- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - With 186 years of history under its belt, McKendree University has collected a lot of stuff.

So school archivist Debbie Houk and a pair of students sifted through scores of boxes piled up so thick in a first floor room of the campus’ Bothwell Chapel that you could barely walk through it. They organized and dusted off dozens of the most interesting items and turned the room into a museum of the school’s history.

“It was really a labor of love,” said student worker Andrew Olden of Edwardsville. “It’s a privilege to get to see and touch so many of these things and to interview a lot of people who were part of McKendree history.”

Items on display include a book signed and given to the university by physicist Albert Einstein, a 200-year-old beaver fur hat owned by the Rev. Peter Cartwright, personal Bibles owned by McKendree’s first school president, Peter Akers and an ax used in the construction of the campus’ first building.

“We have several items associated with the 117th Regiment, also known as the McKendree Regiment, which fought in the Civil War,” graduate student volunteer Tim Rose, of Highland, added.

They include a ceremonial American flag that lists the battles in which the unit fought and a portrait of Henry Fike who, prior to serving as a Lindenwood trustee, was quatermaster of the McKendree Regiment.

Rose said while studying Fike he learned that, ironically, the Union soldier held slaves prior to the Civil War. He also learned that the lives of Rose and other members of the regiment may have been saved by a frustrating stroke of fate.

“They basically sat out the first two years of the war, at least partially because they were assigned defective rifles,” Rose said.

On the lighter side, the museum has on display a purple and white Bearcat mascot costume with the name “Bogie” on its belly. At some point over the years, the spelling of the mascot’s name was altered to “Bogey.”

Also on display were a couple of purple and white beanies, which used to be required attire of freshman students.

At one point, first year students were required to wear the beanies until homecoming, according to Olden. Freshmen were required also to step out of the way of upperclassmen on the sidewalk, tip their beanies to older students and to sing the school song on demand.

That pretty much came to an end after young men who returned from World War II to get their education decided that after dodging bombs and bullets for their country, they weren’t going to play the role of second-class citizens to their older classmates.

Also on hand are handwritten tuition ledgers, early 20th century letterman sweaters, an Edison phonograph that plays cylindrical records instead of flat platters and several Asian figures brought back in the late 1800s from missionary trips.

People will soon have another option for browsing McKendree history.

Olden, Rose and McKendree graduate student Meghan Dohogne have created a pictorial history book of the college called “McKendree Recollections.” The 128-page book with more than 350 photographs is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

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Source: Belleville News-Democrat, http://bit.ly/1tEem4u

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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