Marionville Collegiate Institute
Marionville, MO has achieved some fame from the presence of its white squirrels. An Internet article notes that these squirrels were featured prominently in the early yearbooks of Marionville College. When I visited Marionville in 2010, I had no trouble in finding the old Administration Building on College Avenue. After more than one hundred years of students and nursing home residents, Methodist Manor—as it is now known—has grown a bit shabby, but still looks like its youthful pictures. Across the street from the old campus is the new branch library. The librarian found a 1922 Zenith, and yes it did feature the white squirrel at the bottom of each page.
Professor John Turrentine, long associated with Marionville College, described the purpose of the school as being “to furnish and inspire a real Christian spirit. It precedes on the assumption that all the scholastic culture and refinement must rest on the solid basis of a Christian character.” While the impetus for a college at Marionville came originally from the Lawrence County Teachers’ Association, that group soon asked the Methodist Episcopal Church to take over the project. Disheartening delays pushed the starting date from 1866 to 1872. In fact, the first building was not completed until 1876.
The 1917 Patterson’s College and School Directory lists Marionville Collegiate Institute as both a college and a preparatory school—as was the case with most smaller colleges. While it took the name Ozark Wesleyan College in 1910, it remained a junior college while at Marionville.
MCI/OWC was a small school in a small town. Total enrollment in 1900 was 115; at the time Marionville had a population of fewer than 1,300. Elizabeth Schuman notes that, therefore, Marionville and the college enjoyed a very close relationship, Marionville providing a nurturing environment for the college, and the college providing a cultural atmosphere for the town through its literary societies and musical groups. But the Methodist Episcopal Conference in St. Louis believed that the college would benefit from being located in a larger town. When Carthage offered to provide a new campus and more financial resources, the Conference moved Ozark Wesleyan College there in 1923 and merged it with two other small colleges.
Bricks and Mortar
The Administration Building was completed in 1907. The Marionville campus also included Burg Hall, a dormitory for women; Turrentine Hall, a dormitory for men, and a gymnasium. Only the Administration Building remains as part of Methodist Manor.
2010 image of the administration building for Methodist Manor Nursing Home. Methodist Manor is raising funds to renovate the building.
Despite low numbers, Marionville College played both football and basketball. The Zenith speaks of “a small number of men” when describing the 1921 team. “Two teams were hard to get for regular practice. When one or two men were injured we were hard up for a substitute.” The team picture below shows thirteen players.
The 1921 team had a 5-3 record against high schools, independent teams and other colleges. The Wesleyanites defeated Aurora High School, an independent team from Cassville twice, Drury College, and the University of Arkansas Freshmen. They lost to Drury College, to the Carthage American Legion team, and to Miami (OK) School of Mines.
1921 Marionville College football team. One player in the front row has put his helmet on the ball; the player beside him has placed his helmet on his knee. (Zenith, Courtesy of Barry-Lawrence Regional Library)