Okeechobee County sealUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service  

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: indianco@ufl.edu

June 27, 2012


Feature Article - for  release July 4, 2012

Quick Links: The idea becomes law    The Law expands      Two more Laws   A 3-Legged stool      References    Web Links - moved to a new page!


 Celebrate Our Grand Heritage on July second! **

Pat Hogue, Debbie Clements, Dan Culbert & Courtney Davis,

UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Agents

Picture this: a country at war, a society divided by the “haves” and “have-nots” and little hope for the future of the average man, woman or child.  Yet, a glimmer of hope appears in the midst of all this strife and the country’s statesmen come up with a novel idea and an ingenious way to pay for it:  sell off the public lands, and give the money to states who promise to start public schools to teach useful skills to the common folk.

Sounds like what we could use right now, right?  Well, actually we do have it right now, and we’ve had it for the past 150 years.   On July 2, lots of our country will be gearing up to celebrate the 236th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by a bunch of rebels in Philadelphia.  However, there will be a considerable number of others that will be recognizing a piece of landmark legislation that was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in Washington on that same day, July 2, in 1862.


Colleges for the Common Man

 In the late 1850’s the common man was often tied to the farm.  The learned upper-class could send their children to expensive private colleges to become lawyers, ministers or bankers, but there was little hope of the average person attending a school to learn how to be more efficient in producing food and fiber.Morrill Stamp

 As early as the 1830’s there were calls for agricultural colleges in the US.  Professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner convinced the Illinois legislature to ask Congress to fund a system of state agricultural and mechanical colleges.  Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill was asked to sponsor such a bill in 1857.   This bill was passed by Congress, but because many southern states were not in favor of this idea, President Buchanan vetoed the bill.

And then along came the Civil War.  Congressman Morrill submitted his bill again in 1861, with the additional language that these public institutions would teach military tactics in addition to agriculture and the mechanical arts.   Many states that did not support the original plan were in rebellion, enabling the Morrill Act to pass in the Senate on June 10 and the House on June 17.  It was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.


Land for Learning

Funds were tight, but there was lots of public land.  (In fact, two months after Morrill’s Law was approved, Congress passed the Homestead Act, which gave away land to those that agreed to live and work on it.) The Land-Grant College Act gave each state 30,000 acres of land for each Congressman and Senator that represented their people in 1860.  The land was to be sold, and the funds were then used to establish in each state a college for Agricultural & Mechanical arts. This is where the term A&M comes from.  Today there are 57 of these “1862” Land Grant Colleges in each state, and there are even Land-Grant schools in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Pacific territories.  (I feel pretty certain that anyone that has read this far has a pretty good idea of who is Florida’s 1862 Land-Grant University!)

In the Reconstructed South, these colleges were often segregated, and blacks were excluded from the benefits of these institutions.   Congressman Morrill addressed this issue in 1890 by sponsoring a Second Morrill Act, which was passed on August 30, 1890. Instead of land, actual funds were given to establish these “1890” Land-Grant Colleges.  There are currently 17 such 1890 schools, including Florida A&M University

A third Land Grant-Act was passed in 1994.  This Act appropriated funds for the establishment of Tribal colleges for Native America schools.  There are currently 34 of these 1994 Land-Grant institutions. They are mostly located in the Western and North central states.  Florida does not have any 1994 Land-Grant institutions.  


The rest of the story 

There are two other pieces of important legislation that complete the Land-Grant College system.  In 1887, the Hatch Act was passed to provide funding for Agricultural Experiment Stations that would work within the Land-Grant Colleges.  The Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, with 1000 faculty across two schools, 15 academic departments, 12 research and education centers and 67 counties, our Sunshine State is well served in developing new scientific knowledge in agricultural, natural resources and human systems.

A final key part of the system is the Smith-Lever Act. In 1914, this Act provided funds through each Land-Grant institution to “extend” the knowledge from the college, as discovered in the Experiment station, directly to the people in ways and means that help them solve their problems.   It really is Solutions for your Life.

Cooperative Extension is the part that delivers knowledge and assistance to the people in their communities. In two years, our office will be exploring the implications of a hundred years of service to the American people. 


The three legged stool

The Land-Grant College system is often described as a three-legged stool that supports each state in the nation.  The analogy is a good one to consider when examining the role of publicly supported education.  If you take away any of the legs of such a stool, it falls down. http://www.busaccagallery.com/userfiles/6084_6908_1z.jpg Likewise, the Land-Gant mission envisioned by Jonathan Turner and Justin Morrill in 1862 has become a nation-wide system, where teaching, research, and Extension are all interdependent on each other.   Our teaching roles at the University, our access to new scientific knowledge, and our means of listening to and assisting the local community are all essential roles of a modern Land-Grant University.

In travels abroad and in conversations with persons in other countries, we find that our US Land-Grant College system is the envy of the world.  We here at your County Cooperative Extension Service are proud to be a part of this historic milestone in our country’s development, and stand ready to continue to serve our community, state country and the world.  

Please visit our website for more information about this historic event: http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu. Go Gators! 


Free counters!The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Nick Place,  Dean. Last update: 03/15/2013.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert  

** This Article appeared  7/4/2012 in the Okeechobee News  and 7/5/2012 in the Vero Beach Press Journal.  


Web Links - moved to a new page!


Do you know the Mascots of the Land Grant Colleges and Universities Click here and test your knowledge.


Land Grand Exhibit



Okeechobee Extension Service presented an Exhibit at our March 2013 County Fair to highlight the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act and the Centennial of Florida 4-H.






Clark, Charlene.  “Morrill Act of 1890”. In:  History of Career and Technical Education website.  Athens: University of Georgia.  Accessed 6/26/2012.  http://jschell.myweb.uga.edu/history/legis/morrill.htm

Land Grant & Sea Grant: Acts, History & Institutions http://ifas.ufl.edu/land_grant_history/index.html

Morrill Land-Grant Acts. Wikipedia. Accessed 6/26/2012.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morrill_Land-Grant_Colleges_Act

Download a printable transcript of the original Morrill Land-Grant Act (2 page pdf file)   It also contains hyperlinks to other references!