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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter XXII: Biographical,   pp. 247-958

Page 247

James H. Stout, one of Menomonie's leading citizens, founder of the famous
institute which now bears his name, and generous contributor to its cause, was
born in Dubuque, Iowa, the son of Henry L. and Eveline (Deming) Stout. He
received a good education in the schools of his native city, and in 1867 and 1869
took literary courses in the University of Chicago. His thoughts, however, turned
to the lumber business in which he had been reared from a boy, so he returned to
Dubuque, and engaged in that line. In 1871, he was sent to Read's Landing,
in Wabasha County, Minnesota, on the Mississippi, to succeed Thomas B. Wilson
in charge of the Knapp, Stout & Co. interests there. In 1877, he went to St. Louis,
to look after the company interests there, and later to Washington, D. C., looking
after legislative matters connected with the concern. He located in Menomonie
in 1889, and spent the remainder of his life here. When he first went to Washington
he expected to spend about two weeks looking after the interests of the lumber
companies in a dispute that had arisen with the railroads over the height of the
bridges over the Mississippi at St. Louis. Instead of two weeks he remained there
over two years, but his patience and diplomacy finally won. He succeeded in
convincing congress of the justice of his cause, and gained his point, which was in
accordance with the popular desire at St. Louis. This experience placed him in
touch with many public men of national standing, a field of acquaintance which
was later greatly extended through his educational connections. Senator Allison,
of Iowa, until the death of that statesman, was always one of his warm friends, and
Secretary of Agriculture Wilson is another with whom he was intimately associated
as friend and collaborator. It was while in St. Louis, too, that Mr. Stout became
interested in educational work. A friend remarked one day in his hearing that he
would like to educate his three boys in manual training, but did not have the means.
Mr. Stout immediately spoke to this effect: "That need not hinder you. I will
furnish the money if you will look after the boys." The arrangement was carried
out. Mr. Stout watched the result and his interest in this form of education was
awakened. This incident not only illustrates Mr. Stout's generous impulses to-
ward young men seeking self-improvement; it marks an inspiration that has re-
sulted in the finest and best equipped institution for the promotion of manual in-
struction the country contains, and the beginning of an activity that has made
itself felt in every quarter of the nation. When, a short time later, Mr. Stout came
to Menomonie, he at once began considering means of bettering the local school
system. Manual training at this time had found a place in the public schools
of not more than one or two Wisconsin cities, and then only in a modest way in
connection with the high school. He first erected a two-room building to be devoted
to manual training and domestic science, and also furnished, at his own expense,
the teachers for these two new lines of work. The work soon became so popular
that students could not be accommodated in the limited space afforded by these two
rooms, and Mr. Stout proceeded to erect a much more commodious building and
equipped it for a much wider range of work in both departments. Equipment was
provided for wood work of various kinds, forging, foundry work and machine shop
practice. The advantages offered by this new building and its splendid facilities
were appreciated by the students of the school and the popularity of the work in-
creased. Instruction in drawing throughout the grades of the public school was
also introduced about the same time and rooms for the art department were pro-
vided and equipped in this new building. Mr. Stout's interest in the common school
child was by no means confined to manual training. He also arranged to have
kindergartens opened in the city and for the carrying out of that plan erected two
buildings, equipped them and turned them over to the city. Not only did he

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