top of page

Stanberry Normal and Business School

Stanberry, Missouri



The State Historical Society of Missouri has catalogs of Stanberry Normal School in addition to a copy of the 1897 Ideal, the school annual.  Chronicling America has newspapers from the Stanberry area, which cover some school news.


Stanberry Normal was founded by Professor Charles Morris in 1881.  In its almost 25 years of existence, it became the largest school in Northwest Missouri.  In The State of Missouri  Walter Williams lists an enrollment of 250 in 1904, but History of Daviess and Gentry Counties says that at times enrollment approached 500.  While the Topeka Tribune describes S.N.B.C. as "a school for Farmers' sons and daughters," it drew students from 27 states, territories and foreign countries.  


Advertising itself as the "oldest independent normal school in Missouri," it also saw itself as "the best commercial and shorthand college west of the Alleghenies."  Other departments included music, fine arts, and elocution.  Ads stated that students could enter at any time and select their own course of studies.  As a school for "Young Ladies and Gentlemen  of small means," it advertised room, board and tuition for only $134 per year in  1902.


As at many schools, commencement was a week-long affair beginning with a baccalaureate sermon on Sunday.  Business, Normal, and Scientific students graduated on different nights, with each student giving an oration.  One night was given to the annual musical program and another to the alumni banquet.


The Ideal shows two literary societies and two debating societies.


After surviving a major fire and the loss (to Maryville) of a bid to become the state's Northwest Normal College, Stanberry succumbed to another fire in 1906, which destroyed the building.


Bricks and Mortar

Stanberry, with a population of 2,500 in 1900, was located only 40 miles from St. Joseph.  Nevertheless, ads stated that there was not a saloon in the town.  The school campus was in a block surrounded by Maple, Sixth and Elm Streets and Brown Avenue.


The original building for Stanberry Normal (for a time known as Northwest Normal) was a large four-story brick structure with towers and a dormer roof.  It was built in 1881 at a cost of $25,000, with a $10,000 addition in 1883.  That building was completely destroyed by fire on March 5, 1896, giving 400 students a brief vacation.  


The 1902 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showed that the replacement building contained an auditorium/gymnasium in the left wing and a dining room/recitation room in the right wing.  The ladies' dormitory was a separate frame structure.  The campus was again destroyed by a fire on September 29, 1906.  There were no students in the building at the time.  It was not rebuilt. 


(left) An 1892 photo of the faculty and students in front of the original Stanberry Normal building. Image from Message Boards < (right) Image of the new building before the 1906 fire.  Image courtesy of Julie Busse.




The Ideal gives a brief history of Stanberry College football to 1897.  From the first, Stanberry teams  were overmatched against most opponents.  These included Amity College of Iowa, Grand River College of Gallatin, Maryville Academy, Central Medical College of St. Joseph, and Northwest College of Albany.  College Football Data Warehouse lists games with Chillicothe Normal in 1902 and 1907--the latter may be bogus.  The St. Louis Republic lists games with Ensworth Medical College in 1899 and 1902. 


Newspapers do not show results from any other sports.

The 1897 Stanberry Normal football team.  Image from the 1997 Ideal. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri

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.

bottom of page