In September of 1872 C. L. Brainard, Sr., entered the state normal school at Peru, Nebraska, in what he called “my first real venture away from home.” Brainard was then only fifteen years of age but later wrote, “It was not so very hard to be away from home for I did not get along very well with my stepfather.”
Brainard said, “The state law required a student to be sixteen years of age upon entering, but Plin Ford, my friend who had been there [Peru State Normal School], said to leave it to him and he would get me in, which he did. I batched with two other students, a Tom Hitte and Louis Bates, and soon got used to the ways of the institution. The school year was divided into three ‘terms’ as they were then called. There was no public school then in the village, but the ‘grammar school’ pupils were taught in the Normal. I was given a class of seventh grade pupils to teach during the winter terms and I was not yet sixteen when I began it. I had pupils in my class older than I, but they never knew it for I was large and appeared much older than I really was. . . .
“A few events stand out in memory concerning this my first year away from home. I was too poor to afford the price necessary to pay to belong to the class in vocal music and the music book required. But both my roommates belonged, the one sang bass and the other tenor. They used to rehearse in our study room and I studied with them and thus was able to learn at least the rudiments.
“Two of the teachers or instructors I remember distinctly. Miss Morgan the ‘Preceptress’ as she was called although very eccentric and tho seemingly severe and at times rather cross was able to secure good results and was connected with the institution a great many years. Professor [Henry] Straight [at Peru from 1871 to 1873] was well named for he was so upright he nearly inclined backwards in his physical manner; and morally he was well up to his name.”
After he left Peru, Brainard attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His later career included teaching in country schools, carpentry, and farming in western Nebraska.
State Normal School Building at Peru. From Harrison Johnson, History of Nebraska (1880).