Jewell Lutheran College

by Martin E. Nass
       The Jewell Lutheran College Association was incorporated on April 11, 1893.   The incorporation read "The said college shall be a Lutheran College, but shall not be connected with any special synod. Religion will be taught but it shall not be required. Capital stock of $10,000 which may be increased to $25,000 divided into shares of $100.   No person to hold more that ten shares."   Officers of the association were: John Thoreson, President; F. H. Alexander, Secretary, and William Anderson, Treasurer.   On Nov. 14, 1893, they purchased ten acres of land in the College Addition of Jewell Junction, Iowa, from the Lyon Investment Company for $180.   The members of the board of directors were: Rev. C. J. Eastvold, Rev. G. E. Gerstad, Rev. J. N. Sandren, E. E. Rorem, and Adolf Molstre.   A board of trustees were also named in the articles of incorporation.   They were: A. E. Hanson, N. J. Nelson, Ed Hanson, Ole J. Olson, Richard Nelson, E. E. Rorem, N. K. Hill, Hans Underdahl, and Rev. C. J. Eastvold.

      The Association set about constructing a three-story building with a full basement to serve as the college building. The basement housed bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and laundry facilities.   The first and second floors were devoted to classrooms and administration.   The third floor served as the dormitory.   The Aug. 18th 1894 Stanhope Saturday Mail reported that Prof. Vigness and N. J. Nelson wsere in Chicago last week and purchased a complete supply of new furniture for the Jewell Lutheran College.

     The Jewell Record of Aug. 25, 1894, reported that "The dedication of the Jewell Junction Lutheran College will occur on Sept. 4th. .. this will be the biggest day Jewell has ever seen for a number of years."   The Jewell Record for Nov. 3rd 1894, reported the start of the second term on Nov. 20th.   The advertisement states that the "College Association owns $20,000 worth of real estate in Jewell and differs in responsibility from the average school that nestles in the rented upper story of general stores.   The 1896 county atlas shows the college grounds with only one building located at the north end of the college grounds.   Faculty was hired and a schedule was organized to hold classes in four terms; each was ten weeks long.   The faculty consisted of L. A. Vigness, President; M. D. Miller, Prof. of Mathematics; J. P. Peterson, Commercial Department; Jessie Bucknam, Prof. Reading and Physical Culture, and Lydia Klove, Music.

In 1894 there were 30 students enrolled at the college.   The cost for a student to attend a ten-week term was $27.50, which included room, board, tuition, and books.   The college soon began to experience financial problems.   Prof. Miller stated that he was promised a salary of $400 for the year based on an enrollment of 20 students.   This amount was not paid in full.   Miller began to question Pres. Vigness in board meetings about his accounts and several expenditures.   At the end of this first stormy year, Miller and Peterson both resigned.   The board then decided to fire all teachers and vindicated Vigness.   Vigness served one more year before he left.   Later he became the third president of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.   The Aug 24th, 1905 Jewell Record reported " of last year's faculty, all but one could have been retained: but under the circumstances the board deemed it best to engage an entire new teaching force."

In 1895 the college enrollment was 39 students.   The Stanhope Saturday Mail in 1895 urged the people of Jewell to open their homes to provide each student with comfortable living quarters.   The course offerings were expanded to include Arithmetic I, II, III, Higher Arithmetic, Geometry, Grammar I, II, U. S. History, History of Education, Psychology, Science, Art of Reading, Bookkeeping, Penmanship, Botany, Zoology, Rhetoric, Civil Government, Latin, Vocal Music, and Physical Culture.   The May 29, 1895, edition of the Jewell Record reported there was talk of organizing a baseball club at the college.

The expenses of operating the college were more than the local Association could handle, so they transferred the college property to the Iowa District of the Hagues Synod on Nov. 9, 1897.   This synod included the states of Iowa, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, and Texas.



(View the 1897-1898 J. L. C. Catalogue which shows the names of faculty, the courses offered, the fees, and more.)

In 1900, the college students organized an Athletic Association with Prof. S. E. Dime as chairman.   They laid out a baseball diamond on the college property and organized a baseball team.   A lawn tennis team was also added.

      In 1902, the college constructed a two-story ladies' dormitory just west and south of the college building.   The men continued to be housed on the third floor of the main building.   Then tragedy struck the college.   A fire on Dec. 2, 1903, burned the main college building to the ground.   Two men, Bertem Milang of Rose Grove Township and Julius Peterson of Red Wing, Minnesota, died in the blaze.   The fire was discovered by a student named Britt, who arose at 5:00 a.m. to catch a train for his home in Slater.   When he descended the stairs he smelled smoke and retraced his steps to alert the 22 boys who were sleeping on the top floor.   All hurriedly dressed and escaped, but it was later learned that Milang and Peterson apparently returned to the building.   The loss to the college was $22,000.

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      College officials announced that classes would be held in the ladies' dormitory until a new structure could be built.   Completed in 1904, it was a two-story building that had classrooms on the first and second floors.   A full basement was used for kitchen, dining, and laundry.   The men students were housed at various homes in Jewell, and the women moved back into their dormitory.   A year later a gymnasium was constructed to the south of the dormitory.   The college campus now consisted of four buildings: a main building, a dormitory, a gymnasium, and the college president's residence.   The students organized both boys' and girls' basketball teams, which played most of the high school teams in the area.

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To gain more financial support the Hagues Synod transferred the college to the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America in 1905.    In 1917 the college president, Knute Eittrem, reported to the Synod at a meeting in Minneapolis that were were 72 students enrolled at the college.

By 1917 Jewell Lutheran College had more than a baseball diamond and tennis court.
There was finally a gymnasium on campus.

      The college continued to operate until the 1918-1919 school year when it closed because of the war.   On June 5, 1919, the Association met and decided to re-open the college in the fall.  See news article below.


 

Published September 16, 1920:

FOOTBALL AT THE COLLEGE

     For the first time, we believe in the history of Jewell Lutheran College, the game of football, the best and the greatest of all college and high school sports, is to be played at the college this fall.   Prof. Vigness is to be in charge of the coaching of the game, and he had his men out for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon for the first practice of the season.   Evough men reported for practice to make up two full teams with a few to spare.   Coach Vigness gave the men two very busy hours kicking and passing the ball and learning to fall on it, with instruction in tackling and blocking.   The men also lined up for a short time and went through a few simple formations.

     Suits and other equipment will be secured, and as soon as the men become sufficiently familiar with the game the coach will arrange some games to be played.   Several of the candidates for the team have played so Vigness will not have an entirely green squad to work with.

      The Jewell Record of May 31, 1923, reported on changes in the faculty for the next year.   Roger Peterson and Prof. G. A. Larson resigned and were replaced by Prof. H. D. Eittreim and Dr. L. M. (Jake) Jacobson.   The article continued to say that "the attendance the past year has been only fair which caused friends of the school to be fearful as to the financial outcome."   This same year there was talk in Jewell about the need for a new public school building.   On Nov 2, 1923 it was noted that the students had started to drive to school in cars.   Elmer Charlson drives over from Randall in his 'Star', Burton Olson drives another Star from Wall Lake, and Helen and Irene Hove drive daily from Stanhope in their Ford.   On Jan. 11, 1923, the J. L. C. boys defeated Gilbert in basketball last Friday evening with a score of 30 to 21.


      L. A. Vigness, by now Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, learned of the plan and wrote a letter, dated Dec. 5, 1923, to Mr. Henningson, Chairman of the Board of Education, stating that he wanted to submit some suggestions regarding the Jewell Lutheran College.   He stated that, due to a reduced budget for the church, they were "looking at the possibility that Jewell Lutheran College will be one of those schools to discontinue their operation." He went on to say that they were interested in negotiating a transfer of the college property to the Jewell Independent School District.

The college continued until May 24, 1924, when the final commencement of Jewell Lutheran College was held.  Only seven students graduated that year.   They were: Winfred Bly, Sophia Froisland, Sophie Moline, Ellen Olson, Hazel Hage, Clarence Hanson, and Bernice Sebby.   According to records stored at St. Olaf College, 4,236 students attended Jewell Lutheran College during its 31-year history.   Presidents serving the college were, in order: Lauritz A. Vigness, Cornelius R. Hill, Meyer Brandvig, Victor H. Hegstrom, Olaf Q. Skogeberg, Nels J. Lohre, Carl J. Eastvold, Knut O. Eittreim, Henry A. Okdale, and Iver Iverson.

On June 19, 1924, a mass meeting was called for July 8th at the college in an effort to save the school.   Two plans to be discussed were: 1) raising sufficient funds to purchase the college and operate it by the local churches and: 2) turning the college into a junior college.   Apparently neither plan was approved as nothing more was reported in the Jewell Record.

      All four college buildings - Main, ladies' dormitory, gymnasium, and the president's residence - were transferred to the Independent School District of Jewell Junction, Iowa, on June 26, 1925, by Warranty Deed for the sum of $45,000.   The school district then used the main building to house the high school and junior high.   The ladies' dormitory was transformed into a grade school, and the gymnasium was used for its intended purpose.   The president's residence became the home for the superintendent of Jewell High School.


Reuion held of those graduated from Jewell Lutheran College

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     (Click to view enlarged photo.)