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principal of the preparatory department and teacher of German and French. As yet the office of president had not been created, but Professor Perry had charge of the institution.
     He has the unique record of being the first teacher in Doane College, its first professor in charge of the school, and its first and only president, being elected to that office, and Perry professor of mental and moral philosophy in 1881. A man who has been and still is so intimately connected with the development of Congregational educational interests in the state is worthy of the more extended sketch of his life which we are permitted to use, and it is here introduced.


     "David Brainerd Perry, president of Doane College, Crete, was born in Worcester Massachusetts, March 7, 1839. His ancestors on his father's side came from England to Massachusetts at a very early date, and the old homestead farm bordering on the city of Worcester was for many generations a permanent and noted family possession. Samuel Perry, the father of the subject of this sketch, inherited the sturdy characteristics of his family and was a thrifty farmer. Possessing the respect and confidence of his neighbors to a rare degree, he was an important member of the community in which he lived and a generous supporter of religious and educational enterprises near and far. The aid he rendered to Doane College at an early and critical period in its history was invaluable. He married Mary Harrington, who in addition to the care of her own family of ten children, was an efficient and much loved medical adviser for the neighborhood.
     "In his early boyhood Brainerd Perry preferred work on the farm to attendance at school. Perhaps few boys have


been more fond of an outdoor, active life. Few boys took more interest in the great anti-slavery agitation with which New England was at that time all alive. As he was too young to go in person to Kansas to take part in the struggle for freedom he did the next best thing--he sent his small earnings to buy Sharps rifles. When at the age of seventeen his life work had been chosen, he gave himself with intense purpose to making amends for lost educational time. He fitted for college in the Worcester high school, an institution of high grade. He went to college for the purpose of preparation for the Christian ministry. His high school teachers, who were recent graduates of Yale, did much to determine his choice of a college. He entered Yale in 1859 and graduated in 1863 with the degree of A.B., taking second rank in scholarship in a class of 122. During his training at Yale the freshman and senior college societies were in high favor, but he carefully avoided the sophomore society and used that of the junior year simply as a stepping stone to the senior society. The war for the Union was being fought out while he was in college and he would gladly have thrown himself into the conflict, but he was held back by the advice of friends.
     "Immediately after graduation from Yale he took one year of theological training at Princeton Seminary, New Jersey. For an interval during this year he was able to give himself to the service of the Christian Commission in Virginia where he saw the camp-fires of the enemy.
     "He spent the following year at Union Theological Seminary, New York city, and engaged in religious work in Iowa during the summer vacation. He had gone to Andover, Massachusetts, for a third year in the theological seminary at that place when he received an invitation from President Woolsey to become a tutor in Yale, which led him to change his plans and to take his third seminary year


in the Yale Divinity School during the two years of his college tutorship.
     "President Perry graduated from the Yale Divinity School in 1867 with the degree of S.T.B. In the following year he went abroad and continued his study and travel for fourteen months. Upon his return he was engaged for nearly two years again as a tutor at Yale. At the end of his student life his health, which had always been exceptionally good in his college days, was so much impaired that he asked the Congregational Home Missionary Society for a frontier parish, where he could have outdoor life and breathe the high, dry air of the plains. Superintendent O. W. Merrill assigned him to Hamilton county, Nebraska, where he lived near Aurora from April to September, 1872. In a short time the north half of Clay county was added to his parish, and he was then in charge of three little churches.
     "Efforts that had been put forth for some time to establish a Congregational college in the state culminated in June of this same year, and Mr. Perry was at once urged to take up educational work in the new institution soon to be known as Doane College. During his first year of service at Doane, 1872-73, he was sole instructor with the title of tutor, and was engaged in preparing a few students to enter a freshman class. Then he became professor of Latin and Greek, and afterward successively senior professor, acting president, and, in 1881, president. He received from Yale the degree of M.A. in 1866, and of D.D. in 1898.
     "His sympathies have always been with the Republican party, but he has taken no active part in politics and has neither held nor sought public office. He is a member of the Crete Congregational Club, the oldest organization of its kind in the state, and the Schoolmasters' Club, which was organized in 1898. He was married July 3, 1876, to


Helen Doane, and five children were born to them Thomas Doane, born May 27, 1877; Brainerd Clark, August 13, 1879 (died July 21, 1880); Charles Boswell, January 25, 1884; Helen Clark, February 17, 1888; Henry Eldridge, October 8, 1889.
     "If, contrary to expectations, the college educator speedily took the place of the frontier home missionary, President Perry has never forgotten the missionary work that drew him to Nebraska, and he has lost no opportunity to identify himself with the religious life of the state. He has sought to come in close touch with every phase of school life whether public or private. It has seemed to him that there should be no divorce between education and religion, but that each should help the other to what is highest and best. The college of which he has been the head for thirty years has taken a high rank, and it is his ambition that he may be a part of its vitalizing power in the generations to come. He still fills the office of president of Doane College acceptably to all who are concerned in its welfare."


     In this sketch we have anticipated somewhat the action of the trustees of Doane College. They were very careful in making a choice of president and took time thoroughly to study the question.
     In 1875 the State Association by resolution8 recommended to the trustees that "as soon as possible and expedient they secure a suitable man to fill the place of president of the institution." But still they waited, it may be to watch more fully the development of the young head professor whom they had in mind and whom they finally chose.
     The association the same year unanimously recommended "to the trustees of Doane College that they take measures

     8 Minutes 1875, p. 8.


to open at the earliest possible date a training school for ministers competent to work among the Germans and other foreign populations of our country, and to call upon the churches of our state and such others as may be interested to carry out the needful work," and also resolved to "take steps to raise $10,000 to he appropriated to the erection of a permanent building, to be called Merrill Hall, in memory of O. W. Merrill, one of the earliest and stanchest (sic) friends of the enterprise."9 The churches of the state, which at that time, 1875, numbered only seventy-seven with a membership of 2,002, had no small task before them--the prosecution of missionary work, the building and equipping a Christian college, and the training of men for service among the foreigners in our own state. How large this foreign work was we may not fully realize, but the churches and the college as well felt the imperative need of immediate action and earnest effort. Professor Perry in 1876 reported:
     "In less than five years in Nebraska I have met the representatives of sixteen different languages. In this number I do not include various Indian tribes of discordant tongues, nor the African, whose speech, like his nationality, has been merged in our own; nor certain of American parentage, who were born in Asia and first learned to speak Mahratta; and I am reckoning respectively as one, Englishman and American, Hollander and Frisian, Dane and Norwegian. The rest are Swede, German, Pole, Bohemian, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Scotch, Hungarian, and Jew. Within a radius of twelve miles of Doane College I can count the representatives of more than twelve different nationalities."10
     We do not wonder that in 1877 the association votes "especially [to] welcome foreigners and their children to

     9 Ibid., p. 8.
     10 Minutes, 1876, p. 8.


the halls of the college,"11 and that in 1879 it "Resolved,
That we regard the effort to found a German Theological Seminary at Crete with deep interest, and are glad to learn that its friends have succeeded in raising about $9,000 towards the endowment, and hope that success will continue to attend their effort."12
     The establishment of a German department in the Chicago Theological Seminary made the organization and development of a German Theological Seminary in Crete unwise, but a "pro-seminary" was eventually organized and later on moved to Wilton, Iowa, and still later to Redfield College, South Dakota, as stated in a preceding chapter. As the "pro-seminary" movement began in Crete, the Nebraska churches from the first have followed its development with deep interest and contributed to its support at the time they were seeking to build and equip Doane College..
     The active interest of Congregational Nebraska in Christian education in general, and in Doane College in particular, was marked and abiding, and found expression in the meetings of the association from year to year.


     President Perry's reports on Doane College were a unique feature in former meetings of the association. They had the true ring in them, and many of them were classics. It is a decided loss to the association that it does not provide for their continuance. They could follow the reports of the Committee on Education, and the churches would be the gainer thereby.
     President Perry's utterance on religion in our schools before the Fremont meeting in 1878 was timely and strong:

     11 Minutes, 1877, p. 8.
     12 Minutes, 1879, p. 13.


     "There are special hardships involved in legislating the Bible out of the school. No other place is so treated. The president-elect of the United States is inaugurated with ceremonies which culminate as he presses his lips to the sacred volume; halls of legislation have their chaplain; civil tribunals administer the solemn oath the lawyer knows that the Bible underlies Blackstone; the general understands that men who carry the New Testament in their vest pocket and drink in its spirit, like Cromwell's old Ironsides, make the best soldiers. But the great army of boys and girls, a mightier host than king or emperor can marshal, gathering in every town and school district, soon to join the ranks of those engaged in fighting the battle of life, standing in need of the same sanctions, warnings, and encouragements these forsooth in the most plastic period of their lives must be far removed from Bible, oath, and chaplain.
     "Even where free thought has not full sway religious influences are greatly diminished. It can not be denied that there is a strong tendency toward the divorce of religion and education in our public schools How shall education be kept Christian becomes an important question. The ballot can not be relied upon, nor the secular press. The classes to be reached are largely inaccessible to preaching. The great remedy lies in the Christian college."13
     "We all believe in the common school system, but how shall it be kept Christian? Maintain the Christian college make the Christian college a success, and the light which shines from it will attract with more than magic power. From the higher institutions of learning go forth the teachers who are to shape and fashion the minds of the young people all over our great state. They who mould these young people determine the destinies of the next genera-

13 Minutes, 1878, p. 19.


tion. . . It is of the utmost importance that they who teach others should first have been taught by the Great Teacher. "14
     These strong words met the hearty approval of the churches, and it will be noted that Congregational Nebraska, in most hearty accord with Christian education, has a deep and growing interest in the public schools of the state from the primary school to the State University. It believes with President Perry that we need the Christian college for the sake of the better moral influence of all these schools, common school, high school, normal school, and State University. We need the Christian college for what it is, for what it is doing directly and indirectly, for what it may do in conserving the best interests of the state, and in counteracting the "godless" influence which here and there seeks to control public action in education and government.

     14 Minutes, 1879, p. 22.

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller