Shurtleff College (1827 - 1957) Alton, IL.
Shurtleff College (1827 - 1957) Alton, IL.


















Shurtleff College was founded 1827 in Alton, Illinois by Reverend John Mason Peck as Alton Seminary. It became Shurtleff College in 1836 honoring Dr. Brendon Shurtleff, of Boston, who donated $10,000 to the college. Andrew Carnegie in 1910 donated $15,000 for construction of a library. In 1950 Shurtleff reached its peak enrollment of 700 students, also seeing its highest number of graduates that year, 99.


The school ceased operating as Shurtleff College on June 30, 1957, when it became part of the Southern Illinois University system. Students enrolled at Shurtleff at the time continued their education and the last twenty-eight students of Shurtleff College graduated in 1958. Shurtleff College was the oldest Baptist college west of the Appalachians until it was absorbed by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.


From the 'Blue Book of the State of Illinois' (1909):


Shurtleff College in Upper Alton, ILL., the pioneer college of the west, was organized as "Rock Spring Theological and High School" on the first of January, 1827. On that day a board of trustees was chosen with Rev. James Lemon as its first president, the site for an institution was selected, and a general plan of operations agreed upon. A school building and a log cabin boarding house were at once erected, and a carpenter shop and printing office soon followed. On the first of November of the same year, the school was opened, with Rev. Joshua Bradley, A. M., as principal. During the first five days, twenty boarding students were enrolled, besides several day scholars from the neighboring settlements. Four years of successful work followed, the average attendance being about fifty. The total enrollment during this time was 242. Among the students were Ninian Edwards, son of the Governor of Illinois. Don Morrison of Belleville, and William and Penelope Pope, children of Nathaniel Pope, the Judge of the U. S. Court for Illinois.


In July, 1831, the Board of Trustees for the first time considered the removal of the institution to Alton. Soon after, the school, with its furniture, library, etc., was removed to Upper Alton where it has ever since remained. At the time of the removal the name of the institution was changed to "Alton Seminary," and soon afterwards to "The Alton College of Illinois." The first charter was secured February 9, 1835. On the 12th of January, 1836, by an amendment to the charter, the name was again changed, this time to "Shurtleff College." This name was adopted in recognition of a gift of $10,000, which had, in the preceding October, been made by Benjamin Shurtleff M. D., of Boston, Mass.


The departments originally contemplated by the founders of "Rock Spring Theological and High School" were two in number, as indicated in the name. These two objects were adhered to for a number of years, even after the name had been changed. For several years during its later history, a well-equiped theological department was maintained in the institution. The organization and fuller equipment of theological seminaries and the desire on the part of students to take their collegiate and theological work at different places, caused the theological training here to receive gradually less attention, and the collegiate training to be emphasized. Instruction in Biblical Literature and Bible study is, however continued, and the Christian character of the college maintained, and the number of students for the ministry, as compared with those looking forward to other occupations, has been continuously large.


During the Civil War, the number of students was greatly decreased, probably partly because of the nearness of the college to the scene of hostilities, and for a time even the continuance of the institution was endangered. Of those who had been students of the college, about 140 entered the northern army, and many of them rose to distinction as officers.


From 1829 to 1831, the president was the pioneer preacher, author, and foe to polygamy, intemperance, slavery, and the duelling code, Rev. John M. Peck, D. D., to whom more than to anyone else is due the establishment of the school. Rev. Hubbel Loomis, A. M., president from 1832 to 1835, teacher of Jared Sparks, eminent as president of Harvard College, lived in Upper Alton until his death in his ninety-eighth year, December 16, 1872, and throughout these years was the trusted friend and counselor of the college. Rev. Daniel Read, LL. D., who came to Shurtleff College from the pastorate of the Second Baptist Church of St. Louis in 1856, remained as president until 1870. Rev. Adin A. Kendrick, D. D., president from 1872 to 1894, the longest administration in the history of the college, came also from a St. Louis pastorate, being pastor of the Beaumont Street Church at the time of his election to the presidency of the college. Dr. Kendrick continued with some Intermission In the service of the college until his death, which occurred In April, 1902. Dr. Kendrick was succeeded by Principal Austen K. deBlois, Ph. D., of the Union Baptist Seminary, St. Martins, N. B. After a successful administration of five years, Dr. deBlois entered the pastorate becoming pastor of the First Baptist Church of Elgin, 111. The present President Rev. J. D. S. Riggs, Ph. D., L. H. D., came to the position In 1905.


The graduates of this school have distinguished themselves in all the walks of professional and business life; 144 have become ministers, 21 missionaries, 42 lawyers, 26 physicians, 15 journalists, 128 teachers and professors, 24 have received the degree of D.D., 5 that of LL. D., 9 of Ph. D., and one Pd. D., 7 have become presidents of colleges, 8 army officers, 10 authors, 8 surveyors or engineers, 5 members of legislatures, 4 bankers, 2 dentists, and one a foreign consul.


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Shurtleff College
Location Alton, IL
Active 1827–1957
Type Private
Religious affiliation Baptist
Nickname Pioneers / Bison
Yearbook Retrospect
Newspaper College Review
Colors Gold & Maroon


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