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Ellsworth College

Iowa Falls, Iowa



HathiTrust has digital copies of catalogs from 1906 to 1922.  The State Historical Society of Iowa and both have editions of The Web, the school yearbook.  Both the Iowa Community College District and the Hardin County Historical Society have good short histories of Ellsworth College on line.


Ellsworth Academy, a commercial college,  was founded in 1890 by Professor John Tobin. It was named for Eugene Ellsworth, who put up funds for the founding of the school and annually paid off school debts until his death in 1907.   The addition of new faculty members from the East allowed Ellsworth Academy to begin awarding bachelor's degrees in 1906 and to change its name to Ellsworth College.


The 1917 Web shows that Ellsworth College had five divisions.  The liberal arts college offered B.A., Ph.B., and B.S. degrees.  The academy was a four-year prep school. The education division had a four-year program comprised of the upper two years of the academy and the first two years of the college.  The commercial college had a three-year program. Additionally, there was a conservatory of music.  There were 80 students enrolled in the liberal arts college, 38 in the academy, and 34 in the commercial program.  Almost all students were from Iowa.


Included among the 18 faculty members were five music teachers, two commercial teachers, two education teachers and two domestic/manual teachers.


The largest student organization was the Choral Club, with 60 mixed voices.  In addition to an annual Iowa Falls concert, this group did several campus programs, and some out-of-town programs each year.  Female students in the music program formed the Euterpean Society.    Other student organizations included college debaters, college orators, Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., and two college literary societies.  In the 1920's students organized three social fraternities and two social sororities.


Enrollment peaked at 563 in 1925, but the school began to experience financial difficulties.  So in 1928, Ellsworth College became Ellsworth Junior College, a part of Iowa Falls Community School District.  Since 1966 Ellsworth Community College has been part of the Iowa Valley Community College District.

Main Hall with North Hall to the left (<  Accessed 1-30-2018

Bricks and Mortar

The central portion of Main Hall, a three-story brick structure, was completed in 1890; East and West wings and the bell tower were added in 1892.   North Hall, the men's dormitory, was completed in 1900.  In 1906 Caroline Hall, a four-story girls dormitory, opened.  Aided by a gift of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie,  the Ellsworth-Carnegie Library was also commissioned in 1906, a year before Eugene Ellsworth died.


The only remaining building is the library. Now called Bullock-Jones Hall, it houses the English and criminal justice departments..


Ellsworth College began playing football in 1895  Generally the teams were not successful except for a four-year period 1911-1914 when teams went 21-3-2.  The 1914 team was undefeated.   Common opponents through the years were Iowa State Teachers (now Northern Iowa), Buena Vista, Upper Iowa, Loras, Westmar, Central, and William Penn.


In 1913 Ellsworth became a charter member of the Iowa Conference, later referred to as the Hawkeye Conference, a conference of smaller schools that would allow Freshmen to compete.


An 1895 note in the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper stated that President C. W. Lyon was a substitute on that first Ellsworth team. He "dislocated one of his legs" in a practice game and was then "confined to his bed."  In a 1901 newspaper note under the heading  "Down with the Sport,"  the Evanston Northwestern newspaper reported that a Ellsworth coed named Gentle Nickerbocker had fractured her nose in a game of drop the handkerchief.  Nevertheless Ellsworth began women's basketball in 1904.

Ellsworth College's first football team of 1895.  Image from the 1917 Web. Courtesy of  Barlow Memorial Library)

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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