Monnett School for Girls

The Monnett School was made possible by a generous donation of property by Miss Cordelia Pittenger Monnett (ca.1837-1910), the oldest child of Thomas Monnett and Mary Delmar Kinnear.

In 1908 Miss Monnett turned over her inherited 10-acre farmstead to the deaconesses of the Trinity Methodist Church of Rensselaer, Indiana, to be used for a children's home and school. The large old frame farmhouse provided for two classrooms and living quarters. Charlotte Cobling was an early principal. In 1910, the home united with a school from Verbank, New York, to form a school for girls between 6 and 12 years of age. By 1911 the staff was increased to five, all deaconesses, and the enrollment was 20. By 1912, a new wing had been completed.

By 1913 the enrollment had risen to 30. Electric lights, a new heating system and drainage system had been installed, and instruction was offered through the 8th grade. This was believed to be the "only Protestant School exclusively for girls of elementary school age" in the country.

The school's goal was "to provide an ideal Christian home for girls who, for some special reason, are denied the privilege of a normal home life." It did not admit delinquent children. The girls learned to sew, cook, clean, and do other house work to support their home. The house mothers, many of them deaconesses, sought to develop a wholesome Christian family life atmosphere, with daily devotions and Sunday church attendance.

Later, another wing was added to the frame house. Although there was no other Methodist school of this kind in the United States, Monnett's limited facilities could accommodate only forty-five girls. In 1919 the Northwest Indiana Conference endorsed the school, and, in 1923, as costs rose steeply, the Conference assumed some financial responsibility. In 1925 the town of Rensselaer donated the money to build a brick dormitory named Rensselaer Hall. This building, pictured here, is the only surviving structure of the school. In the 1920s, Miss Cora E. Foltz began her long term as staff member and principal.

In 1942 the Methodist Church and the deaconesses relinquished their oversight, and the school became nonsectarian. In June 1954 the school closed its doors, and the one remaining building was used by the public schools for many years.

In 1966 the community erected a large monument facing College Avenue and dedicated to Miss Monnett. It can be seen today, bearing a testimony to this bold venture in Christian education. The beautiful window in the Trinity United Methodist Church on Angelica Street in Rensselaer was given by Miss Cordelia in honor of her mother, Mary Kinnear Monnett.

GPS: 40 55 55.78, -87 09 22.65

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