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Facts: Montana Firsts: Education (redirected from Montana Facts: Montana Firsts: Education)

Page history last edited by Anneliese Warhank 8 years, 4 months ago

Students and teacher at Noxon School.

PAc 2006-26.15





Higher Education

  • The first institution of higher learning in the Territory of Montana, The Montana Collegiate, opened its doors in 1880. It owed its existence to the broad vision of Hon. Conrad Kohrs, Hon. W.A. Clark, Gov. S.Y. Hauser, Mr. S.E. Larabie and others, and was located in Deer Lodge. Soon it was decided that it would be preferable to place the college under a religious denomination. The Montana Collegiate was soon taken over by the Presbytery of Montana on August 23, 1882. Under the Presbyterian auspices "The College of Montana" opened its doors on September 10, 1883. (History of Higher Education in Montana, 1883-1958, Rock Mountain College)

  • Montana's first professional organization for training teachers, known as the Madison County Teacher's Institute, organized in Virginia City in April 1875.  The Teacher's Institute did not approach the sophistication or intense training of a teacher's college or normal school.  However, it did provide a vital service to a fledgling society of professionals on the frontier.  Membership in the association was open to "any practical teacher, school officer or friend of education" who subscribed to the association's constitution and bylaws.  The Teacher's Institute was dedicated to the "improvement of its members in the science and art of teaching and the general advancement of our educational interests."  The group's intention was to meet annually for 3 or more days at a time, though records only exist for meetings in 1875, 1876, 1878, 1881, 1883, and 1884.  The meetings of the Institute consisted of lectures, exercises, and very practical discussions concerning everything from educational methods to textbooks and corporal punishment.  Judging by the minutes, the group's discussion appears to be lively and at times contentious, but a professional atmosphere and camaraderie is also evident.  The Madison County Teacher's Institute is a very early and significant example of the people of Montana Territory developing a means to advance the educational profession despite the isolated, frontier nature of their community.  (The Institute's constitution and meeting minutes are available in Small Collection 439 at the MHS Research Center.)


Public Schools

  • The first formal school on record seems to have been at Fort Owen in Bitterroot in 1862. The pupils were Indian children and the children of the employees at Fort Owen. The first term opened in early winter and continued until February 28, taught by a Mr. Robinson. (Firsts; vertical files)


  • The firsts schools for white children appear to have been in the major mining camps. During the winter of 1863 and 1864 Miss Lucia Darling, a niece of Governor Edgerton, taught school in Bannack. Miss Kate Dunlap opened a school in the Nevada City district of Alder Gulch the summer of 1863. (Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana, Volume V., p. 196)


  • The public high school movement began when Helena opened a three-year course in 1876, and graduated its first class of three young ladies in 1879. The single course was called "Collegiate Course," and was strongly college preparatory. (Firsts; vertical files)


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 Montana Historical Society Research Center

 225 North Roberts, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201, 406-444-2681, 406-444-2696 (fax).



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