Lindenwood changes its founding date to 1832


Photo by Kat Owens

A stone gate to one of the entrances on Lindenwood’s St. Charles campus.

Mallary Vasquez, Reporter

Lindenwood University announced in a Town Hall meeting that Lindenwood isn’t as old as everyone thought, changing its official founding date from 1827 to 1832.

The University held a Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 15 in the J. Scheidegger Center for Lindenwood Faculty and Staff to watch in-person and online. During the Town Hall, university archivist and reference librarian Paul Huffman said that new evidence suggested Lindenwood’s official founding date to be 1832 after investigating historical documents belonging to the school’s founders: George and Mary Sibley.

“Today Lindenwood can crisply say, without feeling, that we are younger than what we used to claim,” Huffman said during the Town Hall. “We would use 1827 for over 100 years and as the university archivists have become quite familiar with historical resources over the years, whether it’s official publications or the founders, George and Mary, somebody’s papers, and over the years as I’ve looked at the stuff, I realized this doesn’t seem to quite match up.”

Huffman said that the main records that pointed to a different founding date came from the school’s founders, Mary and George Sibley, themselves with diary entries from Mary Sibley and letters from George Sibley. According to the diary of founder Mary Sibley, Sibley claimed to have established the school in 1832.

One diary entry written by Mary Sibley in August of 1833 reads: “I commenced this spring the little school I had last year consisting of seven or eight young girls – on the plan I have long thought necessary for the good of the rising generation. That is that women instead of being raised helpless & dependent beings should be taught a habit of industry & usefulness.”

In the Town Hall, Huffman explained that they have gathered approximately 30 extant letters to or from Mary Sibley from around the time that Lindenwood was established, with one letter placing her in Fort Osage Township, Missouri in July 1827. Her husband, George Sibley, also had documentation placing him outside of St. Charles in 1827.

“The papers of George Sibley, editors, over 600 of his letter stood existence along with commonplace books which today we will consider more like journals or diaries,” Huffman said. “His commonplace book places him at Fort Osage in late 1827 letters from the first half of 1827 place him out west serving the Santa Fe Trail.”

Huffman also said that there are several letters to George Sibley’s brother-in-law that provide more information, with one in 1828 saying that the Sibleys were not quite moved to St. Charles. They also state that the Sibley’s left Fort Osage in Nov. 1827 to visit his family in Louisiana but they didn’t return back until March of 1828, and one letter states that they were preparing to move to St. Charles in March 1828.

“So back in November 2021 is when I brought into Porter’s attention,” Huffman said. “We assembled a team of liquids, history professors, and myself. We looked over the materials that I found in the archives, and they sent them on to the president’s cabinet. Later, the St. Charles County Historical Society looked over the materials. They also had their suggestions sent to the cabinet.”

Huffman said that after history professors and the president’s cabinet looked at the materials again as well as the costs to make the changes, the Board of Trustees was presented with the changes on Feb. 10 and voted unanimously for changing the founding days.

Huffman said that Lindenwood originally claimed to have been founded in 1827 starting in the late 1910s and slowly into the 20s as Lindenwood was trying to be marketed as an “Ivy League School for the West.”

“We were just trying to create status symbols that went with what they perceived as an Ivy League college,” Huffman said. “So, they created the Lindenwood coat of arms, and the founding date I think is what they were aiming for, they were just trying to create the air of being an Ivy League college.”

Huffman said that the changes should not have a major effect on Lindenwood students besides a change in the year on apparel and banners.

Changes caused by the founding date change should be in full effect by July 2024.