SUU-BNS: First Graduates

First Graduating Class 1900 Standing: Joseph T. Wilkiinson jr. and J. S. Dalley Sitting: Emma Gardner, Alice Reed , Amelia Dalley, and Ella Beny

First Graduating Class 1900
Standing: Joseph T. Wilkiinson jr. and J. S. Dalley
Sitting: Emma Gardner, Alice Redd , Amelia Dalley, and Ella Berry             Photo Courtesy of SUU Sherratt Library Special Collections

 

In 1900 the first class of the Branch Normal School had completed the necessary course work required for graduation. The first graduating class consisted of six graduates, each of whom received scholarships to proceed to the University of Utah to complete the fourth year of the normal course work. As per requirement of the scholarship, each of the six students agreed to teach for at least three years upon completion of their studies at the university.

It is impossible to grasp the educational impact of the Branch Normal School upon the entire region as you study the lives and service rendered by each of the graduates. However it is possible to see the BNS left an indelible mark upon the region as its first graduates went on to serve in public education. The graduates helped to realize and validate in a remarkably short time the vision of the founders. The first six graduates were Emma Gardner (Abbott), Joseph T. Wilkinson, Alice Redd (Rich), Ella Berry (Leigh), Julius Sylvester Dalley, and Amelia Dalley (Green).

Emma Gardner was one of 13 children of Royal Joseph and Chloe Louisa Snow Gardner of Pine Valley. She completed her elementary education at Pine Valley and Central schools then attended the BNS for her secondary training. Emma fulfilled her scholarship contract by teaching for 25 years in Mesquite, Nevada. She became principal of the school and served in numerous civic capacities. Emma married David Arthur Abbott of Mesquite on September 16, 1909 in the St. George LDS Temple.

Joseph T. Wilkinson Jr., was the fourth of five children born to Joseph T. Wilkinson and Elizabeth Emily Wells of Leeds. Joseph began his education at the local elementary school in Leeds, but when he was nine his family moved to Cedar City where he completed elementary school. He worked with his father and brothers publishing the Iron County Record. When the BNS opened in 1897 Joseph was one of the first students. After graduation from the University of Utah, Joseph fulfilled his scholarship contract teaching at schools in Hurricane, Rockville, Springdale and Moccasin and Cane Beds, Arizona. His normal schooling framed a teaching career that extended over many years.

Alice Redd (Rich) was the 13th child of Lemuel Hardison Redd and Keziah Jane Butler of New Harmony. After her graduation she taught for a year at Pioche, Nevada, then on to Paris, Idaho to teach at the Fielding Academy. It was there that she met and married fellow teacher Abel Sargent Rich. They settled in Brigham City, Utah and three of their seven children became teachers.

Ella Berry (Leigh) was the seventh of eight children born to William Shanks Berry and Rebecca Rocena Beck of Kanarraville. Ella attended the Parowan Stake Academy and entered with the first class. After her graduation from the University of Utah she taught just three years in the Iron County School District before marrying Harry Leigh. Harry was a young businessman and through the years his business prospered as did their family of nine children.

Julius Sylvester Dalley and his twin sister were the eleventh and twelfth children born to James and Johanna Bollette Bertelsen of Summit. Julius loved to learn and attended school through the fifth grade. Because there was no advanced school work available he attended this highest grade three consecutive years. He then attended the Parowan Stake Academy for a year before in the fall of 1897 he entered as part of the first class of the BNS. After his graduation Julius fulfilled his scholarship contract by teaching for a year in the basement of the tabernacle in Parowan. He then spent his life teaching all over southern Utah and Arizona. He taught in Summit, Monticello, Utah and Moccasin, Arizona and finished his career in Kanab, Utah. He was a strong civic leader, involved in education his entire life.

Amelia Dalley (Green) was a half-sister to Julius. She was born to James and Petrine Berleson Dalley. She and her twin sister Minnie were the ninth and tenth kids of fourteen children. Amelia was educated in the elementary schools in Iron County and enrolled at the BNS in the fall of 1897 at age 20 to complete her secondary schooling. Amelia fulfilled her scholarship contract by teaching for a year in a one-room school teaching 1-8th grades in Summit. She then accepted a position teaching 5th grade in Cedar City’s elementary school. She married George Bernard Green in 1907.

This group of six friends moved to Salt Lake City together for their obligatory year at the University of Utah. They rented a small house and all lived together with Petrine Bertlesen Dalley acting as their chaperone and house-mother. The number of lives these six graduates either directly or indirectly impacted is astronomical. And just imagine – the same school that graduated these six students over 115 years ago graduated 1,643 students in 2015. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much these six graduates influenced the future of not only SUU, but the entire region.

The Bell of Old Main

Southern Utah University is a school rich in traditions. One of those traditions began in 1923 with the installation of the bell in Old Main. This historic bell was actually given to the Branch Agricultural College by a group of prominent local women who founded the Home Economics Club. They organized the club to raise and maintain a financial fund that could be used to give assistance to any student who needed help completing their schooling. These spirited women strove to use their funds to contribute to any worthy cause. They decided to purchase a cast iron bell which they intended to give to the high school. However after the purchase had been made they realized that the high school had a flat roof and no way house a bell.

The ladies decided they should give it to the Branch Agricultural College with the suggestion that it be placed in the cupola atop Old Main, at this time the Library Building. The fact that the gift weighed 1,800 pounds presented an overwhelming challenge to the school. However the school graciously accepted the gift.

The students in the mechanic arts departments, with their inventive teacher, Mr. George Croft , solved the dilemma. Utilizing their collective muscle power they employed the department hoist and some steel cable and managed to fit the bell into the small tower. They also fashioned a mechanism that could be use to ring the bell. The bell rope extended from the operating crank, ending in a loop just below the ceiling. A tall pole with a hook facilitated the ringing of the bell.

The bell rang every morning at 8 o’clock reminding students and the town of the hour and of the school. The bell also rang to announce every athletic contest, at home or away, in which the BAC was victorious. The bell quickly found an endearing place in the hearts of the townspeople and the students of the school. For 25 years, every time the bell rang it reminded the community of their connection with the school they had worked so hard to build and to which they continued to expend their energies to sustain.

On a cold winter morning in December 1948, Old Main fell victim to fire. As the cupola containing the bell was consumed by the flames, the bell that had become a treasured tradition – came crashing down. You could hear the bell clang as it plunged from floor to floor until it finally crashed into the ground and fell completely silent.

The remains of the Old Main Bell

The remains of the Old Main Bell

No amount of optimism or work could restore the beloved old cast iron bell. A fund was started by students, alumni, and the community to place a carillon in the cupola of Old Main. The electronic carillon could imitate the sound of the swinging bell, but could also broadcast Christmas music during the wintry months. By December 1949 the new carillon was installed and little by little people transferred their affections and forgot the original bell. Now in 2015, the Carter Carillon, a free standing structure, not only marks the passage of the hours, but also the journey of students at Southern Utah University as they make their way from the freshman class to University graduate. By visiting the carter carillon link you can learn more about this tradition.


 

The Cedar City Fire Department circa 1948

The Cedar City Fire Department circa 1948

The firefighters

Back row – Ralph Hanzon, Mark Webster, Scherl Peterson?, Kay Melling, Grant Stevens, Jane Hunter, Carl Taylor, Frank Goddard, Elmer Anderson, Ernie Macfarlane

Front row- Charles (Buck) Gordon, Orwin H. Green, O.H. Rice, Sid Thompson, Marrion Grames, Eddie Peterson, Mel Arns

Old Main Fire

As the month of August barrels onward, Southern Utah University, here in Cedar City, is preparing to receive another class of students ready to advance in their chosen fields of higher education. The early history of SUU has recently been documented in an impressive film, partially shot on location here at Frontier Homestead. It can be seen here: https://www.suu.edu/backupthemountain/index.html.  While the story of the building of Old Main is well known, the sad tale of its fire is not.

BAC-BF-039

Old Main in Flames

The morning of December 12, 1948 should have been like another other Sunday. It was a clear, crisp, wintery day. There was no way to tell that this morning would change Cedar City forever. As Jack Walters and his father Roy were returning with the newspapers Jack was to deliver to the homes on his route, they noticed something unusual. There was smoke rising from the top of the Old Main building on Temple Hill. The two men rushed to the nearby home of Eldro Rigby, manager of the college farm, to sound the alarm. By the time they reached the Rigby home, flames were visible through the roof of Old Main. Rigby called the fire department and then called Edward Matheson, the school custodian, who was the first to reach the blaze. Matheson threw off all the electrical switches to the building, but the fire was already blazing through the dry attic.

As students became aware of the situation they rushed to the scene and formed a human brigade up the steel fire escape and began to retrieve all that was possible of the precious books and artifacts housed in the historic Old Main. Retired Cedar City Fire Chief David E. Bentley was only 14 years old at the time, but clearly remembers that winter morning. “I could see black smoke coming from the college…I quickly dressed and ran from my home …up the hill towards the Old Main building. As soon as I reach the top of the hill, Sheriff Art Nelson put me in line with other students to help save the books. We worked furiously, passing piles and piles of books to safety until the fire reached the library. Books were then quickly thrown out the windows, which damaged some, but saved many from certain destruction.” The students worked undeterred until they were forced to vacate the property only moments before the burning roof caved in. They then stood by helplessly to watch the remaining materials be consumed by the blazing inferno.

Students watching the fire.

Students watching the fire.

Almost in a daze, Professor Parley Dalley stood at the corner of the building, pouring water towards the flames with a garden hose. The Cedar City Fire department arrived on the scene only to discover that the new truck they had purchased which could pump 750 gallons per minute did not have a nozzle that fit the hydrants located on campus. While the fire continued to grow in strength, precious minutes were lost stringing the fire hose from the door of Old Main, east down the sidewalk, over  to the 300 West and College Avenue intersection where there was a hydrant that would fit the powerful hose. By the time this was done, the fire had such a hold on the building that the firemen couldn’t do much more than contain the flames.  During all of this, on the west side of the building firemen worked diligently with a 1939 Studebaker, a booster pump and 200 gallons of water, but all they were able to do was spray the embers coming from the roof.

Ralph Hazon, Orwin Green, and other courageous firemen took a hose into the burning building in an effort to contain the flames, but by the time they reached the stairwell, the smoke and fire were so strong it made it impossible to advance any further. As they began to withdraw the fire reached the tower containing the cast iron bell. The most dramatic moment occurred when with a resounding clang, the bell crashed from floor to floor, falling finally to ground. The bell, constructed by the local Iron Works Company, was so badly cracked that it was unsalvageable. Many townspeople fought to save the bell, but it was eventually melted down and used for other purposes.

It took about three hours to get the blaze under control. During that short time virtually everything in the building was consumed by the flames or completely destroyed. The community just had to watch as the building that so many of their families had sacrificed everything for – went up in flames.

Several old men, who 50 years before had been young men filled with dedicated determination, now stood sadly by. These were men of the lumbering expedition and the building crews of 1897. They watched tearfully. Rob Bulloch recalled the emotion he felt as he watched the historic structure he built go up in flames, “It was the older men then, who could see what could be done, and they filled us with enthusiasm so that we did what was needed. Now it is our turn to enthuse the young ones to get this building rebuilt.” The whole community was in mourning. Not so much for the loss of the books, furniture, and paintings which could be replaced, but for the loss of an integral part of Cedar City’s proud heritage.

As the ashes settled it was time to assess the damage. The art department and library had been demolished. Art professor Mary L Barstow’s paintings, a lifetime of work, were completely destroyed in the fire. Only about 20 percent of the library collection had survived the fire. Those few books were carried to the cafeteria where students attempted to place them in some semblance of order. The business department on the lower floors of the building had been protected by the falling books and the machines and equipment from that department were salvaged.

Administrators and faculty members met early on Monday morning to discuss what should be done. True to the resolve of the Cedar City community, they were not going to let the tragedy of losing their beloved and cherished Old Main prevent them from moving forward. By Monday afternoon regularly scheduled classes were back in session. While crammed into inadequate spaces, none of the classes were forced to move off campus. Students and faculty entered into a spirit of cooperative effort and virtually no class time was lost.

President Wayne Driggs was dedicated to the concept that, even though the cost would be greater, they were going to remodel and restore Old Main maintaining the original exterior and its historical integrity. The fire again brought the town and college into cooperative effort. With much tenacity and lobbying on the part of the citizens of Cedar City and repeated refusals to take “no” for an answer, Utah Governor Herbert Maw appropriated $150,000 so that the repairs for Old Main could begin immediately. Cedar City would be back within the walls of their beloved Old Main before two full school years had passed.