Webb City College
Webb City, Missouri
The State Historical Society of Missouri provided the 1898 catalogue. The image (right) is from its cover. Jaspercountyschools.org has a history of the college and its successor. The Galena Weekly Republican was one of the local newspapers that covered events at the school.
In December 1892 J. J. Nelson began advocating for the creation of a college for Webb City. Funds were raised so that Webb City College was able to open on September 24, 1896. According to the Galena Daily News, the purpose of the new school was “to furnish courses of study to meet the wants of each student.” The course of study led to either an A.B. or a B.S. degree. There was also a primary department that served as a preparatory course.
A physical culture class in aesthetic gymnastics. Image from the catalogue.
By the second year, newspapers announced that enrollment had increased to 120 students. The catalogue shows 159 students—presumably including sub-collegiate and special students. The faculty numbered 13. Seven taught traditional college courses—philosophy, math, ancient languages, history, modern languages, natural science, and theology. One faculty member taught business courses, three taught music courses, one taught elocution, and one taught physical culture.
Given the number of faculty teaching music, it is not surprising that the school performed an operetta in 1898, the same year that students presented a concert and that two school medals were awarded for piano and voice. The school had three literary societies--James Robinson, Jane Stewart, and American Girls--that met weekly. There were annual inter-society competitions in composition and elocution.
By spring of 1902 newspapers reported that Webb City College was going to convert to a female seminary. That effort opened in fall 1902, but low enrollment forced the seminary to close in November.
Bricks and Mortar
The citizens of Webb City subscribed $40,000 to construct a building to house the new college. The six-acre building site was located on the west side of Webb City. The cornerstone was laid on August 10,1893. The new building, completed in 1896, measured 193 feet in length. Four stories in height, it contained “nearly a hundred rooms.” Heated by steam, it had electric lights with hot and cold running water. The flooring and inside trim were hardwood. The chapel had seating for 700 and was equipped with a stage. The upper floor had dormitory accommodations for 100 girls. There was also a 70 x 30 room reserved for girls to use for “exercise in gymnastics and physical culture.” The Galena Times called it “a stately pile of buildings” and concluded that “it would be admired in New York City, even among her splendid buildings.”
When Webb City College closed, the building was sold in 1903 to W. T. Larimore and became home to Great Western Business College, until that school closed in 1906. The building was then offered to the state as a site for a normal school and later to the city as a high school. In 1915 it was converted to apartments and was later razed for the bricks in 1928. Since 1933 the site has been Hatton Park.
(right) A post card view of Webb City College building. Image from Card Cow.
The catalogue reports, “Facilities are furnished for exercise and physical culture for the young men and they are encouraged to organized clubs for such purpose." The 1901 American Baptist yearbook lists only 53 males in the Webb City College enrollment of 130. Nevertheless, the school fielded a football team each year, though few game results have been preserved.
Right after the opening of the school in 1896, a team played and lost to Joplin High School 14-0, though the newspaper notes that two key W.C.C. players were missing. December 2, 1998 W.C.C. lost to an independent Joplin team, the Ramblers, 11-5. In November of 1899, the team may have played Drury College as part of the Springfield team's trip to the Carthage area. In 1900 the team traveled to Fayetteville to play the University of Arkansas, losing 15-0. Finally, in 1901 W.C.C. lost to Webb City High School 10-5.