27th in the Series
On January 29, 2011, the State of Kansas celebrates its Sesquicentennial! When the State was admitted to the Union in 1861, Kansas State University was already in existence! Well, not exactly! You see, Bluemont Central College opened its doors in Manhattan on January 9, 1860, one year before statehood; then Bluemont College beget Kansas State Agricultural College on February 16, 1863; and KSAC beget Kansas State College for Agriculture and Applied Science on March 9, 1931; finally, KSC beget Kansas State University for Agriculture and Applied Science on March 27, 1959! You get the point! Furthermore, K-State is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Kansas and will celebrate its own sesquicentennial in 2013!
The majority of settlers in the Manhattan area came from New England as "free staters" in an effort to keep Kansas Territory from entering the Union as a "slave" state under the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act allowed the residents of a territory to decide by popular sovereignty if the state would become slave or free.
Many of Manhattan's residents were well educated and they wanted their children to have the same opportunity to learn as they had back East. Among those were Washington Marlatt, Joseph Denison and Isaac Goodnow, who were allowed by the legislative assembly of the Territory to form a Bluemont Central College Association to promote education and science, and locate a college in the Manhattan area. It could include a literary department of arts and sciences and an agricultural department.
After Association members raised funds in the East, and locally, a building was constructed in 1859 at what is now the northwest corner of Claflin Rd. and College Ave. The three story native limestone structure measured 44 x 66 feet. When Bluemont Central College opened on January 9, 1860, there were 53 students. Washington Marlatt was the principal and Julia Bailey the assistant. In spite of the name "College," all of the instruction was delivered at the elementary level as the students did not have high school degrees. This was the institution that was in place when Kansas entered the union in 1861 and in 1863 when Bluemont's assets were transferred to the State to become KSAC. Bluemont was razed in 1883 after instruction moved to Farm Machinery Hall on the present campus site in 1875.
Kansas State University has played a proud and impressive role in Kansas history and it continues to serve the state, country, and beyond as the "first land grant college in the nation!" Happy Sesquicentennial, Kansas !
Tony Crawford, University Archivist
Sources: History of Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science by Julius T.Willard; photographs from University Archives; for more information about the founding of Bluemont College, see K-State Keepsakes: Birth of a College.