EDN Bicentennial Series: Seminary and college built during Civil War

Submitted photoA view of the rear of St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Teutopolis as pictured in the Souvenir Program Golden Jubilee October 1908.

A new college was being developed in Teutopolis during the early stages of the Civil War.

According to the “Teutopolis, Illinois Quasquicentennial Celebration Historical Booklet 1839-1964,” Father Gregory Janknecht and Bishop Junker began the planning stages of a new educational institution for higher education in 1860 only two years after the arrival of the German Franciscans to Teutopolis in 1858.

Father Damian Hennewig organized a meeting of local Catholics in October of 1860 and 31 residents donated $440 toward building the new facility for higher education.

The proposed building was to occupy land that once was the home of Uptmor Brothers flour mill, which closed in 1859, along with additionally purchased and donated land.

Ground was broken for the new educational facility on April of 1861. Less than two weeks later the Teutopolis community was informed about the fall of Fort Sumter.

A cornerstone was created for the new structure on July 2, 1861. The proposed building was to be named St. Joseph’s Seminary.

Teutopolis celebrated the opening of St. Joseph’s Seminary and College on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, 1862, with classes starting on Sept. 16.

The new college featured two basic structures. One structure housed the administration and student dormitory and a second structure housed a chapel and recreation area.

Thirty-one students made up the inaugural class under the supervision of five Franciscans and a layman who taught music. Classes at the college were presented in both English and German languages.

To attend St. Joseph’s Seminary, each student was required to make an advance payment of $100 a year. The payment included a room, board, tuition and wash.

A description of the seminary and college for a student recruitment advertisement stated, “Its purpose is to give young men a complete scientific and classical education. Hence, the courses will embrace all those branches which fit pupils for any profession or for a business career.”

Among the college courses offered were French, Geometry, Bookkeeping, Penmanship, Arithmetic, History, Geography and Algebra.

“In addition to the courses already mentioned, this school will include seminary departments of philosophy and theology for future priests of the Diocese of Alton,” the recruitment ad stated.