two and a half stories, 42 x 46 ft., that would provide twenty rooms, the contract price $4,500.
Miss Wood was soon absorbed in drawing plans for this structure and worked in close collaboration with the architect, whose ultimate plans embodied many of her ideas and suggestions. The Trustees, however, were stymied for lack of funds and were obliged to borrow in order to get their building finished and furnished.
In the summer of 1854, while the building was under construction, Miss Wood went east with $2,000 provided by the Board, to buy furnishings and provisions. Accompanied by her hometown furniture dealer, she went to Albany and purchased all needed furniture at wholesale. Returning to Milton she engaged women and children to pick great quantities of fruit, which she dried and canned, as fruit was not to be had in the pioneer settlement of Mount Carroll. She also had a big supply of bedding made up and pillows from old feather-beds. These she packed around the fruit jars and shipped back to the school.
On October 24, 1854, the school moved into the new building with twenty-five boarders and twice as many day pupils, and was formally organized as Mount Carroll Seminary under the control of a reorganized Board of Trustees. Both young men and young women were received, and Misses Wood and Gregory retained as principals.
Harassed by the many details to be attended to, some of the Board favored "giving the whole concern into our hands to manage entirely ourselves," Miss Wood writes home. "I think they will all agree to do so, but I don't know as I crave so great responsibility, though I do think we could perhaps do better and effect more than by any other management." She continues, "I feel more than ever that this is a better place for us than east, not as regards gain in dollars and cents (for I know we are not getting rich here) but there is such an ample field for labor, and now, if I know my own heart, my desire is to do some good in the world." ... "You know, sister, my whole ambition has been to do something smart, as I called it, to win honors in some shape, but I trust I have done with such ambition."
From then on Miss Wood carried on with supreme consecration to the task of making the Seminary a center of learning where young men and women could receive intellectual discipline, spiritual inspiration and cultural advantages of a high order. She sought the best teachers available, for the Board had authorized the joint principals to select their own teaching staff and household workers, as well as to furnish the new building "from attic to cellar."
In those days Mount Carroll Seminary offered a variety of courses, covering six years of study. These were the Primary, Advanced, Teachers' and Collegiate Courses. Later the Primary became the Preparatory Course and Advanced became the Academic Course. In the first printed "Register and Circular" Miss Wood states, "As we claim the female mind is susceptible of the same cultivation as the male, and that there is equal demand for it, the same graduating course is prescribed for both. Their minds will be trained to vigorous thought, enlarged views and practical efficiency ... The time devoted to each study is not specified as students will be advanced from class to class according to their progress."
Not only intellect, but character was to be trained. Along with books, music and art were studied, ideals of sincerity, thoroughness, purpose and self-reliance were instilled.
In addition to doing her share of the teaching, Miss Wood kept the accounts, toiling over them far into the night She writes, "Here are no less than eight great account books standing in my writing desk in solemn array right before me waiting with impatience my attention. They must be posted and ready to submit to the Board next Monday ... bills for the quarter scarcely straight ... next week I must commence making bills for this quarter ... As soon as I am out of school I have to go to the Library, seat myself at my desk, pen in hand, till midnight, and not infrequently writing from five to ten letters besides accounts, bills, etc in one evening." While serving thus as bookkeeper and treasurer she often allowed herself only four hours of sleep a night, while Miss Gregory carried the heavy end of the educational work and was the disciplinarian. The students dreaded her displeasure expressed by a "withering look."
Six months after transferring to permanent quarters, the Board, profoundly discouraged because of the school's financial plight, offered the property to Misses Wood and Gregory for the contract price of the building, $4500, proposing to donate the five-acre site, as well as the furniture if the ladies would agree to continue the school for ten years. The offer was accepted. To validate the transfer a new charter, vesting all rights in the two principals, was obtained from the Legislature. With a small legacy from the estate of Miss Wood's father and financial help from eastern backers, the two women took over full proprietorship in the struggling, young institution. And it was only by dint of hard work in schoolroom and office, most careful management and attention to detail, plus complete dedication to the task, that the two young proprietors were able to win through.
Miss Wood personally supervised the landscaping and planting of the campus. Twenty additional acres, adjoining the original five, were acquired and the entire rectangular tract planted for both use and for beauty. A line of evergreens was set along the rim of the grounds that stood for years, tall and straight, like sentinels. Within that line were set at intervals maples and other deciduous trees that have become towering giants, every autumn glorious to behold. Between these lines of bordering trees 30,000 osage orange plants were set to form a hedge enclosing the campus. An arbor vitae hedge, put in years later, lined the entrance driveway on either side.
With the help of an inexperienced boy Miss Wood set out 2,000 evergreens comprizing 15 varieties, 600 deciduous trees of 60 varieties, 1,000 apple trees, 400 pear trees, 300 cherries, 25 crabapples, 1500 grape-vines, beside quantities of small fruit. Every vegetable that flourishes in the Illinois climate was grown in the kitchen garden.
Beside dotting the campus with beautiful trees she set out many kinds of roses, ornamental shrubs and flowering plants. Later she bought acreage, some distance from the school, on which to grow additional food supplies and develop a nursery. It is said she once worked out all day in a drenching rain to plant orchard trees delayed in transit, fearing they might die unless gotten into the ground as soon as possible.
Scarcely was the permanent building occupied before it became apparent that more room would soon be needed. Two wings were planned, one to the south, soon to be added, the other an ell to be attached to the northeast corner of the first structure, and built later.
In 1857, in the midst of the second building project, a financial panic struck the country. Business and industry were paralyzed with fear and distrust. Workmen, uncertain of their pay, laid down their tools. With only the masonry and carpentry about completed, the work of the building came to a standstill. Yet rooms in the new wing had been engaged for the fall term and the opening date was near at hand. Undaunted, Miss Wood did the work of two men, helped handle brick, laid floors, bought glass, paint and paper at wholesale, glazed forty windows, painted the building inside and the trim, except for the cornice, outside. She also papered and repainted most of the rooms in the main building. When the opening day arrived all was ready.
This manual labor was in addition to her bookkeeping, correspondence, employment of teachers, laying in of supplies of food and fuel, installing of furnishings in the new wing, supervising the work of others and oversight over grounds and gardens.
Her clock struck twelve when in 1876 bids for the construction of the second or east wing were so much in excess of the school's ability to pay, while the need for expansion was so urgent, that Mrs. Shimer turned architect and building superintendent, had stone quarried, timber cut, lumber sawed and brick made from land she owned or purchased, with machinery she bought and by men she employed. She supervised the details of construction, heating, ventilating, plumbing, and lighting, and completed the building at a cost much less than the lowest bid. One must exclaim, "What a woman!"
As one contemplates the prodigious labors and shrewd management that crowned with success the career of Mrs. Shimer one is reminded of the saying, "Never underestimate the power of a woman." Her ingenuity and resourcefulness seemed equal to every emergency. Every obstacle was a challenge, every crisis an opportunity that called out her reserves.
In December, 1857, Frances A. Wood had married Henry Shimer, a naturalist, whom she had come to know in Mt. Carroll's church circles, where he was an active leader. When young, back in Pennsylvania, he had learned the trade of a stone mason, had then taught school, and came west through the influence of his home-town pastor who had gone out to Mt. Carroll as the Baptist minister. Henry Shimer had helped to construct the original Seminary building. A few years later he graduated from the Chicago Medical College and took an M.A. degree from Chicago University. He afterward spent two winters attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Bellevue Hospital Medical School in New York and attended Bellevue Hospital Clinics; later spent one winter studying at the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson College Medical School in Philadelphia. He became a learned scientist and expert taxidermist, many of his specimen and collections going to the Smithsonian Institution and to the Chicago and St. Louis Academies of Science. Hence he was a real acquisition to the faculty of the Seminary and also served as resident physician with a wide country practice.
During the dark days of the Civil War most of the young men students joined the army -- the young recruits drilling on a vacant square across the street from the school. The young ladies, no less patriotic, made uniforms for their soldier school-mates, as well as beautiful flags for the companies that went from Mount Carroll.
By 1866 crowded conditions caused the elimination of young men students. The next year the school housed 100 boarders and many day pupils.
1950-1951 Catalog, Shimer College, p. 13:
Ninety-seven years ago, when American education was stilll designed primarily for men, Frances Ann Wood received a call to establish a school in the modest-sized Illinois community of Mount Carroll. With Cinderella Gregory she left her home in New York State and May 11, 1853, the young pioneers in the education of women opened the Mount Carroll Seminary.
Frances Wood, later Mrs. Frances Wood Shimer. administered the Seminary herself for forty-three years. Miss Gregory having resigned in 1870. In 1896, by her own wish, Mrs. Shimer transferred control to a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees of fifteen members representing the University of Chicago, the alumnae of the Seminary, and the citizens of Mount Carroll. Ten members of the Board of Trustees are members of Baptist churches.
"Ninety-Three Years Speak Out", p. 3:
In 1852 a young woman named Frances Wood came to Mount Carroll, Illinois, from upper New York State. She came in response to a letter sent to her brother asking if he knew of any virtuous young woman with sufficient spirit and education to undertake the task of starting a seminary in a pioneer community that wanted to maintain its cultural interests. Frances had the enterprise and the learning; she also had what her doctors called consumption. With her friend, Cinderella Gregory, these two unmarried women in their mid-twenties came to the new West, travelling most of the way by stage over deeply rutted roads.
On May 11, 1853, Mount Carroll Seminary started classes in the basement of a church. By the next autumn land had been purchased on a wooded hill at the edge of town; a building had been erected; a board of trustees elected; twenty-five boarding students and fifty day students, both boys and girls, had been admitted. Five years later the Seminary received a gift of five additional acres. And Miss Wood acquired a husband, Dr. Henry Shimer, who came as lecturer in natural history and remained to the end of his days as advisor, teacher, physician to the school.
By the end of the Civil War the student body had outgrown the several buildings. Mrs. Shimer had to make a difficult decision as to who should be admitted. She decided to turn the school exclusively toward the education of girls. This step was another pioneering venture, for in 1870 there were in these United States only a few schools devoted to the education of women. Mrs. Shimer then supervised the curriculum herself, as she did the development of the gardens, the orchard, the stables and everything else connected with her Seminary. She wanted the best of everything; no substitutes. She was willing to pay and quick to demand.
In the meantime, Judge Wilson, a friend of the family, had gone west, and in correspondence with Mr Nash, her brother-in-law, referred to the lack of educational facilites in the New West and to the opportunity open in Mt. Carroll, where he had taken up his residence. Miss Wood, together with her class-mate, Miss Cinderella Gregory, decided that her opportunity was in this New West. They were not daunted by the hardships and inconvenience they must suffer as pioneers in a sparsely settle country. Hardships of the journey are told in her first letters written home. There were no autos at that time and no railroad nearer than Janesville, Wisconsin, from which point the journey had to be made ina spring wagon through the deep mud of early spring.
They reached Mt. Carroll in the spring of 1853 with $25 in money, and opened their school on the 11th day of May in a room in the second story of a building which stood on the site now occupied by the Glen View Hotel. they closed the term with thirty. The principals, Miss Wood and Miss Gregory, had visions of a permanent school, so during the summer of 1853 a stock company was formed, money subscribed and five acres of ground, included in our present campus, were bought and a building was erected and occupied in the fall of 1854. Both boys and girls were admitted The building operations proved expensive and the operating and maintenance expenses so high that before long the stockholders were faced with interest coupons instead of dividends. The trustees became discouraged, and after many negotiations, sold the property to the principals. They had no money, so gave their note bearing interest at 10%. This was eventually paid by money that Mrs. Shimer inherited from her father.
The school met a real need. There were no educational opportunities in this part of Illinois beyond the training offered in the public elementary school. The course of study in Mt. Carroll Seminary was modelled after those int he Latin schools and academies in the East. It included in addition to the elementary work, courses in Greek, Latin, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, English Literature, Moral Science, Intellectual Philosophy, Butler's Analogy, Evidence of Christianity. There was an interesting system of examinations; they were conducted in public before a committee consisting (in 1862) of 16 men. (Here see catalog pages 30-31) Granted degree; Laureate of Art. The first class was graduated in 1862. The commencement address was delivered by Prof. Mixer of the University of Chicago. Principal commended. In addition to the literary courses, the Schoo offered advantages in Music and Art (including making wax and hair flowers)! Good teachers were brought from the New England Conservatory. The music department became well known throughout the West. Mrs. Shimer brought the first piano to Carroll County. She offered a Normal Course that trained efficient teachers for all this section of the country. The School providing a home for students and eary gaining a reputation for thoroughness and high standards of work, drew a patronage over a wide area. The growth of the School called for additions to the building in 1857, 1866, 1867 and finally in 1876 East Hall was erected, which practically doubled the capacity. In 1866 the crowded condition led them to the decision to exclude boys and make the school a "seminary for young ladies."
History of Carroll County, Charles Linnaeus Hostetter, pp. 644-645:
No sketch of our little city would be complete without reference to the Mount Carroll Seminary, that seat of learning widely known in educational circles. The charter of this institution was obtained in 1852 by William T. Miller, the then representative, and some attempts were made to organize a school, which at first were not very successful.
On the eleventh day of May, 1853, Miss F. A. Wood and Miss C. M. Gregory came to Mount Carroll and opened a select school in the second story of what was known as the Ashway building, located where the Glenview Hotel is now; nominally under the auspices of the Seminary charter, but really independent of the board, as they made their arrangements, provided the school room, paid all the expenses. The first term opened with eleven pupils and closed with forty. This select school was carried on in the downtown building about one year and a half.
During the spring and summer of 1854, the Seminary building was erected by the corporation ; raising some of the money by stock subscription, and incurring an indebtedness for the balance. The building was, however, erected on credit, at a cost including five hundred dollars for five acres of ground, of forty-five hundred dollars. At that time the surrounding lands were worth ten dollars per acre. The building of the Seminary however, largely increased the value of adjacent lands, especially those between the Seminary site and the town plat.
ln 1854 the school was removed from the Ashway building to the new Seminary building and formally organized under its charter. Misses Wood and Gregory were employed on salaries. At the end of six months it became evident that a new and financial administration of its affairs was necessary. Expenses exceeded income. The stock subscribers became dissatisfied and the corporation began to devise ways to get out of the enterprise. Finally an arrangement was made by which the two ladies agreed to take the school into their own hands. They were to pay the forty-five hundred dollars the cost of the building; the trustees donated the furniture, on condition that the school should be maintained at least ten years. Rinewalt and Halderman donated the five hundred dollars for the grounds, or rather surrendered their mortgage for that amount. Afterwards claims for money borrowed on the work were presented for about twelve hundred dollars. These Misses Wood and Gregory finally assumed and were released from the ten year obligations which they had entered into. They thus paid the entire cost of the institution, except the five acre donation of the grounds.
The school gradually increased until 1857; then additional buildings were erected, to accomodate its growing patronage. Before this young gentleman had been admitted to the school as well as girls and young ladies. In 1865 additional buildings were erected with the intention of again admitting boys and young men. Now the largest addition of all is being completed with good prospects of being filled for the coming school year by girls and young ladies alone.
After graduating from the Normal, she taught until symptoms of consumption made it necessary to seek a change of climate. An acquaintance, in correspondence, had alluded to the lack of educational facilities in the “New West.” This led to correspondence with Judge Wilson, an acquaintance of Mr. Nash, at Mt. Carroll, and to the decision that that young and promising village would be a desirable place for the proposed school. Nothing daunted by insecure health, the hardship, inconveniences, or privations of a sparsely settled country, or the sacrifices of pioneer life, Miss Wood and her friend Miss Gregory undertook the long journey to Illinois, found the right sphere for the activities of mind and heart, and became the founders of a school which for forty-three years was known as Mount Carroll Seminary.
The first term opened May 11, 1853, with eleven pupils, and closed with thirty. For the next term the demand for accommodations from non-resident pupils was sufficient to warrant plans for a permanent school, and this idea of permanency was one of the corner-stones in the original design of the founders. To some of the more progressive residents of the village the outlook was so promising that they were desirous of assuming some of the honors and sharing the emoluments of the enterprise; therefore a charter was obtained from the legislature, a stock company formed, $3,000 subscribed, five acres of ground purchased, and a building forty-four feet square—the present Center— commenced in the summer and occupied in October, 1854, with Miss Wood and Miss Gregory salaried teachers under the control of a board of trustees. Both sexes were admitted, and the new building was dedicated with twenty-five boarders and about twice as many day-pupils.
As only one-third of the subscriptions had been paid, money for the building was borrowed from an eastern capitalist. The furnishings were far more expensive than anticipated, and at the expiration of six months the stockholders were confronted with interest coupons instead of dividends. The trustees, unable to collect unpaid subscriptions, became discouraged, and offered the building and furnishings to the not-discouraged principals for the contract price of the building, the free use of the ground for five years, and permission to improve the grounds, if they would promise to continue the school for ten years. At the end of five years the trustees would either pay for the added improvements or sell the land at a reasonable price. The proposition was accepted. In order to obviate questions of title which might arise on account of the transfer, a new charter was secured, vesting all rights in the new proprietors, who gave a personal note for $4,500, with interest at 10 per cent. These notes were ultimately paid by by Miss Wood, who borrowed the money from her brother-in-law, Mr. Nash, after using the small inheritance which came to her from her father's estate. This was the beginning of the financial burden and management which Mrs. Shimer carried through all the years of her connection with the school. The debt for the furnishings was voluntarily liquidated by issuing scholarships to those trustees who had a assumed that portion of the original indebtedness.
Improvements were immediately commenced on the grounds, fences built, and the “five-acre field,” destitute of tree, shrub, or bush—except some hazel-brush—was dotted with evergreens and deciduous trees, whose towering tops and stalwart trunks are today landmarks and the pride of the campus. Fruit-bearing trees and bushes and vines were also planted with a lavish hand, although expensive and transported long distances; yet the members of the “Seminary family,” more than a quarter of a century afterward, were enjoying their fruitage. Flowers, walks, and drives attested woman's presence and intuition. Time lent its aid, and the work went on despite the oft-repeated prophecies of failure. Miss Wood knew every bush, tree, and vine, for all were planted under her oversight; and so successfully had she applied her knowledge of horticulture that at the end of five years the trustees declared that the permanent improvements on the five acres were too expensive for them to purchase, and, as the school had been equally prosperous, they signified their approbation by donating the land to the Seminary.
In 1857 an addition doubled the accommodations for boarders. In 1866 the crowded condition necessitated the exclusion of young men, and the school afterward continued a “seminary for young ladies.” In 1867 a second “L” was added. The old schoolroom was remodeled for the much-needed library, and the upper story of the new building given up to piano-rooms and a studio to meet the requirements of the rapidly increasing music and art departments. Accommodations were none too great, for the Seminary family that year numbered one hundred, besides a liberal patronage of day-pupils. In 1876 the third and last addition was completed, being the whole of the present “East Hall,” which again nearly doubled the number of rooms.
The school was opened in May, 1853, by Miss F. A. Wood (now Mrs. Shimer) and Miss C. M. Gregory (now Mrs. Lansing). The founders of the school remained as principals and proprietors till 1870, when Miss Gregory retired and was succeeded, two years later, by Miss A. C. Joy, as an associate with Mrs. Shimer in the care and management of the institution. Mrs. Shimer has been connected with the school from its beginning, and since 1870 has been sole owner. For thirteen years young women and men were received as students, but the demand for room became so great that it was necessary to limit the attendance and it was decided to receive young women only.
- Portrait and Biographical Album of Carroll County, pp. 823-824:
MRS FRANCES A. (WOOD) SHRIMER, founder of the Mount Carroll Ladies' Seminary, has been at the head of the institution, or of that which let to it, for a period of thirty-six years, it having been established by her and Miss C.M. Gregory, on the 11th of May, 1853. They opened up in an old store-building on the ground where the Glenview House now stands, with eleven pupils, who at the end of the first term numbered thirty. The latter were mostly little girls, and the institution was in effect a select school. They occupied that building five quarters, and then a stock company was formed by the people of the town, who had obtained a charter from the Legislature in 1853.
Among those largely instrumental in encouraging this enterprise and placing it upon a solid basis was the Hon. W.M.T. Miller, a member of the Board of Incorporators. The subscription amounted to about $3,000, only $1,000 of which was paid; only four persons paid their subscription, and two of these were Mrs. Shrimer and Miss Gregory. A few others paid $5 or $10, and that was the last heard from them. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the main projectors of the enterprise, by almost superhuman efforts, succeeded, in 1854, in beginning the erection of a brick building forty-four feet square, and which forms the northwest wing of the present structure. For this the price of the contractor, J.J. Jeffrey, was $4,500. Of this a portion was raised and the balance borrowed. The school was established in it on the 24th of October, 1854.
Up to this time Mrs. Shrimer and Miss Gregory had conducted the school independently, not being able to otain funds with which to even furnish any of the rooms, and a part of the time it was a mixed school for boys and girls. It was, indeed, expected that a boys' academy would be eventually established. With that object in view, Mrs. Shrimer and her assistant employed a gentleman from the East to take charge of the boys in a separate room, but before the end of six months the citizens became dissatisfied and the result was that the boys were taken into the main room.
Upon removing into the present building, Mrs. Shrimer and Miss Gregory began work as salaried teachers, under a reorganized Board, and thus labored for about six months, the building in the meantime being still incomplete, especially in its outside surroundings. There was neither a fence, a shrub planted, nor even steps by which to enter the building. In spite of these drawbacks, however, they had a good attendance -- twenty-five boarding pupils and a goodly number of others who lived at home. Everything required involved an outlay of money, they having to buy bread, milk, and even water, and money was very slow coming in. Many who had taken stock in the property only intended it for an investment, and when they found it was not likely to be profitable, failed to pay up.
At this time there were only 400 inhabitants in Mount Carroll, with comparatively little culture, and the outlook was anything but cheerful. Finally the stockholders above mentioned solicited Mrs. Shrimer and her faithful co-worker to take the stock off their hands, which they did for the consideration of $4,500, and for which they gave their notes in small amounts, such as they were able to meet when they came due. The five acres of ground had been donated to the school, and was in [...] which extended as far as the present site of Cole's Opera House. This had cost the owners $1.25 per acre, and they were now willing to sell it at $7 per acre. As soon as a location was talked of there was considerable competition for the point on which it was to be situated, and there seemed nothing desirable to be had for less than $100 per acre, and notes were given for this amount by the Board to secure the present Seminary grounds.
In the meantime the land between this point and the town was disposed of in lots to the amount of $17,000 in the first season, all on account of the location of the school. Mrs. Shrimer paid for the furnishing of the building, with the understanding that if the school continued ten years the furniture should be donated to it. Within a few months the old Board became embarrassed and could not pay it. At the suggestion of Mrs. Schrimer, scholarships were issued to the amount of the furniture debt, and after a very hard struggle it was finally liquidated. Too much credit cannot be gien these two ladies for their perseverance and resolution during these trying times. The scholarships were issued to Mr. John Ringwold, who settled the furniture bill, and from that time they were comparatively free from any painful embarrassment. They were enabled to pay their notes as they came due, with 10 per cent. interest, to the last cent. The obligations were held by a Pennsylvania capitalist, who had no interest in the enterprise except as a profitable investment for his money. In the meantime Mrs. Shrimer met her full share of the expense of fencing, setting out shade trees and shrubbery, and a thousand other little expenses constantly to be met. She also battled with ill-health, but the prairie air finally seemed to be beneficial. She came to Illinois a confirmed consumptive, as she supposed, but is now strong and well.
In the course of a few years twenty acres of land were added to the Seminary grounds. The original five acres were at first used for pleasure grounds and the planting of fruit trees; but these trees have since been removed and the ficve acres were planted to ornamental trees and shrubbery, the fruit trees having been removed to the later purchase. The whole twenty-five acres is under a thorough state of cultivation, planted largely with trees, while a goodly portion is utilied for vegetables.
In 1857, an addition, 60x25 feet, and two stories in height, with basement, was put up to accommodate the increasing patronage of the institution, and ten years later, in 1867, the structure was further enlarged; also in 1876. It now has frontage, north and west, of 250 feet. Boy pupils were accommodated until 1867, and then, on account of crowded quarters, it was decided that they were have to be removed, although Mrs. Shrimer believes in co-education and would have given them room if possible. The average attendance of young ladies is 125, representing from fifteen to twenty States. They are prepared for college under a certificate, for Vassar and other leading institutions. The school is wholly unsectarian, although Mrs. Shrimer belongs to the Baptist Church and has received considerable patronage therefrom. Her partner, Miss Gregory, withdrew from the institution in 1869, and since then the whole responsibility has fallen upon Mrs. Shrimer. She now employs ten teachers, and has proven an admirable illustration of the results of energy, resolution, and perseverance.
In the year 1853 two young ladies, Miss Frances A. Wood and Miss Cinderella M. Gregory, graduates of the Normal school at Albany, New York, came to Mt. Carroll, seeking an opening in the educational field in the west. They arranged for a room, their first term commencing May 11, 1853, with eleven pupils, but increased to forty before the close of the term. This select school continued in these quarters for over one year, still growing in popularity, Misses Wood and Gregory workiug together as educators, while Miss Wood financiered the embryo seminary.
A charter for the " Mount Carroll Seminary" had been obtained by the citizens at the session of the state legislature in 1852. The success that marked the labors of Misses Wood and Gregory led the board of corporators to propose to them to organize formally under their charter, subject to the management of the board. To this the ladies consented, on conditions that a suitable building should be erected for the accommodation of the school. The board at once organized a stock company and opened the books for subscriptions. About three thousand dollars wort h of stock was subscribed and the corporators proceeded with the work, purchasing five acres of ground at a cost of five hundred dollars, and during the summer of 1854 erected a building forty-two by forty-six feet, two and a half stories and basement. In October, 1854, the school was removed to this building and duly organized under the charter, the board of trustees assuming control, and Misses Wood and Gregory taking charge as salaried teachers. The success in increasing the stock and making collections of that already subscribed came short of the expectations of the board, and as the spring opened, the time for enclosing the grounds, with the finishing of many needed improvements, found them without the funds for the work. As only about one thousand dollars of the stock subscribed had been paid in, it will be seen the building and furnishing thus far had been done mainly on borrowed capital. The creditors were getting uneasy. Something must be done. The board was disheartened and wanted to get the property off their 'hands. They offered it to Misses Wood and Gregory at the cost of the work done, and as an inducement offered to donate the five acres of ground and furniture, in consideration of which the ladies were to obligate themselves to continue the school ten years. The conditions were accepted and the property, with the charter, transferred by the board to Misses Wood and Gregory.
After a year or two the ladies assumed the debt made for the purchase of the furniture also, as a condition for release from the obligation entered into to continue the school a given time. Thus the only money-value aid received by Misses Wood and Gregory from the citizens or public, was in the five acres of ground donated by two prominent members of the board, Messrs. Rinewalt and Halderman, the original owners of the land, which they bought of the government at $1.25 per acre, occupied as farm land at $7.50 per acre till the site was in demand for the seminary grounds, wheu it advanced in value to $100 per acre. Thus, after an experience of six months under the management of a board of trustees, the school was again in the hands of its founders, with a debt of $4,500 for the building, and later, the debt for the furniture assumed. Fortunately Miss Wood had a small patrimony coming from her father's estate, and some responsible friends east as backers; yet what a task was before these young women! As it was now regarded as a " private enterprise," no board of trustees to give it a promise of success or permanency, of course nothing was to be expected from the public in the payment of stock subscribed or other pecuniary aid. Patronage, however, was given as far as the conduct of the school proved to merit it, and it came only thus, as it was the determined policy of the founders not to solicit pupils, or beg funds," but to lend all their energies to the making of a school that should Merit Confidence, and thus be certain of a liberal patronage. Thus has this school been throughout all these thirty years, an exception to nearly, and so far as the author knows, quite all the schools in the country, in that its managers have Never Asked any man, woman or child for his or her patronage — have Never Employed an agent in any capacity to solicit pupils or funds for the support of the school. Nevertheless, the seminary grew in reputation, a large increase of students, as the years came and went, until 1857, when more room was needed, an addition to their building demanded — Miss Wood prepared the plans and specifications for an addition twenty-two by sixty feet on the southeast part of the original building. Mechanics were employed and paid by the day, and the closest economy exercised in every particular. This addition was raised two and a-half stories above the basement, added twenty-three private rooms, and cost about the same as the first — $4,500. Every business man of those years (1857 and 1858) can recall the fearful "panic" that crushed so many and embarrassed all. It came with almost crushing force upon the seminary enterprise just in the midst of the building of this first addition. What ready money there was for the work was closely locked in bank, with no certainty of its ever being available. Collections that would have been ready at call and depended upon to be put into the work it was impossible to get. The rooms were in demand for the opening of the next school year. What was to be done? "Prudence," perhaps, would have said, "suspend the building work." These ladies said, The Rooms Must Be Ready. To this end Miss Wood (now Mrs. Shimer) spent the summer vacation in actual labor in every way possible to forward the work. She bought the material for painting the building, at wholesale, mixed her own paints and put upon this entire building (except the cornice, the building being of brick), painting every one of the twenty-three rooms herself, three coats of paint. The glass and putty she bought in the same way, and glazed, with her own hands, every window, (forty of them). The wall paper she put upon every one of the twenty-three rooms herself alone. Thus she labored, not from penuriousness, but what seemed to her necessity. The money was not at command to pay for this labor. She would not increase debts with a possibility of the laborer losing his earnings. The accommodations for pupils must be ready or the school would be seriously embarrassed in its next year's work. And They Were Ready, and the school opened.
Just then came another crisis — the housekeeper was taken down with severe illness. Teachers were more easily obtained than Competent housekeepers. Miss Wood placed a supply in the schoolroom, and took her post in the kitchen. For six weeks she did the cooking and administered the domestic affairs of the institution and at the same time filled the place of nurse to the sick housekeeper.
Success and popularity attended the seminary. Pluck and determination had made it a success. Its patronage increased, the debts were paid, and new plans devised for further enlargement. Miss Wood planned and worked on the outside—in the schoolroom, in the kitchen when necessary; painted and papered, contracted for material, managed everything with a skill commanding admiration and defied opposition. Miss Gregory was no less earnest among the students, and the good work went on. By enlargements and improvements in the years from 1857 to 1864, the building and accessories had cost $14,000, and 1865 opened with yet a larger demand for room. A second addition was built southwest of the original building, and so joined the first addition as to give the two the appearance of one building, both being raised to the height of the original building, and covering an area of fifty by seventy feet, or altogether fifty-two by one hundred and sixteen feet. At the same time the rooms and internal arrangements of the first two buildings were materially changed, making them much more commodious and convenient. These improvements beginning in 1865, were completed in 1867. In this work the same system was pursued, and under the same management as in the addition made in 1857. Other lands were purchased, increasing the seminary domain proper to twenty-five acres. On the added grounds the work of hedging, tree planting and other agricultural improvements went on, as on the first five acres, till the entire campus is almost a grove, with open spaces of beautiful, well-kept lawn, with fruit and flower gardens.
The History of Carroll County, Illinois, pp. 342-349:
In 1850, William T. Miller, of Mount Carroll, was elected to represent Carroll County in the state legislature. In 1852, there was an extra session of that body, when Mr. Miller presented and secured the passage of a bill, prepared by Mr. Wilson, incorporating the Mount Carroll Seminary. John Wilson, Nathaniel Halderman, Calvin Gray, Leonard Goss, David Emmert, B. P. Miller, James Hallett, James Ferguson and John Irvine, senior, were named as the incorporators. From the early records of this seminary, the following agreement is transcribed, as showing the plans and purposes of the incorporators:
WHEREAS, It is intended to purchase grounds, not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres, for seminary purposes; also to erect a seminary building, within a distance of one half mile of the Town of Mount Carroll, in accordance with the provisions of a charter entitled "An Act to Incorporate the Mount Carroll Seminary," passed at the special session of the legislature, 1852; now, therefore,
We, the undersigned, agree to take the number of shares of stock in the said seminary set opposite to our names, to pay therefor to the treasurer of the board of trustees of said seminary the sum of live dollars for each and every share of said stock set opposite to our names, respectively, in manner and proportion as follows, viz.: Five per cent upon receiving public notice, in some newspaper in Carroll County, that two hundred shares have been subscribed, and the remainder in instalments, not exceeding ten per cent during any subsequent period of three months; and provided, also, that any subscriber may, at his option, pay at any time, after two hundred shares are taken, the full amount subscribed by him.
And it is further stipulated that the amount paid on the stock hereto subscribed shall bear interest, from the date of payment, at the rate of six per cent per annum, payable at the office of the treasurer of the board of trustees, in Mount Carroll, on the first Monday of July and January each year, until dividends shall be declared by the board of trustees, out of the profits arising from said seminary.
And it is further agreed that a failure to pay any instalment called upon our shares of stock respectively, for sixty days after the same shall have become due*, and of which due notice of a call thereof shall have been given, shall authorize the board of trustees, at their option, to dcejan' the stock upon which instalments shall have been called and shall remain due and unpaid, and all sums previously paid thereon, forfeited to said incorporation.
Shares of stock were placed at five dollars each, and the old stock book shows that five hundred and forty-eight shares were taken, ranging from one to fifty shares to each individual subscriber, and, omitting the Misses Wood and Gregory — of which, more hereafter — representing eighty-three different individuals. These 548 shares, at five dollars each, were supposed to be equal to $2,740, but the authority from which we are quoting shows that out of the entire eighty-three different subscribers, only six of them paid up their stock in full. These six were: R. G. Bailey, 5 shares, $25; E. Funk, 5 shares, $25; William Halderman, 10 shares, $50; T. W. Miller, 10 shares, $50; H. B. Puterbaugh, 2 shares, $10; Thomas Rapp, 10 shares, $50. Total paid up shares, 42; total cash receipts from this source, $210; from partly paid up shares, etc., $750.75, making the grand total of cash receipts only $960.75.
Synoptical. — Whole number of shares subscribed, omitting Wood and Gregory's, 548; supposed cash value, $2,740. Of this sum only $960.75 was ever realized in cash. Settled by notes, $300.75, on which but a very small per cent was ever paid.
Such were the surroundings of the seminary, now so prosperous and popular, in its early days. By means of a business correspondence with Isaac Nash, a wealthy farmer of Saratoga County, New York, Mr. Wilson learned of two young ladies of that county, graduates of the Normal School at Albany, who were desirous of coming West to engage as teachers, for which profession they had qualified themselves, intending to make it the business of their lives. These young ladies were Miss Frances A. Wood (now Mrs. Shimer) and Miss Cinderella M. Gregory. When the seminary was chartered by the legislature, Mr. Wilson opened a correspondence with these ladies, and, in May, 1853, they came to Mount Carroll as teachers, under the patronage of the seminary interests. Soon after their arrival, they commenced their engagement in the second story of the building now known as the Ashway Building, and then the only brick building in town. At that time the land where the seminary buildings have been erected, down as far as the Baptist Church, on Main Street, was a wheat field, valued at only $7.50 per acre, and considered away out of town. Although it was generally understood that these teachers were employed in the seminary interests, they were thoroughly independent of the board of seminary trustees. Only the influence of the seminary incorporators was behind them. They made all the necessary arrangements, provided the school room, paid all the bills, and collected all tuition fees. Their first term commenced on the 11th of May, 1853, with eleven pupils, but closed with forty This select school (for it was in reality nothing more) was continued down town about one year and three months.
When the Board of Trustees came to select a site for the contemplated seminary building, there was a remarkable vigilance on the part of land-owners, and the movements of the board were carefully watched. Wherever they perambulated, lands suddenly and rapidly increased in value. As an example: When the Misses Wood and Gregory came to Mount Carroll, in the Spring of 1853, the lands from the depot down as far as the Baptist Church were held, as previously stated, at $7.50 per acre. But when a site was selected there for the seminary building, they jumped up in price to $100 per acre. The magical charms of Aladdin's lamp, as related in the tales of the Arabian Nights, were lost as compared with the touch of these trustees. But five acres were purchased for $500, and in 1854 a brick building 42 by 46 feet on the ground, two stories and a half in height, with basement, was erected thereon. This building was erected under contract at a cost of $4,500, not including window blinds, etc. It contained twenty rooms, and as soon as finished, which was in October, 1854, the seminary formally organized under the charter, and the Misses Wood and Gregory employed as teachers at a stated salary of $300 per year each.
About the time the building was finished, the teachers were enjoying a vacation, and had gone back home to Saratoga County, New York, on a visit to their friends. Money was borrowed to furnish the building, and forwarded to Misses Wood and Gregory with instructions to expend it in the purchase of such furniture as, in their judgment, was necessary. At the end of six months the creditors began to clamor for their money, and it was found that a new financial management was necessary to the success of the institution. The expenses exceeded the income. The stock subscribers became dissatisfied, and the corporators began to devise ways and means to shift the responsibility of the enterprise. At last an arrangement was made by which the two New York women agreed to pay the cost of the building, $4,500; the trustees to donate the furniture on condition that they (Misses Wood and Gregory) would continue the school for a period of ten years, and Rinewalt and Halderman donated five acres of ground. Subsequently, claims for money borrowed, etc., were presented, which the plucky and enterprising teachers likewise assumed, on the condition of their being released from their ten vears' obligation. All of this indebtedness, however, was not paid in money. Mr. Rinewalt, who had always been a firm and fast friend of the institution, as well as of the teachers, assumed and paid the furniture debt, in turn for which a life scholarship in the seminary was issued to his son. Thus it will be seen, as the history of this institution progresses, that the seminary owes all of its successes, merit and popularity to the Misses Wood and Gregory — the former of whom was the financial and business manager, and the latter the school worker. All the help they ever had from the community in which the seminary has been built up, was the donation of the five acres of ground and about one thousand dollars of money paid in by the stockholders. In this connection it is proper to remark that when these women came to Mount Carroll, all their cash capital was about $80, belonging to Miss Gregory — her sole savings of three years' teaching after their graduation. This was all that Miss Gregory ever put into the enterprise in money, either directly or indirectly — i. e., nothing through her home friends as a loan or otherwise. Miss Wood had nothing at the time in her own right, but an indomitable will and determination. But with such a heavy debt hanging over them, without help from some source, their undertaking would have fallen. In the person of Isaac Nash, before mentioned, who married a sister of Miss Wood, the institution had a friend in whom there " was neither variableness norshadow of turning," and he came to the relief of his sister and her co-laboror when relief was most needed. To his generosity, liberality and confidence in her ability, honesty and management, Miss Wood acknowledges her obligations. To his help, when all other sources failed, she accords a large share of the success that at last crowned the seminary of which she is now the sole manager and principal. Whatever of honor and fame attaches to this seminary, and it is wide-spread, should be equally divided between the Misses Wood and Gregory, and Isaac Nash, the financial and liberal farmer of Milton, New York.
Referring to Isaac Nash, the seminary's best friend, Mrs. Wood Shimer says in her own language :
"While true I came at the time empty-handed, my brother-in-law, Isaac Nash, coming with us and defraying my expenses, etc., I afterwards put into this enterprise a small patrimony received on the settlement of my father's estate, of about two thousand dollars. This, of course, was a little help, but quite inadequate to meet the exigencies liable to arise in such an undertaking, and here came in the valuable aid, as backer, of Mr. Nash, who not only stood ready to relieve any business emergency, but did so many things to contribute to our comfort and pleasure, and as one instance of his thoughtfulness, indulge me in giving you the history of my first horse and carriage in the West. In the Summer of 1854, while I was East purchasing the furniture for the new seminary building put up by the trustees (for they entrusted this all to us) Mr. Nash said to me : 'You have always enjoyed driving so much, you must have a horse and carriage at Mount Carroll. Go to Saratoga with your Cousin David (whom manv of the citizens will remember spending the Winter of 1854-5 here) and select as handsome a carriage as you choose, and order a harness to match. Cousin David shall break Franky (a very fine young horse Mr. Nash had raised) to go single, and then he shall take the entire rig out to Mount Carroll for you.' All was done according to orders, and a few weeks after our return here in September, 1854, Cousin David arrived with horse, carriage and harness. This is but one of many examples I might give of the thoughtful kindness of my brother-in-hivv. Mrs. Nash, my only sister, who was some twenty-one years my senior, and more as a mother to me, was also constantly mindful of our wants, and contributing with a liberal and untiring hand to our necessities and to our pleasure. To me it seems that such another noble, generous couple as my sister and her husband can rarely be found, and such untiring benefactors as they proved through all those years of labor and trial which must be met in the pioneer work of such an enterprise, but few are blessed with. That noble sister has gone to her reward. The brother-in-law, though now eighty years of age, continues to pay me annual visits. I am now (December, 1877) in daily expectation of his arrival. That he enjoys witnessing the success that has crowned our enterprise, I need not say.
"One other couple, not residents of this county, to whom I am indebted for much of encouragement in this work, I would name — Rev. Thomas Powell and wife, of Ottawa, Illinois. Mr. Powell became pastor of the church to which my parents and sister belonged (in Saratoga County, N. Y.) when I was a babe six months old, and thus the first ten years of my life, though not of a very appreciative age, I sat under his preaching, and to me he was the model preacher. Mrs. Powell I recollect as one of my very earliest teachers — the first teacher of whom I have any distinct recollection, as I began my school life at two and a half years of age (quite too young, by the way, for sensible children to go to school), and one for whom I entertained the greatest admiration (I had almost said adoration) of any teacher I ever had, and the lapse of over forty-five years has in no measure diminished the feeling, but matured it into the highest regard for both as friends and counsellors. Over forty years ago Mr. Powell came to Illinois under the auspices of the Mission Board, and the great pioneer work he so successfully achieved renders him peculiarly susceptible to, and appreciative of, sacrifices in others. Thus have I had a most valued adviser and sincere sympathizer in all my work here, and when he shall be called to his reward. Mount Carroll Seminary will lose a most valued friend. Long may that day be deferred."
In 1857, the managers felt justified in undertaking an addition to their building, and, acting as their own architect and draughtsman — or draughtswoman — Miss Wood prepared the plans and specifications for an addition 21 by 60, to the southeast part of the original building. This addition was all completed under her own immediate supervision. Mechanics were employed and paid by the day, and the closest economy exercised in every particular. This addition, like the original building, was raised two and a half stories above the basement, embraced twenty-three rooms, and cost the same as the first — $4,500.
Success and popularity attended the seminary from the time it passed under the exclusive management and control of Misses Wood and Gregory. When it was formally opened by the trustees and incorporators, in October, 1854, the salary paid these ladies was only $300 each. When the original management grew discouraged, their united savings did not exceed $500, but they had confidence and faith in the enterprise, and they determined to make it a success, and when a woman once wills to do a thing, she generally does it. But here were two women with one will to accomplish the one purpose, and they succeeded. The debt hanging over the institution when they assumed its management, and which they agreed to pay, was only an incentive to greater energy and determination. Seven out of every ten men would have shrunk from the undertaking, but these women seemed to accept the situation as a harbinger of success, and from April, 1855, to the present, success has attended its every step. As its patronage increased, the debts were paid off, and new plans devised for its enlargement and improvement. Miss Wood planned and schemed and worked outside — in the school-room, when necessary; in the kitchen, when occasion required — superintended the building of the additions — painted (the cornices excepted) and papered some of them entire; contracted for the material wherever the most favorable terms could be had, and managed everything with a skill that defied opposition, while it commanded admiration. Miss Gregory was no less earnest among the pupils, and thus the work went on.
Up to 1864, the seminary had been open to both sexes, but in that year it was closed against young men and boys, and devoted exclusively to the education of girls and young women. This was not because the management was opposed to educating the sexes together, but because the accommodations were not sufficient. On the contrary, the principal is in favor of the co-education of the sexes, and hopes, at no distant day, to be able to re-open the seminary to boys and young men. This year another addition was undertaken. This addition was built on the west side of the first addition, was thirty feet in width and seventy feet long, extending ten feet south of and taking in the first addition. Both additions were raised to a uniform height with the old building, which was unroofed, and the whole placed under one cover, presenting the appearance of one building. This last addition added thirty-eight rooms to the institution, all of which were larger than any previously provided. These enlargements and improvements cost about $11,000.
Seventh biennial report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, "Mount Carroll Seminary" (presumed author Frances Shimer), page 280:
The charter under which this school was organized was granted in 1852, but the attempt to organize a school during that year, was unsuccessful.
In May, 1853, two ladies, the present principals, graduates of the New York State Normal School, came to Mt. Carroll and opened a select school, beginning with eleven little girls.
The success which attended this enterprise induced the corporators of Mt. Carroll Seminary to invite the ladies to organize under their charter, to which they consented. A building was erected in 1854. The trustees assumed the management of the school, and these ladies took positions as teachers, under salary. After six months of poor success, the trustees asked the ladies to relieve them of the responsibility. This they did, purchasing the entire property at its cost, $4,500. From that time, now fourteen years, these ladies have had the entire control and management of the institution. Numerous improvements and additions, of ground and buildings, have been made, from time to time, as the wants of the school required.
No aid has been received from the public, except the donations of the paid stock on the purchase, amounting to about one thousand dollars, and the gift of five acres of ground worth five hundred dollars. And no agents have been employed to solicit funds or scholars. Until recently the school was opened to pupils of both sexes, and the results were entirely satisfactory, but now gentlemen are temporarily (for two years past) excluded, for want of room to accommodate all who wish to attend. In 1867, the Legislature granted a new charter, better adapted to the wants and character of the institution, than the old one. The number of lady students in attendance during the past year, has been over one hundred and fifty. The complete course of study requires five years.