September finishing touches

Cooprider family
John and Henrietta Cooprider family

From A School on the Prairie: A Centennial History of Hesston College

John and Henrietta Cooprider and their daughters became the first residents of Green Gables on Saturday, September 11, 1909. John was the building and grounds manager and Henrietta was matron and cook. The second of their four daughters, Stella, served as the first student teaching assistant.

As opening day neared, the pace of activity increased markedly. Thursday, September 16, everyone was “very busy everywhere getting things in shape.” Friday there was more to do in Newton. After stopping at home for supper, the T.M. and Lizzie Erb family drove to Hesston where they witnessed a splendid sight: the “Academy was all lit up!” The new lighting system was operational. The next day Erb motivated an apparently reluctant Mr. Crites to get on with plastering the basement. Sam Newhouser, not so reluctant as Crites, finished excavating the boiler house cellar.

Then it was Monday, Sept. 20, only one day from the dedication, and two days from the start of classes. Erb took Lizzie along to Hesston “to help get things in shape.” They had so much to do, but Erb, the project manager, was confident that they would have it ready on time.

While Erb was confident, Principal Bender was annoyed. He told Daniel Kauffman by letter that the first of the twenty-five expected students had already arrived before things were ready. The building wasn’t finished and only half of the cost of the building, estimated to be $15,000, including furnishings and equipment, had been pledged. No one had time to raise much money, since most of the time and energy was being devoted to the building. Some who had been approached for contributions wanted to wait to give until the fall crops had been harvested. Even more troublesome were those congregations who were “just a little sensitive” about being asked for money without knowing just what kind of a school it would turn out to be. Bender was not pleased by what he called their “show me” attitude.

After Bender had aired his frustrations, he joined the others in applying the finishing touches to Green Gables for the dedication and opening day, September 21 and 22, 1909.