Grand River College
Edinburg and Gallatin, Missouri
Travel and E-Travel
The History of Grundy County, Missouri has a detailed history to 1882. History of Daviess and Gentry Counties by John C. and Buel Leopard also has a sketch of the school. The Daviess County Historical Society has placed two sketches of the college on its website. When I visited Gallatin in 2017, the Daviess County Public Library produced a copy of the 1908 Gracadem, the yearbook for Grand River Academy.
Grand River Academy, the first in the state to admit females on the same footing as males, opened at Edinburg in August 1850, founded by I. B. Allen. Surviving a 1853 fire, the Civil War, and several ownership changes, Grand River College became a Baptist school in 1876.
All accounts show that Grand River College gained a reputation for providing a quality education, giving Edinburg the title “Athens of Missouri.” To take advantage of a location on the railroad, GRC relocated to Gallatin in 1892.
History of Grundy County notes that GRC had seven departments: philosophy, languages, mathematics and astronomy, natural science, literature and history, art, and preparatory. In 1893 a law department was added. GRC offered Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Master of Arts degrees as well as certificates for completion of non-degree programs. Enrollment reached 137 in 1893.
With a debt of $1,200, Grand River College closed around 1904. In 1905 William Jewell College paid off the debt, acquiring the campus to serve as a prep school, now named Grand River Academy. Gracadem shows a small school of perhaps 80 students in 1908. Fifty of these were in the literary department. Other departments were music, business, expression, and physical culture. The faculty numbered seven—three being music teachers.
Students had a Gladstone Literary Society, a school orchestra, a St. Cecelia Glee Club (girls), an Apollo Glee Club (boys) and an academy quartette.
Acquiring Grand River Academy placed William Jewell in financial difficulties, so it closed the academy in 1910.
Bricks and Mortar
As one of the conditions of receiving the college, citizens of Gallatin agreed to provide a site and construct a building costing no less than $15,000, including furnishing. The campus was located in southeast Gallatin in a block between College, Walnut, East and Prospect. A three-story brick building was completed there in 1893. In 1900 a wing was added to provide housing for the president and for female students. In 1909 a dormitory for male students was begun. The building had a capacity of 300-400 students.
After the Grand River Academy closed in 1910, the campus became home to a private girls’ school in 1914. Plans to convert to a Student Army Training Center were dashed when a 1918 fire destroyed the building as the first student groups were due to arrive.
The earliest reference I found to sports at Grand River was a football match with Kidder Institute in 1898. The Kansas City Journal reported that a fight had occurred between a GRC professor and a KI student. It reported that from the number of “maimed limbs, bleeding mouths, disfigured faces and bruised heads,” that the players had had enough of this “brutal game.”
Nevertheless, GRC played football yearly against such local schools as Chillicothe Normal, Kidder Institute, and the Gallatin High School. The Gracadem also shows a baseball team that played the same schools.
Since the image of the physical culture class above shows them in uniforms, this may suggest that the female students had at least an intramural program.
A Physical Culture class. Image from Gracadem, courtesy of Daviess County Public Library.
Postcard view of the GRC building in 1909. Image courtesy of Card Cow.
1907 football team. Image from Gracadem, courtesy of Daviess County Public Library