The History of Cheney State Normal School

History of the State 
Normal School At Cheney
Chapter 2

 

By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing book.  The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers!  Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!

 

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Chapter II

ESTABLISHING THE STATE NORMAL SCHOOL.

Success in self-government has been the outstanding contribution of the Anglo-Saxon race to civilization. Wherever the Anglo-Saxon people have gone they have carried with them the ideals and some practical plan of free government. And beyond a doubt much of the success which they have achieved in self-government in recent decades has been due to an educated citizenry. These people have built their free states upon their public schools. Long ago they learned that freedom presupposes the intelligent use of it; that it is unsafe in the hands of the ignorant. Education becomes common property only to the extent that it is made free, and therefore, available to everybody. From the earliest beginnings of America the value of free public schools as an agency of social control has never been lost sight of.

Scarcely had the Puritan fathers laid the foundations of their homes in the New England wilderness when they turned their attention to devising a system of education in order that "learning might not be buried with them." They perceived education to be a necessity under their plan of government. As time went on other colonies followed the lead of New England, and public schools

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trailed along in the wake of the emigrant wagons in the great trek across the continent of North America. The log school-house became a necessary adjunct to the log cabin, and the school houses called for teachers.

As the western territories became more thickly settled with the passing of the years, and as the people thereof became ambitious to enter the Union on a parity with the citizens of the original states, Congress began to require that these petitioners write into their respective constitutions guarantees of free and equal educational opportunities for their children as a sine qua non of admission. The Federal government did not purpose to weaken the body politic by encouraging the "plague spots of ignorance." Liberal grants of land were accordingly set aside by the Federal government as endowments in perpetuity for public school systems in many of the states, the income of which was to be used for the advancement of learning. Such a policy on the part of the Federal government, fortunately, was firmly established long before the Territory of Washington knocked at the door of the Union for admission.

Schools were established in the Pacific Northwest with coming of the missionaries many decades ago, and from these simple beginnings educational facilities were gradually extended as the need arose and the abilities of the people permitted. But from the time that John Ball started the first school north of the Columbia River, at Vancouver, January 1, 1833, to the admission of Washington Territory to statehood, November 11, 1889, school houses in Washington multiplied slowly and teachers more slowly. The foundation of a public school system which climbed within a generation to first place in the United States was not completed until statehood, for with statehood came large endowments of land--endowments for the common schools, for technical schools and a university, and for normal schools for training a corps of teachers.

The Congress of the United States by the Enabling Act--"An act to provide for the division of Dakota into two states and to enable the people of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington to form constitutions and state governments, and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, and to make donations of public lands to such states"--approved the 22nd day of February, 1889, guaranteed educational opportunities

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to the children of the citizens of the future state of Washington. And, in order that a corps of teacher might be trained for the common schools, ample provision was made for teacher-training institutions.

Part of Section XVII of said Enabling Act reads:

"To the State of Washington: For the establishment and maintenance of a scientific school, one hundred thousand acres: for state normal schools, one hundred thousand acres: for public buildings at the state capital, in addition to the grant hereinbefore made for that purpose, one hundred thousand acres: for state charitable, educational, penal and reformatory institutions, two hundred thousand acres * * * And the lands granted by this section shall beheld, appropriated and disposed of exclusively for the purposes herein mentioned, in such manner as the legislatures of the respective states may severally provide."

In compliance with the provisions of the Enabling Act, the state constitution adopted at Olympia, the 22nd of August, 1889, and ratified by vote of the people of the territory the first of October following, stipulated that free and equal educational opportunities be made a "paramount duty of the state." Provision was also made for guarding adequately the liberal land grants of the Federal government. Section II, of Article IX, of the constitution reads:

"The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools and such high schools, normal schools and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund, and the state tax for common schools, shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools."

Thus the beginning of the State Normal School at Cheney is traced back through the organic law of the state to the act of the congress under authority of which the constitutional convention of the Territory of Washington came into being. From the beginning of statehood the people of Cheney believed that their little village, because of its location, healthful condition and early advancement along educational lines, was destined to become an educational center of the Inland Empire.

Cheney was fortunate in being represented in both houses of the first state legislature by able men. Representative Stephen G. Grubb and Senator Alex Watt. Through their efforts, in spite of much opposition and log-rolling tactics employed by interests in various parts of the state to obtain state institutions, the first State Normal School was located at Cheney by an act approved March 27, 1890. The State Normal School at Ellensburg was established on March 28,

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1890, and the State Normal School at Bellingham on February 24, 1893.

Authority to offer the Cheney Academy and the grounds to the State of Washington as a gift, on condition that an institution for the training of teachers be established and maintained in Cheney perpetually, was granted by the trustees to Representative Grubb, who introduced a bill in the house to establish the institution. A note in The Cheney Enterprise, January 23, 1890, reads as follows:

"A petition was widely circulated among our citizens Saturday for presentation to the legislature, praying for the location of the Normal School at the city. The directors of the Cheney Academy have offered the building and grounds of that sterling institute as a bonus. The petition was extensively signed, and it is hoped by all that we may succeed in securing the coveted prize."

The acquisition of the State Normal School, however, was not an easy matter. In the distribution of state institutions sectional pride had to be appeased. Nearly every section of the state could present a specious argument in favor of locating some state institution there, and the numerous efforts to "create and locate" so many things, which would be a constant drain on the state treasury for maintenance, made difficult the endeavors to establish worthy institutions. It was charged that Spokane Falls, referred to frequently in Cheney as "the metropolis" after the county seat had been moved from Cheney to Spokane Falls, was endeavoring to "grab" so much from the legislature that Cheney's chances to obtain the Normal School were being jeopardized. In the issue of the Cheney Enterprise for February 6 the following note appeared:

"The omnibus bill for the location of four normal schools in the state was a well-laid plot to defeat the house bill locating a branch at Cheney. The transparency of the thing was so plain that anybody could see the object, and it was generally talked here that it as a scheme to knock Cheney out and secure the scientific school at Spokane."

Criticism of the Grubb bill for establishing a normal school in Cheney, by the Spokane Falls Chronicle, on the ground that Cheney ought not to give up the academy and that there was room for both institutions, likewise drew fire from the editor of The Cheney Enterprise."

The Cheney Normal bill passed the house of representatives, but encountered much opposition in the senate. At one time it was defeated in the senate, but was later passed following a motion to reconsider. A dispatch from Olympia to The Cheney Sentinel, under date of March 12, reads:

"Senator Watt tried his level best to run through Grubb's bill locating the normal school at Cheney in the senate this morning, but the bill failed to receive the constitutional majority and was lost. Before announcing the vote the Spokane senator gave notice in the proper time he would move to reconsider, the vote by which the bill was killed."

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Writing briefly on the history of the Normal School in the Rhododendron the Normal School Annual, in 1907, Stephen G. Grubb described the type of persuasion used to secure the passage of the bill:

"I negotiated with the trustees of the academy here for a transfer of this property tot he state for the purpose of making it a normal school. They consented, so I introduced a bill for that purpose into the legislature. It passed the house, but the senate opposed the measure. It was referred to the committee on education, and there it was put to sleep. So when the senate passed a bill to establish a normal school at Ellensburg, and sent it to the house, I retaliated by having it put to sleep, and whenever the senate made an effort to revive the Ellensburg bill we told them they must pass the Cheney bill first. This had the desired effect, but when the Cheney bill was voted on it did not receive the number of votes requisite for its passage. It was reconsidered and laid on the tale for future action. At this time the senate was desirous of passing an important tide land bill, and, as it required but one vote for its passage in the house, I withheld mine until the Cheney bill had been passed in the senate."

The final vote in the senate on the bill to establish the Normal School at Cheney stood 23 for and 2 against. A special dispatch to the Spokane Spokesman following the vote reads as follows:

"Senator Alex Watt and Representative Grubb are not painting the town red, but nevertheless they are the happiest men in Olympia. The passage in the senate of Grubb's bill locating the Normal School at Cheney is the cause of their rejoicing. Senator Watt made a very determined fight for the bill, and to him

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much credit should be given. The locating of the school at Cheney, Representative Grubb thinks, will bring to his home all the prestige it lost when the county seat of Spokane was moved to Spokane Falls." Congratulations on the outcome of the legislative fight to obtain the Normal School were showered upon Cheney by Spokane newspapers"

A tribute to the work of S. G. Grubb, written by D. F. Percival, was published in the Cheney Free Press of August 12, 1904. It follows:

"When Washington Territory was admitted into the Union as a state in 1889, there was a man living about forty miles from Cheney, whose name was B. G. Grubb. He was elected as a member of the legislature from the Fifth District. He was a man of large experience, great energy, and determination. After his election he resolved that he would do everything in his power to advance the interests of his constituents as a reward for their support in electing him a member of the first legislature of the state.

"Mr. Grubb conceived the idea of transferring the Cheney Academy and the grounds to the state on condition that the state would locate and maintain a normal school in Cheney. This transfer was consummated, and Mr. Grubb presented the bill for the location and maintenance of this school at Cheney. He worked the bill through and it became a law.

"At this time nearly every city, town and village in the state was clamoring for a state institution, and there was much controversy and ill-feeling in various parts of the state over this institution. Mr. Grubb was successful in his efforts, and his enemies were numerous, accusing him of all sorts of rascality and bribery, in order to get the bill through, Mr. Grubb voted for the tide-lands bill. He was compelled to do this in order to secure the vote of the members from the west side of the state. This bill became a law at the same time, and seems to be giving satisfaction.

"It was expected at the time that Mr. Grubb's enemies would set up a howl, especially those living in other towns, who were disappointed in not getting what they so much desired.

"But the worst feature of all was that many of the citizens of Cheney and the surrounding country joined in the condemnation of this man who had labored so hard and done so much for the upbuilding of this community. The writer was personally acquainted with him for nearly twenty years, and can say with all sincerity that he was an honest and upright man; that he was the best informed man on the history of this country of any man that ever lived in this part of the state. He had been engaged in various lines of commerce during his early life. He was a lieutenant of artillery all through the Civil War and performed many brave and heroic deeds. He was usually a member of our state and county conventions, and commanded the respect and confidence of the leading men of the state. And it seems strange that a man of his character and usefulness should not have been appreciated more highly by his fellow-citizens for the successful efforts he made to advance their interests and to establish an institution of learning here whose beneficial effects will be felt for generations to come. How much better it would be if the people would give just credit to our public men than to wrongly accuse the of improper motives."

The act to create a normal school at Cheney specified that the "exclusive purpose of the institution shall be the instruction of persons, both male and female, in the art of teaching the various branches that pertain to a good common

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school." It was made mandatory that the Normal School give instruction in mechanical arts and husbandry, in the fundamental laws of the United States, and in what regards the rights and duties of citizens. It was further provided that the trustees of the Benjamin P. Cheney Academy, before September 1, 1890, should donate to the state the building and one block of ground containing eight acres, valued at not less than $30,000, else the act as a whole would become invalid.

For the government of the Normal School it was decreed that there should be a board of five trustees, appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the senate. Among the powers conferred upon the board was those of appointing a principal and electing teachers; prescribing books to be used; maintaining general supervision of the buildings and property, and letting contracts for the construction of buildings.

Person of good moral character, on passing an examination to be prescribed by the board of trustees, were to be admitted as students. Power to reject applicants, if it appeared that they would not make "good and apt" teachers, was given the board of trustees. The law further declared:

"The board of trustees may, in their discretion, require any applicant for admission into said school other then such as shall, prior to such admission, sign and file with said board a declaration of intention to follow the business of teaching schools in this state, to pay, or secure to be paid, such fees or tuition as to said board shall seem reasonable."

Provision was made for an annual visit to the Normal School of a board of three persons, to be designated by the board of trustees, for the purpose of investigating the work of the institution and making a report.

On the completion of twenty-two weeks of satisfactory work in the institution a student was entitled to a certificate. This certificate, however, was of little value from the professional point of view, for it was not recognized as a license to teach school.

Some doubt was entertained whether the Normal School would be able to begin work in the autumn of 1890, for the legislature had made no appropriation for the school. A suggestion was made shortly after the adjournment of the legislature that a modest tuition fee be charged in order that the school might be opened without delay. Later in the summer, when it became known that the legislature would be convened in extraordinary session in September for the purpose of apportioning representation in the state legislature, it was planned to ask for a maintenance appropriation of $3,000. No appropriation was made, however.

The first board of trustees was appointed as follows: W. H. H. McClure, Palouse City; Louis Walter, Cheney; H. F. Suksdorf, Spangle; S. A. Wells, Spokane Falls, and W. E. Weygant, Cheney. The board was organized on august 18, 1890. Louis Walter was elected president and W. E. Weygant secretary. The building and grounds of the academy were formally accepted by the trustees on behalf of the state.

Not daunted, however, by lack of funds, and believing that the subsequent welfare of the institution demanded a showing of some kind before the meeting of the legislature in 1891, provision was made for the opening of the school on

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October 13, 1890. W. W. Gillette of New York, who had been superintendent of schools at Tucson, Ariz., for the three years last preceding, was chosen principal. W. J. Sutton, principal of the Cheney public schools, was chosen vice principal. The other two members of the faculty were W. C. Stone and Miss Mattie C. Hammond. Principal Gillette had charge of science of education; Mr. Sutton, mathematics and history; Mr. Stone, sciences and geography; and Miss Hammond, reading, rhetoricals, methods and criticism, and grammar and composition.

A preliminary statement from the administration, published in The Cheney Sentinel for September 19, set forth the purposes and advantages of the Normal School in the following words:

"The State Normal and Training School will open in about a month. The preliminary work, such as making out a course of study, rules and regulations, examinations, etc., has already begun. The building will soon be in proper condition for opening the school. Nothing will be left undone to place this in the front rank of the normal schools on the Pacific Coast. No one but normal school teachers will be engaged, and those who are especially adapted to that department of work for which they are selected.

"It is intended to secure a lady of national reputation for the method and practice department. In this department great effort should be made and care taken in securing the best in the country, as in no place in the school is there so much responsibility involved. The character of a large number of boys and girls all over this great state will be influenced to a great extent by the character of work done in the method and practice department of this school; hence the necessity of engaging a teacher qualified in every respect to assume this responsible position.

"Four teachers will be employed for the present year, and it is expected that the school will grow in numbers so that it will require twice the number in one or two years from now. But those who propose taking a normal school course will find as good advantages; if not better, in Cheney than in any other normal school on the Pacific Coast. Improvements will be made as the growth of the school demands. There are several reasons why students who wish to attend a normal school should come to Cheney. The two most important are expense and climate. The expense of living is much less in Cheney than any place in the state, if not on the Pacific Coast, and the health, the important feature of all, should be the deciding point. The largest capitals will not express this fact too emphatically, as it has a health record that speaks for itself, and it speaks in thunder tones. Then, too, Cheney is a town where fathers and mothers can send this sons and daughters in perfect safety from immoral influence. This city is free from that class of people, found so commonly in many towns, who have an evil influence on the young.

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"The object of the school will be to prepare young men and young women for the work of teaching, and all who intend to engage in this profession should secure the required preparation.

A small circular, giving general information about the school, was printed in Cheney before the opening of the first term. Requirements for admission was listed as follows:

Sixteen years old; good moral character; good health; recommendations from county school superintendent; a teacher's certificate or a degree of scholarship necessary to pass a fair examination in all the studies pursued in the grammar school grades.

The school year was divided into two terms of eighteen weeks. Tuition, text books and library were free to all who passed the examination for admission, and signed a pledge to teach in the state for two years. Others were admitted by paying tuition in the amount of $10 per term in the preparatory courses and $15 per term in the academic department. the preparatory course was designed to prepare students for the Normal department in twenty weeks. The academic department comprised all subjects in the Normal department save the professional work.

Strict compliance with the law governing the operation of the Normal School, whose "sole purpose, in all its features, is to prepare teachers for the efficient and proper discharge of their duties in the profession of teaching," was demanded at the inception of the school. Restrictions were prescribed with that end in view, the concluding one being as follows:

"When sufficient evidence has been found against a pupil, showing that his habits and conduct are injurious to the school, such pupil will be promptly dismissed."

School opened on October 13, 1890. The first three days were devoted to the entrance examination and to the classification of students. Sixteen were enrolled the first week. At the classification of the students, on the Thursday following the opening of school, there were present Representative S. G. Grubb, Thomas Quick, Louis Walter and W. E. Weygant. Mr. Grubb made an address to the students, pointing out the purpose of the institution.

During the year additional students were enrolled, and before the beginning of the second year it was realized that the academy building would be inadequate to meet the needs of the institution. The total enrollment for the first year was fifty, twenty-one men and twenty-nine women. Among the number was George e. Craig, a member of the Normal School faculty since 1912, and formerly superintendent of Lincoln County School, and F. V. Yeager, for many years superintendent of Spokane County Schools.

Misfortune overtook the State Normal School at Cheney early in its career, and almost from its inception the people of Cheney and of Spokane County in general were forced to fight for it. In fact, as a long-time friend of the institution remarked at Cheney in the spring of 1922, "it seemed quite the usual thing for friends of the Cheney Normal to be fighting in its behalf." Provision

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had been made for a suitable addition to the academy building, but before its was completed, on august 27, 1891, the building was destroyed by fire. School was opened on September 2 in the Cheney public school building, but one week later, the Pomeroy building on first Street was rented, and for two years classes were conducted in quarters which soon proved to be inadequate.

Seeing the need for more adequate quarters for the school, the people of Cheney loyally voted bonds for the erection of a brick building, which on completion was turned over to the State Normal School. This building was used as a home for the Normal School until the new building, for which the legislature of 1895 appropriated $60,000, was completed in 1896. The school kept growing until the veto of Governor Rogers in 1897 closed its doors for a year.

 

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