Dr. Fairfield: First Principal of Indiana Normal School

Rev. Dr. Edmund Burke Fairfield was a pastor, educator, politician, theologian, diplomat, and world traveler.  He was also the first principal of the Indiana Normal School.

The Rev. Dr. Fairfield was born April 21, 1821, in Parkersburg, (West) Virginia, to the Rev. Micaiah and Hannah Wynn Fairfield.  While he was still a boy, the Fairfields moved to Troy, Ohio, where he grew up.  He attended Denison University and Marietta College before enrolling at Oberlin College.  He received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1842, and Oberlin Seminary granted him a B.D. in 1845.

As a student in the Oberlin Seminary, Fairfield was exposed to the institution’s strong emphasis on ethics and sanctification, which stressed man’s capability of reaching his highest objectives as an individual and of building a nearly perfect society on earth.  He also followed the teachings of Rev. Charles G. Finney, the great proponent of revivalistic theology.  Fairfield’s emphasis on enthusiastic preaching, the lack of which in Indiana bothered him, seems to have developed from his experiences at Oberlin.  Oberlin’s sympathy with abolition may have provided the stimulus for Fairfield’s anti-slavery views since his mother’s lineage was Virginian.  Following his graduation, he moved to Canterbury, New Hampshire, where he appears to have been ordained in both the Free Will Baptist and Congregational Churches and seems to have served both congregations.  At Canterbury he served as minister and teacher, remaining from 1845-47.  Soon he moved on to accept a charge in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Then he entered higher education, accepting the presidency of the Free Baptist College, Spring Arbor, Michigan in 1848, which was relocated and renamed Hillsdale College in 1853.  During his 21-year tenure, Rev. Dr. Fairfield took the struggling institution and built it into a small, but respected liberal arts college.  The student enrollment grew from less than 50 to over 500 during his presidency, and he also actively raised money for the college and its endowment.

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It appears that he combined public appearances on behalf of the temperance movement with his fundraising efforts on behalf of Hillsdale in western New York in the fall of the early 1850s.  During this period, he entered politics in Michigan and helped found the Republican Party there.  From 1857 to 1859, he served in the Michigan Senate.  His first speech, “Slavery in the Territories,” attacked the extension of slavery, and it was printed for wide distribution.  In 1858, he won the election for Lieutenant Governor of Michigan and served one term.  Following the completion of his term in 1861, he devoted his attention to administering Hillsdale College, teaching, traveling, and lecturing.  When he left the presidency of Hillsdale College in 1869, he accepted the pastorate of the First Congregational Church, Mansfield, Ohio, where he remained from 1870 until April 1875.

At its March 10, 1875 meeting, the Board of Trustees of Indiana Normal School (now IUP) chose Rev. Dr. Fairfield as the institution’s first principal (president) at a salary of $2,250 per year, later raised to $4,000.  He came to Indiana with a national reputation as clergyman, educator, and lecturer, but how he came to be selected is unknown.  His previous activities in the building of Hillsdale College, in the temperance cause, and in the church certainly made him an appealing candidate.  His high salary and perquisites say a lot about the ambitions and plans for the normal school held by John Sutton and his colleagues.

Prior to moving to Indiana, Fairfield paid a visit to the town, during which he presented one of his most famous lectures, “Tent Life in Palestine.”  The lecture was given on the evening of March 24, 1875, and it drew a large crowd in the courtroom of the newly opened Indiana County Courthouse.  Admission was 25 cents per ticket, the proceeds being a benefit for the soon-to-open normal school.  The local press gave enthusiastic coverage to the event.  The Indiana Democrat reported, “if this lecture is a fair sample of his learning and ability, he is the right man in the right place. He is a pleasing off hand speaker and possessed of great descriptive powers.”  The lecture was partially drawn from Rev. Fairfield’s personal observations, for he had toured Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey as part of an extended trip to Europe and the Near East from July 1863 to June 1864.

In May, Fairfield arrived in Indiana and took up residence in the recently completed John Sutton Hall.  On May 17, the first term opened at Indiana Normal School.  Over 200 students attended, including some of Fairfield’s children.  His daughter May and his son Edward Minor were enrolled in the Classical Department of the College Preparatory Division.  His other sons George D., John M. and Charles T. attended the Model School.  May, the eldest child still at home, took courses in penmanship, drawing, natural philosophy, Latin, grammar, Greek, and American history during the 1875-76 terms.

Part of the initial staff was recruited by Rev. Fairfield.  From Mansfield, Ohio, Fairfield brought Mr. and Mrs. Rowley, who served as steward and matron of the school respectively.  Professor Hiram Collier, who taught chemistry and physics, came from the Pennsylvania College of Agriculture (no Pennsylvania State University), but before that he had served for several years on the faculty at Hillsdale.

Rev. Dr. Fairfield remained in Indiana only one year. During his tenure as principal, French was added to the curriculum.  According to the local press, Fairfield taught Latin and Greek in addition to the subjects listed in the 1875 catalogue, Mental, Moral and Political Science and the Theory and Practice of Teaching.  The first literary society was named for Rev. Dr. Fairfield, but at his request it was renamed the Erodelphian Literary Society.  During the first year two faculty members, Miss Mary Bradley and Miss Ada Kershaw, were dismissed in mid-term.  The Board of Trustees acted on complaints filed by the principal for himself and other members of the faculty.  The charges accused Misses Bradley and Kershaw of “conduct unbecoming a teacher, in interfering with the harmony of a faculty and interfering with the success of the school.”  Their appointment, for which they received two months’ salary, terminated in July 1875.  The remainder of the Fairfield tenure appears to have gone smoothly until near the very end when a delayed state appropriation caused a budgetary crisis.

During their residence in Indiana the Fairfield family participated in community affairs.  Mrs. Fairfield and their children, Mary, Emma, May, and George joined the Presbyterian Church in the fall of 1875.  Because of his ordination Rev. Fairfield could not officially join the congregation, but he undoubtedly participated in its activities.  In March 1875, Fairfield again lectured at the Court House; the subject this time was “Personal Observations of the Vienna Exposition in 1873.”

In March 1876, he announced his resignation to become the second chancellor of the University of Nebraska.  In December 1875, he had explained his reasons for leaving to his friend, Congressman James Monroe of Ohio:

Now I will tell you frankly how the matter lies in my mind.  I am here in Pennsylvania, and can stay, if I choose.  At least so it looks.  My salary is $4000, but neither Mrs. F. nor myself feel at home here. We are in the midst of little else but blue Presbyterianism.  Pennsylvania is in mts. [mountains]. The West suits me better.  But I wish simply to do the work assigned me by the master.  It looks to us as though this might be it, in connection with Nebraska Uni. [University].

Fairfield served six years as chancellor of the University of Nebraska, following which he again traveled abroad, served as pastor to several Congregational Churches, and from 1889-1893 was U.S. Consul-general in Lyons, France.  He returned to the United States and again returned to the ministry, retiring in 1900 to Oberlin, Ohio, where he continued to serve as a trustee of Oberlin College.

Although Rev. Dr. Fairfield possessed a “reputation as a political liberal and reformer,” he was a conservative in the field of education. Fairfield family tradition characterizes him as being stern and “a very strict disciplinarian,” and his philosophy bears this out.”  In his inaugural address as Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Fairfield discussed his educational philosophy.  The American university, he believed, existed “for the study of all science; for the most liberal learning, and the most generous culture possible.”  The traditional liberal arts and sciences provided the core of a university education.  According to Fairfield, “a young man, at the end of his university education… [should be able] to make something of himself, and to do something to lift up his country and his race to a higher plane of true living.”  As was to be expected of one ordained by two churches, the chancellor believed strongly that Christian principles were basic to a university education.  Despite his religious background and his strong religious convictions, Fairfield did not believe that theology should be taught in a public institution of higher education.  Christian ethics and morals certainly belonged in public higher education, but denominational and sectarian religious views had no place there.

When the Board of Trustees of Indiana Normal School chose the Rev. Dr. Edmund Burke Fairfield as the first principal, they obviously fulfilled their apparent desire to have someone of experience, energy, strong Christian convictions, and wide learning.

Aunt Jane

“Miss Jane E. Leonard is selected for Congress Democrats of this District will give women a chance.”  This mundane headline appeared in the March 25, 1922 edition of the Indiana Democrat, and it seemed to understate the newsworthiness of an event.  It was a historic occasion.  Miss Jane E. Leonard, as the Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s Twenty-seventh Congressional District, was one of the first women to seek a national political office as a major party candidate in Pennsylvania.*  Since only ten women in the entire country ran for congressional seats as choices of major political parties in 1922, Miss Leonard attracted national attention.

Jane E. Leonard was the former preceptress of Indiana State Normal School (known today as Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)).  The former Leonard Hall on the IUP campus had memorialized her name.  She served “the Normal” from its opening in 1875 until her retirement in 1921.  Then, less than a year after her retirement and at a spry eighty-one years of age, she ran for Congress.  This episode is both more incredible and, at the same time, less incredible than it seemed at first notice.

The 1922 election was only the second national election following the enfranchisement of women by the Nineteenth Amendment.  Miss Leonard had not been that active in politics; her life was spent in education.  And at eighty-one, it was an amazing age to be launching a new career.  She was, moreover, a Democrat in an area dominated by the Republican party. Despite this, she ran extremely well, polling a far larger percentage of the votes cast than any other Democratic congressional candidate in a ten-year period.

“Aunt Jane,” as Miss Jane Leonard was affectionately known by the thousands who attended the State Normal School in Indiana, came to Indiana from the Clearfield County area.  She was born on December 27, 1840, in Leonard, Pennsylvania.  Her family was so well established in the area, that there is reflected in the vicinity’s place names – Leonard Station, Leonard House, Leonard School, and Leonard Run as well as the town itself.

It is likely that her early education was at Leonard School, a gift to the rural community from her father.  Her life-long involvement in education began at the age of fifteen when she first taught in the public schools of her native Clearfield County.  Later, desiring more advanced educational preparation, she entered Millersville State Normal School, the first institution of its kind in Pennsylvania.  Then she spent some time teaching in Lancaster County schools.  Her attainments as a student at Millersville, her teaching experiences, and her personal qualities led to Miss Leonard joining the Millersville faculty in 1868 as instructor of history and mathematics.

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Jane Leonard

In 1875, the Board of Trustees of the new State Normal School at Indiana asked Dr. J.P. Wickersham, Pennsylvania’s superintendent of education and the founder and first principal of Millersville State Normal School, to recommend a candidate for the position of preceptress and instructor of English literature.  He recommended Jane E. Leonard.

For the next forty-six years, Miss Leonard served Indiana.  When she retired in 1921 she was awarded emeritus status and given permission to continue occupying her apartment in John Sutton Hall.  As an education she always stressed that her students should be ambitious both for themselves and their communities, that they should be active and participate in their world, that they should shoulder the responsibilities offered to them, and that they should work to better the world they lived in. In that educational philosophy lie clues which make “Aunt Jane’s” political adventure less incredible than it first suggests.

Although she could not even vote in a national election until she was seventy-nine years old, Jane E. Leonard had developed an active interest in politics. She was lauded as having a wide knowledge of politics and political men.**  As a member as the Indiana community, Miss Leonard while not seen as a political firebrand, had not been politically bashful.  She was accustomed to interrupting her return from Sunday church service to impose herself on one of the local newspaper editors or political leaders in talk over the public issues.  According to the March 23, 1922 Indiana Weekly Messenger, Miss Leonard “was one of the campaigners for years for equal franchise and has campaigned also for prohibition.  She never neglects an opportunity to assail the monopolistic practices of the tariff barons and speaks for National economy, friendly relations with other nations, universal peace and human advancement.”

Her political orientation appeared foreordained.  The Indiana Weekly Messenger said bluntly, she is “a democrat by nature and it was inevitable that with the enfranchisement of women she would be found aligned from the outset with the Democratic party.”  Her affinity for involvement in her interests, an “Aunt Jane” trait, made it rather natural that she later gravitated toward political stewardship when the opportunity presented itself.  In 1922, she was chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fund, devoted to soliciting monies for Wilsonian goals, chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee, and president of the Indiana County Democratic Women Voters League.  The octogenarian was one to give her personal time and support to those matters that personally touched her.

The challenge of being the Democratic candidate in the Twenty-seventh District’s congressional race was not a quest that she eagerly sought.  The distinguished lady had to be sought out, and, according to the Indiana Evening Gazette, “Her friends…demanding a fit representative in congress insisted that she permit her name to be used.  Miss Leonard did not make any effort for the nomination, letting her name be used but not spending a cent in a campaign or making one speech.”

The days preceding her nomination for the Democratic primary, Miss Leonard had another and very different, political interest – to secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination for Indiana’s native son John S. Fisher.  Although she was serving as the chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee, she strongly endorsed Fisher.  She attended the formal opening rally of his campaign in front of the Indiana County Courthouse, she wrote an open letter to the alumni of the Normal School urging their support for Fisher, and she later addressed the annual reunion meeting of the Allegheny County ISNS Alumni Association stressing the need of their support of his candidacy.  The Indiana Republican press praised her as a “grand old lady.”

While such incongruent activities might have branded Miss Leonard as a political maverick, they were in keeping with her character.  John S. Fisher, as a former Indiana Normal student, was one of “her boys” in whom she had confidence.  She declared that “Democrat though she was, she’d vote for him for governor if he’d capture the Republican nomination for that office.”  Her open support of the Republican Fisher was simply an indication that she never was and never could have been a narrow political partisan.

The primary campaign was very quiet since Miss Leonard was unopposed, and her opening political activity reflected that situation.  If any event served as a campaign kickoff it was the Democratic Ladies Tea which was held on March 30.  Miss Leonard presented the opening remarks which contained some advice on the Indiana County Democratic campaign.  The state chairman of the Women’s Democratic Committee of Pennsylvania was in attendance.  The Indiana Democrat hailed the event as “A Fine Success.”  The first public endorsement of Leonard’s candidacy, and the only known one in Indiana County, came on April 5 when the Joseph M. Blakely Camp, No. 71, United Spanish War Veterans unanimously endorsed her.  These were the only public acknowledgements in the Indiana press of the Leonard campaign prior to the May primary election.  Of course an active campaign is not required of an unopposed primary candidate.

The fall general election, however, was a different situation.  Miss Leonard’s political interests and knowledge must have suggested to her the seemingly insurmountable obstacle she was facing.  Pennsylvania in 1922 was essentially a one party state – Republican.  The Twenty-seventh Congressional District was solidly Republican, and Indiana County was rock-ribbed Republican. The primary returns reinforced this general knowledge.  In Indiana Borough, for example, only 124 Democrats bothered to vote while 1,481 Republicans cast their ballots.  In Indiana County, running unopposed, Leonard received 667 votes while a total Republican vote of 8,633 was split among three contestants.  In the fall when the voter registration for the Twenty-seventh Congressional District was announced it favored the Republicans over the Democrats, 68 percent to 23 percent.  Certainly a bleak prospect faced the novice candidate.

To make matters worse, her Republican opponent was formidable.  He was Nathan L. Strong, the incumbent Congressman from Brookville, Jefferson County.  Certainly everything was a disadvantage: Miss Leonard was running for her first elected political office, her opponent was an incumbent seeking his fourth congressional term.  She was eighty-one years of age, her opponent was sixty-three.  She was a woman, he was a man.  The odds were staggering.  There was little wonder that William K. Hutchinson, a national news correspondent, included Miss Lenard among the five feminine congressional candidates who had only “a chance in a hundred” of winning.  It could be suggested that perhaps, at least in “Aunt Jane’s” case, Hutchinson was even underestimating the odds.

It could be argued that Miss Leonard was not really a serious contender.  If newspaper advertisement is any indication, the Democrats spent little money on the campaign.  The Leonard campaign trail in Indiana County was not overly onerous.  It is possible that the Democrats, faced with the impossibility of winning the election, had conceded from the start.

Jane E. Leonard, nevertheless, seemed to use the public exposure to continue to stress ideals important to her. During her campaigning, light though it was, she worked to further her causes.  “Aunt Jane” challenged women to involve themselves in politics.  “We are in politics,” she declared, “and we are going to do our duty.  Our duty is to do the best we know how.”  In another instance she lectured the newly enfranchised women on “the importance of women taking the responsibilities which are now theirs with the assuming the principles of enfranchisement, an action which at the present time they are not prone to do.”  She became known for her positions on what were to her the vital issues, some of them most progressive – the inclusion of a secretary of education in the president’s cabinet, a tariff used only for revenue, measures to insure fiscal responsibility in national government, and election victories for Democratic candidates.

Miss Leonard, always bound by her principles, could not be bound by party lines.  She acclaimed the educational program of Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor William C. Sproul.  That program had been embodied in the Edmonds Act which aimed at consolidating schools, increasing aid to education, increasing aid to education, and standardizing curriculum, teachers’ qualifications, and salaries.  She publicly acknowledged that Dr. Finegan, the Republican-appointed superintendent of public of public education, had “done more to advance education in the past three years than had been accomplished in the preceding ten years.”

She apparently did not have many opportunities to express her ideals.  Her reported public appearances following the primary were at the Indiana County Congress of Women’s Clubs meeting in June and the one day Democratic County Tour in September.  It was an incident at the Cookport Fair, one of the stops on the County Tour, that permits a glimpse of “Aunt Jane” on the hustings.  One writer described the scene this way: “As she climbed aboard the hay wagon, the veteran educator carried her 83 [sic] years as though they were a mere 50.  She had a sprightly step and her voice was strong as she urged the assembled voters to support the Democratic candidates from top to bottom.”

Given the light campaigning effort, given the political realities, the November election results were surprising.  The eighty-one year old, former educator carried 37 percent of the vote in the Twenty-seventh Congressional District to her opponent’s 54 percent, and 30 percent in Indiana County to his 55 percent.  The popular vote was 18,682 to 12,927 and 5,071 to 2,764 respectively.  A loss by a landslide, yes, but a comparably minor landslide.  In 1920, Strong’s victory was 66 percent to 25 percent in the District and 70 percent to 16 percent in the County; in 1924 Strong would win by 59 percent to 18 percent and 59 percent to 13 percent.  The neophyte, maiden politician had done remarkably well.

The full story of Miss Leonard’s relative success rests more in events outside of the Twenty-seventh Congressional District since the Pennsylvania Republican party that year had been severely splintered by internal struggles.  The election of 1922, nevertheless, was a surprising story, and “Aunt Jane” really fared no worse than any of the other nine female candidates who were running for Congress – they all lost (even Alice M. Robertson, the incumbent congresswoman from Oklahoma).

Miss Jane E. Leonard, an Indiana institution as an educator, probably considered herself to be continuing her educational goals as a politician in teaching by example the duty of personal responsibility and active participation, expounding one’s convictions and ideals, and attempting to better the world.  If there was a loser in the 1922 election, it was not “Aunt Jane.”  Her “political whirl” was the giving of a practical lesson – she was engaged, as always, in educating.

*Ellen D. Davis was, in the same election, running for the congressional seat in Pennsylvania’s Second District.

** The “Indiana legend” that James Buchanan, fifteenth president of the United States, had proposed marriage to Miss Leonard has no basis in historical fact.

Marion Center High School History

Marion Center High School (undated)

The current Marion Center High School is located off Route 119 on Route 403. The high school began in 1916 as a three-year high school, located on North Manor Street with Harry Crawford acting as the first principal.  In 1923, a four-year high school plan was adopted and there were two faculty members at this time, but in 1925 it had increased to five.  In 1929 there was a new brick building erected and this original building was incorporated into the present building.

William A. McCreery headed the faculty and began teaching in 1925 and in 1928 was elected principal.  There were 31 graduates in 1929.  Then in 1928, the Marion Center-East Mahoning Joint School Board was organized.  The faculty increased again in 1938 to seven faculty members.

Marion Center Area High School (undated)

In 1951 an organizational change came with the junction of Marion Center, Canoe Independent, East Mahoning, Grant, Rayne, South Mahoning, Plumville, and Washington.  The new school board consisted of representatives from each district.  In July 1966, the school district’s official name became “Marion Center Area School District.  Through the years there had been multiple elementary schools connected with the district and today there are two elementary schools: Rayne Elementary and the W.A. McCreery Elementary and the Jr./Sr. High School.

The Historical Society has many yearbooks from the Marion Center Area High School dating from 1928 until the 1980s.  We do not have every single year, but there are enough to enjoy a rich history of this school.  We invite you, if you are interested, to view the yearbooks we have in our collection.

(information from the Indiana Evening Gazette, July 5, 1969)