Blees Military Academy
The 1901 Class Book and the 1907 Aula are both available from HathiTrust. The Macon Citizen and the Macon Republican were among the newspapers that covered school activities. The nominating form to include the Blees Military Academy campus on the National Register is available on the Missouri State Parks website.
Blees Military Academy was the product of German-born Colonel Frederick W. Blees (left), who came toMacon, Missouri in 1889, where he served as headmaster of St. James School. After the death of his father in 1898, Blees, now worth $3,000,000, determined to open his own school. The purpose of the school was to prepare boys to enter one of the universities or the U.S. Military or Naval Academy or the field of business. As a result, the curriculum emphasized mathematics and science along with history and languages. Blees insisted that boys receive manual training “to impress them with the dignity of labor.”
The commandant of Blees Military Academy was a United States military officer appointed by the defense department. The academic faculty included two business teachers, a mathematics teacher, and a chemistry/biology teacher. It also included a gymnastics teacher and a music teacher. The initial six-year program also included a program for those not yet ready for regular classroom work. Initial enrollment was 69, growing to more than 100 by 1902.
In the first fall, students were publishing a 50-page newspaper called the B.M.A. Monthly., and a college orchestra was organized. Within a year they were publishing a yearbook. Cadets performed an annual minstrel show as well as a school play.
Newspapers show that the cadets enjoyed a full social life. Colonel Blees chartered trains to take students to away football games. Home football games and other entertainments were often accompanied by a “hop,” for which area school girls were brought in as dancing partners. Founder’s Day was celebrated each January 12, with a recital and dance.
Colonel Blees died on September 8, 1906, just before the start of a new school year. His widow Mary continued to manage the school until 1911, when she was forced to sell it to avoid foreclosure on a debt.
Bricks and Mortar
The monumental Academic Hall was a Romanesque Revival structure measured 224 feet by 88 feet. It was three floors over a basement and completely fireproof. It contained 110 individual sleeping rooms for the cadets in addition to twelve suites of faculty apartments. It featured three laboratories, a study fall, a photo dark room, a carpentry shop, a hospital, a study hall and a dining hall. But its highlight was the aula, measuring 55 by 185 feet, used for all entertainments and gatherings.
An added gymnasium contained a swimming pool, a shooting gallery, a running track, and space for all gymnastics equipment.
From 1915 to 1968 the campus served as the Still-Hildreth Sanatorium for the treatment of nervous disorders. Today Academic Hall has been converted to low income housing. The gymnasium houses the Macon County Historical Society
Academic Hall. Image from the National Register Application.
Team Name: Cadets
School Colors: Blue and White
B.M.A. began football immediately in the fall of 1899 with a five-game schedule. A school of fewer than 100 students—some of those in junior high school—Blees, none the less, scheduled Westminster College and Kirksville Schedule of Osteopathy and in 1903 became a member of the St. Louis Interscholastic League. The 1903 team was undefeated with wins over conference opponents St. Louis High School 44-0, St. Louis Manual Training School 81-0, and Smith Academy 11-0 and were not scored on for the season. The 1909 team was also undefeated, claiming the championship of Missouri after defeating Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Columbia high schools.
Blees began baseball in the spring of 1900. But among the players available was Barney Pelty (right), a shortstop and pitcher who went on to win 92 games in ten seasons with the St. Louis Browns. He helped the Cadets to a 5-0 record. One of those wins came against the University of Missouri, a yearly opponent.
The Cadets also fielded teams in track, gymnastics, tennis, and basketball.
The edited 1909 image of Barney Pelty is from a Ramly baseball card.