Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

We’ve been somewhat slow over the summer in continuing our historical image series, but as we get ready for “Swab The Decks” day here on our Parkville campus, we are inspired to share these four images of Spencer Cave. He was one of the longest-serving employees in Park’s history, but his impact was felt well beyond his service to the school. Aged 13 at the time, he – along with another young man – was hired by President John A. McAfee in 1875 to tear down a rock wall just south of the current campus grounds. And with the exception of a one-year leave of absence in 1900, Cave worked for Park until his death in 1947, turning down other, more lucrative offers of employment to remain in Parkville.

His inspiration was felt by so many students that for several years following his death, Park celebrated “Spencer Cave Day,” where classes would be canceled and offices closed so that students, faculty and staff could spend time cleaning up the campus – inspired by Spencer’s dedication. Although today’s Swab The Decks day will be led by faculty and staff, we are still mindful of the connection to our history, honored to share our Park Pride and thankful to be able to pay tribute to Spencer Cave.

Four photos of Spencer Cave in a montage

Spencer Cave was one of the longest-serving employees in Park history, serving the college from 1875 until his death in 1947.

Spencer Cave was born a slave at the start of the Civil War. His parents belonged to people from Kentucky named Cave who later sold his family to a plantation near Slater, Mo. After their emancipation, they moved to Westport Landing and then to a farm of their own. They came to Parkville in 1875, just ahead of the McAfees. Spencer was 13 at the time, and soon after began working for [Park College]. Although he had no formal education, he was a cultured man. Students often came to him for advice, and even years after they had graduates, he could remember every student’s name. At Christmas time every year, he received hundreds of cards from around the world. He died in 1947, having served Park College for more than 70 years.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

From our founding in 1875 to the official launch of our 140th Anniversary celebration earlier this month, the story of Park University is rich with images. We’ve shared a few images so far this year, and we have many more yet to come, but what we share via social media will only scratch the surface.

This fall, we are publishing a book sharing many more of the stories and images of Park’s history. Fides Et Labor: 140 Years of Pioneering Education, is filled with stories and photos covering the last 140 years as the institution grew from a small Presbyterian school with 17 students, built on the banks of the Missouri River, into a world-class provider of higher education to more than 20,000 students on 42 campuses and online.

Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of this 160-page book. Visit advancing.park.edu to read an extended version of this excerpt, and place your pre-order to guarantee a copy, as we are printing a limited number.


The Original Seventeen
Accounts differ on exactly who arrived in Parkville first. What can be confirmed is that during the first few weeks of April 1875, Rev. John McAfee, his wife, his six children, and 17 students converged on Parkville in preparation for the opening of the newly-created institution. T.D. Roberts, his wife Emma, Lizzie Adams, and John Rulo arrived by train during that time, while another group of students arrived in a covered wagon bearing the words “Parkville or Bust.” The McAfee family and the remainder of the seventeen students arrived by train on April 13, 1875.
After the McAfee family and Park College’s first students (nicknamed the “Original Seventeen”) arrived, they immediately began cleaning and fitting the hotel for habitation and rudimentary classrooms. This “Augean task” took an entire month, as the building was in shambles. “The Park College Record” described the building thus: All possibility of meaningful commerce had been destroyed by the border conflict and by the Civil War. Horses had been stabled in the cellar during the war and other parts of the basement had been used to store ice for Parkville’s many saloons, one of which had been in the hotel. No one had bothered to remove the rotted manure and sawdust.
Descriptions vary, but the tenants included one family, the M.E. Church, a store and shipping room for fruit and vegetables and countless rats. Ceilings had collapsed and debris was everywhere, inside and out. In addition to the poor condition of the hotel, the group was forced to deal with the 1875 grasshopper plague that decimated crops in much of western Missouri.
By May 12, 1875, part of the structure was habitable, and classes began on a day which has been traditionally referred to as “Founders’ Day.” Most of “The Original Seventeen” were the remnants of the aborted work program that Rev. McAfee had initiated at Highland University. Most enrolled in college level classes, and four of them (three women and one man) were ready to graduate in 1879. As planned in the founders’ agreement, the three men wrote a charter, in which they shortened the name to “Park College,” then appointed a board and formally inaugurated the college.
Whether they were part of the graduating class of 1879 or a subsequent year, the Original Seventeen all benefited from Rev. McAfee’s vision for a college “where ordinary people could come and work to earn an education” as long as they were willing to work. Park College was the product of the forward-thinking nature of Rev. McAfee in an age when only the wealthiest young adults attended college.

Class Photo - Year Unknown

One of the images we’ve shared in promoting our forthcoming book is this photo of a group of students showing their Park Pride in front of Mackay Hall.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

As we celebrated the opening of Old Kate Court a few weeks ago, we thought it appropriate to share her story. The true embodiment of Park’s motto of Fides et Labor, she was much beloved by the students, and a plaque recognizing her achievements is located at Julian Field.


Before plumbing was installed at Park College, Kate, an independent yet faithful mule, delivered thousands of gallons of water to campus buildings by pulling a wheeled barrel up and down the many hills. The little flop-eared mule was given this job after having been slightly lamed in an accident during the construction of Mackay Hall. She knew her way and refused to be driven by the students assigned the task, a trait which endeared her to them.

Kate made her rounds for 12 years and was known to hundreds of early Parkites. Respected and beloved by the entire college community, she was retired in 1898 and was seldom harnessed thereafter, even though times were hard for the college. Kate’s place in college history was assured when, in 1900, on the very day that water was first pumped to the campus from the new water works, she lay down and quietly died, her labors no longer needed. She was 32 years old. Grieving students buried her and erected a large stone as a memorial, one which generations of alumni have revered as the embodiment of Park College spirit.

Kate’s story and her monument are symbolic of the faith and labor, the strength, the perseverance and the force of will that were required to create Park College and to keep it going. May they also serve as an inspiration for the future.

Carolyn McHenry Elwess, ’71
Park University Archivist
Photo of Old Kate with Students

“Old Kate” was a fixture during the early days of Park. After helping to haul the limestone used to build Mackay Hall, she also served as the campus water works, hauling loads from the well up to the residences.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

We continue our celebration of Park University’s 140th anniversary through pictures with a look at Mackay Hall. Below is a photo from the early construction of the iconic building, with a number of students throughout the scene, working in true Park fashion. Construction on the building took place over a period of seven years, completed in 1893. It is currently home to administrative offices as well as classrooms and offices for the Park University School of Business and Department of Political Science, but Mackay has undergone a number of renovations in the ensuing years.

Although the interior has undergone the majority of the changes – the basement originally housed scientific laboratories while the third floor was home to four literary society halls – the exterior has seen a few changes as well. Thermal windows were added in 1994, and in 2002 the roof was completely redone with an eye to historical accuracy. The slate shingles were removed, the roof completely resheathed, and the metal trim was refinished. The finishing touches included re-shingling the roof with slate and rebuilding the facade of the clock tower.

As Park University Archivist Carolyn Elwess described, Park University and Mackay Hall are inseparable.

It is impossible to imagine the Park University campus without Mackay Hall. It is the heart and soul of the school and stands as a tribute to the strength, perseverance and faith of those who envisioned and built its walls and towers. The story of its construction should serve as an inspiration to all who work and study here, both now and in the future.

A Tale of Endurance:
The Story of Mackay Hall

Friday marks the 122nd anniversary of the opening of Mackay Hall, but that is not the only reason we are sharing this photo. This week, we began a renovation of the clock tower that sits atop Mackay Hall. Scheduled for completion in May 2015, this project is funded entirely through private donations.

This renovation project is one of the first launched through our Club 1000 giving society. Donations to Club 1000 are used at the discretion of the President to support a wide variety of initiatives that help advance Park University. We are thankful for the help of our 39 current Club 1000 members and we are excited to see Park continue to innovate and thrive through the next 140 years!

A photo of the early construction of Mackay Hall. Although professional masons were employed for the construction of the walls, students quarried and transported the limestone.

A photo of the early construction of Mackay Hall. Although professional masons were employed for the construction of the walls, students quarried and transported the limestone.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

In our continued celebration of Park University’s 140th anniversary, we are taking a look back at its rich history, through a collection of photos. Although it is no longer standing, this building was the original home of Park College. Located on the banks of the Missouri River, just north of the train tracks, “Number One” was the home of Park’s first class of 17 students. To share the story of its beginnings, here is an excerpt from A Chronicle of Memories: Park College – 1875-1990.


Old photo of Old Number One, a stone multi-level building.

Originally built in 1839 as the Missouri Valley Hotel, this building served as the first home of Park College.

Once a rough, hilly spot of rocks and clay and woods, the campus has been transformed into beautiful terraces lined with shrubs and flowers. Buildings have risen, faithfully served their time, and given way to newer and finer structures as necessity has demanded and the means permitted. Practically all has been modified by the changing time except what is familiarly knows as “the old Park Spirit” – the spirit of endeavor, of progress, and of success, which still pervades the college atmosphere and inspires all to greater achievement.

In 1839, Colonel George S. Park arrived at a small hamlet on the Missouri River called English Landing (now Parkville) where he built a stone hotel which he named the Missouri Valley Hotel. This pioneer entrepreneur had a dream of founding a college. At a Presbyterian meeting he met another man with the same dream. As a result, in 1875 the old hotel building was given by Colonel Park to house the nucleus of seventeen students brought by Dr. John A. McAfee from Highland College in Kansas to found Park College. It was called “Number One” or just “The College” and rightly so because it was the first and only building of the fledgling college and because it contained everything pertaining to the institution (except, of course, the grounds and buildings needed for farming, which were leased at the beginning). It was located just west of the railroad depot which you now know as the City Hall. The townspeople were not too happy when the students built a fence around it to keep them from cutting across the yard on their way to the depot.

Parts of this hotel which had once flourished during the Civil War period had fallen into disrepair from abuse by soldiers and border ruffians, and by being used as a saloon and even as a stable for their horses by the renegade James brothers, Jesse and Frank. Dr. and Mrs. McAfee, their five children and the seventeen students all pitched in to clean up the mess and make the building livable. Gradually as time went on and much work was done, the lower floor contained the printing office, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bakery, clothes and store rooms; the second floor a chapel, six recitation rooms, two literary society halls, library, President’s office, parlor, and matron’s and steward’s rooms. The third floor was a sort of conservatory containing eighteen rooms (which by 1886 housed sixty-eight young ladies), a reading and a music room. It was called the “Sugar Box,” presumably because of the sweet young ladies who resided there. On the top was the ten-room “Pepper Box,” so named because of its many windows. Should you want to catch a steamer or row a boat on the Missouri River you would just cross the railroad tracks immediately south of Old Number One, walk a few yards, and there you’d be.


This is just one of the many great stories from Park’s 140 years of tradition. To celebrate that history, Fides et Labor –140 Years of Pioneering Education: The Story of Park University (working title), is currently in production and is scheduled to be available in September. The 160-page publication will be filled with stories and photos covering the University’s history. Pre-orders for the book are currently being filled at the discounted price of $39.95 through Aug. 1; the price goes to $44.95 after that date and supply will be limited. For more information or to order your book, visit www.park.edu/historybook.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

At Park University, we are excited to celebrate our 140th anniversary over the next several months. As a large part of that celebration, we will be looking back at many of the historic moments that have shaped Park’s growth from our founding in 1875 to today, across several venues. In addition to a dedicated website, we will be sharing photos on social media as well. Every Monday, the Fishburn Archives at Park University will share a quick glance into the past, from our collection of photos and documents. And on the Park University Facebook page, we will be updating our cover photos to highlight important figures and events throughout our timeline,

Our first cover photo features three men, without whom Park would not exist today. To many longtime stakeholders and alumni of Park, the first two men need no introduction – founder of Park College and its home of Parkville, Mo., Col. George S Park; and our first president, John A. McAfee. The third figure, while not nearly as well-known as Park and McAfee, is Rev. Elisha B. Sherwood.

Like Col. Park, Rev. Sherwood was a native of Vermont, although they came from opposite ends of the state – Park was born in Grafton; Sherwood in Fairfield. And like Dr. McAfee, Rev. Sherwood was a dedicated minister of the Presbyterian Church. It was Sherwood’s friendship with each man separately that allowed him to make an introduction in mid-March 1875, and on March 29, McAfee, Park and Sherwood drafted plans and signed an agreement to establish the “Park College for Training Christian Workers.” The first class of students arrived in Parkville on April 13, 1875.

A mural on the first floor of Mackay Hall depicts Col. Park as “A Man of Vision,” and Dr. McAfee as “A Man of Action,” but without the assistance of Rev. Sherwood, the vision that is Park would not stand where it does today.

Facebook Cover Photo With Headshots of three founders on a gray background.

Col. George S. Park (l) and Dr. John McAfee, each with the desire to start a college, were introduced by Rev. Elisha B. Sherwood (r), laying the foundations for Park University. This photo is the first in a series of Facebook cover photos to celebrate important figures and events throughout Park’s history during our celebration of our 140th anniversary.