Valley City Times-Record
Mayville State University
December 1, 2022 — Mayville State University opened its doors as Mayville Normal School on this date in 1890.
Mayville Normal struggled financially during its first six years. The panic of 1893 caused Governor Roger Allin to veto many education appropriations, and the school’s future was uncertain. Enrollment fluctuated between one and two hundred students, taught by only six faculty members. The school’s six departments included English, history and geography, mathematics, the natural sciences, music and drawing, and the final department, Latin.
One student who came to Mayville in 1896 was Usher Burdick, who later became a high-profile politician in North Dakota. He enrolled late that year because of commitments to a threshing crew. There was no room for him in the male dormitory, and it was finally arranged for him to board with the school janitor’s family until Christmas. When Burdick took his entrance exams, he failed arithmetic and history and had to repeat two elementary courses, which he found both humbling and enlightening.
In 1897, the legislature overrode Gov. Frank Brigg’s veto on education spending, and Mayville Normal’s future was stabilized. That year, the school hired Joseph Carhart as its new president. Historian Elwyn Robinson wrote, “...bearded, experienced Joseph Carhart, with his black skullcap, brought a golden age. He was considered one of the ablest normal-school administrators in the nation.” a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from Humanities North Dakota. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.