Chapter 1 - In the Beginning
Brief History of the College | Developing the Total Person | Student Participation in a Variety of Activities |
IN THE BEGINNING
Brief History of the College
In order to get the feeling of the college in its early years perhaps one should begin with a history of how the college was started. This brief history brings the reader up to the year 1917 when the first commencement was held for four-year graduates.
In the spring of 1889 at a ministerial conference held in Perley, Minnesota, the idea of a Lutheran high school in the Northwest was first advanced. At a meeting held in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in the fall of the same year the proposition was further discussed, but without a definite result. However, the thought of a high school grew and expanded until there finally came to be a bidding by the principal cities for the institution. It was even promised that the city offering the best inducements would get the school. Fargo, Grand Forks, and Crookston had the best prospects of securing the school.
At a meeting held in Crookston on January 6, 1891, the location of the new school was discussed, and after the Fargo delegation was on the way home it was decided to locate the school at Crookston, Minnesota. At a meeting held later, the school was moved to Grand Forks, and Grand Forks College was established as a Lutheran school; but that school has changed hands a number of times since then and is now a private business school.
Those in and around Fargo who had worked for the establishment of such a school felt discouraged after that meeting in Crookston. Then it was that Moorhead came in as a "dark horse."
One day in March of the same year, while Rev. J. M. O. Ness of Perley, Minnesota, happened to be in Moorhead he learned that the Episcopalians had a school building for sale in the southern part of the city. He, with two others, made an inspection of the building and grounds and they were very favorably impressed with the property. From a reliable source they learned that the building, that had been erected a few years before, together with six acres of land had cost $30,000. This property could now be bought for $10,000. This was encouraging.
Reverend Ness made a trip to Grand Forks to see if he could not prevail upon the people of the northern part of the valley to turn their attention to Moorhead as the proper place for the proposed school, but without success. The people of the southern part of the valley were then encouraged to establish a Lutheran school in Moorhead.
A temporary college association had been formed while the work was going on in locating the school in Fargo. This association now moved to Moorhead and was made permanent. On April 14, 1891, "The Northwestern Lutheran College Association" was organized. This association then bought the "Bishop Whipple School." At one of the meetings of the association the school was named Concordia College by Rev. J. O. Hougen, who at that time was pastor of the First Lutheran Church of Fargo. A committee on Articles of Incorporation was appointed, and on July 6, 1891, the association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota.
Soon after the incorporation of the college association it was decided to open the school in the fall, and teachers were engaged during the summer. On October 15, 1891, the school opened with three teachers and twelve students.
On Reformation Day, October 31, 1891, the school was solemnly and with fitting ceremonies dedicated to educational purposes by the Very Rev. G. Hoyme, President of The United Lutheran Church of America.
To begin with, the one building served both as a dormitory and as a recitation hall; but in the winter term of the first year the attendance reached 209, and the one building was entirely inadequate to accommodate all. Then, in the summer and fall of 1892 a boys' dormitory with seventy-one rooms was erected. But the school outgrew even those quarters, and it was found necessary to build a recitation and administration building to accommodate the constantly increasing attendance, and such a building was erected in the summer of 1906 at a cost of $60,000. It was erected on a block of land that had been previously secured for the school by President Bogstad and Professor Bushy.
With the growing activities of the school it became necessary to secure more space for out-of-door sports, and through the efforts of President Bogstad another block of land was purchased for that purpose.
In 1913 a President's residence was erected at a cost of $4,000, and in 1910 a hospital was erected on the college campus.
In 1914 a new heating plant was built at a cost of $8,000, and in the summer of 1915 a commodious gymnasium and auditorium was erected.
About a year later another block of land was purchased and added to the school property.
The school made rapid strides in a material way. Since its start twenty-eight years ago it had only one building, with two blocks of land. At that time it had six buildings, with the necessary furnishings, and five blocks of land, representing a monetary worth of $250,000. This was made possible through the unceasing and untiring efforts of the officers of the corporation and the presidents of the college, and to the goodwill and generosity of the people of the Red River Valley who donated liberally to the building up and the maintaining of the institution.
In the academic sense, the school also made steady progress. When the work was begun the school had no definite program, no fixed courses; but the program gradually assumed definite form, courses became fixed, and by 1913, besides the regular high school courses, the school through the untiring efforts of its President, Rev. J. A. Aasgaard, offered a full college course.
The school grew from a small beginning of three teachers and twelve students to a school having an annual enrollment of 450 students, whose instruction was taken care of by twenty teachers.
Up to 1917, five presidents presided over the school since its beginning: Prof. I. F. Grose, from 1891 to 1893; Prof. H. H. Aaker, from 1893 to 1902; Rev. R. Bogstad, from 1902 to 1909; Rev. H. O. Shurson from 1909 to 1911; and Rev. J. A. Aasgaard, the present incumbent, since 1911.
When the union of the three Lutheran churches was assured, the parties interested in Concordia College at Moorhead, controlled by the United Church, and Park Region Luther College at Fergus Falls, controlled by the Norwegian Synod, took steps to solve the question of the future of these two schools. The matter was submitted to a committee of two men from each of the three boards--the Hauge Synod Board of Education, the Norwegian Synod Board of Education, and the United Church Board of Education. Their recommendation was that the college department at Fergus Falls be united with the college department at Concordia College, and that certain other departments at Concordia College be moved to Park Region Luther College at Fergus Falls. Further, that the college teachers at Park Region Luther College--six in number--be transferred to Concordia College at Moorhead. This recommendation was adopted by the two groups and carried out in the summer of 1917. The general feeling and conviction was that the Northwest needed a college if we were to hold our young people. The fact that Concordia College was located practically within touch of the North Dakota district was perhaps the important reason for placing it at the Red River.(1)
It was interesting to note after reading an account of athletics at Gustavus Adolphus in the 1890's how their early students (mostly Swedish) compared to those at Concordia (mostly Norwegian). Most came from a rural farm environment with their bodies accustomed to hard labor rather than to sports skills. A mixture of academy and college students resulted in age differences. Some were immigrants, some sons and daughters of immigrants. A few students probably came from professional families and not everyone was Norwegian. This made for a good mix of personalities.
In the early years the college was not blessed with what one would call
adequate facilities. The development of a sports program was hindered by
the lack of finances, facilities, equipment, instructors and coaching.
1. Concordia College Record, June 1919.
3. Crescent, December 1910.
4. Crescent, February 1913.
5. Concordia Banner, June 1898.
6. Concordia Banner, July 1901.
7. Crescent, November 1911.
8. Concordia Banner, December 1906.
9. Engelhardt, page 47.
10. Crescent, April 1913.
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