Celebration of the 180th Anniversary of the
Founding of the Rock River Seminary in Mt. Morris
DUMC celebrates Rock River Seminary’s (RRS) founding in 1839 during worship service on Sunday, Aug. 25th. Plan to attend the celebration of this historic event for our church, conference, and community. Co-educational, RRS was the first institution of higher education in Northern Illinois and the Chicago area until the opening of Northwestern University in 1855.
Seminary classes blended liberal arts and religious studies. They included natural philosophy, botany, chemistry, astronomy, math, trig, surveying, ancient languages, French, moral and mental philosophy, Caesar, Homer, political economy, composition, debate, oration, the U. S. Constitution, music, and art.
Students attended prayer services daily in the Methodist Church chapel, located in the seminary, and two public worship services on the Sabbath, which was strictly observed. Graduates included ministers, teachers, merchants, artists, farmers, and lawyers, among others.
The Seminary was founded in part by Rev. Thomas Hitt, who settled in Maryland Colony a few miles west of DUMC. Hitt, sent by settlers to the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, appealed to the Conference to build the seminary here. Rev. Hitt, with circuit rider Rev. James McKean, previously started the early Methodist congregation at the Maryland Colony in 1837.
A special commemoration service for the seminary will be held in the shade, along with musical accompaniment, just outside Old Sandstone around 12:30 P.M. Then visit Encore! and its exhibit at the Old Sandstone Gallery recognizing the creative work of Mt. Morris’s Liberty Walkup, first patent holder of the Airbrush, and his influence upon the world of art. StrawFest continues on the campus. The Tourism Committee’s Mt. Morris History Tour by Mule Wagon, narrated wagon rides, start on the half-hour by the campus flag pole from 1:00 until 4:00.
Walkup was also a Civil War veteran who attended Rock River Seminary. Mt. Morris Township sent 172 men to war. Friends, families and classmates accompanied them to their departure. They spent up to four anxious and at times heartbreaking years awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones and that of the nation. Seminary faculty, students, and others read letters sent by the men, along with the latest newspaper articles, to relatives unable to read. All reacted with deep shock and horror as news of President Lincoln’s assassination spread through town.
The Old Sandstone Exhibit also honors the accomplishments and sacrifices of eight Civil War generals, two Illinois governors, and several U.S. Congressmen and Senators who attended the seminary, along with those of a Civil War sketch artist and diarist. Our town’s artistic heritage will be celebrated by displays featuring the Kable Band, Encore, the Jamboree, PAG, Aireloom, and old photos of Sand-stone generously provided by the historic building’s current owner. Come join us!