Beloit Academy Records
Scope and Contents
In addition to the below listed folders and bound volumes, a comprehensive (though incomplete) list of alumni of the Beloit College Academy is available in the Beloit College Archives. The list is arranged by Academy class, then last name, and includes class years, College class years, hometowns, and a few bits of additional information regarding the students' occupations and death dates where available. This list also contains names of instructors and principals.
This collection does not contain information pertaining to the currently named Beloit Academy, which is an academic program administered under the Help Yourself program, and provides after-school and summer learning opportunities for Beloit-area children in grades 4-7.
- 1849-1910, 1940s-1950s (bulk 1880-1910)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research; however, certain materials are fragile and require Archives staff for handling, or use may be restricted altogether.
Biographical / Historical
The Beloit College Academy, at one time called the Preparatory Department, was a preparatory school for Beloit College from around 1848 to 1910. It originally focused on study of the classics, and then grew to also include courses in business, English, and science.
The origins of the Academy stem from the Beloit Seminary, an institution that itself began life in the form of a charter written in 1837, but did not actually form until 1843, when Dr. Horace White led efforts to construct a church building for a new settlement on the Rock River known as Beloit, Wisconsin. The Seminary, which predates the founding of Beloit College, held its classes for men and women in the basement of the new Beloit Congregational Church, located on the northwest corner of Broad and Prospect Streets.
Around the same time that the Beloit College charter became official in 1846, Sereno T. Merrill was asked to take over as principal for the Seminary. Mr. Merrill would quickly expand the Seminary into the College's Preparatory Department for the simple reason that there were no public high schools in the area able to meet the rigorous classical requirements for admission to Beloit College. Yearly tuition for the Preparatory Department was $20.
The first catalogue for the college covers the academic year 1849-1850. Listed were eight college students, 50 preparatory students, and 144 in the Seminary, including 59 women. A Female Department in the Beloit Seminary, led by Mr. Merrill's wife Anna, educated young women until 1850, when the Beloit College Board of Trustees established a permanent female seminary in Rockford, Illinois.
John P. Fisk became principal of the Preparatory Department in 1855, and remained so for 16 years. Beloit College's chapel building, later known as South College, was opened in 1858, and the Preparatory Department took up in their basement. In 1871, Colonel Ira W. Pettibone of Connecticut succeeded Fisk, and President Edward Dwight Eaton's book Historical Sketches of Beloit College states that during Pettibone's administration the term "Academy" began to be used. However, the first time "Academy" appears in the College catalogue is 1882-1883, after William W. Rowlands of Racine took over as principal (from 1881-1884). The Preparatory Department actually became the Preparatory School in 1882, before quickly changing again to Beloit Academy.
Perhaps the man with the greatest influence on the Academy was Professor Almon W. Burr, the next Academy principal who presided for 23 years. His tenure saw the inauguration of the second president of Beloit College, Edward Dwight Eaton, and President Eaton assumed responsibility for further developing the college and securing it more financial support. Burr's efficient management of the Academy had caused enrollment to swell, and its space in the chapel basement no longer facilitated its needs. Enter James W. Scoville, a former parishioner of President Eaton's, who pledged $25,000 for a new Academy building. When in 1892 the new Eaton Chapel was also finished, the Academy moved into their new quarters in Scoville Hall.
Burr resigned in 1907 to devote all of his time to the College's Department of Education. President Eaton in his book Historical Sketches of Beloit College says of Professor Burr, "His ability as an organizer, his strength as a teacher, his shrewd insight into boy character, his stimulating relations with his pupils and abiding influence over them, built up the Academy into a recognized place among preparatory schools; its graduating classes brought greatly valued elements into the College itself."
The Board of Trustees appointed Reverend John Pitt Deane, later head of the Department of Religion at the College, to succeed Professor Burr as principal in 1907, but for several years high schools in the region had become more effective and successful at adequately preparing students for college life. This, in addition to the need for larger endowments for the Academy to maintain its high standards, led the Trustees to concentrate their efforts on the College, and closed the Academy in 1910.
More detailed histories of the Beloit Academy can be found in Edward Dwight Eaton's Historical Sketches of Beloit College, and Robert K. Richardson's subsequent unpublished work, History of Beloit College, 1844-1942, both available in the Beloit College Digital Collections, (
Biographical / Historical
Junta Historical Note (quoted from collection primary source materials):
The Preparatory Department debating societies, Adelphian and Philagorean, have disbanded and out of the ruins formed one new society, which they call "The Junta." The reason for this was the small membership, and still smaller attendance of the old societies which seemed to make a union advisable.
Junta may be seen as a predecessor to the Delian and Alethean societies.
6 Linear Feet (10 boxes, including oversize flat boxes, loose documents)
Language of Materials
- Beloit Academy Records
- Michelle Tom
- May, 2012
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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