Wayne State College

WSC Archives

Nebraska Normal College Collection

Catalog title: Nebraska Normal College Collection
Shelved as: ARCH RG 03.02.01
Collection: Office of the President
Series: Historical Files
Sub-series: Nebraska Normal College
Persistent link to Conn Library OPAC: http://library.nscs.edu/record=b1575311

Background Notes

James Madison Pile was born Oct. 30, 1857, in Breckenridge County, Ky., the fifth of eight children. At the age of 17, he left his family’s tobacco plantation to visit some of his mother’s relatives in the North. The standard accounts of Pile’s life relate that it was during this visit that he met “Professor Pinkham” of Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. This encounter inspired Pile to enter the field of education.

The website of Earlham College’s archives does list a William P. (Penn) Pinkham collection. There is a difficulty with Pile meeting Professor Pinkham while Pinkham was at Earlham, however, as Pinkham did not arrive there until 1879. This would be five years after Pile was 17 years old (in 1874). Chronologically it makes more sense that Pile met Pinkham while Pinkham was the head of Southern Indiana Normal School in Paoli (he was there from 1874 to 1879). Supporting this alternative meeting place is the fact that Paoli is the seat of Orange County and all biographical accounts of Pile state that his first teaching experience was at a school in Orange County, Ind.

After teaching in Orange County Pile entered Northern Indiana University (now Valparaiso University) from which he graduated with honors in 1881. It was there that he also met his future wife, Ella Josephine Meek.

After graduation Pile taught at schools in Illinois and Michigan before coming to Fremont, Neb., in 1889. At Fremont Normal he held the position of professor of mathematics.

For some time the people of Wayne had been interested in establishing a college in the town. Professor Pile was invited to come to Wayne to teach classes held in the public school in the summers of 1889, 1890 and 1891. According to the book Nebraska Normal College, “he was so impressed with the earnestness of the people in their desire for higher education, their willingness to co-operate, and the general possibilities for a successful institution of this kind in this section of the state that he began planning, in his own mind, how such a dream could be realized.”

A public meeting was held Sept. 1, 1891, at the courthouse during which Professor Pile outlined his plans — plans that were acted on quickly. A committee was chosen to select a location. A corporation, the Nebraska Normal College Association, was formed on Sept. 3. The association’s purpose was “the instituting and maintaining of a normal school known as The Nebraska Normal College of Wayne, Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Normal College held its first classes on November 11, 1891 in a store building in downtown Wayne pending the construction of a building at the college’s permanent location at the north end of town. Classes started in this new building in 1892.

Only seven students reported that first day of classes in 1891, but within two years President Pile could report that enrollment for all sessions of the 1892-93 school year had totaled 670 (including 26 children in the kindergarten school). Students that year came from 93 counties of Nebraska and surrounding states.

The college continued to grow. Between 1892 and 1906 several new buildings were constructed: five dormitories (one with a kitchen and dining hall), a home for the president, a power plant and a second classroom building that included a 500-seat auditorium.

Professor Pile put all his energy into the success of the college. He often began work at 7 (or earlier) in the morning. His day would not end before 10 at night. The hard work with little time for rest took a toll on Professor Pile’s health. As his health declined, Professor Pile grew concerned about the future of the college. He and his family decided that the best plan would be to offer to sell the college. There was strong support in Wayne for the state to purchase the college. Four prominent men of Wayne were leaders in this effort: Phil H. Kohl, Henry C. Ley, James Britton, and John T. Bressler. After a hard fought battle in the legislature, a bill authorizing the purchase of the Nebraska Normal College by the State of Nebraska passed and was signed into law on April 6, 1909, by Governor Shellenberger. Sadly, Professor Pile did not live to see the event; he had passed away just a month before on March 11, 1909.

The last class of the Nebraska Normal College graduated on Aug. 10, 1910.

Scope and Content Notes

Approximately 20 boxes of materials were transferred from the president’s office to the archives in the summer of 2006. Two of these boxes were labeled “Historical Files” and “Oversized Historical Files,” respectively. Also among the boxes were two boxes with folders labeled “Historical – [subject]”. In addition there were individual folders with similar labels scattered among several of the other boxes. The materials in this sub-series came from files pertaining to James Pile, the Pile Family and the Nebraska Normal College found in theses boxes from the president’s office as well as from boxes of unorganized, relevant materials already in library storage.

Box 1

Folder 1. Newspaper clippings and photocopies, 1891-1893
Folder 2. Interpretive reading script
Folder 3. Nebraska Normal College Song
Folder 4. The Pile Family
Folder 5. NNC Catalogue for 1905/1906 and 1906/1907
Folder 6. NNC Catalogue for 1907/1908 and 1908/1909
Folder 7. NNC Catalogue for 1908/1909 and 1909/1910 (2 copies)
Folder 8. Nebraska Normal College Journal, vol. 5, no. 6, November 1900
Folder 9. NNC Alumni (1)
Folder 10. NNC Sale Offer
Folder 11. NNC Commencement (1901)
Folder 12. NNC Commencement (1902)
Folder 13. NNC Commencement (1904)
Folder 14. NNC Commencement (1907)
Folder 15. NNC Commencement (1908)
Folder 16. NNC Commencement (1909)
Folder 17. NNC Commencement (1910)
Folder 18. Nebraska Normal History Committee. Correspondence – 1
Folder 19. Nebraska Normal History Committee. Correspondence – 2
Folder 20. Nebraska Normal History Committee. Correspondence – 3
Folder 21. Nebraska Normal History Committee. Correspondence – 4
Folder 22. Nebraska Normal History Committee. Correspondence – 5
Folder 23. Miscellanea
Folder 24. West Hall Items
Folder 25. Correspondence
Folder 26. Early Campus

Box 2

Item 1. The Normal College Journal, vol. 1, no. 1
Item 2. The Normal College Journal, vol. 1, no. 5
Item 3. The Normal College Journal, vol. 2, no. 2
Item 4. The Alumni Echo, vol. III, no. 3. March 1909
Item 5. The Wayne Herald, July 13, 1893
Item 6. Stock Certificates

Box 3

Item 1. Alumni Record Book 1
Item 2. Alumni Record Book 2
Item 3. NNC Alumni (1)
Item 4. NNC Alumni (2)
Item 5. NNC Alumni (3)
Item 6. Draft, Nebraska Normal College / Nann Whitmore
Item 7. Prof. Pile Eulogy