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U.S. Territorial Education
U.S. Territorial Education, 1846-1912

When New Mexico became a U.S. Territory in 1846, the church was still educating a limited number of students and a few wealthy families sent their children to schools in St. Louis and farther east. The Sisters of Laureate operated a small school at San Felipe de Neri, but closed it in 1869.

Political instability, Indian conflicts and the Civil War prevented the territorial government from addressing education until 1872, when counties were empowered to spend public funds on education. That year the Jesuits opened a school for 60 boys in a house rented from merchant Ambrosio Armijo. Subsidized by money from the Territorial Legislature, the school continued through the 1870s, despite occasional challenges from Protestants.

In 1881 the Sisters of Charity opened the Old Town Public School (for girls and boys) and Our Lady of Angels Private School in rooms of their newly built convent. Nuns taught the private school, and Jesuit priests taught the public school.

In this period Father Padilla began teaching classes for orphans whose parents had been killed by Indians. In the early 1890s his school became a public county school, Los Padillas, which then mushroomed into six rooms in 1912.

As New Town developed near the railroad tracks, the Armijo brothers (Perfecto, Mariano and Jesus) gave the church a tract of land to the north. There, St. Vincent Academy was established in a large, two-story building at what is now 6th and Lomas, and staffed by the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters in 1893 opened Immaculate Conception School downtown as an elementary school for boys. Ten years later they added girls and continued to add grades until the school had all 12 grades by 1924. The Sisters of Charity also opened day schools in Barelas and Los Duranes. Sister Blandina Segale led the effort to establish and guide these early schools.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1880, increasing numbers of Protestant families arrived in Albuquerque and took steps to establish schools for their children.

Colorado College started Albuquerque Academy (no relation to the existing school of the same name) in 1879 in Old Town as a Protestant boarding school. In 1882, it moved to a new building south of downtown on land donated by the New Mexico Town Co., the developer of New Albuquerque. The school received support from a national Congregationalist group called the New West Education Association, which helped create academies in territories without public schools. During the 1880s, the nondenominational Academy taught up to 300 students a year, both Anglo and Hispanic.

As Albuquerque Academy gained students, it needed a new building. Trustees raised $24,000 locally and nationally and in 1890 completed a three-story brick and stone building, complete with a clock and bell tower, at the corner of Edith and Railroad (Central) in Franz Huning’s Highland Addition. Named Perkins Hall, it was hailed as the finest educational plant in the American Southwest. It opened with 337 students.

In this period the federal government often contracted with Protestant churches to educate Indian children. This is why, in 1881 the Presbyterians under Dr. Sheldon Jackson founded the United States Indian Training School in a rented adobe house in Los Duranes. In 1882 businessmen raised money to buy a 60-acre farm east of Duranes and donated it to the BIA. By 1882 the campus had buildings, and the school moved to its new campus. In 1886 the government took over management of the school.

That year the Presbyterians acquired 200 acres and started the Presbyterian Industrial School, a mission trade school for Indians. However, the government school was by then successfully educating Indian children, so the Presbyterian Home Mission Board decided to close the mission school.

The board reopened a boarding school it moved from Las Vegas. Intended to educate Hispanic students, this school was named Menaul Training School in honor of the Rev. James Menaul, who had long practiced in New Mexico. The school then became an elementary boarding school for Hispanic boys. By 1906 it included a high school. (The school became co-ed in 1934 and became independent of the church in 1972. It ceased being a boarding school in 2000 and now accepts applications from students of all backgrounds.)

Methodists started a school in 1887, called Albuquerque College, which closed after two years. Also in 1887, Emily Harwood, wife of a Methodist missionary, started a girls school in a small house downtown. Over the years it moved to larger and larger buildings until the Women’s Home Missionary Society built a school at Seventh and Mountain Road. (The Harwood Girls School closed in 1976. Today the building is the Harwood Art Center.)

At the end of 1890 the Albuquerque Daily Citizen observed: “Albuquerque is already recognized by the country at large as the railroad and commercial center of the Southwest, and the advance we have already made in the way of institutions of learning show that the town is to be recognized hereafter as also the educational center of the country… the location of the Territorial University at this point gives a nucleus around which to build in this direction, almost indefinitely…”

Public Schools
On February 12, 1891 the Territorial Legislature passed a new public education law, which allowed municipalities to establish local school boards with the power to sell bonds for school construction. The tax subsidies that had supported both St. Vincent and the Albuquerque Academy were now transferred to the Albuquerque Board of Education.

At its first meeting on April 14, 1891 the board created Albuquerque Public Schools. The Academy’s principal, C.E. Hodgin, became the first APS superintendent. The Academy went out of business and leased Perkins Hall to APS, where the first classes began on September 7 with 350 students. By year end it had 660 students.

A $60,000 bond issue in 1883 provided for construction of four ward schools in the four sections of New Albuquerque. Still, supplies and textbooks were so scarce that Hodgin passed one set of readers from one school to the next.

In 1900, Central School was build at Third and Lead for junior and senior high school students.

Higher Education
The establishment of tax-supported, free public schools was part of a larger effort to achieve statehood for New Mexico Territory by convincing Congress that New Mexico was sufficiently advanced to function in the national economy. After H. B. Fergusson, Territorial Delegate to Congress, successfully argued that New Mexico lacked the resources to support education, Congress passed the Fergusson Act in 1898, which provided the territory with a bequest of four million acres of public lands. Revenues from these lands could be invested in education. This arrangement continues today; the State Land Office overseas public lands that generate revenues for schools.

The creation of institutions of higher education was another statehood-oriented development. Albuquerque attorney Bernard Rodey led an effort by New Town business leaders to create a state university. Other towns also wanted the university. At the 1889 Legislature, Rodey got a bill through that established the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; Socorro got a School of Mines and Las Cruces, the College of Agriculture. All would benefit from state land revenues through the Fergusson Act.

The newly appointed University of New Mexico Board of Regents appointed businessman Elias Stover as the first president.

Classes were held initially in Perkins Hall. Rodey also worked with community leaders to obtain a large site for the new university on the East Mesa, and construction began on Old Main, which opened in September 1892. This building, later called Hodgin Hall, housed everything until 1900.

In 1901 UNM’s campus consisted of two red-brick, steep-roofed buildings sitting alone on East Mesa. That year William G. Tight became the third president of UNM and would subsequently embrace what became known as Pueblo Revival architecture. It became popular across the state, but it wasn’t popular in the early 1900s and became a factor in his firing in 1909. For years, UNM built only small, forgettable buildings.

 In 1883 a group of women opened the Ladies Library Association, a lending library inside the First National Bank Building at Gold and Second. They charged a fee of $2 a year. Three years later the library moved to the YMCA building on Gold between Second and Third. In the late 1880s it closed.

The library reopened in 1892 because women, led by the socially prominent Clara Fergusson and Emma Hazeldine, raised $1,000 by holding a ball, dances, plays, concerts, operas and garden parties. The Commercial Club (a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) provided space for the books. That year the city approved a quarter-cent mill levy to support the library.

By 1900 the library was too big an operation to continue as a charity. A year later the library opened in Perkins Hall, which Joshua Raynolds, president of the First National Bank of Albuquerque, had purchased and donated to the City of Albuquerque for use as a library. The building also continued to be used for overflow classrooms for the growing school system, and as a public meeting room.


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