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2 Ch. 1 - The Craig Years - 1895 - 1908 by H. G. Merriam

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The Craig Years

1895 – 1908

The University – it shall prosper.

-Oscar J. Craig

            Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in the 1890’s constituted the New West in the North. They were large states sparsely populated. In Montana’s 147,000 square miles were 145, 000 people. The Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains divided the State, the bulk of the population lying to the west of it. The most populous town in that western part was Missoula, with fewer than 4,000 persons. It exhibited the prevailing spirit of the West in a will to be prosperous and to grow in size. Prominent in it were people of considerable stature and culture, among them W. M. Bickford, J. M. Hamilton, J. H. T. Ryman, John M. Evans, F. L. Worden, Hiram Knowles, Frank Woody, the Drs. Mills and their families.

            When these persons and others in the town learned that in Helena the founding of a university was being considered, they bid for location of it in Missoula, arguing not only its easy accessibility (on a transcontinental railroad), but its right size, its situation in the midst of a great lumbering region, its good schools and its cultured community. Furthermore, it was surrounded by beautiful mountains; two large rivers, the Clark Fork and the Bitterroot, flowed through it; its altitude was moderate and its climate salubrious. Their persistent efforts, scrupulous, and social according to the practice of the times, brought the University to Missoula.[1] Now, on September 11, 1895, the University of Montana was opening its doors to the youth of the State and the event was certainly one to be celebrated.[2]

            In the afternoon of the early fall day the meeting hall of an old brick school building was filled by 300 townspeople, farmers who had driven in from the surrounding area, and students. On the rostrum sat local and State dignitaries. The Mandolin, Banjo, and Guitar Club played opening music. After an invocation and a song by Miss Mary Olive Gray, the instructor in Music, the Lieutenant Governor of Montana, A. C. Botkin, spoke. This new institution was supplying, he stated, “the ladder from the gutter to the University” on which, as Thomas Huxley once said, “every child should have the chance of climbing as far up as he was fit to go.” He urged this University, now being born, to adopt “the new learning,” in which, as exemplified in the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the natural sciences and modern languages were emphasized and students were allowed to elect courses.[3]

            After music by the Club, Judge Hiram Knowles, a member of the local Executive Committee of the University, assured the audience of the wisdom shown in locating the University in Missoula: “The Legislature of the State . . . felt that here in our fertile valley, surrounded by grand and picturesque mountains, was a fitting location in which to place the State’s chief institution of learning.” He closed his address by saying, “Today the University of Montana becomes a living, potent factor in the educational life of this State.” The words “chief institution” and “potent factor” were heady stuff.

            Miss Gray played Beethoven’s Sonate Pathetique, Op. 13, and Colonel Wilbur F. Sanders, one of Montana’s truly great pioneers, in an eloquent address urged that at this University love of learning be “pursued as a bride. . . . Hold not up to these pupils,” he continued, “hopes of money or office” or even ambition, for “their high service is to save the world from shame and thrall. . . . The State confers upon you a high responsibility and a most solemn duty.”

            Two other dignitaries whose names were not on the program spoke. U.S. Senator Thomas H. Carter likened the University to the keystone of an arch “binding together and providing a logical climax for the public school system of the State.” And Dr. James Reid, President of the two-year-old College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Bozeman, hoped that the graduates of the University, like Emerson’s man who stands four-square to every wind that blows, “would be complete masters of themselves and have all their powers and faculties under control.”

            The new President, Oscar J. Craig, schoolman from Indiana and recently Professor of History and Political Science at Purdue University, spoke of the purposes of a university: it was to benefit students; it must train them, being a place of preparation, to right habits of thinking; it must fit students for their environment; it must tend to broaden culture, for “society lives by the spirit that inhabits it.” After the Club had again furnished music, the program closed with a benediction. It was a good day, marked by hopes, optimism and confidence. The American spirit was there saying, A great task is to be performed, let us get at the task. Was the expression of optimism and confidence justified?


            What were the assets of this infant university in 1895? First, the physical assets. Until buildings could be constructed on its campus the University occupied for three-and-a-half years a three-storied public school building which the city of Missoula loaned.[4] On the first floor were classrooms, laboratories and the President’s office; on other floors were the assembly room, the library and a museum; in the basement “the heating apparatus,” lavatories, lunch rooms and a workshop for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. President Craig, determined to make the best of everything, spoke of these quarters as “elegant and commodious.”

            The Library, presided over by the President’s daughter Mary (salary $20 a month; janitor $60), counted 817 volumes, but by the end of the first academic year 1,369 books, 19 periodicals (including Scribners, The Atlantic Monthly and The Ladies Home Journal) and 20 newspapers, mainly Montana ones, contributed by the publishers. The museum, due almost at once for a steady shower of small gifts, was equipped by The Smithsonian Institution in Washington with 99 land and water invertebrates, 105 fish, both salt and fresh water (these two items were in alcohol), and 98 rock and mineral specimens. In addition was the Cobban collection of minerals and some mounted animals.

            The use of this building was hardly an asset, though it was a godsend for the University; the forty acres of bumpy, scrubby land at the base of Mount Sentinel, a mile or so east of the temporary quarters, was the real asset. It had been donated by the estate of Col. C. P. Higgins (through E. G. Higgins) and The South Missoula Land Company (through E. L. Bonner). The tract seemed adequate for a campus, since the University of Michigan with 5,000 students was operating upon a plot of land no larger, but Dr. Craig soon realized that a tract of forty acres was too small. The land was bounded on the west by Maurice Avenue, on the north by Daly, on the east somewhere between University Hall and Mount Sentinel, and on the south by Keith Avenue. Before many months had passed after the opening of the University, the campus had been graded and fenced by Missoula organizations to keep out cattle and horses. Somewhat later an ornamental iron fence ran along the west boundary flanked, still later, by two large granite posts.[5] The three Missoula men who were commissioned to supervise the first building decided to place it about 900 yards from Maurice Avenue facing west.

            The finances for operating the University would have dismayed a less sanguine man than the new President. For the first six months there were the matriculation fees ($555, which were put into the Library Fund) and $8,962.45 from the University Income Fund. The President’s report on December, 1896, shows a Legislative appropriation of $7,500 and the sum of $5,031.71 from the Income Fund, with the matriculation fees of $1,020, again placed in the Library Fund. The total, then, for the first chronological year (December, 1895, through December, 1896) was $12,531.71, out of which came the salaries of the President and four faculty members and an assistant and all other expenses. Available moneys in the Income Fund were $10,294.74 and in the Library Fund, $1,575. The University was running on the proverbial shoestring, but it was existing.[6]

            An income fund has been a life-saving addition to the budgets of many Western States universities. The U.S. Congress by an act of 1881 granted 72 sections of public land to them. The University of Montana at Missoula received 46,079 acres, two-thirds of them grazing land, about a third fertile agricultural land and the rest in timber. Sales, rentals and leases from these and other kinds of money returns, including gifts, have since 1893 made up the Income Fund.[7]

            Although the establishing of a university in Montana had been discussed in Territorial days, the members of the first State Legislature (1889) realized the role education must play in a free society, especially in a young state of small population and far from cultural contacts, and attempted “to secure the essentials for the beginning of a university.” The Legislature of 1893 passed an act founding the four units of higher education in Montana – the State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Bozeman (1893), the State University in Missoula (1895), and the State Normal School in Dillon (1897) and the School of Mines in Butte (1900).[8]

            The Legislature of 1893 appropriated $15,000 “for the purpose of establishing said State University by commencing the construction of suitable buildings.” The following Legislature authorized issuance of bonds in the sum of $100,000 for the erection of permanent buildings. These, then, were the material assets – a raw campus with no buildings, a president and tiny faculty, an appropriation of less than $10,000 and money for permanent buildings.

            The human assets were of infinitely more value. The University could count on the firm cooperation of friendly and influential townspeople and people of the surrounding area.[9] That help could be and was moral or political or, cautiously, financial, or even voluntary service in the college. John M. Evans, for instance, later Congressman for the Western District of Montana, during the first ten or twelve years of the University was “a volunteer teacher of students in elocution and public speaking.” The community felt such a pride of possession that its people spoke of the University of Missoula.[10]

            The most involved human assets were the president and the four faculty members who were to create from scratch a creditable university. President Oscar J. Craig, Ph.D., Wooster College, Ohio, was a solid figure of a man, bald and with a drooping mustache, conventional-minded, with a will to succeed.[11] When he arrived in Missoula on July 1, 1895, the University had no buildings, no equipment, no course of study, no precedents, no traditions, and a mite of money. Within five days he issued a pamphlet outlining the course the University would take. He was a good organizer and able administrator, who kept, however, even small details of operation in his own hands. He faced the future and operated on the past. Once in Missoula he set to work helping the Executive Committee gather the small faculty – Cynthia E. Reilly, Professor of Mathematics for sixteen years; S. A. Merritt, Chemistry and Physics for one year, replaced by F. D. Smith, replaced by W. D. Harkins, 1899 – 1912; W. M. Aber, Greek and Latin, 1896 – 1919; F. C. Scheuch, Mechanical Engineering and Modern Languages, 1895 – 1937. Miss Gray, the Instructor in Music, left the faculty after one year and Mrs. Walter Whitaker, a teacher of vigor and intelligence, took her place. Morton J. Elrod, Biology, joined the faculty in February, 1897.[12] The President taught in several fields – History and Philosophy, Psychology and Literature, and Political Science. These men and women saw the University through its first decade with fine hardihood. President Craig once pointed out with pride that during that time there had been only three resignations. In the classroom, peopled predominantly by children thirteen to seventeen years of age, outside of the campus in the town, the countryside and over the State the faculty labored steadily and loyally. The President early uttered the promotional slogan, The University of Montana – It Shall Prosper, which was much used on the campus, in the town, over the State. Psychologically it was effective. It played a part in keeping noses to the grindstone.

            The students were the second human asset of the new University. At the opening exercises they numbered about 50, only five of them prepared for college work, but by the close of the academic year they numbered 135. All students must be thirteen years of age, “well grounded in the elements of an English education,” whatever that meant, and successful in an entrance test, which determined the degree of preparation. Here, then, they were, all 135 of them, young prankish, exuberant, serious, proud of being in a university. They were pioneers as their grandparents or parents had been. They too were making history.

            These, then, were the assets of the University of Montana, material and human, as it opened its doors on that good day, September 11, 1895. They were neither large nor extraordinary, but they could be expected to expand year by year. Or could they? Not only growing pains were to be overcome but financial stringency. The whole country was scarcely out of the depths of the depression of 1893; the question of taxation in a State of small population was a knotty problem; the Board of Education and the local Executive Committee were new at their tasks; the town of Missoula was small; the State College at Bozeman was a vigorous and popular contester for students; only five high schools in Montana – Anaconda, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, and Missoula -  were sufficiently developed to prepare pupils for college work. The outlook was not rosy.

            The University could not prosper until more schools in the State were offering work on a higher level. To the end of raising them to that level President Craig set himself and the faculty to work. He was admirably prepared for the task, being an experienced schoolman. He became chairman of committees to prepare curricula for both grade and high schools. For several years he was the official Inspector for Montana High Schools. He labored persistently at the task, so that when he retired in 1908, twenty-six public secondary schools were accredited to prepare pupils to enter college. This long-time labor was a genuine, permanent contribution of Dr. Oscar J. Craig to education in Montana.

            The new President also realized that the Preparatory School which legislation had set up must be prosperous. It was at first a two-year course; in 1897 it was made a three-year course, and later a four-year course. In numbers it exceeded the University students heavily until about 1905. When it was dissolved in 1908, by order of the State Board of Education, it and all public high schools which were preparing pupils for college work were offering four full years of courses.

            With the University under way what progress was it able to make in the thirteen Craig years?


Land and Buildings

            After the campus had been graded and fenced by the Missoula Board of Trade (Chamber of Commerce), 500 trees were planted on Arbor Day, 1896. John M. Evans purchased the trees at the expense of Missoula citizens. Since no irrigation system was yet on the campus they were watered for a few years by a sprinkling wagon. Within a year or so 500 additional trees were planted.
Both plantings were festive occasions. A double row of cottonwoods extended from Maurice Avenue to present Botany building, which surely must have rapidly become a lovers’ lane.

            Additional land was obtained when the Northern Pacific Railroad Company in 1902 donated 40 acres at the foot and up the slope of Mount Sentinel, and the U. S. Congress somewhat later turned over  to the University many acres on the slope and at the top, so that the campus extended from Maurice Avenue to the crest of Sentinel. “We now have a campus,” exclaimed the President, “of 640 acres.” Certainly the University, as was later noted, had a campus with a mountain – or a part of one – on it. At the top was a wonderful site, Dr. Craig said, for an astronomical observatory, but one was never installed. Not long after the University had moved onto the campus, however, a cupolaed observation building was constructed there, but by the late 1920’s the reputation of its use had deteriorated and it was torn down. A road to it had been in contemplation and partly graded out, and the men in the Forestry School had dug a zigzag trail up the “M.” No other land was added to the campus during the Craig years.

            The 1897 Legislature authorized the issuance of 5% bonds to cover the expense of constructing two buildings on the campus; University (Main) Hall and the Science building went up apace and were turned over to the Board of Education on February 17, 1899, another day for celebration. In 1906 it became Founders’ [Charter] Day. Promptly the University moved into the two buildings. Crowded into the University Hall were the assembly room, seating between 400 and 500 persons, the library, the museum (in the basement), the “John M. Evans Literary Hall” (on the second floor), the biological laboratory (in the basement), the gymnasium[14] (on the third floor), seven classrooms, offices, and the President’s office, the first door to the left on entering the building. Science Hall accommodated all other departments and at its rear, in a one-story addition, the heating plant and shops. In this building a fire broke out in 1902, and since the campus was far beyond the city limits, ran its course, gutting it. Fortunately, insurance money provided both restoration and improvements.

            A second bond issue, of $70,000 was authorized and sold in 1901 to enable construction of a woman’s dormitory (Craig Hall, now housing Mathematics and Physics) and a gymnasium for both men and women. Both had been needed, the former because all students had been living in town homes (the “young women” were from thirteen to eighteen years of age) and the latter because it had cramped quarters under the roof of Main Hall.



            For at least sixty years finances of the University make a dreary subject for consideration. No doubt the successive legislatures tried to give adequate support, but what could be expected from the budget of a State with so small a population and four units of higher education to run? Yet Dr. Craig could claim a substantial increase in total income – for 1895-96 the income was $13,551.71 and in 1907, his last report, $59,658.10. The enrollment of students had tripled, the income had more than quadrupled. Still it was inadequate. In his thirteen years the President had been able to raise the professional salary from $1200 to a maximum of $2100.[15] Around the turn of the century Dr. Craig had reported to the Board of Education the embarrassment the faculty felt because of the their low salaries – “The salaries,” he said, “had never been up to the standard to secure and retain the best instructors.”[16]

            The President had reported, also early in his term of office, that the University “is a business subject to all the laws that govern business operation,” and therefore “unless the support be continuous and permanent the best results cannot be obtained.” The sharpness in this educative comment to the Board of Education was certainly justified – the Board, new to its tasks, needed the guidance of an educator.[17]

            Expenses of the University for 1897-98 had been estimated at $16,000 and for 1898-99 at $19,000; those sums the Legislature voted, but for both years the Board of Examiners, which controlled State finances, cut the appropriation to $12,000. This action began a long series of troubles between it and the Presidents of the University. The Board, composed of the Governor, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, has always been elected by the people and therefore is subject to political influence. This early trimming of the University’s budget set a precedent. Dr. Craig, hard beset for money, appealed to private sources: “Is it not possible that there are public-spirited citizens in Montana who would be willing to win honor for themselves and bequeath means of gaining honor to the children of the state by giving of their abundance to assist in the work of higher education in the Treasure State?” No significant response came then or until the 1960’s – no endowment of a professorial chair, no money for a building, no cash for current expenses.[18] Many people, however, gave books and small sums of money for prizes and small gifts to the museum, some of value, many of interest, like a chunk from Plymouth Rock. The pear covered with the San Jose scale no doubt was of value to Dr. Elrod. Both W. A. Clark and Marcus Daly at times gave sums of money minute in relation to their wealth.

            Driven almost beyond endurance the President exclaimed in 1905: “In the past whatever appropriations have been asked for the University have been that they be in the smallest amount possible and still maintain the life of the Institution. It is certainly time for the commonwealth of Montana to reverse this policy, and to provide means commensurate with the work to be accomplished.” This second, sharp educative note seems to have drawn no response. For that year, 1905-06, the State appropriation was $47,000, matriculation fees less than $3,000, the yield from the Income Fund was not stated but was certainly not large. The total, about $55,000 had to pay the salaries of the President, sixteen faculty members, five assistants and the librarian and to meet all expenses for instruction of 283 students.[19]

            Dr. Craig was always aware that adequate support of four units of the University System in four towns demanded more money than the State could or would provide. He thought a mistake had been made in setting up four units, but he had to accept the fact, protestingly, like many of the presidents who followed him. Likewise, he was concerned about the waste of money through duplication of work in the four units, but he wrote, obviously in strained patience and critically: “The cause of higher education demands not so much consolidation of schools and colleges [the idea was in the air] as their proper adjustment.[20] Let each be employed in its own work and the work can be accomplished with the resources at command and within the limits of the statute.” Most certainly he realized that no unit, even his own, would forgo courses which it thought needed simply because they were offered elsewhere.


            The Legislative act creating the University stated that the object “shall be to provide the best and most efficient manner of imparting to young men and women, on equal terms, a liberal education and a thorough knowledge of the different branches of Literature, Science, and the Arts, with their applications.” One section of the Political Code stated that “no instruction, either sectarian or partisan in politics, shall ever be allowed in any department of the University.”  Another section affirmed that “tuition shall ever be free to all students of one year residence” in Montana.[21]

            The Governor-appointed Board of Education was to have “general control and supervision of the State University.” From the beginning it has harmfully exerted, at times, detailed control, even to approval of textbooks and books that should not be in the Library. The president “shall, annually, on or before the 15th day of December in each year, make a report to the State Board of Education, showing in detail the progress and condition of the University during the previous year.” To aid the president in his duties and responsibilities a local Executive Committee was established.[22] It exercised so much authority, even to the hiring and dismissal of faculty members, that the president became more of an executive than an administrator. The definition and assignment of duties and responsibilities and powers to all administrative parties were much too loose and were bound to create troubles.

            Some early rulings of the Board of Education irked the faculty – one, that money earned by a faculty member through off-campus work must be turned in to the general fund of the University; another, that the medium of communication between the Board and the faculty must be the president.[23]

            President Craig carried an overload of work. He organized the University, administered it, worked with educators over the State, and taught two or three classes each semester. He had no business manager, no registrar to help him. In the earliest years he kept a matriculation book in his office in which each student signed his name. Scholarship records, too, must have been kept in his office. Students were admitted to the University upon vote by the faculty but only after presentation of certificates of admission signed by the President.


            Dr. Craig brought able men and women to his faculty. In addition to the original faculty and to Professors Smith, Harkins and Elrod he added as Professor of Psychology and History, J. M. Hamilton, the superintendent of the Missoula schools, who gave the President much release from the classroom. Dr. Craig had asked for that release “for the valuable work for the general progress of the University that under the present circumstances must remain undone.” The President also brought to the campus Dr. J. P. Rowe, an energetic and ambitious man who served in geology until retirement in 1942. As Professor of Literature, he found Miss Frances Corbin, a gentlewoman of personal charm and dignity, and as Professor of Economics and Sociology, Dr. Joseph Underwood, who became a provocative teacher and a stalwart proponent of faculty participation in the administration of the University.[24] That the instruction during the early years was good is indicated by admission of its graduates for graduate study as early as 1904 by the University of Chicago, Columbia, John Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and the colleges of Bryn Mawr and Dartmouth.

            Relations between the President and the faculty members seem to have been cordial, although it was clear who was “the boss.” The faculty taught heavy schedules of classes, but in those days twenty classes a week were not unusual. With such loads the time for research was limited to the summers.


            Section 7 of the Act of February 17, 1893, which set up the University, after stating what subjects should be “embraced” in a liberal education, provided for the University’s development: “As soon as the income of the University will allow, and in such order as the demands of the public seem to require, the said courses of instruction in the Sciences, Literature, and the Arts shall be expanded into distinct colleges and departments of the University, each with its own faculty and appropriate title.” How did organization of the curricula proceed?

            At the opening of its doors the University was in reality a preparatory school, with such pupils predominating for the next decade. The enabling act stated that the preparatory school should be dispensed with “at such rate and in such wise as may seem just and proper to the State Board of Education.” It was discontinued in 1908. As late as 1900 Dr. Craig reported to the Board, “So far there has been no formal organization of the preparatory work as distinct from the collegiate.” Prep students and college students were therefore at times in the same classes. An alumna reports that she took chemistry as a prep along with a college senior who, during the second semester, sat beside her in cap and gown and nearly scared her to death.

            The academic year was divided into two semesters of nineteen weeks each. A credit was one semester’s work of lecture or “recitation” of one hour four times a week. The maximum number of hours a student might sign for was eighteen and the minimum fifteen. Thirty-two credits were necessary for graduation. Notably, a thesis was required of seniors, the equivalent of four hours of work per week for one semester.[25]

            In 1895-96, the college fields of study were divided into four groups, Classical, Philosophical, Scientific and Applied Scientific, and among them were distributed seven departments, namely, History and Literature (Craig), Chemistry and Physics (Merritt), Mathematics (Reilly), Greek and Latin (Aber), Modern Languages (Scheuch), Mechanical Engineering (Wells, 1897). Music was an adjunct to the University. College students in advanced classes became assistants and even teachers – thus Dan Heyfron assisted in Chemistry, Louise Hathaway in Algebra and Mary Craig in U. S. History and Mathematics.

            In each of the seven groups required courses were listed in the catalog with elective courses numbering about six of the thirty-two required for graduation. The courses required of all students except those in Mechanical Engineering were Drawing, Rhetoric and Political Economy, each one course; Literature and Biology, each two courses; Chemistry and Psychology-Ethics, each one and one-quarter courses; gymnasium practice, one-half course. It would seem that speaker Botkin’s “new learning” had been adopted, though a modern language was not required. Neither was Latin or Greek. In those days study of Latin and Greek existed in the minds of people as synonymous with education, yet the young University ignored the idea. In one year German had 29 students, psychology, a comparatively new subject, had 2, steam boilers 5. In 1898 two students were graduated from the University, ten years later, when Dr. Craig retired, twenty-seven.

            The work of both professors and students would of course be hampered without adequate growth in number of books in the library. In 1896 it was 1,360 and a decade later 18,946, with 7,941 pamphlets and nearly 200 periodicals. From cramped quarters in University Hall the library moved into a new building (now Psychology) in 1908. Gertrude Buckhouse, an alumna of 1900, became librarian in 1902 and served until her death in 1931. The library’s list of exchanges covered eleven pages of one of the President’s reports to the Board of Education. There were exchanges with almost every European country, including Russia, and with the countries Down Under, with some in South America and with Egypt and other African countries.


            The faculty had research in mind in the opening year of the University. Principally, it took the form of gathering specimens for the museum and of learning about the resources of Montana, its geology, fauna and flora. The first summer after the University opened four faculty members spent three months in the Flathead country on such a search. Earl Douglas, a graduate student from Iowa, was an indefatigable researcher. In 1899 he produced the first master’s degree paper, “The Neocene Lake Bed Deposits of Montana,” a study in vertebrate paleontology which nearly sixty years later was reprinted and was sold or exchanged to the number of 500 copies. In that same summer he headed an expedition which “traveled with horses and cart or wagon . . . about 800 miles” gathering fossils and studying geology of Montana.

            When Dr. Rowe came to the faculty he began a number of summer expeditions to gather principally rock specimens and to continue study of the State’s geology. The work was carried on by later professors of geology, Dr. Charles Deiss, Robert Lowell and steadily by President Clapp. Fully as consistent scientific study was carried on from the Biological Station, established by Dr. Elrod in 1899 on Flathead Lake at Bigfork near the mouth of the Swan River. A gasoline launch was purchased and named “The Missoula.” A small wooden structure was built for laboratory work; faculty and students lived in tents and conducted some classes in them, though the Station was intended for investigation and research rather than instruction. “The natural way to study,” wrote Director Elrod, “is to see things as they are. The laboratory must be supplemented by tramps in the woods and fields,” and he might have added, by trips on the lakes and rivers. The Station early began publishing monographs – “Summer Birds of Flathead Lake,” “A Biological Reconnaissance in the Vicinity of Flathead Lake,” “Lichens and Mosses of Montana,” “Butterflies of Montana,” and several others. From the beginning scientists from other states participated. When the U. S. Government gave the University 160 acres on the Lake (1908) the station was moved to Yellow Bay.[26] For a variety of opportunities for study in different locales, Dr. Elrod and the University officials selected 80 acres at Yellow Bay, 40 on Bull Island and 40 on Wild Horse Island. Dr. Elrod reported in 1901 that “a gentleman . . . who has lectured at several stations in America” said that the station offered “advantages which no other station in the world possesses.”

            Each annual report of Dr. Craig to the Board of Education carried notice of some research – for instance, by 1907 Dr. Rowe listed 21 papers he had written since 1903, every one of them concerning Montana geology or the industries of the State; in the same year Dr. Underwood reported that he and A. I. Morgan, an advanced student, had made a study of inheritance taxation in the Northwest and Morgan had begun a study of the land policy of Montana.

Students and Activities

            “Students must conduct themselves as gentlemen and ladies,” but they were adolescents between the ages of thirteen and twenty-two and required guidance and discipline. The moral atmosphere of the 1890’s and the traditions of the American family, together with the President’s sense of propriety, demanded that the University students be looked after in the spirit of in loco parentis. Although the President informed the Board of Education that in view of the student’s sense of responsibility “we have no need for a committee on discipline,” he himself meted it out. His son Vincent in a private letter written long after college days wrote of his father: “His discipline not only carried from the rostrum in the assembly, but he executed in person . . . we all never knew at what time, when or where, he would appear – in the classroom to take over, whatever the subject might be, he would appear or the tracking grounds of the youthful pranksters.”

            The regulations, too, were strict – absence from an examination forfeited credit; three unexcused absences from a class debarred the student from it; all public exercises required faculty approval, as did publication of The Kaimin; all student committees and organizations must have a faculty member or two on them, and if money was involved a faculty member must be the treasurer. Smoking was not allowed anywhere at any time.[27] Daily chapel exercises were held.

            The attitude toward young people at the turn of the century showed itself in the rulings that were set up – “The young ladies of the Basket Ball team [shall] not be allowed to play public games”; a young lady student must be the coach for the “ladies” basketball team and not the male University coach; a class ball to raise money for a memorial was disapproved as not suitable; it was not true, as reported, that students had produced “Ten Nights in a Bar Room”; the students in engineering were not allowed to stage a vaudeville show at the time of the Interscholastic meet, for that was not the kind of entertainment for such an event; young ladies may not be present in the gymnasium when men are present “or vice versa.”

            Naturally, formation of activities took place almost on the opening day of the University – an athletic association with dues of one dollar a year; two literary societies, the Hawthorne for men, Clarkia for women; a YMCA was followed soon by a YWCA organization. The Kaimin, a monthly literary magazine, was first issued in 1898 under an editor appointed by the faculty. An observant professor noted that the magazine carried a “Locals” column which he thought the principal attraction for readers, but the President noted its high ideals and its contents “free from those articles that often mar the pages of a college paper” – it carried no unseemly words or pictures; all was neat and proper.

            The faculty from time to time was petitioned by students to be allowed to form clubs, associations and entertainments – a Shakespeare Club (inevitable), Quill and Dagger, a club for dramatics, the Associated Mechanical Engineers, a club for oratory and one for debate, a Greek letter group (Phi Mu Eta), a local sorority (Delta Sigma) and another (Theta Pi). A townsman, John M. Evans, petitioned in January 1905 to form a chapter of Sigma Nu. Petitions were presented to designate a Class Day for seniors, to set up a Field Day, a Senior Promenade, an All Nations show; to present plays (“As You Like It” was disallowed, presumably because of the stage direction “Enter Rosalind in boy’s clothes”), to give dances, to publish an Annual. The Montana Alumnus appeared in 1905 under the editorship of George Greenwood. Also edited by him was the first Sentinel, in 1904. A Philharmonic Society nourished two glee clubs and other musical activity. In the second year of the University a Silver Cornet Band was organized, with severe penalties for failure to attend practice. Silent Sentinel was an organization of 1904 and Penetralia of 1906, both founded to “further the best interests of the University.” ASUM, the Associated Students of the University of Montana, composed of students, faculty and alumni, was organized “for the control of all matters of general student concern.” The manager, who controlled the finances, was of course, a faculty member.

            A State Oratorical League and a State Debate League were formed in collaboration with other units of the University System, and the Interscholastic Meet (1904), set up for participation of high school pupils in field sports and in debate (and, surely, for acquaintance with the University and its people), entertained pupils from 19 of the 23 accredited high schools in the State in sports and 17 in declamation. The first lecture course was begun in 1906, the first summer session held in 1902. In 1904 student George Barnes was the first Rhodes Scholar from Montana, a member of the first group of American Rhodes men to attend Oxford University.[28]

            The athletic field, when the University had moved onto its campus, was in the northwest corner near the river[29] and the football at practice and games at times dropped into the slough. That slough was the scene of the traditional tug-of-war between freshman and sophomores well into the 1920’s. Although a regulation existed that “only bona fide students . . . taking at least six hours per week of recitation or lecture can represent the University in any of its games with other college teams,” alumni report that “ringers” at times participated, especially when the game was not with another college. No seasonal schedule of games existed; the faculty voted permission to meet opponents as opportunities arose. The football team played high school teams, teams of soldiers from Fort Missoula – the “young ladies” played basketball teams of Indian girls from Fort Shaw – men from Bonner (presumably lumber workers), the University of Idaho, Washington State College, Utah Aggies, Montana Wesleyan, a YMCA team from Spokane and another from Salt Lake City – almost any team that offered itself.[30]

            The traditional organizations were thus established, under faculty participation if not control.[31] Several of them still exist, though modified by changing times and attitudes.


            When President Oscar J. Craig, because of ill health, retired in 1908, he could look upon his and the faculty’s and the students’ handiwork with considerable satisfaction. A university with departments well manned by able men and women, with an expanding library and a growing museum, with research recognized and productively if intermittently pursued, with sports and social and artistic groups prospering had been born and reared into adolescence. It was small; it was immature; it was conventional; but it was reaching out and must prosper.








[1] E. E. Hershey told in later days to Professor Paul C. Phillips about the lobbying by Missoula men. He stated the cost of “entertaining” the legislators; 5 gal. whiskey $25, 1 case of beer $5, two dozen Appolinaris $9.60, 1 case wine $42, 350 cigars $34, 1 corkscrew $1. State Senator Paris Gibson was bidding for the location of all units in Great Falls, offering many acres of land and a goodly sum of money. Hershey also stated that the persons most active in obtaining the University for Missoula were W. J. Stephens, J. E. Sloane, J. M. Hamilton, L. A. Woodward, Frank Higgins, F. E. Woody, F. C. Stoddard, M. S. Crouch, E. A. Winstanley, E. C. Stiff and himself.

[2] The institution was known as The University of Montana until 1917 when the catalog for that year carried the title The State University of Montana.

[3] Surprisingly, he stated that the equipment and apparatus provided for study in the natural sciences at this new university “surpass anything which had been secured by the University of Wisconsin when it had attained the age of ten years.” He also said that these two western universities forced the older colleges of the East to “reconstruct their courses upon broad and liberal lines.”

[4] It was the old Willard School on the corner of West Sixth and Ash Streets, since replaced by a modern building. It had been condemned and the citizens of Missoula raised $5,000 to have it reconditioned.

[5] Portions of this fence are now being used to keep students from cutting across lawns. The fence posts were removed in the ‘forties.

[6] A shoestring has often been the mite of money that has kept the University alive.

[7] By 1896 nearly $24,000 had accumulated in that fund, a sum used, until such use was found to be unconstitutional, as interest money to be paid on bonds for buildings.

[8] University presidents throughout the nation had been consulted by letter as to whether one unit or four units should be established; the replies had been unanimous for one unit, but the politics of the day had to recognize four hungry towns.

[9] And competition from three other areas of the State.

[10] This feeling of possession resulted at a much later date in what may be called over-help.

[11] In the classroom he usually wore a black skullcap and on dignified occasions a toupee. On May 2, 1895, the State Board of Education elected as president Webster Merrifield of North Dakota, who did not accept the appointment. On June 3 Oscar J. Craig was appointed on a salary of $2,500, which sum included travel expenses. J. M. Hamilton wrote of him, “He was an optimist – he never became discouraged.”

[12] Aber pioneered hundreds of students through elementary Latin, became a sort of self-appointed custodian of the campus grounds and helped many a student in need. Scheuch had been sort of a protégé of the President at Purdue University; he was to serve the University at three different periods as Acting President. Elrod was to initiate a score or more valued academic projects during his thirty-eight years of service, notably the setting up and maintaining of the Biological Station on Flathead Lake; he was a restless man of great energy, alert intelligence and high vision. His urgency for action must at times have irked the President’s slower moving nature. Harkins later taught at the University of Chicago and became recognized “as one of the nation’s great chemists.

[13] A second row was said to have run approximately along Keith Avenue, but if so the trees had disappeared by 1919.

[14] Mr. C. H. McLeod, manager of The Missoula Mercantile Company, provided equipment for the gymnasium – a small horse, a horizontal bar and parallel bars, a trapeze, two wall exercisers, mats and undoubtedly dumbbells and wands in a chest that appears in an old picture of the room.

[15] Professor Merritt had received $1800 in his years (scientists for the next half-century were paid more liberally than other professors). Professor Aber had been paid $1500, doubtless a sum necessary to woo him from the University of Utah to the campusless and buildingless University of Montana.

[16] This comment was reiterated almost word for word by president after president. Dr. Craig, however, had done well in retaining able professors.

[17] Funds later became continuous but not permanent, since every ten years the University System must go to the people of the State for millage support.

[18] Throughout its 75 years the University has not until recently received any large gift of money.

[19] Throughout the University’s life until about 1958 faculty salaries have been painfully low. To the great advantage of the University, however, able and loyal faculty members have remained, in spite of the salaries, and given long service. As late as 1905 four of the five original members were still in service, and two of the five, Elrod and Scheuch, served 38 and 42 years respectively.

[20] Minutes of the Board of Education in 1902 read: “It is not advisable or proper at this time to attempt the consolidation of the State Educational units.” Every Board of Education has struggled with this problem of duplication, first, as one faculty member put it, “against duplication, then against unnecessary duplication, and then against any further increase of unnecessary duplication.”

[21] The Board of Education and the presidents, barred from collecting tuition, have set up matriculation, athletic, activity, health and other fees for construction of buildings, which must be paid by students.

[22] During the Craig and into the Duniway years it consisted of T. C. Marshall, lawyer, Hiram Knowles, judge, and J. H. T. Ryman, banker, chairman. This committee had wide authority. One of its members presented the University’s annual financial report. Note that the president was not a member of the committee.

[23] The faculty, recognizing that certain matters should not be previewed by the president, has several times asked for direct communication. When he took over in 1898 the weather reporting for the U. S. Government, Dr. Elrod protested the former and over the years continued to protest until in the 1920’s the ruling was dropped. He once wrote a letter to the Board and sent it directly to the members and was reprimanded for not using the prescribed channel.

[24] During the Craig years, 1895-1908, the numbers of faculty members rose from five to twenty-seven, counting assistants. The lives of some of these early teachers should be written, especially those of Underwood, who wrote verse and imaginative prose that is extant, Scheuch, three times acting president and much loved as a teacher of languages, and Elrod, perhaps the most active and valuable man ever to serve on the campus. He brought to the campus and donated to its 3,000 specimens of plants, 400 mounted slides, several hundred mounted and unmounted insects and books in sufficient number to establish, in the opinion of Dr. Craig, a biological library for the Department. He constantly added to these collections – for instance, in November of his first year at the University 250 specimens of Montana plants, and the next year 300 skins of Montana birds. On the campus he was for nearly forty years influential with both faculty and students. During the early University years he prepared a booth at the State Fair to promote it. He was also public-spirited, working with the Chamber of Commerce, serving on the Park Board, cooperating with the Fish and Game Department, lecturing for the Horticultural Society, editing and publishing for many years The Intermountain Educator.

[25] Wellington D. Rankin, for instance, wrote on “The History of the Creeds,” C. O. Marcyes on “Trusts,” Guy Sheridan on “The Fallacies of the Single Tax,” George Greenwood on “Banking and Bank Currency,” George Barnes on “The History of the American Constitution.”

[26] In 1908 the Flathead Indian Reservation was being opened for settlement. Dr. Elrod conceived the idea of a biological station, selected the land best suited to scientific purposes and took the matter to Senator Joseph Dixon, who got a bill passed deeding the acreage to the State of Montana. Dr. Elrod also conceived the idea of a buffalo reserve, took it to the Senator and the reserve at Moise was established. The American Bison Society pushed the idea of a reserve.

[27] As late as 1940 President Simmons sent a letter to the faculty warning that smoking was not allowed in campus buildings.

[28] The secretary of the Rhodes Trust at Oxford, England, wrote, after Barnes had won first-class honors in the examination in Theology: ”We shall be more than satisfied if you can send us a succession of men as good as he.” James F. Thomas in 1907 was the last Rhodes Scholar to go to Oxford from Montana until 1919.

[29] There was then no Milwaukee railroad line.

[30] On an early team Hugh Kennedy was the quarterback weighing 119 pounds and Dan Heyfrom was a halfback at 155 pounds.

[31] At one committee meeting of ASUM five out of eight motions were initiated by faculty members.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 July 2013 21:02