Henry Carver, 1866-1871
Henry Carver, the first principal of what would eventually become Bloomsburg University, was born in 1820 in Greene County, New York. He became a successful educator and strict disciplinarian, teaching in his home state in Kinderhook and Binghamton, and heading academies in Binghamton and Cortlandville before moving west in 1865 to teach at the Oakland College School in Oakland, California. While there he lost his left hand in a hunting accident and came back east to Binghamton to recuperate. In March of 1866 he traveled through Bloomsburg and met with local leaders about the possibility of opening a school. Carver was impressed with the beauty of the area and viewed it as a desirable place for his wife Elizabeth Ann and six of their children to live, and the town needed an institution to provide a better education than was currently available.
Persuaded to stay and convinced the community was serious and committed to building the proper facilities for a school, on April 9 Carver reopened the Bloomsburg Literary Institute (originally chartered in 1856) in the old Academy building that had been built in 1839 at the northwest corner of Third and Jefferson streets. Instruction at the Institute was primarily intended for preparing students to go on to receive a college education. After the Institute’s charter was renewed in May the trustees began to sell shares in order to raise money for a building. Carver then proceeded to design and construct the new facility that became known as Institute Hall. It was dedicated in April of 1867 and 60 years later would be named Carver Hall in his honor. The following year construction began on a dormitory which was completed in February, 1869. That same month the Institute was chartered as a state normal school for teacher education, and became the Bloomsburg Literary Institute and State Normal School.
While at Bloomsburg Carver was very interested in student affairs. He encouraged the students to form the Philologian Literary Society and urged three of them, including future principal David Waller, to raise money for a bell to be placed in the Institute Hall tower. Carver served not only as principal but also a professor of mental and moral science and taught the theory and practice of teaching. His children contributed as well, with daughters Sarah and Alice teaching botany and instrumental music. Carver's determination and dedication played a large part in this growing private school being established as a state normal school. In five short years Carver laid the foundation for what would one day become a state university, and he might have made more progress had he not be stricken with an illness brought on by his many duties that forced him to miss most of the winter term of 1871. Not long afterwards a combination of his illness and a financial disagreement with the Board of Trustees forced him to resign his position as principal that December.
Following his tenure at Bloomsburg Carver went to Colorado to become superintendent of the East Denver school system. After one year health concerns forced him to surrender this position, and he came east to first an academy in Belleville, New York and then New Jersey as principal of Vineland High School from 1874 to 1876, being responsible for their new school building. It was dedicated in 1874 at a ceremony attended by President Ulysses S. Grant. His other teaching jobs in New Jersey included an academy in South Orange in 1880 and the Manasquan, New Jersey public schools in 1882. He again became ill in 1884 and moved back to Binghamton and eventually Denver where several of his children were living, including his son George and oldest daughter Sarah, wife of real estate developer Hiram G. Wolff. In January 1889 Carver went to Glenwood Springs for treatment at the spas, but died there on February 20 at the age of 68. Brought back to Denver, a funeral was held at his son-in-law’s home in the Highlands section of the city, and on February 23 he was buried in Riverside Cemetery. It was the end of a long and rewarding career in education, one in which the name of Henry Carver has become forever linked with the history of Bloomsburg University.