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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 23:  More Historical Papers

Galesville University

-As transcribed from pages 884 - 888

Galesville University, recently renamed Gale College, is located at Galesville.  It was founded by the labors of the Hon. George Gale, LL.D., assisted by donations of the citizens of Galesville, La Crosse, Winona, and a few other friends of education, mostly residents of Wisconsin.  The charter was obtained from the Legislature of Wisconsin in January, 1854.  The board of trustees was organized in 1855; the college building commenced in 1858; the preparatory department opened for students in May, 1859, and the collegiate department in September, 1861, the first college class graduated July 13, 1865.

Judge Gale, the founder, was the first president, though the educational and literary management of the institution was under the supervision of the Rev. Samuel Fallows, later a Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Chicago, Ill.  During the years in which the building was under construction the school was conducted in the county court house.

The first epoch in the history of the school includes the years between 1859 and 1877.  It was deemed desireable to place the institution under the control of some church organization, and this was accomplished when, in 1859, the Methodist Episcopal Church accepted this trust, which remained in its charge until the year 1877.  During this period the school board labored under great difficulties.  A considerable amount of money was required to erect the building, and to meet the requirements from time to time, and being in the early settlement days, the number of those who were able to render pecuniary aid was very small; hence the burden fell heavily on these few.  The attendence, which had averaged about 50 students per term, was greatly decreased by the outbreak of the Civil War.  Many of the young men in attendance responded to their country's call for soldiers.  This decrease in attendance added to the difficulty of meeting the financial requirements.  But, with the firm conviction that the attainment of greater educational facilities was worthy of their best efforts, the pioneers willingly assisted to the extent of their ability, and the enterprise was not abandoned.

In 1861 Prof. Fallows resigned his position as principal, and was succeeded by Mr. Magill, who served in that capacity only a short time, and who was in turn succeeded by the Rev. J. L. Farber, of New York.  Rev. Harrison Gilliland was the next president, and he was elected to fill the office of president of the Board of Trustees, which had been made vacant by the resignation of Judge Gale.

For a time after President Gilliland took charge the school seems to have prospered, the records showing an attendance of more than 100 students per year.  But the financial condition of the institution caused the officers much anxiety, and application for aid was made to the church.  The Conference of the M. E. church accordingly passed a resolution to raise a sum of $50,000 among its members.  An attempt to solicit this money was made, but proved futile.

President Gilliland then tendered his resignation, and recommended that the institution be placed under the control of some religious denomination which was able to render the necessary financial support.  Accordingly, in 1876, the Chippewa Presbytery then in session in La Crosse was requested to appoint a committee to confer with the local board for the transfer of the control of Galesville University from the M. E. church to the Presbyterian General Assembly.  After some reluctance the charge was accepted by that body, and a board of trustees was appointed which assembled for the first time on May 15, 1877.  This body made provision for ascertaining and meeting claims against the institution and for procuring pecuniary means for the operation of the school.  The course of study was readjusted so that the schedule, instead of being collegiate grade, was modeled after the plan of Philip's Academy.  A Normal Course for teachers was also developed.  A faculty was appointed with R. S. Winans as president.  The following year John W. McLawry was made president, and Rev. John Moore, the resident pastor, also became a member of the faculty.

At a meeting of the officers in March, 1878, a resolution was made to petition the War Department to provide for an instructor in military tactics and drill in Galesville University.  This petition was granted, and in 1880, Lieut. John L. Clem, known in the story of the Civil War as the Drummer Boy of Chickamauga, was appointed as such instructor and entered upon his duties at once.  This arrangement which provided military training for the young men at the university was a happy one.  The real advantages to be derived from such training were appreciated, and a lively interest was aroused, which together with the well-deserved popularity of Lieut. Clem, combined to attract a large attendance of students.  This increase entailed the need of more room and the enlargement of the building was agreed upon.  In 1881, the building, which originally was two stories high, was enlarged by the addition of a thrid story, thus providing space for more students and also for drill room in winter.

Lieut. Clem was succeeded in 1882 by Lieut. G. N. Chase, who served in that capacity until 1883, when the military department was discontinued.  In January, 1884, the main building was destroyed by fire.  This was such a terrible blow to the institution that for a time its fate seemed dubious.  But such was the untiring zeal of the friends of the institution at home and abroad that in the course of a year a new building was erected on the site of the one destroyed.  For several years during the early '80s excellent work was done at the college.  Under the able guidance of such scholarly men as Moses Peters and E. O. Hagen, a large number of men, since prominent in their professions, laid the foundations of their education.  Rev. McLawry, having tendered his resignation, Dr. J. Irwin Smith assumed the presidency in the year 1886, and continued in the discharge of the duties appertaining to that office for a period of two years.  Rev. Smith had previously rendered the institution valuable aid in the capacity of financial agent.  In the early '90s the attendance began to decrease from year to year, until the number of students became so small that to maintain the institution under those conditions was impossible.  Something had to be done to give the school a new impetus.

In March, 1901, the deliberations, which finally resulted in the transfer of the control of the institution from the Presbyterian Board of Trustees to the Lutheran Synod, were commenced.  The La Crosse Conference of the Lutheran Synod, then in session in La Crosse, elected a committee to go to Galesville for the purpose of examining the property, and to confer with the local board to determine the condtions under which the transfer might be effected.  The committee, after having performed its duty, reported that by the payment of $6,500 the transfer could be made.  The city of Galesville pledge itself to furnish $2,500, and the purchase was made in August, 1901.

It was deemed necessary to make extensive repairs on the building before the school could be opened.  A sum of more than $2,000 was contributed by members of the Lutheran congregations in the district and judiciously expended in repairing and improving the building.   This work was completed in the fall of the year 1901.  On the first day of December the institution was dedicated, its name being changed from Galesville University to Gale College.  Prof. H. G. Stub, of Minneapolis, performed the ceremony.  On the following day the school commenced its work under the new administration with Rev. L. M. Grimmestad, who has since remained with the school, as president.

The time during which the school has been under Lutheran supervision has been a period of success and constant progress.  The old courses have been improved, and additional courses have been introduced.  In 1908-1909 a music department was established, whcih has now become a permanent and prominent feature of the school.  During the same year the Classical and Scientific Courses were introduced, taking the place of the Academical Course.  To the Commercial Department was added a Four-Year Course leading to the degree of Bachelor of Accounts.  All of these courses, as well as the Luther Colleg Preparatory and the Normal Parochial Courses, have continually been improved and broadened.  In addition to the courses mentioned above, some work of Collegiate grade has also been carried on.

Music and literary organizations ahve always played an important part at Gale College.  A band was organized by Prof. A. F. Giere in 1903.  Several tours were made during the summer months.  Perhaps the most successful was the tour of 1909, when a distance of 800 miles was covered, the route of travel being through Western Wisconsin and Southern and Central Minnesota.  An orchestra was organized by Prof. H. Onsgard in 1911.  This work is now being successfully carried on by A. M. Fredrickson.

The Utile Cum Dulci, a literary society organized by students of the school 35 years ago, is still in a flourishing condition.  All students are members.  Normannalaget is a Norwegian society based ont he same general principles as the Utile Cum Dulci.  At this point may be mentioned the Gale College Club, organized in 1906, which has for its objects the lending of moral and financial support to the institution.  All friends of the school are kindly requested to become members of this organization.

Literary activities are being stimulated further by the publishing of The Gale Pennant, a student's publication, first issued in 1908.

The work of the school is facilitated by a good library, the value of which was much increased by a careful cataloging in 1912-1913.

The Boys' Dormitory, built in 1906, furnishes comfortable accommodations for 55 students.  The Ladies' Hall, completed in 1915, is a beautiful structure which accommodates about 50 students.  This building contains also a gymnasium which fills a long-felt need.

For a church home the students have the Trinity Lutheran church, a pleasant and attractive building, erected by the Galesville congregation of the Norwegian Lutheran Synod in 1909. (By L. M. Gimmestad, President.)

The advantage of a college of this size and order, is the individual attention that can be given pupils to develop them in accordance with their mental qualifications and ability.  In other words it brings out the individual brain strength and character of the pupil, thus enabling action on the part of the faculty, along the most beneficial lines, in other words, give the students a harmonious education.

The faculty comprises the Rev. L. M. Gimmestad, A. B., President, and a staff of five assistants, each well qualified for the work of educaiton.  It well becomes the character of this work to compliment Rev. Gimmestad on the splendid success he is making of the college and in qualifying the graduates for the position in life they desire to occupy.  He is also entitled to the graditude and unqualified consideration of all those who are interested in the college.  He has sacrificed his personal ambition in a worldly way, to build up an institution creditable to himself and the denomination he represents.  He is a scholar of fine attainment, an orator of finished ability, and a man of affairs, who honors Galesville and its people by his association therewith.

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