DSU Timeline: 1881-1890


  • On March 5, the Territorial Legislative assembly passed the Normal Bill, which established a school at Madison, in Dakota Territory. It was referred to as Dakota Normal School, Madison State Normal or State Normal but most commonly known as Madison State Normal School.

  • One hundred sixty acres, one mile east of Madison, were turned over to the Territory for the Normal School, but the site was considered too far away.

  • Mr. Charles B. Kennedy offered 20 acres of land on the north edge of Madison, at the end of Egan Avenue. This site was selected for the school. The deed stipulated that if the land were ever used for anything but for the original intent (a teachers preparation institution) or discontinued, the site would be returned to the Kennedy estate.


  • The Legislature sold the original 160 acres of land as it was considered to be too far from the village of Madison. The proceeds were used for construction of first college buildings within the confines of Madison.

Madison, SD 1882


  • On December 5, eleven students enrolled at the college, with Professor Charles S. Richardson as the First President (1883-1887). He came from Waterville, Maine. Tuition was free for students agreeing to teach in Dakota Territory for at least two years after graduation. Book rental was $0.25 per book for the year. Room and board in private homes was approximately $3.00 per week. Classes were held in the public buildings. Plans were drawn by architect Edward S. Steffens, of Minneapolis, for a wooden frame structure 50 x 70 feet.


  • Appropriations secured and construction began on the first college building, a 50' x 70', three story, wood-frame structure which included a half-basement. Enrollment was up to 70. Professor E.H. Evenson, graduate of University of Wisconsin, was the second teacher hired. $13,600 was spent for final stages of construction on the original building. Few people were living in the state. There were few roads, no telephones, electricity, radios or automobiles. Travel at that time was limited to train or horse and buggy.


Drawing of the First Campus Building


  • On November 2 the school moved into a new wooden building with 107 students. The Normal School's first graduating class had 2 students. A new facility, known as Model School was established for practice teaching. It was one of the first laboratory schools in the nation. Dakota State Normal School was the first state college for the preparation of teachers in the Dakota Territory.


Dakota State Normal School second annual prize Declamations - December 18, 1885.


  • Winter term began with 107 students. The Normal School building burned to the ground on February 4th , just three months after completion. Everything was destroyed with the exception of a few books belonging to President Richardson.


Fire and Aftermath

  • The City of Madison issued bonds for $25,000 to build a dormitory and rebuild classroom buildings. The Legislature appropriated $35,000 to repay the $25,000 in bonds bought by Madison citizens in addition to the balance to finish the building. Classes were held in various rooms downtown including the Court House during the building process.


Madison, SD Courthouse 1886

  • The classroom building was rebuilt during the following months and opened in September of 1886. W.L. Dow of Sioux Falls was the architect. Edwin G. Carter of Sioux Falls was awarded the construction contract. The Normal building was named West Wing (later called Beadle Hall). This building was placed on the same exact site of the building that burned. Construction used Dell Rapids Granite, Milwaukee pressed brick & LaCrosse white-cut stone. The building was 76' X 84' and housed four levels including the basement. It was finished in Oak and Georgia Pine. The carved staircase in the center of the building led from the first floor to the third. It used the Haxtan Heating System. The Library & President's Office were housed here as well.


West Wing 1886

  • The Model School was set-up in the basement of West Wing. There were three grades: Primary, Intermediate, and Grammar.
  • The Normal Department had 124 students and 8 faculty. Every student was required to complete a definite amount of teaching in the Model School to graduate.
  • The Normal Department consisted of the Elementary Course (requiring three years of work above the 8th grade) and advanced courses (requiring four years of study above 8th grade).


North Harth - view of West Wing

  • The citizens of Madison finished building the West Hall (Old Dormitory). John Buckley was the contractor. It was built on the southwest part of campus and cost $8000. It was a 36'x86' brick building, 4 stories high and accommodated 70 students. The rate for room and board was $2.75 per week. There was a kitchen and dining hall located in the basement. Visiting in the halls was prohibited as per dormitory rules. The dormitory only housed female students.


West Hall


  • In April, 400 trees were planted on campus to celebrate Arbor Day. A windmill & water tank were added to the campus grounds. No provision for care of the trees was made.
  • The Agassiz Association (Science Club) was organized. This club was focused on the study and observation of natural objects.


Broom Drill


  • Enrollment was up to a total of 238 students. It was very crowded in West Wing (later called Beadle Hall). Two desks were put together to accommodate three students. The Commercial Department was introduced for business training. It was housed on the third floor in a large room with a sky light.


Class of 1888


  • William F. Gorrie resigned. South Dakota gained statehood in February. All state institutions were placed under the Board of Regents. General William Henry Harrison Beadle became the Third President (1889-1905).

  • The library housed one-thousand volumes. There were 191 students in the Normal Department. 80 students were in the Model School Department.


  • Tuition was $2.25 per semester (19 weeks). Room & Board was $5.00. Entering students were generally required to be 16 years old; although some as young as 14 entered. Prospective students were required to pass a difficult entrance exam. Students entered directly from grammar school and took a 3 year course which granted them a teaching certificate and diploma. This was called the "Elementary Course".


West Hall (foreground) and West Wing (background) 1890