Ives Seminary, located in Antwerp village, is an outgrowth of two previously-existing educational enterprises, — the Antwerp Liberal Literary Institute and the Gouverneur Wesleyan Seminary. The last-named institution was incorporated April 5, 1828, and was successfully conducted as a grammar-school until 1837, when it was placed under the patronage of the Black River conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, and became their conference seminary, with Rev. Jesse T. Peck as principal. It remained under the patronage of the Methodist Episcopal church until 1869, when, as the buildings and facilities had become inadequate to the needs of the institution, it was transferred to Antwerp.
Of the Antwerp Liberal Literary Institute a more detailed account should be given, as it furnished the beginnings of the educational facilities, buildings, etc., which are now in use by the Ives Seminary.
Antwerp Liberal Literary Institute
In order to provide for students not accommodated in the district schools of the vicinity, select schools were held at Antwerp for several years during nearly every fall and winter, usually in the lecture-room of the Congregational church. Rev. C. B. Pond, at that time the only resident clergyman, was among the first, if not the first, to suggest that measures be taken for the erection of an academy building. A subscription was commenced November 13, 1854, for the purpose of obtaining capital stock to the amount of at least $5000, in shares of $25 each. The effort was successful, $5900 being subscribed by one hundred and fifty-nine persons. A petition for a charter was sent to the legislature, but was withdrawn in order that the Seminary might be organized subject to the visitation of the regents. Pending this action efforts were made to secure a site for the buildings, and at once a conflict of interests arose which threatened to produce serious embarrassment; but after a time a selection was made, — the location chosen being the finest in the vicinity, and not surpassed by that of any other institution in northern New York. A provisional charter was granted February 1, 1856, naming John H. Conklin, Jonas S. Conkey, Charles B. Pond, William Gill, Publius D. Foster, Ira Beaman, A. P. Sterling, Luther H. Bailey, Horace W. Seymour, A. H. McAllister, E. G. Taylor, Almon Buell, Alvin Coolidge, Hiram B. Keene, Thomas Taite, James White, Solomon J. Childs, and Chandler D. Waite as the first trustees. The time of this charter was afterwards extended to February 1, 1860, and in 1861 it was made absolute. The erection of a building constructed of stone, three stories in height, 105 feet long, and 50 feet wide, similar in style and arrangement to Dickinson college, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the Mexico academy in this State, was commenced during the summer of 1857, but was not finished until May 9, 1861, at which date it was dedicated, the Hon. Levi Miller delivering an address. The value of buildings, grounds, library, and apparatus at that time was $13,000. Of this sum about $7000 had been raised by subscription, and $3000 by bonding the town, leaving an indebtedness of $3000. This debt was removed soon after the completion of the buildings, by the legislature authorizing a loan from the State comptrollerof $3000, which was subsequently made a free gift.
The institute was opened May 20, 1861, with J. M. Manning, a graduate of Brown University, in charge, and two assistant teachers. During the following year three teachers were added. The number of students in attendance was about one hundred and twenty. Under Professor Manning‘s administration, the school was successful in the matter of instruction, but it failed to pay expenses. In 1863, a proposition was entertained to transfer the property to the State, for use as a normal school. The commissioners having the matter in charge visited Antwerp, but nothing was effected. At this time P. D. Foster now of Washington city, then secretary of the board of trustees, left Antwerp, and a resolution was passed stating that ” in the opinion of the board the citizens of Antwerp are more indebted to him than to any other person for the completion of the buildings.”
Black River Conference Seminary
In the winter of 1865, a proposition was made to change the institute to a graded school. During the summer of 1866, Rev. J. Winslow was engaged as principal. He had preached as a city missionary in Watertown for several years, and for a portion of the time had held the office of school commissioner. In 1868 a proposition was made to lease the property to the Protestant Episcopal society, but the conditions on which that society would accept it were not agreed to. Rev. L. Clark afterwards submitted an offer, on behalf of the Black River Conference, to take the school. The conditions upon which they would lease it were presented by Rev. I. S. Bingham, at another meeting of the stockholders, held July 25, and were accepted unanimously, and during the next session of the legislature the name was changed to the Black River Conference Seminary. In 1870 the erection of a boarding and ladies’ hall, constructed of stone, 72 by 43 feet, and four stories in height, was commenced. It was finished two years afterwards at an expense of about $16,000. The buildings, as thus completed, are not only imposing in appearance, but afford accommodations and facilities not surpassed by any institution in this part of the State. In 1873 it was resolved by the trustees to place the institution forever beyond the possibility of failure by raising a fund of at least $30,000. Hon. Willard Ives immediately headed the subscription with the sum of $8000. At the ensuing season of the Northern New York Conference, Rev. E. E. Kellogg was put into the field as agent to raise the money, the subscriptions to become binding when the sum of $20,000 was reached. For two years he continued the work of securing subscriptions, obtaining about $26,000. At the conference in 1875, however, it was thought that the expense of an agent might be saved, pledges being secured from the preachers to raise the amount required. The result has been that the $30,000 is nearly secured, leaving an endowment, after all debts are paid, estimated at $13,790. The entire value of the property, buildings, securities, etc., owned by the institution at the present time reaches upwards of $50,000.
At the suggestion of Dr. E. O. Haven, an amendment to the charter was obtained April 21, 1874, changing the name to “Ives Seminary,” and granting to the board of trustees the power to elect their successors. At about this time, also, an arrangement was effected by which the seminary was adopted as Gymnasium C, of Syracuse University, students graduating from it being admitted there without re-examination.
Following is a list of the principals and of the officers of the board of trustees at Antwerp, so far as the names can be obtained, a portion of the records being inaccessible;
Principals.— Rev. G. G. Dains, 1868-69; Rev. B. C. Bruce, 1869-71; Prof S. M. Coon, 1871-72; Prof. J. R. Gordon, 1872-73; Rev. G. G. Daines, 1873-75; Rev. M. A. Veeder, 1875.
Presidents of the Board of Trustees. — Jonas S. Conkey, 1865; John P. Ellis, 1857; J. H. Conklin, 1861; Almon Buel, 1862; a. S. Sawens, 1867; Rev. J. S. Dewey, 1870; Rev. I. S. Bingham, 1873; Hon. Willard Ives, 1874. Secretaries.— V. D. Foster, 1855; John P. Ellis, 1863; J. M. Beaman, 1868; Rev. William Watson, 1870; Rev. S. Dewey, 1875; Rev. C. H. Guile, 1876. Treasurers. — L. H. Bailey, 1855 and 1858; John M., 1857.
Source: Durant, Samuel W. and Henry B. Peirce. History of Jefferson County, New York, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1878. p 279-281.