Benton History 1878

Benton History 1878

PAGES 197-198

Vinton, Benton County.

In August, 1852, Prof Samuel Bacon, himself blind, established an Institution for the Instruction of the Blind of Iowa, at Keokuk.

By act of the General Assembly, entitled " An act to establish an Asylum for the Blind," approved January 18, 1853, the institution was adopted by the State, removed to Iowa City, February 3d, and opened for the reception of pupils April 4, 1853, free to all the blind in the State.

The first Board of Trustees were James D. Eads, President; George W. McClary, Secretary; James H. Gower, Treasurer; Martin L. Morris, Stephen Hempstead, Morgan Reno and John McCaddon. The Board appointed Prof. Samuel Bacon, Principal; T. J. McGittigen, Teacher of Music, and Mrs. Sarah K. Bacon, Matron. Twenty-three pupils were admitted during the first term.

In his first report, made in 1854, Prof. Bacon suggested that the name should be changed from "Asylum for the Blind," to that of "Institution for the Instruction of the Blind." This was done in 1855, when the General Assembly made an annual appropriation for the College of $55 per quarter for each pupil. This was subsequently changed to $3,000 per annum, and a charge of $25 as an admission fee for each pupil, which sum, with the amounts realized from the sale of articles manufactured by the blind pupils, proved sufficient for the expenses of the institution during Mr. Bacon's administration. Although Mr. Bacon was blind, he was a fine scholar and an economical manager, and had founded the Blind Asylum at Jacksonville, Illinois. As a mathematician he had few superiors.

On the 8th of May, 1858, the Trustees met at Vinton, and made arrangements for securing the donation of $5,000 made by the citizens of that town.

In June of that year, a quarter section of land was donated for the College, by John W. 0. Webb and others, and the Trustees adopted a plan for the erection of a suitable building. In 1860, the plan was modified, and the contract for enclosing let to Messrs. Finkbine & Lovelace, for $10,420.

In August, 1862, the building was so far completed that the goods and furniture of the institution were removed from Iowa City to Vinton, and early in October, the school was opened there with twenty-four pupils. At this time, Rev. Orlando Clark was Principal.

In August, 1864, a new Board of Trustees were appointed by the Legislature, consisting of James McQuin, President; Reed Wilkinson, Secretary; Jas. Chapin, Treasurer; Robert Gilchrist, Elijah Sells and Joseph Dysart, organized and made important changes. Rev. Reed Wilkinson succeeded Mr. Clark as Principal. Mrs. L. S. B. Wilkinson and Miss Amelia Butler were appointed Assistant Teachers; Mrs. N. A. Morton, Matron.

Mr. Wilkinson resigned in June, 1867, and Gen. James L. Geddes was appointed in his place. In September, 1869, Mr. Geddes retired, and was succeeded by Prof. S. A. Knapp. Mrs. S. C. Lawton was appointed Matron, and was succeeded by Mrs. M. A. Knapp. Prof, Knapp resigned July 1, 1875, and Prof. Orlando Clark was elected Principal, who died April 2, 1876, and was succeeded by John B. Parmalee, who retired in July, 1877, when the present incumbent. Rev. Robert Carothers, was elected.

Trustees, 1877-8.—Jeremiah L. Gay, President; S. H. Watson, Treasurer; H. C. Piatt, Jacob Springer, C. L. Flint and P. F. Sturgis. Faculty.—Principal, Rev. Robert Carothers, A. M.; Matron, Mrs. Emeline E. Carothers; Teachers, Thomas F. McCune, A. B., Miss Grace A. Hill, Mrs. C. A. Spencer, Miss Mary Baker, Miss C. R. Miller, Miss Lorana Mattice. Miss A. M. McCutcheon ; Musical Director, S. 0. Spencer.

The Legislative Committee who visited this institution in 1878 expressed their astonishment at the vast expenditure of money in proportion to the needs of the State. The structure is well built, and the money properly expended; yet it was enormously beyond the necessities of the State, and shows an utter disregard of the fitness of things. The Committee could not understand why $282,000 should have been expended for a massive building covering about two and a half acres for the accommodation of 130 people, costing over eight thousand dollars a year to heat it, and costing the State about five hundred dollars a year for each pupil.

PAGES 423 -424


On page 197 of this volume will be found some account of the origin of this noble charity and of its removal to Vinton, through the liberality of the citizens of that town, who contributed $5,000 for the purchase of grounds and the construction of the building.

There are about one hundred and thirty pupil inmates of the Asylum, two being from Wyoming Territory and one from Dakota, the remainder being residents of Iowa.

The musical department is the leading feature in the educational department, and special attention is given to vocal, piano and organ instruction, and also to voice culture and harmony.

The following is a summary of the number of pupils in the musical department: In piano music, 80; organ, 14; voice culture, 4; clarionet, 3; horns, 7; flute, 8; violins, 28; violincello, 3; orchestra, 21; vocal music, 96; harmony, 39; New York Point System, 23.

Some of the more advanced students act as assistant instructors upon the piano and organ, and are thus the better qualified for the profession of teaching.

In the industrial department, broom-making is the principal trade taught. This trade for the blind has many advantages; it is easily learned, the material used is cheap and easily procured, and the machinery employed is inexpensive, and brooms being an absolute necessity will always be in demand.

Instruction is also given in the manufacture of mattresses; but this department is of necessity limited from the fact that there is but a limited demand for this article of manufacture in this locality. It has been maintained thus far without any expense to the State.

Special attention is given to bead-work, crocheting, knitting and other fancy work, and in these many of the young ladies become quite proficient. This branch of their education will not only serve to occupy spare time and relieve the tedium of life, but may also be made a source of profit.

Fifty-five young ladies are being instructed in this department.

Instruction is also given on the sewing machine. By patient and persevering efforts on the part of the teacher in this department, the young ladies learn to manage the machine with great facility, and to manufacture articles of dress with as much taste and beauty as those who have the use of their eyes.

As many of the pupils are clothed at public expense, the Principal utilizes this department in the manufacture of shirts for the young men and dresses for the young ladies. Hand sewing is also taught.

The following persons compose the faculty: Principal, Rev. Robert Carothers, A. M.; Matron, Mrs. Emeline E. Carothers; Teachers, Thomas F. McCune, A. B., Penmanship, Grammar, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Rhetoric, Logic, Mental Philosophy; Miss Grace A. Hill, Grammar, Literature, English and American; History, Ancient and Modern; Astronomy; Mrs. C. A. Spencer, Moral Philosophy, Physiology, Physical Geography, Botany, Geology; Miss Mary Baker, Mathematics; Miss C. R. Miller, Intermediate; Miss Lorana Mattice, Second Primary; Miss A. M. McCutcheon, First Primary; S. O. Spencer, Musical Director; T. S. Slaughter, Orchestra, Violin, Piano.