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Woodbine Normal School

Woodbine, Iowa



The Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs and the Omaha World-Herald were among newspapers that covered school events.  The 2002 application for the campus to be included in the National Register is available online.  The 1905 ad is from the Daily Nonpareil

Woosbine As_edited.jpg


Woodbine Normal School was founded by Harvey A. Kinney, C.C. Matter, and W.O. Riddell in 1887 to train teachers for the area’s rural schools.  W.N.S. was a combination public and private school.  The local district provided facilities and funding to educate local students. Much of the high school curriculum was focused on teacher training, while the elementary school provided a laboratory for the student teachers.  Students from outside the district paid tuition, which went to the founders.  Five of ten Woodbine teachers taught in the normal department.  School enrollment reached 200 by 1894 and approached 300 by 1905.  There were 30 graduates in 1906.


As other Iowa districts attempted to emulate the “Woodbine Plan,” the state started to inspect all the private normal schools.  In 1903 Woodbine passed the state inspection and so became approved.  In 1904 all 13 normal graduates passed the state licensing exam.  That year W.N.S. also added a summer session to benefit teachers wanting additional training.  


In addition to college prep and normal curricula, W.N.S. added a business department which taught actual business in addition to shorthand.  It later added manual training and domestic science departments. In 1913 the school made national news when female students made their own graduation gowns.  Later an agriculture department was added.


Students had the extracurricular activities common to most schools at the time.  There was an Erothesian Literary Society to train students for public speaking.  In 1902 all eleven graduates spoke at commencement.  There was an annual oratorical contest and a debate team.   At commencement a school chorus and smaller vocal ensembles performed.  There were school picnics, receptions, and banquets.


By the end of World War I enrollment had fallen in the normal school to the point that it was no longer the focus of the high school.  At that time newspaper coverage became limited to alumni news.  The high school continues today.

Bricks and Mortar

In 1880 the Woodbine school district built a two-story brick building, replacing an 1868 frame structure.  Additions in 1887 and 1892 were necessary to accommodate the increased enrollments of the new normal school.  Then in 1910 the district built a new two-story brick structure just for the normal/high school.  It contained a basement gymnasium.  The first floor housed the commercial department along with four conventional classrooms.  The second floor contained a large assembly room along with two recitation rooms, physical science classroom with lab, and space for manual training and domestic science. The 1880 building was razed around 1931.


The 2002 National Register application included a 1932 elementary school building.  The 1910 building was razed sometime after 2002.

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(Left) a 1904 postcard image of the 1880 building with additions. (Right) A Pinterest image of the 1910 building before it was razed)


Moray L. Eby.  Image from the 1900 Hawkeye.


            Teamname: Normals. Present high school teams are called Tigers,  The Nonpareil

                                 reported in 1911 that alumni receptions were called “Tigers.”             

            School colors: Black and Gold—also the present school colors.


In 1894 the Daily Nonpareil notes that a football team “is getting in shape for some good work.”  Two years later the Nonpareil reported a game against Council Bluffs High School, a 26-0 loss.  In 1901 newspapers reported that the Woodbine Normal was paying a University of Iowa graduate, Moray L. Eby, $400 to coach the team.  Eby also played on the team, leading the Normals to wins over the independent Atlantic Maroons 18-0 and Omaha High School 6-0.  The team also tied Missouri Valley High School 0-0, their only loss coming against Iowa Normal at Waterloo 12-6.  A scheduled game with Doane College was apparently not played.  The Normals played a scoreless draw with Creighton in 1911, but most games after 1901 were at high school level.


Woodbine Normal played baseball as early as 1904.  With the new gymnasium, the Normals began fielding basketball teams in 1910.  A girls’ team is listed in 1914. 

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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