News From 1863

The Vinton Eagle
Wednesday, January 21, 1863


     We find the following candid representation of this State Institution in a late issue of the Iowa State Register. It will be read with interest by all the readers of the Eagle.

     The edifice erected for the purpose of affording the unfortunate Blind of this State an opportunity of receiving a practical education at the expence of the State, is located at Vinton, the County seat of Benton County, a thriving town containing about 1500 inhabitants, supporing a fine trade in every department of business. Vinton contains five church edifices, and almost every religion known to the west is represented; good common schools are kept up and well supported; a healthy moral sentiment prevades the community generally; the people are intelligent, and the tone of society is good. The County of Benton, for beauty of surface and for agricultural pursuits, either in grain-growing or stock raising, has no superior in the State.

     The Asylum building is 108 feet long by 70 in width, four stories high, with a front projection of eight feet the entire height of the building, and extending twenty-nine feet on either side of the main front entrance. The outer walls of the whole structure are built of a superior quality of cut stone, put up in the most substantial manner, with the entire front finish after the most approved style of modern architecture. The first, or basement story, is appropriated and used for a work or mechanic shop for males, dining room, kitchen, laundry, two wash rooms, (one for females and one for males,) store room, and vegetable room.—The second, or main story, is devided lengthwise from north to south, through the centre by a spacious hall. The front door, or main entrance, is in the centre of the building on the east side. From the front entrance to the main hall, there is also a hall, of magnificent dimensions; and at either end of the main hall, at the west or the back part of the building, there are commodious halls, in which the main stairways are constructed, those at the north end for the exclusive accommodations of the females, and those at the south end for the males. The front half of the second or main story is devided into four rooms, two on either side of the hall leading from the front entrance. The first room on the right is the public reception room, in which may be found articles of work, plain and fnacy, manufactured by the female pupils, and the Register of the Institution, where visitors are expected to register their names; the next, or corner room on the right is a public parlor—both of which are appropriately and neatly furnished. The corresponding rooms on the left of the main entrance are appropriated, the first to the Matron and the second to the Principal of the Institution. The west half of the main story is devided into three rooms; the center is the main school or lecture room, which is large and spacious; the others are music rooms, the on one the north for the females and the one on the south for the males. The third story has a hall through the centre the entire length of the building and is appropriated for private rooms for officers and teachers, two sitting rooms for the pupils—one for the females the other for the males—library room, and recitation rooms. The fourth story is appropriated to sleeping apartments for the pupils, and has a hall the whole length, with a partition in the centre, seporating the apartments of the females from those of the males, the whole furnished and occupied.

     There are forty acres of land belonging to the Institution, ten of which are inclosed with a good plank fence. The grounds are must beautifully situated, and with a moderate outlay can be made very desirable—The Institution is indebted for the munificent grant of land upon which the Asylum is located, to the liberality of John Webb, Esq., a prominent citizen of Vinton. The school is in successful operation under the superintendence of Orlando Clarke, as Principal, and Mrs. O. Clarke as Matron. The Superintendent is the principal teacher, has the general oversight of the Institution, and the special charge of the male department. He is indefatigable in his efforts to make the school efficient in every department, and with experience, his energy and industry cannot fail to make him useful and valuable to the Institution and the State, in the important position he now occupies.—He has the special charge of a class in Geometry, English Grammar, and Arithmetic, and devotes an hour each day in reading to the pupils. The Matron has the general charge and government of the female department of the Institution, with the special charge of the domestic household, superintending the kitchen, dining room, laundry, and the care of the female pupils. She also has charge of the classes in plain and fancy knitting, sewing, and bead-work, and all other handicrafts taught the female pupils. In her constant devotion and uniform kindness to the pupils, she has secured not only their confidence and respect, but their strong and devoted affection, and the pupils uniformly regard her as much in the character of mother, as that of teacher; she rules with kindness and success securing the most perfect obedience. She has had fine opportunities, and considerable experience as a teacher, is polished in her manners, unassuming in her department, courteous and polite; and with her generous nature and strong sympathy qualified for usefulness, and doubtless fill her present position wtih great credit to herself and profit to the Institution. No mother need hesitate in committing her daughter to the care and guardianship of Mrs. Clarke.

     The corps of teachers is all tht could be desired. Rev. N. C. Robinson has charge of a class in Natural Philosophy, Algebra, Arithmetic, and in English Grammar. Mr. R. Is a finely educated man, with a strong mind, good, practical common sense, and can impart information with aase to himself and satisfaction to his pupils, and has had experience in teaching. He takes very great interest in teaching the blind, and those under his charge ae making commendable improvement. Miss Amelia Butler, as teacher and Assistant Matron, has special charge of a class in Orthography, in reading by the use of rasised letters, English Grammar and Geography, devotes two hours each day in reading to the pupils, and assists in the instruction of the pupils in knitting. Miss B. Is a recent graduate, comes into the Institution fresh from her books, with a fine education, and a dignity of character superior to young ladies of her age. She discharges the duties of her Department with cheerfulness and ability, and her scholars are making satisfactory improvements. She is pleasing and easy in her manners, kind to her pupils, enforcing and maintaining good decipline. The musical department is under the direction of Prof. S. H. Price, (a blind man,) who is superior not only as a teacher, but in all the qualities which characterize a true gentleman. He is devoted to his profession, giving his entire time and all the energies of his ardent nature to those under his instruction, and his pupils are making rapid advancement. As a proficient in music, he has but few equals, if any superiors, understands the theory of music thoroughly, and composes with ability and refined taste. His instructions are given with success on all instruments in use in the orchestra and choir, as well as in vocal music, and on the piano, either as teacher or performer, he excels. He is very agreeable in his mannars, is companionable and instructive, and secures the friendship of all with whom he comes in contact. The Department of Music is one of the most important connected with the education of the blind. Music refines and elevates the taste and manners; it will not fail to secure sympathy, and will introduce the performer into a society that he otherwise could not hope to reach. It will also secure to the blind a livelihood, when other means might fail.

     The pupils of this term, under Prof. Price’s instruction, are making much more rapid improvement than at any former period.—The Institution two new and very superior pianos—making four in all—together with other facilities, which, added to the management of the teacher, have inspired new life and additional energy, and secured the best results. The orchestra or band is composed of twelve male performers, who discourse music of the finest quality, not inferior to that of the best and most experienced musicians. The choir embraces the entire school in which the piano and other instruments are used in connection with the voice.

     To fully appreciate the advantages of a musical education, as taught in connection with other branches of the Institution for the education of the blind in the State of Iowa, you have but to be present and witness the performance of the pupils.

     Mr. John Cisna, (a blind man,) the teacher of mechanics in the male Department, has been connected with the Institution for many years, and has proved himself to be a worthy man and a competent teacher. His Department is now in working operation, and has shown its good and practical effect through the blind mechanics in this State, who are successfully carrying on trades learned in the Iowa Institution. The branches taught are broom and brush making.

     The improvements in out-buildings, grading, &c., have been under the management of James Chapin, Esq., the new Trustee and Treasurer of the Board. Mr. Chapin is a man of sterling worth, strict integrity, great energy, clear judgment, and always alive and awake to the interests of the Institution and the State. The Legislature did nobly in his selection, and may rest satisfied that the welfare of the blind and the interests of the State will not be neglected in his hands.

     There are but thirty-four pupils in this institution, while at least one hundred could be well accommodated. There are a large number of blind in the State who ought to be receiving instruction in the Institution. We trust the parents and friends of the blind need no urging to the discharge of a solemn duty, in sending their children to the Institution so liberally provided by the State for their education "without money and without price."



The Vinton Eagle
Wednesday, April 22, 1863.


     In our issue of January 21st appeared a lengthy article, copied from the Iowa State Register, descriptive of the Iowa State Blind Asylum, or, more properly speaking, the Iowa Institution of the Education of the Blind located here in Vinton. We admire originality in other people whether we possess the quality or not. Now we have a slight itching to describe this Institution in our own way, that is, begin at the beginning; but the author of the aforesaid article has taken the wind completely out of our sails by traveling over the entire ground, by saying all that can consistently be said of this most excellent establishment. In a word we would like to say something upon this subject, but with that article staring us in the face we don’t know where to begin nor where to end.

     The Asylum building is a magnificent structure, handsome to the view without, and elegant and commodious within. Occupying an elevated and conspicuous site just west of town, it can be seen from the prairie for miles and miles around. Like a city set on a hill its vast and beautiful proportions cannot be hidden from the traveler’s gaze. Its dimensions, and the various uses made of the lower and upper stories our readers are, through the article referred to, already familiar with.

     Rapid strides in all the branches taught, have been made by the pupils within the past twelve months. The Institution now numbers fifty pupils, male and female; the sexes being about equally divided. — There is a male and female department. — Mr. Orlando Clarke, the Principal, has the general superintendence of the Institution, and the special charge of the male department. He takes particular charge of the classes in Geometry, English Grammar and Arithmetic, and devotes an our each day to reading to his pupils. Mrs. Clarke, the Matron, has the general charge of the female department; she also superintends the domestic matters of the Institution—the kitchen, dining room, and laundry departments—she also instructs her pupils in plain and fancy knitting, sewing, and bead work, beautiful specimens of which may be seen at the Institution. Rev. N. C. Robinson has charge of a class in Natural Philosophy, Algebra, Arithmetic and English Grammar. Miss Amelia Butler, Assistant Matron, has charge of a class in Orthography, reading by the use of raised letters, English Grammar and Geography. Prof. S. H. Price, —a blind man— has sole charge of the musical department; and here let us remark that as a musician his equal is hard to find in any state. He is also a true gentleman, of polished manners and pleasing address. The orchestra—numbering fourteen performers on stringed and brass instruments—has, under his able direction, attained to a wonderful proficiency in the art of music. It surpasses any thing of the kind west of the Mississippi. Strangers, to fully appreciate this last remark, should be present at one of the rehearsals which are held in the capacious school room every week day at 11 o’clock a. m. The Institution has four excellent pianos. As a pianist Prof. P. has not his equal in the State. In the mechanical department, Mr. John Cisna, another blind man, for many years connected with the Institution while located at Iowa City, presides as teacher. The branches taught at present are simply burch and broom making, excellent specimens of which may be seen at any day at the Asylum. — This department could not have been entrusted to worthier or more skillful hands.

     The Institution was established for the benefit of the blind of the State. They are here taken and educated graciously by the State. It is said that there are over one hundred and fifty blind persons in Iowa, one hundred of whom at least, are entitled to the benefits of the institution. — Give them an education such as they can only obtain in an Institution like this kind, and they are in a measure rendered independent of friends and relatives for support — their helplessness is lessened and their happiness heightened. Parents and others having blind in their charge are often too late in sending them to an Asylum. They become too old, their fingers too stiff, to learn a trade or to play upon a musical instrument. To guardians of the blind, generally, we must be permitted to say, you cannot entrust your children to more careful or experienced persons than those having charge of various departments in this Asylum. Principal, Matron and teachers, each and all possess those qualities of head and heart which eminently qualify them for instructors and guardians of the blind.

     But our time is up—the paper is nearly ready for the press. "We will talk with you again upon this matter."



The Vinton Eagle,
June 3, 1863


The Institution is located at Vinton, Benton County, Iowa, a stirring place of some 1,500 inhabitants.

The Asylum building stands upon a beautiful eminence about one quarter of a mile southwest of the village. In dimensions are 108 feet in length, 70 feet wide, four stories high, with a front projection of eight feet the entire height of the building, and extending twenty-nine feet on either side of the main entrance. The walls of the structure are built of good substantial cut stone. The front of the building presents a fine appearance being finished in excellent modern style. We have not room to describe the inside of the building, any further than to say that it is finished from bottom to top in a plain, neat, substantial, and workman like manner and so far as we are capable of judging, it is most admirably adapted to its construction for the purposes designed.

We had the pleasure, a few days since, of visiting this Institution, and were most kindly received by the superintendent, Rev. O. Clarke, formerly of the city Des Moines. We have heard it said that every man has a place, that every man should be in his place. After spending over half a day with Mr. Clarke in the different departments of the school we became convinced that our State has succeeded most admirably in getting the right man in the right place. Mr. Clarke is a Christian gentleman, agreeable and polite in his deportment, causing every one around him to feel pleasantly and at home. Mrs. Clarke is matron, and has the general charge and government of the female department of the Institution. Though at this time unable to attend to the active duties assigned her, in consequence of ill health, everything connected with her department seems to be carried on under her directions. The young ladies hourly approach her bedside for instructions, which they always receive as from the lips of a kind and affectionate mother.

Mr. Clarke is principal teacher, assisted by Rev. Mr. Robinson and Miss. A. Butler. We heard two classes recite to Mr. Clarke, two to Mr. Robinson, and two to Miss. Butler; all of which were interesting to us.—Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Butler are both competent and faithful teachers, and as far as we were able to learn are loved and esteemed by all their pupils.

Mr. Price (a blind man,) is Professor of music. We were present when he took his class through a regular drill in music, and were highly pleased with the accuracy and precision of the teacher and of several members of the class. In conversation Prof. Price is an intelligent and courteous gentleman.

We mad the acquaintance of Mr. John Cisna, another blind man, the teacher of Mechanics in the male department. Mr. Cisna has been connected with the institution many years and is a worthy and competent teacher.

Upon the whole we are of the opinion that the institution is in a healthy and prosperous condition, and is accomplishing a great work for that unfortunate class of persons who are deprived of the important sense of seeing.—Western College Reporter.



The Vinton Eagle,
July 29, 1863


Mr. Orlando Clarke and his wife—Principal and Matron of the Blind Asylum in this place—on Saturday last started East for the purpose of visiting the Indiana, Ohio, New York,, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Asylums for the Instruction and care of the blind. Their observations of the management and workings of those Institutions will prove highly beneficial to the very excellent one over which they preside here.