Normal schools in the U.S. were simply colleges that produced teachers. Idaho had two of them. In a way, it still has both, though the campus at Albion hasn’t been a place of higher education since 1951.
We’ll look at a little history of Albion, today. Tomorrow the subject will be the Lewiston Normal School. Both schools were authorized by the Idaho State Legislature in 1893.
Today, Albion is a small south-central Idaho town. But in 1893, it was a small south-central Idaho town. What? Some did scratch their heads when the site was picked. There was no railroad nearby and nothing particular that would lead one to believe a college would thrive there. It did have the advantage of being about a day’s travel away from most places in southern Idaho, and it had an influential senator who proposed the location.
The proposal nearly died at its inception. The bill creating the school called for funds to come from the sale of public lands granted by Congress for colleges devoted to the development of agriculture and the mechanical arts. The Idaho Attorney General wrote an opinion that such a funding method was unconstitutional. In his opinion only the interest from such funds could be used while the principle remained untouched. In his opinion, Attorney General Parsons wrote, “The intention of congress (was) to create an irreducible fund, one that will not only benefit present but also all future generations, is most manifest.” We call income from those lands the State Endowment Fund today.
Both normal schools were authorized, but with nearly no funding.
That didn’t stop the citizens of Albion. J.E. Miller donated land for the campus of the new normal school and the citizens got together to construct the first building with volunteer labor. In 1894 classes began with 23 students and two teachers.
At first the Albion Normal School offered only one year of instruction to its students. By 1934 it was a two-year school with 200 students.
But, it was still in Albion, that small south-central Idaho town. That didn’t make sense to a lot of people and the school endured efforts to close it in 1911 and 1917. Then, in 1946, the Idaho Legislature commissioned a study of the state’s institutions of higher learning. That study recommended the closure of Albion if it did not substantially increase its student enrollment within five years. Those years ticked by without an uptick, and the school was shuttered in 1951.
Its mission of educating teachers was transferred to Idaho State College, now Idaho State University in Pocatello.
During its time, more than 6,500 teachers got degrees there, including future U.S. Secretary of Education Terrill Bell. Oh, and my mom, my aunt, and my great aunt. Who do you know that went to Albion?