back to home
(madison icon)1902

The State University

by David B. Frankenburger
from Madison, Past and Present   1902

The University
The State University by David B. Frankenburger

As early as 1835, the Territorial Legislature at Belmont created "The University of the Territory of Wisconsin," and petitioned congress for an endowment of public lands. The request was granted, and in 1838 seventy-two sections were ordered to be set apart for its perpetual support. The state was then a wilderness. Indians hunted along the hills and valleys where now stands the city of Madison.

This territorial university lived only on paper. Regents were appointed, but they had no funds, no buildings, no faculty. Yet they performed a great service, for they conserved the idea of an institution of higher education, supported by the peoples. A decade later, however, when Wisconsin came into the Union, and the Territorial University became the State University, the institution began to take visible form. In 1848 Dr. Jno. H. Lathrop was appointed chancellor. In a building furnished rent free by the citizens of Madison, Professor John W. Sterling, in 1850, opened a preparatory school, and began to make the material for college classes, and one year later, in 1851, the first building was erected on College Hill. A second building was erected in 1854, and University Hall, devoted to recitation rooms and administration, was erected in 1859. This constituted the visible university up to 1871.

Jno. H. Lathrop
John W. Sterling Preparatory School
College Hill