L. E. CAMFIELD
HE CAUGHT A VISION
One year, while the writer was superintendent of the Davison county schools, 1901-1904
(the reader will please excuse this allusion to self, but, as will be seen, it becomes necessary, in view of the
incident related herein), he was conducting a teachers' examination in the court house at Mitchell. Thirty-five
teachers and prospective teachers were writing the examination. Among them was a sixteen-pear-old girl, Eva Belle
Waugh (today, Mrs. S. C. Oathout, of Vermillion). When the examinaion was over and the papers had all been
carefully graded, it was found that this stripling of an inexperienced girl had passed the highest examination
of any who had written it. Now, the highest test of the quality of work done by any school is the qualty of
examination which its students can pass. Where was Miss Vaugh educated? Halt! while we pause to inform you, at
Ward Academy, an inland school near the Missouri river, seventeen miles off the railroad, in Charles Mix county.
Miss Waugh is only one of the many students from this splendid school, which we have since met,among them
being John I. Pasek, secretary of Huron College; Charles Anderson, ex-superintendent of Lyman county, and many
others, all of whom are exceedingly thorough in their scholarship.
This school was built in 1893. It has never had but one president, the Reverend Lewis Emerson
Cam field, the man who caught a vision, grasped the opportunity, looked steadfastly toward his God for
guidance, and moved patiently on to victory. Reverend Mr. Camfield is a descendant on his mother's side from
our great teacher, preacher, poet, and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. His father and grandfather were both
blackmiths. From his mother' side he inherited piety, literary genus and leadership; from his father's side, a
sturdy physique and stable manhood.
Lewis, himself. was born at Fremont, Ohio, February 12, 1860. Here he spent his boyhood
attending the public schools of the town. Later, he attended Old Western Reserve College at Hudson, Ohio, for three years. Marcus A. Hanna was
also a student there at the same time, while ex-president Hayes and Hon. John Hay were trustees of the school.
At the end of his third year the institution was moved to Cleveland, Ohio, consolidated with another institution
at that place, and its name changed to Adelbert College. Here he continued his studies for two years longer. It
was Camfield's intention from boyhood to fit himself for a lawyer. But during his college life his mother and
sister had removed to Sargent county, North Dakota. They sent for him; he went. This changed his career. He
remained in North Dakota for three years during which time he worked as a farm hand with the illustrious Isaac
Lincoln, of Aberdeen, and taught school.
L. E. CAMFIELD
Finally he drifted into South Dakota and accepted the principalship of the old academy at
Plankinton. J. D. Bartow, Captain Anderson and Hon. Tom Ayer's father were the trustees. It was in 1886 Many of
us were here then. We remember the conditions. The academy was closed. Nobody was to blame. Wheat 38 cents per
bushel. Butter 6 cents per pound. Let us not recall it!
HEARD THE CALL
During his teaching career Professor Camfield had been active in Christian work among young
people and had done more or less preaching. He finally decided to give up his legal aspiration and to enter the
ministry. Accordingly, in 1888, he entered Chicago Theological Seminary, affiliated with Chicago University. Here
he had for a classmate part of the time Dr. G. G. Wenzlaff, president of the Springfield (S. D ) state normal school. One day Wenzlaff became provoked at the mediaeval
dogmas being advanced by the old professor of thoesophy, and decided that he was going to turn over a new leaf
right then and there and fit himself for a teacher instead of a preacher. This he did, and thus he changed his
whole career. Strangely enough, he and Camfield are today presidents of sister schools (geographically). Young
Camfield remained at the Seminary for three years, graduating in 1891 with his B. D. degree.
In June of the same year he was united in marriage to Miss Ella Woodman, a teacher in the
Chicago public schools, who had been educated in Boston. They have one child, Miss Florence, now a sophomore in
Yankton College. Mrs. Camfield taught for many years in Ward Academy, and otherwise assisted her ambitious
We shall all be interested to learn something more of Ward Academy and how it happended to be
located inland. After his graduation, Reverend Camfield came back to South Dakota and took up work as a home
missionary and pioneer preacher in Charles Mix county. He had four appointments with a membership of about
fifty each. Finally one Sunday in 1892, Fremont Hall, a classmate of President Nash at Yankton college, and
field agent for that institution, came to call on Camfield, to make the "rounds" with him, look over conditions,
do the talking four times that day and to take up a collection from among the westerners for the furtherance of
negro education in the south. The collection amounted to $20.
That evening, Camfield said to Hall, "If we can raise $20 here among my people during these
hard times for the education of the southern negro, we ought to be able to raise considerable money for the
education of our children here at home."
"Why don't you establish a school of your own at some advantageous point right here in the
county?" said Hall.
"I'll do it!" declared Camfield.
Momentarily, our young western preacher had caught a vison. During the next few weeks he rode
on horse-back over the county which is 110 miles long, interviewing the parents of such boys as Ethan T. Colton
and Fred Smith, now of Y. M. C. A. fame. He met encouragement everywhere. W. G. Dickenson, of Webster,
superintendent of missions, came to the field, and he and Camfield called a public meeting, to further the
enterprise. Camfield asked for eighty acres of land and $1,000 in cash. Dickinson reinforced the request with a vigorous speech. The meeting pledged 100 acres of land and $1500, in cash.
The academy was begun. It was named "Ward" after Dr. Ward, of Yankton College. (It should be changed to "Camfield").
The next year, 1893, it was completed and it opened with an enrollment of twenty-three. During the first year
this was raised to fifty and for the past four years it has ranged from 125 to 145. Since "Ward Hall" was built
they have erected a large church which is also used as a school building. In addition to this they have built
several cottages and they are just now completing a girls' dormitory at a cost of $20,000. They have acquired all
told 760 acres of land, farming 300 acres and pasturing the balance. In addition they have $5,000 worth of
blooded stock. The total value of the buildings, land and stock is $75,000.
All hail! Camfield! you have served your generation well. God never intended you for a lawyer.
"Henceforth there shall be laid up for you a crown of righteousness." Wear it with manly pride!