Back to school for Colorado’s first public university

The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) is starting the 2018-2019 academic year. Last week the class of 2022 completed the traditional M Climb up Mount Zion. Founded in 1873, the first publicly supported institution of higher education in Colorado has a rich history.

Bishop Goerge Randall

Bishop George Randall

Why Golden?

In the late 1860s the citizens of Golden, were eager to see an institution of higher learning established here, and it just happened that an Episcopal Bishop named George Randall was looking for a site to start one. Randall envisioned a school of mines as a part of his educational enterprise.
Charles Welch, a prominent Golden citizen, offered to donate 12 acres of land about one mile south of Golden, if Randall would locate his school there. Randall agreed, and construction started in 1869. By 1872, Randal completed Jarvis Hall, which was essentially a liberal arts preparatory school, and Mathews Hall, a theology school.

During the same time, Randall successfully convinced the Colorado Territorial Legislature to appropriate funds for a building to house a school of mines. The School of Mines building was completed in 1873. The school year started Sept 4, 1873. (This all occurred at the school’s first location.)

Jarvis Hall, Mathews Hall, and A School of Mines

Lithograph of the University Schools at Golden, c. 1871

A brochure titled, University Schools at Golden. A. D. 1873-74, had this to say about the fledgling school:
A school for instruction in sciences, connected with the development of the mineral wealth of the county, is a necessity, which in this institution we aim to supply.
Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, we have at hand the empiric data for Mineralogical, Geological, Paleontological, and Botanical research. The facilities afforded to the student by such a location, in gaining a practical knowledge of science, are obvious. It is a great advantage to the scientist to receive his training in the field, where theory and practice go hand in hand, and where principles may be both illustrated and tested by daily experiments.

Want to know more?

I drew upon a short history of CSM by Robert Sorgenfrei, one-time archivist of the Wood Mining History Archive at Arthur Lakes Library, CSM. One of many resources available in the History Lab at the museum by appointment. Here’s another short history written by Mary Hoyt, the first female librarian at CSM.

Learn more about Mary in the Legendary People gallery at the museum.

Go Orediggers!
Mark Dodge, Curator

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