I arrived in Tabor shortly after noon on a Sunday afternoon in May. After walking up and down Main Street without finding the Historical Society, I encountered an elderly gentleman in a golf cart who asked if I were lost. He directed me to a white frame building with a sign proclaiming it to be the Musical Conservatory of Tabor College. While I was photographing it, he arrived with his golf cart and drove me around the town to show me other attractions—including the other Tabor College building and the more famous Todd House, with its connection to the underground railroad. My guide, who had served under Patton in Germany, regaled me with tales of his World War II experience. Sorry I was to leave him when I had to get on to Omaha.
Later I contacted Wanda Ewalt at the Tabor Historical Society and received more information about Tabor College along with the yearbook photo which appears below.
Tabor College was founded by settlers from Oberlin, OH, who had migrated westward to the corner of Iowa. Reverend John Todd and George B. Gaston headed a group of these men in founding the Tabor Literary Institute and signing the Articles of Incorporation in 1853. The mission of the new school was “to harmonize the moral, mental and physical powers of those who enjoy its privileges.” It would be open to both male and female students. Classes were first held in 1857, with 17 students attending. In 1866 it took the name of Tabor College, offering four-year literary, classical and scientific programs and awarding both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. It also awarded diplomas for a two-year teachers’ course and a three-year ladies’ course. The original “high school” continued as an academy until 1922.
Tabor College was associated with the Congregational church, which noted that 94% of graduates were Christians and that there were no saloons or billiard parlors in Tabor.
Finances were always difficult for the school; teachers taught at times without pay, and students built their own gymnasium in 1911. At commencement 1927, the school announced that it would not open for the fall semester.
Bricks and Mortar
The Tabor campus consisted of six acres in the heart of Tabor, with buildings surrounding what today is a city park but what then was the sport ground for Tabor teams. The oldest building was the chapel, a frame structure built in 1860. This also served as a classroom. The campus had three brick buildings: Tabor Hall (1869) served as the dormitory. Gaston Hall (1887) became the main classroom building; Adams Hall (1898) became the conservatory of music, replacing the wood frame building I first photographed. When the chapel was razed, students used its materials for the building of the gymnasium.
During World War II, the campus and buildings were used as a German Prisoner of War camp. Adams Hall is now an apartment building. Other buildings have since been razed.
Tabor College Music Hall
Team name: Cardinals
Colors: Cardinal and White
Photos from the Cardinal, the school yearbook, show that Tabor had intercollegiate teams in football, and baseball. The size of the gymnasium would almost preclude basketball as an indoor sport. However yearbook pictures suggest that Tabor coeds played basketball at some level. Like many European schools, Tabor had a major field day in May. Most events were for men, but women had a baseball throw and a ½ mile bicycle race.
College Football Data Warehouse shows that Tabor played intercollegiate football from 1894 until the school closed. Amity College at College Springs was their favorite opponent. The most successful year was 1925 when Tabor compiled a 5-3 record. The 1898 team had a 3-2 record, winning three home games against Council Bluffs (probably an independent team), Amity, and Bellevue. Two road losses were to Amity and Council Bluffs.
1902 women's basketball team (Courtesy of Tabor Historical Society)