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Daniel Coe

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.

One Sunday 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. 

Although he 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.

See also James Ralph Jewell

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