could be completed in from three to six terms, according to the student's advancement. In the early days of the University there were three terms to each school year, a fall term, a winter term, and a spring term.
The four-year agricultural course, as announced in the catalog printed in 1874, was as follows:
First term - Geometry, bookkeeping, anatomy and physiology of domestic animals.
Second term - Geometry, stock breeding, English literature.
Third term - Vegetable physiology, botany, entomology.
First term - Trigonometry and surveying, inorganic chemistry, farm economy.
Second term - Organic chemistry, analytical geometry, farm economy.
Third term - Analytical chemistry, physiology, surveying (field practice), horticulture.
First term - Mechanical physics, French or Latin, logic or Chaucer.
Second term - Chemical physics, French or Latin, English literature.
Third term - Astronomy, rhetoric, French or Latin.
First term - Intellectual philosophy, zoology, agricultural jurisprudence.
Second term - Moral philosophy, meteorology, comparative physical geography, lectures on comparative anatomy.
Third term - Constitution of United States, landscape gardening, geology.
There was also a preparatory course of one year, evidently for those who were unable to enter the regular classes. It included:
First term - Arithmetic (commercial), algebra, English composition.
Second term - History of United States, algebra, elementary chemistry.
Third term - Elements of natural philosophy, arithmetic, elements of botany.
The two-year course in agriculture embraced:
First term - Arithmetic, algebra, English composition.
Second term - Arithmetic (commercial), algebra or history of United States, elementary chemistry.
Third term - Elementary natural philosophy, vegetable physiology, elements of botany.
First term - Bookkeeping, anatomy and physiology of lower animals, farm economy.
Second term - Meteorology, stock breeding, farm economy.
Third term - Tree culture, gardening, entomology.
Besides the weighty subject of agricultural jurisprudence, perhaps the most ambitious agricultural subject offered was that of farm economy. Farm economy did not resemble rural economics of the present day. In fact, in those days instruction in agriculture was divided into two main divisions, scientific agriculture, which included the application of the natural sciences to the business of farming, and farm economy, which seemed to include every subject that could not be classified under a head of its own. It included:
"Principles regulating the mechanical preparation of the soil, means of pulverizing the soil, of securing dryness in wet soils and moisture in dry ones; methods of seeding crops, of cultivating crops; adaptation of crops to particular soils, to market, to the condition of soil; use and care of farm implements; draining; laying out farms, construction of farm buildings, houses, barns, ice-houses, stables, henneries, piggeries, etc.; improvement of soils in chemical relations; animal, vegetable and mineral manures; methods of applying manure; succession of crops, rotation of crops, preparation of the soil for particular crops."
But the fact that students were difficult to secure led to a great deal of discussion as to the future of the Agricul-
tural College. The question of the kind of instruction to be given in an Agricultural College was indeed a bothersome one. Chancellor Benton in his report for the college year ending in June, 1874, paid considerable attention to this problem. Two definite plans in relation to agricultural instruction were suggested. The first plan was to make the Agricultural College more strictly a technical school. "Schools of law, of medicine, or engineering, do not require of their students a knowledge of all branches of literature and science, but only such preparation as will enable them to profit by the instruction they seek," said Chancellor Benton. "Why not organize the agricultural work on the same general plan, and thus popularize it far more than is possible, where a full course of four years is required, with a year of preparatory study to enter on it?"
The second plan, known as the Cornell plan, was to require of all students in the University a certain amount of agricultural instruction, and more extended work for those desiring it. The former plan appears to have been adopted, for in the report of the Board of Regents is this notation: "At its last meeting, December 16, 1874, the Board reduced the length of time required to obtain a college degree in this department from four years to three years; thus making the instruction more strictly technical in its character." University catalogs of the day are a little confusing as to this three-year course, in two catalogs the course being mentioned in one place as three years in length, and in another place in the same catalogs as being a four-year course. A one-year agricultural course was also listed about this time. However this may be, the college was shortly to make the main course a four-year one, besides one year preparatory.
"The Farmers' Institute stands for better farming, more comfortable homes, a higher degree of intelligence, and a more noble citizenship among the farming people. The Nation has always at
critical times in the past looked to the farm for many of her great men. She must continue to do so in the future. The Farmers' Institute seeks to assist in promoting larger agricultural production and higher standards of living, so that the boys and girls will love farm life, seek an agricultural education, and return to their homes upon the land, rather than be swallowed up and lost in the crowded cities. Any subjects that directly assist in this movement are proper for the Farmers' Institute. The main features must be crop production, soil tillage and fertility, livestock, poultry, fruit growing, road making, home economics, and other subjects of a similar nature." - From the first report on Nebraska Farmers' Institutes, 1906.
The farmers' institute was one of the great agricultural forces in Nebraska, and had its beginning in this period. Sponsored largely by the University in its earliest days, it was the first attempt to carry University instruction to the people of the state. For nearly half a century it was a vital force in hundreds of communities. The village church, or the village hall, or the schoolhouse was often packed to the doors by the people of the surrounding county, who considered the coming of the institute an event as great or greater than the county fair or the circus.
Today the institute is no more. It is practically obsolete, swallowed up in the tremendous expansion of agricultural extension. During the forty years that the farmers' institute enriched the country life of this state, it was an organization of ideals, as the quotation at the beginning of this section, from the University's first report on Nebraska farmers' institutes, published in 1906, indicates. But as time goes on people are going to wonder more and more what sort of an institution a farmers' institute really was, and something of its veriest beginnings, long before it reached its great culmination in the early 1900's.
The farmers' institute movement began before the Agricultural College was hardly in operation. In fact, the absence of students in this department seemed rather responsible for the idea of carrying education to the people, even if they did not exert themselves enough to come to
the college to get the education. It appears that it was Chancellor Benton, the first chancellor of the University, who conceived this happy idea. In the chancellor's annual report to the Board of Regents for the year ending June 25, 1873, the second year of the University's operation, there is this important recommendation:
"For the purpose of giving publicity to the work of the Agricultural College, and for promoting intelligence among the farming class, I would suggest the feasibility of holding institutes in various parts of the State, during the winter season. The Professor of Agriculture, aided by such assistance as he may obtain, can, I am persuaded, promote essentially the cause of industrial education throughout the State.
"I do not see why such an extension of our work would not be entirely legitimate; and if zealously and efficiently done it would undoubtedly redound to the advantage of the University, and confer lasting benefit on the localities where they may be held.
"There are organizations of farmers in various parts of the State, which would, without doubt, gladly make all the necessary arrangements for holding such meetings as I have suggested.
"There is prevailing in all the States an opinion somewhat adverse to theoretical farming, and a latent distrust of the utility of schools for the industrial class. This can be overcome in a large measure by the free interchange of views between our agricultural professors and the farmers of the State; and thus we can secure increased patronage to the classes of the agricultural school.
"As a beginning it might be profitable to have such an institute at the University building, sometime in the winter; and carefully prepared papers and addresses on the various topics connected with agriculture and horticulture might be presented from experienced persons from abroad, as well as by the professors of the University. The importance of having the Agricultural College possess the favor and confidence of the people at large cannot be too highly estimated, and whatever will contribute to this end should be promptly accepted."
Here apparently was the first mention of agricultural extension. It will be recalled by our readers that at this time the Agricultural College had not yet secured its first regular student, for in the same report Prof. S. R. Thompson stated that "a small number of students have entered
for the regular course in Agriculture, but for the present year have been pursuing preparatory studies chiefly," In the report for the next year, ending June, 1874, Chancellor Benton was obliged to state of the Agricultural College: "The special instruction belonging to this department has not yet been in demand, and no solicitation has been used to urge students into this course of study." But one of the duties of the "Professor of Agriculture" during the winter term had been the holding of agricultural institutes.
This indeed appears a rather remarkable bit of forethought on the part of the University's first chancellor. Most people, if one were to ask them, would say that agricultural extension has been a development of only the last few years, but here was a branch of agricultural extension actually in operation before the Agricultural College was having any regular students, and before the present Agricultural College farm had been purchased.
During the winter term of 1873-74, the third year of the University's operation, four farmers' institutes were held. One was held at Dorchester, Saline County; one at Palmyra, Otoe County; one at Seward, Seward County; and one at Lowell, Kearney County. "The last mentioned, coming after spring work had begun, had a small attendance," says Professor Thompson in the report to the regents. "The others were well attended and seemed to give excellent satisfaction. The day sessions were occupied in discussions on practical farm work, the evenings to more general work - essays, lectures, etc. At these meetings lectures were delivered by Governor Furnas, Hon. A. K. White, Chancellor Benton, B. F. Kinney, Hon. J. M. McKenzie, and by the professors in the Agricultural College. Valuable essays were contributed by H. K. Raymond, of Otoe County, Judge Gilmour, of Cass County, Hon. Uriah Bruner, of Cuming County, and others. These essays have been widely copied in the agricultural and other papers - a pretty good indication of their value. At Dorchester, the last evening, the large school room was so filled that not even standing room
SOME FORTY YEARS AGO
The college as it appeared nearly a half century ago. The two main buildings are the dormitory and the stone house.
was left, and many had to go away unable to obtain entrance. So satisfactory were these meetings to those in attendance that arrangements were made to hold others in the places next winter. Besides these farmers' meetings, I attended six teachers' institutes during the time I was not teaching in the University. . . . At each of them I spoke at least one evening on the claims of agricultural education and regarding the work of the Agricultural College."
In the same report Professor Thompson forecasts the need for agricultural extension:
"We should not solely seek to discover new agricultural truth and to fit young men for illustrating its value in the community, but we should make a special effort to disseminate agricultural knowledge through the community. This we may do in several ways, as by publication of reports, and through the press, and by the public lectures of our teachers. There seems to be no good reason why the teaching of our professors should be confined entirely to the class room. The great public who support the University are certainly entitled to receive a share of the instruction the University may have to impart. If only knowledge is spread abroad and improvement stimulated, what matters it, whether all be done in the conventional way or not?"
There was one outstanding figure in this period of the development of the Agricultural College, and that was Prof. S. R. Thompson, the first professor of agriculture and first dean of the college. Professor Thompson was not only a dominant figure in connection with the Agricultural College but also prominent in educational affairs in the state. Perhaps not a great deal might be known about Professor Thompson were it not for a sketch contributed by Dr. Charles E. Bessey to the annual report of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture for 1896. It in turn was partly from a sketch prepared by President Ferguson of Westminster College, Pennsylvania. The facts, as presented here, are from Professor Bessey's sketch, Professor
Thompson gave to Nebraska the best years of his life, from thirty-eight years to fifty-one years of age.
We learn that he was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, April 17, 1833. He graduated from Westminster College in 1863. Before graduation, he served as superintendent of the Crawford County schools. He was professor of natural science in the Edinboro State Normal School from 1865 to December, 1867. Later he was engaged in high school work at Pottsville, Pa., and then went to Marshall College, Cabell County, West Virginia, to reorganize it as a state normal school. After three years there he came to Nebraska.
Professor Thompson resigned from his position at the Agricultural College in 1875. For a year he was principal of the State Normal School at Peru, Nebraska, and state superintendent of public instruction in Nebraska from 1877 to 1881. He also filled out the term of Prof. W. W. W. Jones, as superintendent of the Lincoln (Nebraska) city schools, when Professor Jones succeeded him as state superintendent. He again resumed the professorship at the Agricultural College and from that he was called to the professorship of physics at Westminster College in June, 1884. Professor Thompson died October 28, 1896. Dean Bessey paid him this tribute on the occasion of his death:
"We need not go back to those early days and criticize the work of those who were compelled to make educational bricks without straw, and while we may readily admit that mistakes were made, we should none the less honor those who toiled and planned. Time has shown that those who once criticized Professor Thompson's work were themselves as far as he from having the true solution of the problems of that time. As we look back to those days of small things, those days in which the beginnings were made, we are led to honor the man who shrank not from the labor which was laid upon him. As I look over the country and compare the work done by Professor Thompson in this young University, with that accomplished by men in similar positions in other institutions I am constrained to say that Nebraska was very fortunate in having the services of so cultured a man.
"While in Nebraska Professor Thompson organized the State Weather Service, which with varying fortunes has existed to this day, growing in these later years into the splendid service with which almost every Nebraskan is familiar. This work might be honor enough, but to it we may add another. In the early days he began urging the people of the state to engage in farmers' institutes, in which he himself took active part. As I go about the state I frequently find a pleasant memory still lingering of the pleasant face and voice of the dead teacher.
"Personally, Professor Thompson was tall, of pleasant manner and with a scholarly bearing. In his later years his white hair and full beard of almost snowy whiteness gave him a venerable look. A kind face from which looked out the clear, soft eyes which betokened the sympathetic friend, completes the picture of the man who has gone from us."
There was still another man, who, besides Chancellor Benton and Professor Thompson, was listed as a member of the faculty of the Agricultural College. That was Professor Samuel Aughey, professor of chemistry and natural sciences, who officiated in the Agricultural College as well as the academic department. Professor Aughey gave a course in elementary chemistry, inorganic and organic, and also took up the application of chemical science to agriculture. He also offered instruction in geology and botany to students of the Agricultural College. Professor Aughey graduated from Pennsylvania College in 1856 and from 1867 to 1871 was in the employ of the Smithsonian Institution. For several years during his connection with the University of Nebraska he taught the classes in German and "devoted his remaining spare time to the collection of an herbarium of the flora of the state." He resigned in 1883, becoming territorial geologist of Wyoming.
Annual Reports of the Chancellor to the Board of Regents, University of Nebraska. 1872-76.
Annual Reports of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. 1873 and 1896.
CALDWELL, HOWARD W. Education in Nebraska. Circular of Information No. 31 1902, of the United States Bureau of Education.
Catalogs of the University of Nebraska. 1872-77.
Nebraska Farmers' Institutes, First Report. University Bulletins, Series XI, No. 22. University of Nebraska, 1906.
Reports of the Board of Regents, University of Nebraska. 1871-81.
The University of Nebraska, 1869-1919. Semi-Centennial Anniversary Book. The University, 1919.