William and Vashti College
A portion of “Past and Present of Mercer County, Illinois” has been placed on the JimDo.com website. This 1914 material gives the history of the institution as well as it programs in 1914. The University of Illinois has just placed digital copies of college bulletins on HathiTrust.
William and Vashti College was a product of the will of William Drury, a long-time resident of Mercer County, IL. His property would be converted to cash to fund a college in the Mercer County community that offered the highest bid for building and supporting one. Aledo, a community of 2,000 (in 1900) won the bid. The college was to be named William and Vashti for Drury and his wife Vashti Lewis Drury.
The distinguishing feature of education at William and Vashti College was that it was designed to prepare students to earn a living after graduation. So, in addition to the liberal arts program, W.&V. added departments for teacher training, commercial training, agricultural training and domestic science training. Drury Academy was added in the second year to provide college preparation.
“Past and Present” notes that student life at W.&V. provided the typical literary societies, publications, religious organizations, and opportunities for musical and oratorical talent.
Bricks and Mortar
Aledo provided a 16-acre tract of land on the northwest corner of town to house the college. A residence on the property was remodeled as the President’s House. American College in 1910 noted that Mercer County had deeded two city blocks with buildings to the school. These included both the courthouse and the county jail. The courthouse was converted into a music building, while the jail was torn down and the materials used to build a women’s dormitory.
The contract for the new administration/classroom building was let in March of 1907. It was to be a brick and stone structure measuring 65 by 107 feet. It was completed by September of 1908 for the opening of the college. The campus also included a gymnasium and another dormitory.
After W.&V. closed, the campus was taken over by Illinois Military Academy 1924-31 and Roosevelt Military Academy 1931-73. The administration building was razed. Two dormitory buildings still stand.
Colors: Red and Gray
William and Vashti College began sports immediately when the school opened in the fall of 1908. The football team compiled a 2-2-1 record, while the basketball team went 2-3. W.&V. also fielded teams in baseball and track. “Past and Present” noted that the community was very proud of the achievements of the team because most of the athletes were local and all were bona fide students, carrying twelve hours of classes.
In 1910 W.&V. became a member of the Little 19 Conference. The football teams were conference powers, losing only 16 games in nine seasons. The 1912 team went undefeated while the 1914 team lost only one game. Led by quarterback George “Potsy” Clark, the 1912 team defeated St. Ambrose (IA), Millikin (IL), Iowa Wesleyan, Lombard (IL), Monmouth (IL), DePaul (IL), Illinois Wesleyan and Bradley (IL. The schools played in 1912, together with Eureka (IL) and Carthage (WI), were those found most often on W.&V. schedules. Millikin handed W.&V. their only defeat in 1914 and one of two losses in 1916.
(left)1909 basketball team (Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Guide)https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433066624739;view=1up;seq=350;size=75
Administration Building from the 1910 catalog (http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112112075269;view=1up;seq=150)
W.&V.’s most successful basketball team came in the 1915-16 season when the team went 19-2. In the two-day conference tournament, that team defeated Hedding, Eastern Illinois, Bradley, and Millikin for the championship.
The Springfield newspaper described the 1915 baseball team as “one of the strongest college teams in the state.”