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Stanton, Margaret Price MacDonald

Published onJul 30, 2021
Stanton, Margaret Price MacDonald

(October 22, 1845 - July 25, 1895)

Quick Facts

A member of the first faculty of the college and beloved by the students; the Iowa State Campanile and Carillon were created in her honor.

Margaret Price MacDonald was born in New Concord, Muskingum County, Ohio on October 22, 1845, the eldest of six children born to James and Mary Grumman MacDonald.  She grew up in New Concord, and attended Muskingum College there for three years.  In 1863, the MacDonald family moved to Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  While residing in Mount Pleasant, she completed college at Mount Pleasant Female Seminary, graduating with honor in 1868. 

She began her teaching career in Iowa’s public schools and during vacations she educated herself in the French language by living with a French family.  She was hired by Iowa State College (now University) as Matron for the 1871 school year.  She also taught freshman English.  In 1872, freshman and sophomore French classes were added to her duties, and in 1873, junior French classes.  By 1876, she had been named Preceptress, and was teaching French and Mathematics.

From the time she joined the Iowa State community, Margaret MacDonald made an impact on those around her.  In later years, President William Beardshear described her classroom work:

“Her teaching was characterized by the completest thoroughness—a thoroughness that entered into the smaller details and accuracies which determine the perfection of scholarship and the integrity of learning.”

However, her activities outside the classroom may have been more significant to the students, as Beardshear also described:  “In those days the College did not have as many buildings as now.  There was no hospital…the sick had to be cared for in their own rooms.  As is often true, such an environment became a source of revealing the most exalted character of society.  Miss MacDonald possessed the very qualities that would meet these difficulties and turn them into triumphs and blessings.  The students came to look upon her as their truest friend.  She visited the rooms of the boys and girls alike in their sickness and all felt at home in her presence…The older alumni and undergraduates of those years speak of her with a reverence that can only be born in the work and service of a true teacher…”

During her years on the faculty, she was also a help to her family.  She assisted her parents in paying off their farm, and provided for the education of her siblings.

Margaret MacDonald married fellow faculty member Edgar Williams Stanton on February 22, 1877 at her parent’s home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Edgar Stanton was born in Waymart, Pennsylvania on October 3, 1850.  He graduated from the Waymart Normal Institute and then attended the Delaware Literary Institute at Franklin, New York.  He came to Iowa because of a connection with George W. Jones, Iowa State’s first mathematics professor and cashier for the college.  The two men had met when Stanton attended a telegraphy school at Poughkeepsie, New York which Jones had directed.

Edgar Stanton arrived in Iowa on March 5, 1870, joining the class of 1872, the first class to graduate from Iowa State.  He was an active student, participating in a literary society and playing on the baseball team.  He assisted in Professor Jones in the cashier’s office, and also did chores at the Jones home for ten cents an hour.  He graduated on November 12, 1872, and was the first person to receive a diploma that day.  He was hired immediately by the college to teach Mathematics and English Composition, the beginning of fifty years of faithful service to Iowa State.

At the time of his marriage to Margaret MacDonald, Edgar Stanton was an Assistant Professor in charge of the Mathematics Department and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.  Through the years he would serve Iowa State as Secretary of the College, Head of the Math Department, Dean of the Junior College, Vice President, and four times as Acting President.

All the students and many of the single faculty members lived in the Main Building during the early years of the college.  The Stantons lived in the building until 1879, when “The Maples,” one of the faculty houses on campus, became available.

Don, Margaret and Margaret B. in 1887

Margaret Stanton continued to teach through Fall Semester of 1878, then submitted her resignation effective March 1, 1879.  The couple’s first child, Edwin MacDonald Stanton (called Don), was born July 31, 1879.  He was followed by Roger Williams Stanton, born February 2, 1882, who died in infancy, Margaret Beaumont Stanton, born May 16, 1883, and Edgar Williams Stanton, Jr., born January 19, 1887.

“The Maples” became a center for campus social life.  Returning alumni, members of the Board of Trustees, and other friends of the college were frequent guests.  Margaret Stanton’s friend Dora Sayles Osborn described the Stanton home as “a power and a blessing in the community.  It was a Mecca to the old student revisiting Alma Mater toward which his footsteps always turned and where he found an abiding interest and affection…”

During the early days of Iowa State, college faculty and staff and their children frequently socialized together.  One annual tradition was a large July 4th picnic held on Central Campus.  On July 4th of 1895, Margaret Stanton prepared food for her family to take to the picnic, but did not feel well enough to attend.  Her condition grew worse, and she died on Thursday, July 25, 1895.

Her funeral was held in the College Chapel in Morrill Hall the following Sunday.  The entire student body and many townspeople filled the Chapel to its capacity of 650.  Pall bearers were Physics Professor W.S. Franklin, Chemistry Professor Alfred A. Bennett, Veterinary Medicine Professor Millikan Stalker, Zoology Professor Herbert Osborn, Ames banker Wallace Greeley, and Ames real estate agent Marcellus K. Smith.  President William Beardshear and Professor W.H. Wynn both gave eulogies.  Burial was in the college cemetery.

Mrs. Stanton was widely mourned:

…In the death of Margaret Stanton…the state has lost the influence and example of one of its best women.

Iowa State Register, July 31, 1895

We realize that Mrs. Stanton, as a member of the first faculty of the college and for a number of years holding a most responsible position in it, did much to form its history and establish its position as an educational institution.  In all of our efforts as a faculty and as individuals to build up and promote the interests of the college, we shall find in her memory a constant inspiration.

Faculty Resolution, August 12, 1895

The opening of the present college term is shrouded with a pall of profound sorrow at the death of Mrs. Stanton.

The IAC Student, July 30, 1895

Her family was devastated at the loss: “We all looked to Maggie as a mainstay.”  Daughter Margaret said, “I never can do anything wrong when I think of Mamma.”  Husband Edgar said, “It was heavenly to live with her…All that I can do is to say Thy will be done, and my comfort is that she whom I loved so much is today an angel.”  Even many years later, her sister Mary MacDonald Knapp spoke of her eldest sister with reverence and love—“She kept our father going financially and was to the younger children an example and a beloved sister—companion, mother.  I can almost never think of her without a prayer to this day.”

At the time of Margaret Stanton’s death, a new women’s dormitory was being completed on the site of today’s LeBaron Hall.  It was decided to name this building Margaret Hall in memory of Mrs. Stanton.  Dr. Stanton, in appreciation for this gesture, offered to buy a chime of bells to be placed in a tower to be added to the building.  It was found that Margaret Hall’s framework would not support a tower, so it was decided that a separate structure would be built for the bells nearby. 

The Campanile was designed by George Hallett, a Des Moines architect.  The “Margaret Chimes,” a set of ten bells, were purchased from the Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, England.  They arrived in Ames in October 1899 and were hung that winter.  The bells immediately became an integral part of campus life:

“Clear, complete, musical, came the message of the bells as each student, new and old heard the greeting of the chimes.  A new tie is formed and the campus that we all love is still more charming—still more dear to our affections.”

The IAC Student, February 20, 1900

Edgar Williams Stanton passed away September 12, 1920.  In his will, he provided bequests to his family and requested that the residue of the estate be given to Iowa State to provide a memorial in his name.  His second wife, Julia Wentch Stanton and the children, decided to provide the college with the money to add 26 additional bells in the Carillon, to then be known as the Edgar W. and Margaret MacDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon.  These bells were also ordered from the Taylor Bell Foundry, and were hung in the Campanile in August of 1929.  After the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation was established in 1954, 13 additional bells were purchased, bringing the total number to 49.  A 50th bell was added in 1967.

Selected Sources

“At Rest,” The I.A.C. Student 7, no. 1 (July 30, 1895): 1-3, 6.

Department of Music.  Bells of Iowa State.  Ames, Iowa:  Iowa State University, 1973.

“Board of Instruction” and “Detailed Statement.”  Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 5 (1873): 7-8, 15-21.

“Board of Instruction.”  Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 6 (1875): 6-7.

“Faculty” and “Classes Taught and by Whom.”  Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 4 (1872): 7-13.

“Officers of Instruction.”  Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 7 (1877): 10-11.

Kirshman, Margaret Stanton.  “Life of Edgar Williams Stanton.”  In Memoriam, Edgar Williams Stanton, 1850-1920, 15-55.  Iowa City, Iowa:  Clio Press, 1921.

Osborn, Dora Sayles.  “Margaret McDonald Stanton.”  Annals of Iowa II, no. 8, Third Series (1897):  614-618.

Stanton, Edgar W., III.  The Trek of James MacDonald:  New Concord, Ohio to California, 1850:  Oregon-California Trail.  Live Oak, California:  E.W. Stanton, 1989.

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