Friday, August 18, 2006

2770 Veritas Vincit

This Latin motto, "Truth Conquers," would make an interesting blog title, I thought. Upon checking, I discovered 5 other people thought so too and had used it in some form or other. So, I guess I won't use it. It was the motto for the college that used to be in Mt. Morris, Illinois. I looked at a site that reported on college mottoes, and this one doesn't seem to be in use any longer. Interesting.

When the Methodist Episcopal Church reprentatives drove a stake in the prairie at a high point where they would establish a seminary, there weren't any houses or settlers, although a few white families had been settling in the area. The village was laid out by the trustees of Rock River Seminary which owned all the land where the town now stands. But it was the local people, mostly recently arrived from Maryland who donated the money and the land, 480 acres, to induce the church to take on this challenge of establishing a school in the middle of nowhere. Alexander Hamilton's son had explored the area and Abraham Lincoln fought the Indians near by, but there wasn't much going on.

The college prospered for awhile, but the Methodists established another college in Evanston (Northwestern) and that sort of ate into the pool of potential students. But it did turn out about 7,500 students, a lot of them clergy, lawyers, politicians, editors and businessmen before it closed in 1878. It was reopened in 1879 by a group of Brethren businessmen as an institution for their young people (now Church of the Brethren), and it became Mount Morris Seminary and Collegiate Institute, and then Mt. Morris College. After a fire in 1931, the college closed in 1932 (there had also been a fire in 1912, but the college rebuilt). My parents were freshmen when it burned; my mother's parents had also met there. In 1994 the town school system merged with Oregon with high schoolers being bussed. In 2004 the elementary school was destroyed by fire, and now the little ones are bussed too. The original high school where I had classes for a year, later became a junior high, and it burned in 1989 (no longer in use as a school).

The current students have all adjusted--probably better than the adults. Just as my generation had no memory of the college except what our parents told us, so there will soon be young people who have no memory of a town school. It does seem odd now to me, an outsider for many years, that the little town created because people cared about education, doesn't have a college, or a high school or an elementary school.

Information from "Mt. Morris Past and Present" by Harry G. Kable, rev. ed., 1938 and photo from "The 1929 Life" of Mt. Morris College.

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