UConn - 3
by Pete Zizka
4-23- 2022

The years 1884 and 1885 were critical ones for the Storrs Agricultural College. More and more students were enrolling but that increased the need for more funding. In 1884, the State Legislature took up the matter of the funding that would be necessary to maintain the school. As it did, a problem was foreseen. There was actually no “clear deed” to the property. This had been noted in the January,1881 Act that established the school. Because of stipulations in the deed to the land, the State did not own the land “fee simple” and so the Legislature was hesitant to put more money into improvements. In March, 1884, Storrs gave the State a new deed that was fee simple but still had conditions attached to it. The property “shall never be used for the purpose of an insane asylum, a poor house, a reformatory or a charitable institution of any kind except for a school for educational purposes”. But now, among some legislators, there was a feeling that perhaps the school should be moved to a new location and a committee was appointed to look into the matters of the deed, the actual conditions of the property upon which the school was located and the possibility of changing the location. The State Agricultural Commission also hired an attorney to examine Storrs’ latest deed. The attorney found that the deed was not a good one “legally”. Augustus Storrs was then asked if he would convey the title without stipulation and he was unwilling to do so. And so, the sub-committee began looking at other possible locations. After visiting farms in several different towns, the Commission met in January, 1886 and the committee “reported favorably on the Stephen Stearns farm in Mansfield, three miles from Willimantic, and the commission voted favorably on buying it if it could be had for less than $8,000.” The “Hartford Courant” was on board saying that “The Stearns Farm on Chestnut Hill …has excellent and suitable buildings (and) a healthy location”.  But in March, 1886, Storrs presented yet another deed to the State, this one with no restrictions. However it was still not satisfactorily “clear”. The Commission then made three recommendations which were to leave the present location, purchase the Stearns Farm and build a school there. The recommendations weren’t followed and, in April, 1886, the State Senate passed a resolution authorizing the Trustees to accept the deed presented by Storrs in March and to take court action, at Storrs’ expense, to secure a clear title. The legal action occurred in June, 1886 in the Tolland County Superior Court as “The Trustees of the Storrs Agricultural College VS Minerva B. Whiting et al”. The plaintiff appeared, the defendant did not and the case was reserved for the State Supreme Court which heard the case in October 1866. The attorney for Augustus Storrs presented a brief stating the history and facts of the case. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trustees. “The conclusion therefore is that the title to the property never passed from Mr. Whitney. He simply conveyed to the corporation a right to use the property subject to which the title remained with him That title descended to his heirs. When the specified use was abandoned the rights to use it was extinguished and the heirs had an unencumbered. That title, by the conveyances from the widow and daughter is now vested in the State. It is a good title.” ”The Chronicle” editorialized, “ Now that the Storrs Agricultural School is the property of the State, it should be made an institution worthy of Connecticut…Now that the legislature has established an agricultural college, let it be a good one. It would be false economy to permit it to remain simply a country school”. On April 21, 1893 the State General Assembly approved an Act changing the school’s name and, “establishing the Storrs Agricultural College and providing for the distribution of money received from the United States for educational purposes”. We’ll conclude with what may simply be urban legend. The historian Allen B. Lincoln once said that Augustus Storrs had also considered locating his school in Willimantic where, for a short time, he had been in business. Lincoln, a prohibitionist and temperance movement advocate, said Storrs, however, became dissuaded because of the concentration of saloons in Willimantic. Whether fact or not, we’ll never know. What is fact, though, is that UConn could have ended up in Mansfield on Willimantic’s doorstep


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