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Civil War set the stage for what became WWU
By Molly Dougherty
This year marks the 150th
anniversary of the start of the
Civil War—and, in many ways,
the beginning of William
Woods University.
William Woods University
traces its roots to a school
that was founded to provide
educational opportunities for
young women orphaned or
destitute after the four-year War
Between the States.
With so many girls left
without family or financial
support, delegates from Christian
(Disciples of Christ) churches
across Missouri met in Columbia
in 1868 and voiced a unanimous
decision to establish a school for
orphan girls in Missouri.
Because of the relative
success of the Female Academy,
founded in Camden Point, Mo.,
20 years earlier, that location
seemed promising.
An eight-acre plot was
purchased in 1869, and the
Female Orphan School of the
Christian Church of Missouri
opened in 1870.
Camden Point is about halfway
between Kansas City and St.
Joseph. A few years earlier, The
Battle of Camden Point had left
much of the town destroyed.
The Battle of Camden Point
took place on July 13, 1864.
Detachments of Federal troops
had crossed the Missouri River
and occupied Platte County, Mo.,
while a Confederate cavalry force
of 200-300 was organizing around
Camden Point.
While the Confederates held
a picnic in an open pasture near
the town, detachments of the
2nd Colorado Cavalry and 15th
Kansas Cavalry, totaling 700-1,000
soldiers, ambushed them.
In 1871, a memorial to the
Confederates killed in the
engagement was erected at
the Pleasant Grove Cemetery
near Camden Point where the
Confederate slain are buried. It
is the third oldest Confederate
memorial west of the
Mississippi River.
The Female Orphan School
burned down in 1889, and the
decision was made to relocate it
to an area more likely to generate
growth. Fulton’s $56,000 bid was
accepted to have the new Female
Orphan School constructed there.
Classes began Sept. 10, 1890,
with 52 students.
After the move to Fulton, the
school, which had been primarily
a school for elementary and high
school education, expanded its
programs to accommodate
young women aspiring to
become teachers.
The school took students who
were willing to pay all or a portion
of the expense. The following
conditions of admissions were
•First Class –
Destitute orphans
who have no
relatives or
friends to
aid them.
• Second
Class – Orphans
destitute of
means, who have
relatives, churches
or benevolent
societies to aid
them and willing
to sustain them
at school.
• Third Class
– Orphans who
have some means
but not enough to
support them.
• Fourth Class – Young ladies
who have parents that desire to
assist in benevolent work.
Full-pay students paid $175
for 38 weeks and $1.25 per
week for washing. Orphans were
charged $140 a session with
washing included.
Students were admitted under
criteria that included being at
least 14 years of age and having a
physician certify the “soundness
of her constitution and her
freedom from hereditary disease.”
When the need for orphan
homes diminished and more
students were able to pay all
or part of the cost of their
education, it was determined
that the name of the school should
be changed to reflect its true
student composition.
In 1899, the Convention of
the Christian Church changed the
name to Daughters College.
The school’s growing debt
threatened to close the school
down, but thanks to the financial
contributions of Dr. William S.
Woods, it was able to remain
in operation.
The school was renamed in his
honor in 1900.
Over the next century, the
college continued to grow and
develop. It was accredited as a
junior college in 1914, a four-year
college in 1962 and a university
in 1993.
William Woods also offers
Graduate and Professional Studies
programs in more than 150
locations throughout Missouri
and in Arkansas—quite an
accomplishment for a school
originally established to care for
orphans of the Civil War.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The Talon 9