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Gale College

Galesville, Wisconsin



Internet Archive has the 1913-14 catalog for Gale College. has four early catalogs of Galesville University.  The Old Main Historical & Community Arts Center has a webpage with photos and other archival records of the college.


Galesville University was chartered in 1854, Judge George Gale having come to the area looking for a place to locate a college.  Galesville University was nonsectarian, but Gale realized that he would need a sponsoring church.  In 1859 the Methodist Episcopal Church assumed control of the college.


The 1864 catalog shows the school offered three degree programs--classical, scientific and normal--with three-year and four-year degrees.  That year there were 15 students enrolled in the classical/scientific programs and 29 in the normal program.  There were an additional 66 preparatory students.  The nine-member faculty included Judge Gale, who taught ethics, civil polity and political economy.


Students had a required daily chapel.  They had one literary society--the Ciceronian.


By 1876 the enrollment had fallen, so the school was sold to the Chippewa Presbytery.  The Presbyterians operated the school until 1900.  While maintaining collegiate courses, they shifted emphasis "to give young students thorough preparation for a higher course of collegiate or university studies."  Around 1890, the name was changed to Gale College.  After closing in 1896, Gale College was saved by a bequest that allowed it to reopen in 1897.


In 1901 Gale College was purchased by the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  A music department was added as was a shorthand and commercial department. The 1913-14 catalog shows a student body of 87, taught by a faculty of six.  The programs included classical, Luther preparatory, parochial normal, English scientific, and English commercial.   The catalog notes, "Some work of Collegiate grade has also been carried on."


Student activities now included a band and an orchestra.  There were two literary societies--an older Utile Con Dulce and a newer Normannalaget.  Students began publishing a monthly journal called the Gale Pennant.  Newspapers show a 1910 debate with Luther Academy.


By the late 1930's, enrollment had again fallen below operational level.  In May 1939, after 85 years of serving the students of Northwest Wisconsin, Gale College was closed. 

Gale College Orchestra outdoors.  Image from the 1913-14 catalog (<>) accessed 2-16-2017

Bricks and Mortar

Classes were held initially  in the Trempealeau County court house.  In 1862 the first building--a "noble stone structure" two stories high was completed.  A third floor was added in 1882.  This building burned down to the walls in 1884.  The Old Main familiar to Galesville visitors today was built within those walls.  In 1906 a cement brick two-story dormitory for "lady and gentleman students" was built "a few rods" from Old Main.  In 1915 the red brick boys' dormitory/gymnasium was completed.


In 1941, after Gale College closed, the campus was purchased by the Society of Mary, Province of St. Louis.  Renamed Marynook, the campus served first as a novitiate and later as a retreat center.   The city of Galesville purchased the campus in 1994.  Today it has been renovated and serves as the Old Main Historical & Cultural Center.  It was placed on the National Register in 1984.

Old Main in 2016. Image by Jonathunder.  (<> accessed 2-16-2017


College Football Data Warehouse does not list Gale College, but it should.  Newspapers show three games--a 26-0 loss to Winona Normals and a 12-8 loss to Winona High School in 1895 and a 7-5 loss to Onalaska High School in 1897.  


A 1902 newspaper entry shows that Gale students had organized a baseball team.  Newspapers also show a game with Luther College in 1905.  A baseball team is pictured in the 1913-14 catalog.


Basketball was probably the premier sport of Gale students.    A team participated in the big 1921 tournament of Lutheran Schools held at St. Olaf's College.  Probably the best research on basketball at Gale College in the 1930's is found in Glenn Borreson's blog (  

It also includes a nice image of the 1912 girl's team. 

Gale boys' basketball team.  Image from the 1913-14 catalog. (<>) accessed 2-16-2017

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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