West Central School of Agriculture
Travel and E-Travel
I visited the University of Minnesota-Morris campus in 1990 as part of a fact finding tour on student retention. Ancestry.com has some School of Agriculture yearbooks from 1914 through 1954. Internet Archive has the early school catalogs. “Historic Buildings of the West Central School of Agriculture Converted to Use by the University of Minnesota, Morris in 1960” describes campus buildings.
West Central School of Agriculture was organized in 1910 as part of the University of Minnesota. Its purpose was “training of young men for the purpose of farming and of young women for the profession of home-making.” It was a secondary school, taking students who had completed eighth grade. Its long program was three years of six months each (October through March). There was an optional fourth year, allowing students to focus on an area of specialization such as dairying or carpentry (for boys) and nursing or normal training (for girls). Later yearbooks show that the program had been extended to four years.
West Central attempted to provide a full high school experience for its agricultural students. It taught a full range of academic subjects and electives such as band, piano, public speaking and gymnasium. There were three literary societies—Vincent Society (for men), Agricolae Society (for men) and Ceres Club for women)—provided to help students learn parliamentary procedure and develop public speaking skills. The societies held an inter-society debate, and the school sponsored two debate teams that competed against the Northwest School of Agriculture at Crookston. Students also staged a school play—later Junior and Senior plays.
West Central students had a small school orchestra, a larger school band, and both boys and girls glee clubs, so it could provide musical entertainments.
To aid in the moral character of students, the school, sponsored chapters of both the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. These organized non-sectarian religious services Sunday mornings and evenings.
Enrollment reached 475 in 1947, but social and technological changes caused enrollment to fall in the late 1950’s. In 1960 the school began to phase out, closing in 1963 with the graduation of the 1960 matriculates
Boys' Dormitory of Morris Industrial School for Indians. Image by Gobonobo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Industrial_School_for_Indians#/media/File:Dormitory_at_the_Morris_Industrial_School_for_Indians.jpg
Bricks and Mortar
West Central School of Agriculture inherited a campus containing five “masonry” building from the Morris Industrial School for Indians—the “School House,” the Boys Dormitory, the Girls Dormitory, the Hospital and the Laundry. Of these, only the Boys Dormitory, built in 1899, remains today, serving as the Multi-Ethnic Resource Center. It was placed on the National Register in 1984 for its significance in Native American education.
In addition to the Multi-Ethnic Resource Center, ten surviving buildings associated with West Central School of Agriculture have been designated a Historic District. Built between 1912 and 1929, these buildings were designed by Clarence H. Johnson, in the American Craftsman style.
Additions included women’s and men’s dormitories (1912-13), Cattle Barn and Silo (1914) Engineering Building (1915), the three-story Dining Hall/Gymnasium/Auditorium (1918), Senior Hall (1920), Agricultural Hall (1920), the Infirmary (1923) Junior Hall (1926), and Seed House (1929).
With minimal additions and adaptations, the campus became home to the University of Minnesota Morris in 1960.
Team name: Aggies
School Colors: As a branch of the University of Minnesota,
W.C.S.A. teams wore Maroon and Gold
Each class of the school organized both a boys’ and a girls’ basketball team which participated in a school tournament. But the big sporting event was Field Day in which participants from each class participated in selected track and field events as well as tug-of-war and basketball contests.
W.C.S.A. fielded men’s and women’s basketball teams and a football team. All teams competed against high schools in the West Central region, including Morris, Hancock, Appleton, Glenwood, Wheaton, Benson, Browns Valley, and Starbuck. Newspapers also show a basketball game with Willmar Seminary and football games against Park Region Luther College.
Available yearbooks from the 1950’s show that W.C.S.A. had added cross country, wrestling and swimming teams,. By them the Aggies are also part of a league of agricultural schools including Crookston and Grand Rapids.
Yearbook image of the 1921 basketball team.