Mount Morris College
Mount Morris, Illinois
Ancestry.com has Life, the 1913 yearbook, online. The Illinois Digital Archives has a number of photos of school buildings. Digital copies of most of the catalogues and bulletins are on the Internet Archive. Memories of Old Sandstone, published in 1912, contains stories of the early years of the school.
Rock River Seminary was founded by Methodists in 1839 in the small town of Mount Morris in north central Illinois; it closed because of financial difficulties in 1878. The Church of the Brethren purchased the property for $6,000 and opened Mount Morris Seminary and Collegiate Institute in 1879 “where our young people could be educated without coming in contact with objectionable elements so prevalent in many schools.” By 1881 enrollment had reached 200. In 1884 the name was changed to Mount Morris College. After 1904 an agricultural school was added, and “the number of students attending the school has been multiplied by four.” Despite a major fire in 1912, the college remained in operation.
Life shows a very small liberal arts college of fewer than 30 students. However, the academy had more than 100 students. Students in the agricultural department, the commercial department, the Bible department and the art and expression department were not counted in the enrollment.
While MMC had two older literary societies, the Ciceronian Literary club, begun in 1912, seems to have included most of the college liberal arts students. There was also an oratorical society whose teams participated in the debates of the Northern Illinois Intercollegiate Oratorical League. School music came from the glee club and the college orchestra, said to entertain the campus during rehearsals.
Enrollment, which had dropped in World War I, increased in the 1920’s. The 1921-22 catalogue shows an enrollment of 177, with 107 being college students. However, a second major fire in April 1932, destroyed or damaging four of five campus buildings. This, coming on top of other financial problems, led to closure in May 1932. At that time Mount Morris merged with Manchester College in Indiana.
Bricks and Mortar
The main building on the campus was known as “Old Sandstone,” begun by the Methodists in 1850 and remodeled in 1896. “Old Sandstone” was a four-story building measuring 40 by 120 feet. It was gutted by the January 15, 1912 fire, but its two-foot-thick walls stood, allowing the structure to be rebuilt. “Old Sandstone” housed 84 male students when it burned in 1912; it was renovated as a library and science hall when a new Men’s Dormitory was built. College Hall was built in 1890, the Ladies’ Dormitory in 1893 and the Gymnasium in 1908.
When Mount Morris College closed, Kable Brothers Printing Company took over the campus and assumed its debts. Kable News today still operates from one of the buildings.
In pristine condition, “Old Sandstone” today houses an online textbook company owned by Timothy Ngo.
Team name: Mountaineers or Mounders
Colors: Blue and Gold
Mount Morris has listed football games in 1914, but most full schedules came after 1920. In 1921 they became a member of the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference—Little 19—and retained membership through 1929. After leaving the conference, Mt. Morris enjoyed an unbeaten 1930 season, shutting out six opponents. That team defeated LaSalle-Peru (IL) JC, Crane (IL)JC, Wartburg (IA), Wisconsin Tech, Eureka (IL), Wheaton (IL), Elmhurst (IL), Milton (WI), and Valparaiso (IN).
The 1913 yearbook shows basketball and track teams. At that time, most opponents—other than Dekalb Normal (now Northern Illinois)—were high school or club sides.
It is not clear whether the girls’ teams shown in Life, were the school team or intramural teams.
1913 basketball team (Life,
1905 postcard view of Old Sandstone. Illinois Digital Archives <http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16614coll28/id/8948/rec/2>) accessed 11-3-2017