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Gard, Robert Edward / My land, my home, my Wisconsin : the epic story of the Wisconsin farm and farm family from settlement days to the present
(1978)

Of man in search of better ways,   pp. 63-82 PDF (12.0 MB)


Page 63


OF MAN IN SEARCH OF
BETTER WAYS
   From our farm the young folks have always gone to
be educated. Our family had this idea very deep: educa-
tion for all. I know that many in our neighborhood didn't
think a farmer needed to have any learning from books
... he had enough from the folkways, and what he learned
on the land. But our folks insisted on all of us having
education. We were here, after all, when they started the
University of Wisconsin. Great-uncle Tom was one of the
earliest to graduate. Great-grandmother had the first
school anywhere around here in her cabin one winter.
And her daughter-in-law, grandpa's wife, worked hard
for the education of women and girls.
    Under the Morrill Act of 1862, the state was
granted federal lands to establish agricultural and
mechanical colleges. For four years nothing was
done with the Wisconsin lands. Ripon College car-
ried on a strong campaign to obtain them and to
establish the new agricultural college there, but in
1866 the state legislature awarded the lands to the
University of Wisconsin. Dane County furnished
the money for an experimental farm.
     Because it was still in its formative years, the
 new agricultural college did not graduate its first stu-
 dent until 1878. William W. Daniells of Michigan
 became the first professor of agriculture after John
 W. Hoyt, editor of the Wisconsin Farmer, turned
 down the job. In 1880, William A. Henry was elected
 to the chair of agriculture. He immediately began to
 effect the relationships with farmers that made the
 college a vital institution. Henry became the agricul-
 tural dean in 1888.
     New York State men in Wisconsin were often
 the dynamic leaders who headed local movements for
 organizing the dairy industry. One of them was
 Hiram Smith of Sheboygan County, a chief supporter
 of the college for whom the first dairy building at the
 college was named.
         EDUCATION FOR FARMERS
    The success of the Wisconsin College of Agri-
culture depended upon close association with actual
working farmers. It had to be a "team" operation.
To get new kinds of scientific information out to the
farmers, a series of Farmers' Institutes was estab-
lished in 1886 by the Wisconsin College of Agricul-
ture. Sometimes an entire train would leave Madi-
son loaded with exhibits and specialists to help farm-
ers in their own territory. There were many new
scientific discoveries. The Wisconsin farm was on
the verge of an era of true self-realization.
     Early in Wisconsin educational history, Presi-
dent Thomas Chamberlain of the university said: "A
new ideal is rising-namely, that it is also the func-
tion of a university to seek an all-pervasive influence
upon its patron community. Our Farmers' Institutes
are a more striking and effective instance than even
the English movement."
     E. L. Luther told the story of the Farmers' Insti-
tutes in Wisconsin Magazine of History:
    The year 1848 was a notable one in Wisconsin. [Beyond
 statehood], it is a matter of record that the Wisconsin Legis-
 lature that year established the University of Wisconsin.
 [Instruction did net begin until 1849.]
    In 1862, the Morrill Act was passed by Congress and
 signed by Lincoln. Dane County gave the University a farm
 in 1866. William W. Daniells, a chemist, was made director
 of the farm in 1868. In 1872 a group of dairymen, who were
 cheesemakers, organized the Wisconsin Dairymen's Associa-
 tion, which developed into one of the greatest boosts to agri-
 culture, as we shall see. Then in 1878 Hiram Smith . . . be-
 came the first farmer to be appointed to the University Board
 of Regents, and was promptly made chairman of the agricul-
 tural committee which looked after the farm. Things then
 began to pop.
     In 1880 the regents brought William A. Henry, botanist,
 to the faculty and made him director of the farm and three
 years later, in 1883 Governor Jerry Rusk, Hiram Smith, and
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