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The Missouri School for the Deaf

History of Northeast Missouri, Chapter XII, by Ovid Bell, Fulton

Before the Hospital for Insane was opened, an act of the general assembly was approved on February 28, 1851, establishing the Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (now officially designated The Missouri School for Deaf) and giving to it forty acres of ground and a two-story frame building that had belonged to the State Lunatic Asylum. The building was located near the building now used by the State Hospital as a cow barn, and there, on November 5, 1851, under the superintendency of Prof. William Dabney Kerr the first pupil of the school was enrolled. In 1854 the present site of the school was bought and a building costing $28,000 erected. The school closed during the first two years of the Civil war, part of which time its buildings were used by soldiers as barracks, but was reopened in April, 1863. The principal buildings of the institution were burned on the night of February 27, 1888, making the largest fire in the history of Fulton. Temporary buildings were provided immediately, and the work of the school went on without interruption until new buildings could be erected. Professor Kerr continued as superintendent of the school until February 28, 1889, when he resigned, after having devoted fifty-eight years of his life to the education of the deaf.

The life of Professor Kerr will be forever associated with the history of deaf- mute education in Missouri, while his memory is more revered by the deaf of the state than that of any other man. His father, the Rev. John Rice Kerr, was superintendent of the Kentucky School for Deaf at Danville, prior to 1833, and Professor Kerr took up in that school the work to which he devoted his life. In Danville he was the school-mate of the Rev. Dr. W. W. Robertson, and partially through Dr. Robertson's influence, he came to Missouri. Professor Kerr was born in Charlottesville, Va., on March 4, 1808, and died in Fulton May 24, 1889. His only surviving child is Mrs. John T. Brown, of Fulton.

Rather notable in connection with the history of the Missouri School for Deaf is the fact that it has had only four superintendents during its existence--Professor Kerr from the beginning to 1888; Dr. J. Nolley Tate from 1888 to 1896; Dr. Noble B. McKee from 1896 to 1911; and Prof. 8. T. Walker, the present superintendent.

Source: Walter Williams, Ed., A History of Northeast Missouri (1913), Vol I p 299; google books beta (http://books.google.com/books?id=pJFfcJtFdaUC : accessed 3 January 2009).

ID  24 
Linked to  Prof. William Dabney KERR
Noble Butler MCKEE 

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