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Wessington Springs Seminary/College

Wessington Springs, South Dakota

1918-1964 (college) 1887-1968 (high school)


I was able to purchase a 1958 Makojanjan on e-bay.  The Free Methodist website contains Salt and Light: The eighty-three years of Wessington Springs College by George Harry Bonney, whose family had a three-generation association with the school.  Alumni maintain a facebook page, source of the seal at right. 


Wessington Springs Seminary was an outgrowth of the Free Methodist congregations around Wessington Springs at the instigation of Reverend A. B. Smart.  It opened in 1887 with 12 students and four teachers.  The Wessington Springs Herald states that its purpose was to provide “an opportunity to all to obtain an education at little expense as possible and under influence that would aid in forming a Christian Character.”  Bonney notes that Wessington Springs College was a small school in a “smallish town” in a state that was never a “mover and shaker.”  By 1893 it had 79 students; in 1911 it had 100.  There were 13 graduates in 1914.


In 1918 Wessington Springs added college courses and so became Wessington Springs Junior College. 


A 1902 advertisement in the Mitchell Capital shows five courses of study:  classical, scientific, English, normal, and theological.  In addition, the school offers special instruction in business and in voice culture and elocution. 


By 1958 the Makojanjan shows a student body of 75--44 in the college. About half of the students were from South Dakota, but two students were from India and Iran.  More than 10% were children of faculty and staff.


As early as 1902 a male quartet had represented W.S.S. on tours.  In 1910 G. A. Evans represented the school in the regional Prohibition Association oratorical contest. By 1958 W.S.C. Students published a newspaper and the yearbook.  Twenty-six students were members of the a cappella choir, which did a 13-city, seven-day tour in March.  In addition to small choral and piano ensembles, W.S.C. students performed “Singing Saints” a musical based on the Wesley family, written and directed by Kay Kline, a W.S.C. music teacher.



As a Free Methodist school, Wessington Springs College also had a five-member ministerial group.  Fourteen students were members of the Student National Education Association.


Like enrollment, finances at the school were never robust.  In 1964 the college division was dropped.  Central Christian College of McPherson, KS now holds the alumni records.

Bricks and Mortar

The Free Methodist Congregation awarded the seminary to the town of Wessington Springs partially because it was a temperance/prohibition town, with an abundance of good spring water.  The town also featured beautiful scenery, pleasant views and a healthful atmosphere.  Wessington Springs put up the land and more than $2,500 for a new building measuring 40 feet by 60 feet by 11 feet.  It opened on November 26, 1887.


That building burned on January 22, 1908.  A year later a new Administration Building was completed for $20,810.  Makojanjan shows a multi-building campus.  All the buildings were razed in 1970.


A remaining part of the campus is the Shakespeare Gardens and Anne Hathaway cottage.  These were started by Mrs. Emma Shay, a W.S.C. English teacher, in 1927 and completed with student help in 1932.  They served as a retirement home for Professor and Mrs. Shay.  Thatched in  1995, the cottage  remain today as an area tourist attraction, serving afternoon teas in season.

Edited Image 2016-12-22 04-07-20_edited.jpg

Postcard view of Wessington Springs College.  The Administration Building is to the left. Image is from Scartists. ( accessed 2-21-2017



        Team name: Hornets

        Colors: Blue and gold

The first newspaper notice involving Wessington Springs and sports I found was a 1959 cross country meet with Northern Teachers.   The 1958 Makojanjan shows a men's college basketball team.  With only 19 males in college, nine played on that team, which compiled a 5-11 record.  The yearbook notes games against Freeman College, Central Christian College, Friends University, and Kansas Wesleyan JV’s.  


Apparently W.S.C. had a strong intramural program. More than 60 students were members of either the Panther/Pantherette or Gremlin/Gremlinette teams. 

College basketball team.  Image from the 1958 Makojanjan.

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.

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