| Daniel Coe
looked like a typical stern weather-beaten Yankee farmer.
But this unlettered deacon with little formal
education had ideas that were far in advance of his time.
His Puritan ancestors had come from England in
the 1640's and for generations had farmed in the Catskill Mountains. Born in West Durham, in Green County, NY, Coe
left school when he was eleven to help farm, but spent all his extra
money on school texts. He married Rebecca
Clark, a schoolteacher, and raised one daughter, Mary Rebecca, as well
as three children of his sister-in-law's. A
man of integrity and trust in the community, he made a good living by
keeping a keen, frugal eye on the sheep industry, and selling higher
quality wool to discriminating clientele. A
man of political and religious conviction, he was a Whig until the
Republican Party was formed, and served as deacon at the church.
in 1853, Coe heard the visiting Reverend Williston Jones ask for
support to send three Cedar Rapids men to eastern seminaries. Coe, a man who valued education, told the
preacher that rather than send the boys east, Jones should start his
own seminary on the Iowa frontier, "in order to advance education,
morality, and religion." He generously took a loan out for $1500 for
the proposed school. Coe had some new ideas about education; he
insisted in the deed that part of the money be used to buy a farm where
the students could help support themselves, and that the school be open
to both men and women. He greatly admired
the founder of the Women's Holyoke College, and supported all his
foster-children through college.
never visited the school, it was named after him in 1875, and bears his
coat of arms. Coe's unusual self-education and strong Christianity led
to many unorthodox educational ideas. After
the Civil War, he bought and gave land to yet another school in
Talladega, Alabama for emancipated slaves, and taught there, once again
applying the idea of institutional curriculum. He
believed in hard-working, honest morals, and was quoted as saying, "It
is never stingy to be saving if you save to give away." Daniel Coe died
on March 3, 1872, but his legacy lives on. His
diligence, generosity, appreciation of education, and deep religious
convictions inspired this man, who had never had a formal education, to
help not only one, but two institutions give others a worthy education.
also James Ralph