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Cedar Valley Seminary

Osage, Iowa



I came to Osage from Mason City.  Discovering that I was two hours early for the Mitchell County Historical Society opening and that the Society was no longer housed in the old seminary, I used the time to photograph the old seminary building.  


The Mitchell County Historical Society was a pleasure to visit.  The Director showed me copies of the Cedar Valley Seminary yearbook, scanned photos for me, and provided a history of the seminary.  So I went away with a treasure trove.  


Cedar Valley Seminary came about after a proposal from the Osage Baptist Church to the Cedar Valley Baptist Association.  The school opened in January of 1863 with Alva Bush and two assistants teaching 31 students.  In September of 1863 enrollment passed 100; at that time the Association took control of the school.  And while Cedar Valley Seminary was a Baptist school, it was not sectarian, being “a public institution of higher learning devoted to the interests of all the people in the neighboring country.


The school’s curriculum was designed to be of practical value to students.  It offered five courses of study: 

     A teachers’ course of one, two, or three years;

     A business course of 2-3 terms to prepare students for office or clerical work;

     A four-year scientific course focusing on all branches of science with German, history, and English literature added;

     A four-year literary course with three years of Latin at its core;

     A four-year classic course with one and one-half years of Greek.


Students were offered the opportunity to join one of two literary societies—Aeonian or Zetagathian—providing practice in speaking, reading, and literature.  C.V.S. also sponsored a rhetorical association, a glee club and a Christian association.  All students were required to practice instrumental or vocal music.  A 1901 advertisement mentions “military drill.”


In 1916-17 enrollment numbered around 78—45 in the four-year programs, 20 in the commercial program, and 13 in the normal program.  Cedar Valley Seminary/Junior College was closed in 1922, “no longer filling a need in the community.”


Bricks and Mortar

Osage with a population of 3,000 was advertised as an ideal location for a college.  It was a town of educated, Christian people, a place “most favorable to the development of habits and good character.”  There were no saloons in Osage.


As promised, Osage provided a “suitable” school building, erected in 1868-69.  The brick building measured 36 X 72 feet, with two stories above a basement.  By 1916 “Old Central,” which housed the library, was the hub of a four-building campus.  There were two dormitories—East Hall and West Hall—and an auditorium/gymnasium.


When the school closed, the campus was sold to the Osage Public School.  In 1966 “Old Central” was leased to the Mitchell County Historical Society.  The Museum moved out in 2005, noting that the building was “imploding.”  It still stands in the Lincoln Elementary School grounds.


The building was moved to a new location in 2016.




Cedar Valley East (2).jpg

East Hall in 1906.  Image provided by Robert Casteel

 "Old Central" in 2012.


      Colors: Cardinal and Gold


Cedar Valley Seminary played football on a limited basis at least from 1897.  The 1916 team played a three-game schedule against Charles City College, Austin (MN) University and a team from Plymouth, MN.  The results were not reported.  The Osage newspaper also shows a photo of a baseball team from the college.


Like most schools at the time, Cedar Valley Seminary played women’s basketball.  Whether or not the team played outside of its own walls is not clear.



The 1916-17 girls' basketball team team. (Courtesy of Mitchell County Historical Society)

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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