When the Normal School opened its doors to 140 students on April 12, 1887, the question, “What is the nature of the creature spawned by Davis and his colleagues?” might well have been posed. How would contemporaries have answered the query? The institution was not of college level and although on the level of a secondary school it was categorized as a professional school.
This was what the Normal School Association School Association acquired for its $25,000. In that hectic winter of 1886-1887 two dormitories were built. The Clarion Democrat described them as “a front of 120 feet, facing north, with a wing 118 feet on the depot side (8th Avenue). These buildings will each be 40 feet wide and in the main three stories high, the lower story of brick, and will be used for kitchen, dining room, bath rooms, etc. The upper stories will contain 60 rooms for students, with accommodations for 120 students.”
The second building was erected on the upper side of the grounds fronting on College Avenue.
The heart of the educational animal, its faculty, consisted of 11 members: A. J. Davis, Principal, Pedagogy, Mental and Moral Sciences, History of Education, and the Sciences and Art of Teaching; John Ballentine, Ancient Languages, and Historical Sciences; C. M. Thomas, Natural Sciences; R. G. Yingling, Bookkeeping and Drawing; Jos. H. Apple, Mathematics; L. L. Himes, English Branches; F. F. Whittekin, Surveying and Civil Engineering; Miss Bine Holly, Literature, Rhetoric, and Higher English Branches; Miss Anna Froehlich, Grammar, Geometry, and Reading; Miss Gertie Lawson, Landscape Painting and Sketching; and Miss Hattie Dean (succeeded by Mrs. Steffe in May) Director of Music.
The first faculty was a formidable group. Professor Davis made a name for himself during his 15 years at the helm and later enhanced his reputation as assistant principal, first at Fairmont (West Virginia) Normal School and later in the same capacity at Humbolt (California) Normal School. Professor Ballentine served the Normal School for 33 years as teacher, vice-principal and twice acting principal. C. M. Thomas later made a name for himself at Grove City College. R. G. Yingling was business manager, steward and sometime teacher at Clarion State for fourteen years. Professor Apple became president of the Female College (Hood College) at Frederick, Md. Miss Froehlick became preceptress at Lock Haven Normal School.
|Clarion often encountered thorny budget issues in its history.|
Professor Davis presided over the birth of the Normal School and guided it during the springtime of its life. The era of the Davis principalship, 1887-1902, was one of growth, expansion, development and partial maturation.
During the first year of full operation, 1887-1888, 149 were enrolled—ninety-two ladies and fifty-seven gentlemen. This constituted the total three term enrollment figure. During his final year at the helm, 1901-1902, 509 were in attendance. This was a significant accomplishment, for the thirteenth Normal School District was the most sparsely populated in the state. As early as 1890 Clarion was outdrawing five more heavily populated districts. In 1895 Clarion ranked sixth among the 13 State Normal Schools in enrollment.
The cause of the increase is not entirely known. Perhaps the cause, or more correctly causes, may be found in September, 1904 issue of The Normal Enterprise.
All of these contributed to Clarion’s apparent success in the graduation of a high caliber teacher, for if the product was not such, enrollment would have nosedived as occurred in the case of Carrier Seminary.
Another factor which spurred the increase was “The Edinboro Accession” of 1892. In February of that year a rupture between Prof. J. A. Cooper, the principal, and trustees of the Edinboro State Normal School almost caused the dissolution of the school. James Bonder in his doctoral dissertation, “The Growth and Development of the State Teachers Colleges of Pennsylvania,” provides the basic details pertaining to the incident. The trustees employed detective methods to ferret out alleged irregularities on the part of the principal. The board then summarily discharged him without allowing defense in his behalf. The students and most of the faculty rallied behind Principal Cooper and left the school. As a result the enrollment dwindled from over six hundred students to fifteen. Many of those who left Edinboro under the sway of Cooper followed him to Clarion. The Accession was not a temporary phenomenon, but, as analyzed by Hon. J. T. Maffett in the Clarion Republican, it resulted in a permanent enrollment increase.
Paralleling enrollment increases was an expansion of student life and activities, educational services, and the school plant. Almost from the founding of the normal school, Davis and his colleagues must have felt that student life also contained a non-academic side. During the first term of operation, several societies and clubs were formed, including the Bancroft Literary Society, Boys Protective Association, D.S.M.Q., Special, Senior’s Club, and Practical Debating Club.
Program growth continues
Intramural and interscholastic athletics also appeared at an early date. An extensive program of girls calisthenics and physical activities was in operation by 1892. Baseball was a part of the interscholastic program as early as 1890. During the waning days of this formative epoch, football was introduced into the interscholastic program (1901). Basketball for both ladies and gentlemen was added the following spring. Competition was against area high school teams such as DuBois and Oil City, and with YMCA and independent teams. The first competition with a normal school appears to have been a baseball game with Slippery Rock in May of 1905.
A student cadet corps was formed in 1891 and maintained during much of the Davis principalship. During the Spanish American War, Major Davis and a number of his cadets served with the National Guard from April 17, 1898, to Jan. 31, 1899.
During the first year of operation $3,000 was expended to furnish the library. By 1891 it housed some 3,000 volumes and increased to 8,000 by 1899. A long time benefactor of education and former Congressman, Hon. James T. Maffett, augmented the library collection with the presentation of some 1,000 books. A museum began operation on the campus in 1894.
An extension program was inaugurated in 1893. Through this program Clarion provided a series of lectures on American History in Oil City, Franklin, Butler, and Clarion.
The handmaiden of increasing student population is expanded and improved physical facilities. Clarion was no exception to the rule. An initial improvement was to provide water for the campus. Workmen set about to drill a well in May of 1886. After several hours of labor they struck what appeared to be a water vein of the first magnitude, but such was not the case. In their haste either they had failed to check for the location of already existing water lines or they had made an error in calculation, for the drillers cut right into the Clarion Water Company’s main line. In the spring of 1896 the gas lights began to flicker as workmen began to install electric wiring on campus.
The first new classroom building, Music Hall, was built in 1890 at a cost of $20,000. Over the years it furnished accommodations for the Model School, classroom instruction, and music practice rooms. In addition, the second floor served as a residence for the presidential family.
In 1894 Science Hall (now known as Founders Hall) was constructed. The Boiler House and Laundry were erected the ensuing year. The state appropriation for these buildings totaled $64,000. Science Hall was built as the home of the Model School. It also contained science labs and classrooms with the third floor used for residence hall purposes of faculty offices.
Davis accomplishments monumental
Although Davis left the institution under difficult circumstances his achievements must be labeled as monumental. It was only after great endeavor on his part that his idea for the normal school bore fruit, and although his educational creature suffered form growing pains, he saw it grow from infancy to adolescence. The Davis era left the institution with a rich legacy which benefited many generations of students.