THE Georgia Baptist Convention, at its annual session in the spring of 1831, at Big Buckhead church, Burke County, adopted a resolution to establish a classical and theological school, the main object of which was the improvement of the rising ministry. If memory is not at fault, the resolution was offered by Rev. Adiel Sherwood. That school was located in Greene County, at what is now known as the village of Penfield, and was called Mercer Institute, in honor of Rev. Jesse Mercer. The village was named Penfield, in honor of Mr. Josiah Penfield, a deacon of the Baptist church in Savannah, who had bequeathed to the Georgia Baptist Convention, for ministerial education, the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars; this amount to be paid by his executors, when the Convention, or its friends should have raised an equal amount for the same object. Mercer Institute was opened as a Manual Labor School, the 2d Monday in January, 1833, with thirty-nine pupils, (seven of whom had the ministry in view,) Rev. B. M. Sanders, Principal, and one assistant. Its only buildings were "two double log cabins," which served as dwelling, dining-room, dormitories, etc., for both teachers and students. This unpretending Seminary subsequently became MERCER UNIVERSITY---how, we proceed to show. (For a more full account of Mercer Institute, see sketch of Rev. B. M. Sanders.)
For the following facts, the author draws almost exclusively from reports adopted by the Georgia Baptist Convention, which he uses freely without further notice. In the year 1835, there was an effort made by a portion of the Presbyterian denomination to establish a college under their auspices at Washington, Wilkes County. A considerable subscription was made up for the enterprise, but the Washington project failed, and their Institution was located at Midway, near Milledgeville, and is now known as the Oglethorpe University. (If any shall infer that the Presbyterians thus became the leaders of the Baptists in the matter of a denominational school in Georgia, it is only necessary to remind them that "Mercer Institute" had been in successful operation more than two years. The Baptists were foremost in their educational movements in this State.) In the meantime the inquiry was propounded, "why may not the Baptists have a college at Washington?" To use the language of the venerable Mercer, "the notion took like wild-fire." Large portions of the subscription made for the Presbyterian project were transferred, and new ones added. Rev. William H. Stokes and Dr. William H. Pope were particularly active in forwarding the enterprise, the latter performing much voluntary service in getting up the subscription.
In October of the same year, the project was brought to the notice of the Georgia Association, at its annual session in Augusta, and was favorable entertained by that body.
The next year the plan was submitted to the Convention at its session in Talbotton, May, 1836. A subscription of some forty or fifty thousand dollars was tendered to the denomination, on condition that they should establish a college at Washington. The proposition was accepted, and it was agreed that the institution should be known as "The Southern Baptist College." Agents were sent out to increase the subscription; a charter was obtained from the Legislature; and at the next annual session of the Convention, at Ruckersville, Elbert County, a subscription of $100,000 was reported as having been made up, this being the amount agreed on as essential to justify the commencement of the enterprise. Of this amount about $40,000 were subscribed in Wilkes County, Rev. Jesse Mercer having increased his first subscription of $3,000, to the liberal amount of $10,000.
About this time a terrible financial crisis had overtaken the country, followed by a pecuniary pressure, well calculated to dampen the zeal of the most ardent friends of the college. Many began to fear it could not be sustained, and at the same time afford to Mercer Institute the support it so much needed, and who finally urged the abandonment of the Washington location and concentration on the Institute. This produced some warm discussions in the Board of Trustees, (which had been appointed by the Convention,) Sanders being in favor of Penfield, Mark A. Cooper in favor of White Hall, near what is now the city of Atlanta, and Mercer, with some others, strongly opposing any change. While this subject was under discussion, on one occasion, the venerable Mercer became quite impatient, if not indignant, and withdrew from his seat as chairman, refusing to preside. As soon as this ebullition of feeling subsided, however, being urged to resume the chair, he did so. Nothing definite, however, was done at that meeting, which was held at Washington. But at a subsequent meeting of the board, August, 1837, at Athens, the following resolutions were adopted by a large majority:
"Resolved, That the important business of raising and endowing a Southern Baptist College in Georgia, intrusted to the care of this Board, has been maturely examined and inquired into. They have duly considered the means and resources required therefor, and are of opinion that it is inexpedient to undertake the building of a college under present circumstances. The reasons that have brought the Board to this conclusion are, in part, the following: First, the embarrassment of the times; second, the differing views of brethren in regard to the plan proposed; lastly, the inadequacy of the means in hand.
"Be it therefore resolved further, That the whole subject be referred to the executive committee of the Baptist Convention for the State of Georgia, with the recommendation of this Board that they surrender the present charter and abandon the enterprise, or seek to set on a footing a plan that will command the resources demanded for the accomplishment of the great undertaking."
By virtue of this movement, the Washington project was virtually dead, though the Board of Trustees went through the formality of surrendering up, by resolution, the charter and project to the Convention.
(The friends at Talbotton had made a vigorous effort to have the Southern Baptist College located at that place, and Rev. Robert Fleming attended the Convention at Ruckersville, in 1837, with a subscription of about $50,000 00; but this overture seems to have met with but little encouragement.)
The question then arose, shall the important design of establishing a Baptist College in Georgia be abandoned? The executive committee, with many others, felt that it must not be given up, and at once resolved to carry out the main design, or make a serious attempt to do so, by connecting a collegiate department with the Mercer Institute, still continuing the academic feature of the seminary. This they believed they had the power to do, inasmuch as "the ultimate and conclusive direction of all the interests and operations of the institution" had been vested by the Legislature "in the executive committee, as agents of the Convention," and they had been "left at liberty to alter or amend, as expediency might seem to require." As already stated, in August, 1837, the Trustees of the Southern Baptist College abandoned that project and surrendered their charter to the Convention. The executive committee decided, in September, to take immediate steps to elevate the Mercer Institute to the rank of a University, and to apply to the next Legislature for a charter. This charter was obtained in December following, and is in these words:"
"AN ACT to amend an Act entitled an Act to incorporate the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia.
"SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That if, by the Act entitled an Act to incorporate the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia, said Convention or their executive committee are invested with taxing power, all such power is hereby annulled and made void.
"SEC. 2. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the executive committee of the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia shall have power to establish and endow a collegiate institution, to be known by the name of the Mercer University, on the premises owned by said Convention in Greene County; and said committee are hereby authorized to make all necessary by-laws and regulations for the government of said University: Provided, they be not repugnant to the Constitution or laws of the State, or of the United States, until a Board of Trustees shall be appointed by the aforesaid Baptist Convention.
"SEC. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia may, at its next meeting, or at any subsequent meeting, elect a Board of Trustees for the said University, consisting of not less than fifteen nor more than thirty-one in number, who shall, or their successors in office, be a body politic and corporate, by the name of the Trustees of Mercer University, and as such they shall be capable of and liable in law to sue and be sued, to plead and be impleaded, and shall be authorized to use a common seal, to hold all manner of property, both real and personal, for the purpose of making a permanent endowment of said institution, and to raise funds for the support of the same, and for the erection of buildings, or to confer literary degrees, and to exercise such other power, not inconsistent with the laws of this State or of the United States, as the aforesaid Convention shall see fit to vest in their hands.
"SEC. 4. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the aforesaid Convention shall be authorized to determine the manner in which said Board of Trustees shall be perpetuated, and the character of the individuals from whom they may be chosen.
"SEC. 5. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That, upon the premises now owned by the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia, in Greene County, or that may hereafter come into their possession, no person shall, by himself, servant or agent, keep, have, use or maintain a gaming house, or room of any description, or permit, with his knowledge, any house or room occupied or owned by him to be used by any person whatever as a place of gaming, nor shall any person upon the premises aforesaid, by himself, servant or agent, keep, employ or allow, with his knowledge, to be kept or employed on the premises he may occupy, any faro table, billiard table, E O table, A B C table, or any other table of like character, nor shall any person, by himself, servant or agent, upon the premises now owned by the said Convention in Greene County, or that may hereafter come into their possession, to be allowed to sell ardent spirits, wine, cordials, or any other intoxicating drinks whatever, nor permit the same to be done with his or her knowledge or approbation, on the premises which he or she may occupy: Provided, however, that the Trustees of the Mercer University may have power to authorize any individual to sell ardent spirits, wines, etc., upon their premises for medical and sacramental purposes. Any person violating the prohibitions contained in this section shall be liable to be indicted for a misdemeanor before the Superior Court, and, on conviction, shall be fined in a sum not less than one thousand dollars for each and every offense.
"SEC. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the executive committee of the aforesaid Convention, in executing titles for lots which they may sell from time to time, shall have power to insert such condition as may tend further to defend the premises aforesaid from the nuisances specified in the foregoing sections of this act.
"Speaker of the House of Representatives.
"Robert M. Echols,
"President of the Senate.
As the statement is sometimes made that the University was chartered in 1838, I call attention to the fact that the charter was obtained in 1837, and not in 1838. Under this charter, the "Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia," at its session in 1838, elected the following gentlemen as the"
Jesse Mercer, C. D. Mallary, V. R. Thornton, Jonathan Davis, John E. Dawson, Malcom Johnson, W. D. Cowdrey, J. H. T. Kilpatrick, J. H. Campbell, S. G. Hillyer, Absalom Janes, R. Q. Dickinson, William Richards, Thomas Stocks, T. G. Janes, J. M. Porter, Lemuel Greene, James Davant, F. W. Cheney, E. H. Macon, William Lumpkin, J. G. Polhill, Lott Warren, M. A. Cooper, J. B. Walker, I. T. Irwin, W. H. Pope.
To this Board all the funds of the University, and its entire management for the future, were soon thereafter turned over, and it has been the custom of the Convention ever since to elect a new Board every three years. [The name of the institution had been changed by the executive committee from the "Mercer Institute" to that of the "Mercer University" in September, 1837.] In July, 1838, the newly elected trustees met at Penfield, organized for business, and received the important trust thenceforth committed to their care. This was not done without fe(r)vent prayer to God for wisdom and grace. Being one of that "original panel," the author speaks advisedly when he declares that the sessions of the Board are always opened and closed with prayer, and that he cannot recall an instance when any important action has been taken without first imploring the divine direction and aid. When it is remembered that Mercer, Stocks, Mallary, Thornton, etc., were leading spirits among us, it is not to be wondered at that such a custom was inaugurated. Perhaps no body of men ever labored together more harmoniously during so long a period in the management of a public institution; and though their management may not in all cases have met the views of interested or disinterested parties, it may with safety be recorded that it has generally been such as to promote the usefulness and success of the institution.
Thomas Stocks was the first president of the board of trustees, and has been continued in that position until quite recently, when his declining health has disqualified him for it. Four agents, Posey, Conner, Davis and Mallary, were employed in getting the subscriptions to the Washington project transferred and in obtaining new subscriptions. From the sources of information at hand, it is believed that by the end of the first year of its existence the University had been endowed to the amount of about $120,000 00. This includes the legacies of Rev. Jesse Mercer. Among those who contributed large amounts, $1,000 00 and upwards, towards this endowment, were the following: Cullen Battle, R. Q. Dickinson, Jesse Mercer, W. H. Pope, James Boykin, T. G. Janes, Absalom Janes, W. Peek, Solomon Graves and John B. Walker. Many others were equally liberal, considering their ability. But those men were both able and willing, and so the work of endowment went on successfully.
The institution lost heavily by the late war, but the report of the trustees to the Georgia Baptist Convention, at Macon, April, 1866, shows the University to be worth in good stocks and securities, $144,793 47.
The following gentlemen have been officers of the University:
Presidents---B. M. Sanders, Otis Smith, J. L. Dagg, N. M. Crawford, H. H. Tucker.
Professors and Assistant Professors---I. C. McDaniel, J. W. Attaway, W. J. Hard, S. P. Sanford, Albert Williams, Robert Tolefree, B. O. Pearce, P. H. Mell, W. R. Posey, B. T. Moseley, S. B. Miller, T. D. Martin, S. G. Hillyer, J. E. Willet, U. W. Wise, H. H. Tucker, W. G. Woodfin.
Professors in Theological Department---Adiel Sherwood, J. L. Dagg, J. L. Reynolds, William Williams, S. G. Hillyer.
The "manual labor" feature of Mercer Institute was continued in Mercer University for several years, though it was regarded by many as being not only unprofitable but positively injurious; and, after eleven years' experience, it was "indefinitely suspended." At a meeting of the Board at Penfield, December 18, 1844, the following report was adopted: "The committee on manual labor made the following report: Whereas, the manual labor department of Mercer University has been sustained at a very heavy expense---an expense which the present state of the funds will not justify, and has in our judgment materially retarded the growth of our institution, after as favorable an experiment as we have been able to make of the scheme; and whereas, the contributors to the University fund, so far as they have been called upon, express themselves with almost entire unanimity ready to concur in any measure in reference to the system which the Board of Trustees may deem essential to the prosperity of the institution; and whereas, the Board of Trustees have found themselves, under all the circumstances, unable to accomplish, to any desirable extent, the important and benevolent designs for which it was originally organized---be it therefore Resolved, That this department be and is hereby indefinitely suspended."
The brother who furnishes me the foregoing item adds: "Private.---Being a student at the time, I was one of the pall-bearers at the funeral of manual labor, and a more joyful funeral, perhaps, was never held; albeit the old system did my health and constitution good. Requiescat in pace." So the students seem to have held a "joyful funeral" over the old exploded manual labor system. The wonder now is, that it was ever inaugurated.
The institution continued to grow in public favor and usefulness until the late war threw its shadow across its path. As nearly all our male colleges were suspending operations, the trustees of Mercer University met in Atlanta at an early period of the war, and resolved not to suspend. This was deemed the more necessary in order to afford educational facilities to any young men who might have it in their power to prosecute their studies. At a later period of the war, a resolution was adopted granting tuition gratis to all sick and wounded soldiers. Many of this class have availed themselves of this offer. The institution continued its operations throughout the war.
The College buildings consist of the President's house and office, chapel, a large building occupied by the family of one of the professors and by students, library and apparatus building, building for recitations, and two society halls---all spacious, and most of them of brick. They are situated in a beautiful campus of about four acres, which is well shaded by venerable oaks.
The College and society libraries contain about ten thousand volumes of well selected and standard literature.
The apparatus has cost about $3,000 00, and is ample for all purposes of illustration.
The grand purpose of the founders of Mercer University was the promotion of theological education---the improvement of the rising ministry of the State and of the South. But the theological department has been overshadowed by the literary. Very few have graduated in the theological department; yet God has accomplished the object for which the institution was organized in another way---one hundred and nineteen of its pupils having engaged in the sacred calling, as the list of names appended to this sketch shows. No doubt many other sons of the University have become ministers of the gospel, whose names the author has not been able to procure. Why God has thus measurably diverted the University from the work it was originally designed to accomplish, is a question the present writer is willing to leave for the future historian. It is matter of profound gratitude to God that he has permitted the institution to be raised up, and that he has vouchsafed to it thus far so much prosperity and usefulness. It may be his will that it shall now start on a fresh career of glory. Or, as all the institutions of our country seem to be tottering to their base, it may be his will that Mercer University shall go down in the general wreck, and that her history shall close here.
The foregoing was written several years ago, and as some important things in the history of Mercer University have transpired of late, it is thought best they should be recorded. The denomination in the State have never been fully united as to the location of the University at Penfield. The consequence has been that the question of removal has been agitated in the papers and in the State Convention from time to time for years past. The advocates of removal gradually increased, until the session of the Convention in Newnan, April, 1870, on motion of Rev. C. M. Irwin, it was resolved, by a vote of seventy-one to sixteen, to remove the University from Penfield to such other location as might afterwards be selected. A committee was appointed to co-operate with the Trustees in selecting such location. A meeting of said committee and the Trustees jointly was held in Atlanta, (date not known,) and fixed upon Macon as the future home of the University. The citizens of Penfield instituted legal proceedings to prevent removal. The trustees suspended the exercises of the University, and the Faculty opened an institution in Macon, on their own account and at their own risk, which was styled Mercer College. The Trustees applied to Judge Cole of the Superior Court of Bibb County, for such an amendment of their charter as would authorize the removal, which was resisted by the citizens of Penfield. The application was granted, whereupon the citizens of Penfield appealed to the Supreme Court of the State.
Thus matters stood when the Convention met at Cartersville, in April, 1871. The report of the Trustees was referred to a special committee, which committee, in turn, reported, indorsing the action of the Trustees in deciding upon Macon as the future home of the University, and recommending, as a compromise with the people of Penfield, the establishment of a High School at that place by the Trustees of the University, on condition that they withdraw their opposition to removal and cease the litigation of the question in the Courts.
The Convention adjourned, sine die, at about ten o'clock at night, April 24th, after which a consultation was held between the Trustees of the University and the agents of the citizens of Penfield. After full and free discussion, the following preamble and resolution were offered by Dr. W. T. Brantly, seconded by Rev. M. J. Wellborn, and adopted:
"WHEREAS, The Georgia Baptist Convention directed the Board of Trustees of Mercer University to establish an institution at Penfield, to be known as Mercer High School:
"Resolved, That such an institution be opened on the first Tuesday in February next, and that two teachers shall be employed at a salary of six hundred dollars a year each, and all the tuition money: Provided, the condition on which such school was to be established shall then exist."
The foregoing resolution was indorsed as follows: "The within resolution having been passed by the Board of Trustees, the undersigned, on behalf of the citizens of Penfield, hereby pledge themselves to withdraw all litigation in reference to the removal of Mercer University, thus leaving no obstacle to the opening of said school at the specified time.
(Signed) "R. L. McWhorter,
"Thomas P. Janes,
"James R. Sanders,
At this consummation, a motion was made that Dr. Brantly lead in a prayer of thanksgiving. The motion was adopted, and all present knelt in devout prayer. The citizens of Penfield, in due time, ratified this compact in a public meeting; and, in July following, the Supreme Court announced the withdrawal of the case and the dismission thereof from its docket. Thus was the question of removal settled.
Mercer University, as such, was opened in Macon, in Johnston's building, in October, 1871. The present Faculty consists of the following gentlemen:
A. J. BATTLE, D. D., President, and Professor of Moral Philosophy.
S. P. SANFORD, A. M., Professor of Mathematics.
J. E. WILLET, A. M., Professor of Natural Science.
W. G. WOODFIN, A. M., Professor of Greek Language and Literature.
J. J. BRANTLY, D. D., Professor of Belles Letter.
E. A. STEED, A. M., Professor of Latin Language and Literature.
Number of students on the catalogue in the early part of 1874, about one hundred and thirty.
Value of the property and assets of the University, $315,550 49. The Convention also owns a Permanent Fund for Education, $25,659 83. The main college building will cost, when completed, about one hundred thousand dollars.
Who have been educated at Mercer Institute, or Mercer University:
W. D. Atkinson, T. S. Allen, T. C. Boykin, D. E. Butler, J. B. Bartlett, W. C. Boone, E. B. Barrett, C. B. Barrow, M. B. L. Binion, J. C. Binns, J. C. Brown, V. A. Bell, J. L. Blitch, A. Buckner, T. J. Beck, E. L. Compere, T. B. Cooper, William Cooper, W. H. Clarke, A. E. Cloud, J. T. Clarke, M. P. Cain, A. B. Campbell, C. D. Campbell, W. T. Chase, P. B. Chandler, A. R. Callaway, E. R. Carswell, E. J. Coats, J. R. Cowen, S. P. Callaway, G. M. Campbell, J. F. Dagg, W. H. Davis, W. O. Darsey, Lewis Everingham, T. J. Earle, S. D. Everett, J. W. Ellington, T. F. Faulkner, J. H. Fortson, V. A. Gaskill, John C. Gunn, W. W. Gwinn, J. A. Garrison, B. C. Greene, Noah P. Hill, ...... Hightower, J. O. Hixon, J. P. Hilldrup, E. Hedden, J. Hedden, John Howell, John Harris, Jr., B. F. Jessup, Edgar Jewell, L. R. L. Jennings, J. C. Johnson, W. L. Kilpatrick, J. H. Kilpatrick, S. Landrum, T. W. Lanier, A. L. Moncrief, William Murrow, J. S. Murrow, G. R. McCall, M. N. McCall, A. M. Marshall, U. M. Mathews, George Mathews, T. D. Martin, T. J. Martin, A. S. Morall, J. G. McNorton, W. A. Overton, O. C. Pope, S. D. Paschall, J. H. Preston, J. W. Pullen, A. D. Phillips, R. W. Phillips, J. G. Ryals, P. B. Robinson, T. A. Reid, S. W. Stephens, A. T. Spalding, J. H. Sullivan, J. Shackelford, W. T. H. Scott, M. H. Sanders, L. W. Smith, W. Singletion, J. M. Stillwell, T. F. Sturgiss, L. W. Stephens, Columbus Smith, T. H. Stout, E. A. Steed, Carlos W. Stevens, W. M. Tryon, B. F. Tharp, J. H. Toole, A. S. Tatum, A. E. Vandivere, J. B. Vaughn, Jesse M. Wood, A. S. Worrell, T. U. Wilkes, W. C. Wilkes, G. T. Willborn, Hillman Williams, W. J. Wootten, T. B. West, J. H. West, J. J. Wallace, C. C. White, J. F. Willson, J. G. Williams and J. H. Weaver.
The materials at hand for a history of this school are quite meagre, but they are such as the author has been able to obtain, and are gathered exclusively from the minutes of the Georgia Baptist Convention. It is mentioned at the session at LaGrange, in 1842, when aid is invoked for it by Rev. Humphrey Posey, to save it from being sold by the sheriff. It seems not to have been many years in operation at that time, though it had, by some mismanagement, become involved in debt. The writer proposed to raise the money needed (the amount not recollected) by the payment of fifty dollars each by a certain number. The proposition was acceded to, and the school relieved of present embarrassment. It was then a Manual Labor School, but this system seems to have been abandoned a few years afterwards. It was turned over to the Georgia Baptist Convention, who were authorized to appoint its Trustees, etc., in 1844. Mr. A. Fitzgerald, a beneficiary, is mentioned as being a student here in 1847.
The year preceding, viz.: in 1846, it is mentioned that Mr. Lott Hearn, of Putnam County, its liberal patron, and for whom it was named, had died, and the treasurer had commenced suit against his executor for a portion of his bequest to the institution, then due. It was under the instruction of Mr. Alfred J. King and Mr. Oliver P. Fannin. It had opened a department for the indigent deaf and dumb, under State patronage, and six or eight of this unfortunate class had been removed thither from Hartford, Conn.1 Mr. O. P. Fannin, for many years principal of the State Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb established at this place, was their first teacher.
The school was in a highly prosperous condition (still under Mr. King,) in 1848, with sixty students in attendance. $5,412 00, in part of the Hearn legacy of twelve thousand five hundred dollars, had been paid. The year following, the school was still in a flourishing condition, though the principal teacher, owing to some unhappy difficulties in the community, had resigned. (There were some restless spirits thereabouts in those days.) About seven thousand dollars, besides its landed interests, etc., were in hand.
In 1850, some of the members of the executive committee of the Convention visited Cave Spring "to aid in healing the dissensions that have, for so long a time, existed amongst brethren" there. What success, if any, attended their errand of love, does not appear. Mr. J. S. Ingraham had been secured as the principal, and the school was "in a highly prosperous state."
For a series of years the institution continued in a prosperous condition under Mr. Ingraham, generally varying from fifty to sixty pupils, notwithstanding the persistent opposition arrayed against it by the "restless spirits" already alluded to. Its income more than met all its expenses, and its Trustees were enabled to take an interest, for the accommodation of its pupils, in a brick meeting-house, built by the Baptist church, and also to provide a comfortable residence, lot, etc., for the use of its excellent principal and his family.
In 1855, the school was still under Mr. Ingraham, and was doing well in all respects. Sixty-six pupils had been received during the year, among whom were two young preachers, beneficiaries of the Convention. It was clear of debt, and its income exceeded its expenses, enabling its managers to add, by purchase, another lot of ground, so that, in all, the school owned about forty-five acres. The buildings and premises were in good repair. The report of the following year is but a repetition of the foregoing.
Mr. Ingraham continued at the head of the school until the close of 1857, when Mr. A. J. King, its former principal, was again called to the charge of it, under whom prosperity still attended it, both in its patronage and finances. The number of pupils admitted was eighty-four, its endowment had increased, and "various additions and improvements in apparatus and school furniture had been made."
Mr. King resigned again at the close of his second year, and Mr. James Courtney Brown, a young man of unusual ability, and a graduate of Mercer University, was called to the charge of the institution in the beginning of 1860. His administration gave entire satisfaction; but, in the spring of 1862, he and most of his older pupils having joined the army of the Confederate States, the exercises of the school were suspended, and the remaining pupils turned over to the Cave Spring Female School.
In 1863, the Hearn School and the female school at Cave Spring were united temporarily, under Rev. S. G. Hillyer, D. D. There were thirty-five pupils in the male department, and the smiles of providence, as heretofore, seemed to rest upon the enterprise. That fall, however, it became necessary again to suspend the exercises, in consequence of the proximity of the contending armies. How long this suspension continued, the writer is not informed. It is supposed, however, to have lasted until the close of the war. The buildings were much injured and the library and apparatus destroyed by the enemy. The funds of the school in the hands of the Trustees were invested in Confederate securities, and are thus lost. The amount lost was about four thousand dollars. The school, however, still has $12,000 00 of the Hearn legacy in charge of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and its landed estate, amounting to forty or fifty acres. Like all other institutions in our oppressed section, it is under a cloud now. But it has already accomplished much good, and it is hoped that the prayers and benefactions of the sainted Hearn, which are held in sweet remembrance on high, may be the means of restoring to it the sunshine of prosperity which it enjoyed for so many years.
The history of this school should prompt men of wealth to bequeath a portion of their estates, at least, in such manner as may be productive of good after they are gone, and as may perpetuate their memory in the earth.
This school was, in 1873, under the care of Mr. P. J. King, as principal, and was in a prosperous condition. Its financial condition is also good.
The project for establishing this school originated with General John H. Rice, a lawyer of considerable talents and prominence. Having made good progress in raising subscriptions for the object, he brought the matter to the attention of the Middle Cherokee Association, which body entered heartily into the project. It was not until the first College building (which was destroyed by fire,) had been commenced, that the Cherokee Baptist Convention was formed, which afterwards had the power of appointing its Board of Trustees, and which adopted the enterprise as its own. I am indebted for these facts to Rev. A.W. Buford. The following facts are gathered from the records of the Trustees:
The charter of this institution before me is not dated, though it is supposed to have been granted in 1853. The names of the corporators, or first Board of Trustees, are: John Crawford, John H. Rice, T. J. Wofford, R. W. Young, D. B. Conyers, G. W. Tumlin, L. Tumlin, Z. Edwards, W. T. Wofford, W. C. Wylly, Elisha King, M. A. Cooper, J. W. Lewis, T. G. Barron, J. Milner, J. Boyle, Ira R. Foster, Farish Carter, E. M. Gault, E. Dyer, G. W. Selvidge, L. W. Cook, W. Martin, S. S. Bailey and William Peck, any seven of whom were to constitute a quorum for the transaction of ordinary business. It provides "that the College buildings and grounds on which it stands shall never be subject to levy and sale under and by virtue of any contract, agreement or promise that said Trustees may make; and if at any time said College shall be abandoned for the space of three years as a male college, then it shall revert to and become the property of the contributors in proportion to the amount they subscribed."
A new Board of Trustees was elected by the Cherokee Baptist Convention in 1856, and again in 1859, and it is inferred their election was intended to take place triennially, thought nothing definite is said on the subject in the records of the College.
The first Board was organized at Cassville, December 22d, 1853, by electing John Crawford, President, John H. Rice, Secretary, and James Milner, Treasurer. A committee was appointed to contract for a college building, the cost of which was not to exceed ten thousand dollars.
In March, 1854, it was announced that Dr. R. H. Patton's farm, adjoining Cassville, containing two hundred and seven acres, had been purchased, for which it was agreed to pay him $4,500.00. Thirty acres were reserved for college purposes, and the balance was laid off in lots and offered for sale. How far they were successful in selling these lots, and what amount was realized on them, are not matters of record.
In June following, a contract for the erection of a College building had been made with Joseph Chapman and Thomas Hawkins, said building to be complete by the 1st of October, 1855, the price to be paid $9,500.00. The Masonic fraternity of Cassville were invited to lay the corner-stone of said building the 4th of July following.
Rev. N. M. Crawford was elected to the presidency of the College, who finally declined the appointment. In August following, Rev. Thomas Rambant was elected Professor of Languages, Rev. W. H. Robert, Professor of Mathematics, and Rev. B. W. Whilden, Adjunct Professor, all of whom accepted, and commenced operations February 6, 1856, with forty students.
On the night of January 4th, 1856, the College building, in process of erection, was entirely destroyed by fire. Whereupon the contractors were conferred with and offered an extension of time for the fulfillment of their contract, which was accepted by Mr. Chapman but declined by Mr. Hawkins, who seems to have abandoned the contract. A building was rented in Cassville, in which the College exercises should be conducted during the current year.
Lots contiguous to the College site were donated to the Professors, on conditions satisfactory to both parties.
Rev. P. H. Mell was elected to the presidency of the institution in July, 1856, but declined the position. Rev. Thomas Rambant was acting as chairman of the faculty.
A plan of scholarship had been adopted, which seems not to have been very successful. Several agents had been operating from the first for raising an endowment, etc., whose success had not been commensurate with their efforts. Rev. D. G. Daniell finally accepted an agency, and succeeded in raising, in subscriptions, for the education of poor boys, $10,000.00, and for other purposes, $1,560.00. His report to this effect is dated January 13th, 1860. In July of that year it is stated that the assets amounted to $20,777.56, which were in form of bonds, subscriptions, pledges, etc. The building, land, etc., appear to have been independent of this amount.
Rev. Thomas Rambant was raised to the presidency in November, 1857, and was the only acting president the institution has ever had. Messrs. Robert and Whilden having resigned, their places were filled by Messrs. Collins and Devore, and subsequently Rev. Mr. McBryde was connected with the instruction of the College.
The institution having become involved in debt, the Trustees found it necessary to give a mortgage upon it. How they did so consistently with its charter, is not apparent to the writer, though it is presumed to have been really so. Want of a sufficient endowment was a continual source of embarrassment and annoyance to both Trustees and Faculty in conducting the institution. A college cannot be carried on successfully and efficiently without ample funds.
After adopting and then recinding resolutions on the subject repeatedly, it was finally agreed, in May, 1861, "to procure suitable men to carry on the College for the term of five years, who shall look to the tuition and assets within the control of the Board for the payment of their salaries." President Rambant and Professor Collins acceded to these terms, and the Trustees agreed "to furnish two assistants" to aid them in their work.
For aught that appears on their records, this was about the last act of the Board of Trustees. The storm of war had already burst upon our devoted and unfortunate country, and it is presumed the institution, like most other male colleges, was soon suspended for want of patronage. Our young men relinquished the pursuit of literature and science, and went forth to fields of carnage and death, for the protection of their parents and the homes of their childhood from a cruel and unnatural foe. Many of them perished in the fratricidal strife, and though it may seem otherwise to short-sighted mortals, they have not perished in vain. "The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church," and the blood of these martyrs to liberty shall yet cause the tree thereof to grow with renewed vigor and fruitfulness.
Such an institution could not be permitted to stand within the track of Sherman's conquering legions, and, like many of its sisters, the torch was applied, and, with all its valuable contents, it was totally consumed. The burning of literary institutions and churches was a common practice of our enemies during the late war. It has been ascertained that more than one thousand of the latter were destroyed in this way. History will consign the perpetrators of these acts of heaven-daring impiety and vandalism to depths of infamy deeper than human thought can fathom or language describe.
This institution of learning is located at Linton, Hancock County, about equi-distant from Milledgeville, Sandersville and Sparta. The village is named in honor of Judge Linton Stephens, the most liberal contributor towards its endowment, and the school takes its name from the Association which originated and controls it. The site selected in 1857 was in the primitive forest, where there was not so much as a cabin to mark its locality. But such was the energy which characterized its managers, that early in 1858 the institution was in successful operation, with more than one hundred pupils. More than twenty residences were soon reared up, some of which are elegant and costly edifices.
Fifteen Trustees were elected by the Association, of which Rev. Asa Duggan was the first President and Col. J. T. Smith, Secretary. Rev. Carlos W. Stephens (recently deceased,) was chosen principal of the school, and Rev. T. J. Adams, assistant. The latter is now associate principal with Ivy W. Duggan, and W. H. Beals is professor of music. At the commencement of the war, the number of pupils was one hundred and twenty-nine. But its numbers were soon reduced by its sons rushing to the field of conflict, some of them, alas! to return no more. Their teachers, of course, went with them. Their places, however, were temporarily supplied, and the exercises of the school were at no time entirely suspended. There are now (1866) seventy pupils in attendance, and, notwithstanding the condition of the country, there is much reason to hope it will soon attain its former prosperity. The teachers are men of experience and ability, and they are seconded in their efforts by the Trustees and patrons.
The primary department affords excellent facilities for small children, while the more advanced classes are thoroughly instructed in the mathematics and classics. The school has the advantage of a well selected philosophical and chemical apparatus, musical instruments, etc. The main building is of brick, two stories high, commodious, and well adapted to the purposes for which it is intended. It is yet in an unfinished state. The location is remarkably healthy, and the society is good. The institution is a corporate body, and the provisions of its charter are well calculated to protect the village and school from immoral influences. The Board of Trustees are elected biennially by the Association. The success of this enterprise is claimed by its friends as a conclusive argument in favor of mixed schools.
This institution, located at Forsyth, Monroe County, has been one of the most successful of its kind in the State. The college building was erected for a Botanical Medical College, but was soon purchased by the citizens of the town for a Female School of high order. The Baptists finally became possessed of it, (in 1855, we think.) Rev. William C. Wilkes having been at the head of it several years previously. The school flourished greatly under his administration. Soon after it was purchased, Mr. Richard T. Asbury became a professor; other highly competent teachers became associated with the gentlemen already named; and for a series of years, and until the commencement of the late war, it was one of the most successful and prosperous institutions of learning in the State. For some cause, unknown to the writer, the Trustees sold the establishment in 1855, to Messrs. Wilkes, Asbury, Candler and Turner, "binding them to continue its use as a female school of high grade, subject to the control of the Baptist denomination."
The interest of the foregoing purchasers was sold last year to Rev. S. G. Hillyer, R. T. Asbury and George M. Rhodes, who now have control of the institution. Rev. J. F. Dagg, late President of the female college at Cuthbert, was one of its professors. With its former prestige, and under such instructors it is hoped it may soon regain its former prosperity.
For many years past, the Baptists have had female colleges under their control at several other points in the State---institutions that would compare favorably with any in the land. One was started at LaGrange by that eloquent and eminent divine, Rev. J. E. Dawson, D. D. He was succeeded in the presidency by Mr. Milton E. Bacon, who erected in a commanding locality, a commodious and imposing edifice; furnished it with a splendid apparatus, musical instruments, etc., employed a corps of competent teachers, and, for many years, carried on the school on a magnificent scale. The writer has understood that the building was destroyed by fire during the war.
At Madison, also, the Baptists have a female college of high standing, where hundreds of the daughters of the land have been thoroughly educated. Messrs. Browne and Loud were its teachers for many years, and under them, perhaps, it attained its greatest prosperity. Mr. Browne is again at the head of it he has few equals in the State.
At Perry, Houston County, the Baptists have established a female college of no mean order. Here, also, hundreds of young ladies have been educated into accomplished and elegant women. Mr. Holtzclaw, for many years its popular and indefatigable President, is a graduate of Mercer University, a ripe scholar, and a most successful educator. Upon his resignation, Rev. A. C. Dayton, of Tennessee, became its President, but died soon after taking charge.
Mr. R. T. Asbury, than whom there is not believed to be a better teacher in the State, is now (1874) at the head of this institution. It fully maintains its well-earned celebrity.
In the spring of 1851, the author, then residing at Lumpkin, Stewart County, was invited to a meeting of the executive committee of the Bethel Baptist Association, which was held at the residence of Rev. Thomas Muse, for the purpose of holding a consultation on the subject of establishing a female college somewhere within the bounds of said Association. There were in attendance on that meeting, if he remembers rightly, besides himself, only three others---W. L. Crawford, B. Graves and Thomas Muse. The result of that meeting was reported by that committee to the Association at Benevolence church, Randolph County, the ensuing fall, in the following language:
"The committee have taken under consideration, since your last session, the important subject of erecting a female college or high school, to be the property of, and under the control of the Association; and, finding the denomination and the people generally desired such an institution built up at some eligible point, the committee called a Convention of the churches, to lay before them the expediency of taking immediate action in making efforts to raise funds to accomplish the design. The Convention met in Lumpkin on Friday before the fifth Sabbath in August last, and highly approved of the project. They passed resolutions commending it to the patronage of the denomination and the public generally; and also recommending conditional subscriptions, payable in four annual installments, commencing at January next, be taken for those places desiring its location; and should the Association approve of the enterprise, to locate the same at its present session. Your committee have made extensive inquiry, and have reason to believe that such an institution is greatly needed in this section of the State, and, therefore, recommend the subject to your most prayerful consideration."
Whereupon, the following preamble and resolutions, offered by Rev. F. F. Seig, were adopted:
"Having had under consideration so much of the report of the executive committee as relates to the establishment of a female college within the bounds of this Association, heartily approving of the action of that committee, fully satisfied of the great importance of the subject, and that the time has come for action; therefore,
"1. Resolved, That this Association do look upon the cause of female education as inferior to none other.
"2. Resolved, That we approve of the action of the committee upon this subject.
"3. Resolved, That we agree to adopt this enterprise, and to prosecute it with all the means within our power; and we hereby heartily commend it to the prayers, liberality and patronage of the friends of education generally, and of the denomination in particular.
"The amounts of the subscription for the school at the several places desiring the location were announced. The subject of its location was then taken up, and, after much discussion, Cuthbert, Randolph County, was unanimously selected as its location."
It might be inferred from the foregoing record that Cuthbert had the largest subscription, but that was not so. The largest subscription announced was for Lumpkin. The writer, who then resided at Lumpkin, was in favor of that place, as the railroad then extended no further than Oglethorpe, and it was uncertain, when extended, whether it would go by Cuthbert or Lumpkin. But "God seeth not as man seeth," and he has long since been convinced that Cuthbert is the most favorable site for the institution.
Under resolutions offered by Mr. James Clark, of Lumpkin, the Association proceeded to name the contemplated institution "The Baptist Female College of Southwestern Georgia." Agreed to elect a Board of Trustees. Directed said Board to have the college incorporated, and requested the executive committee to employ an agent for the building up and endowment of the institution. The Board elected were J. H. Campbell, Jas. Clark, F. F. Seig, William Janes, E. W. Warren, R. Q. Dickinson, J. W. Wilson, William H. Wade, Joel W. Perry.
The Trustees reported to the Association, in 1852, that they had purchased forty-one acres of land, within three-fourths of a mile of Cuthbert, on which there was a large house erected for a school building, and other improvements, for which they had paid $1,875 00; that they had engaged Rev. Thomas Muse as agent for the collection of funds; that Rev. A. T. Holmes was acting as President of the College; Rev. J. H. Luther as assistant; Mrs. Amanda C. Clark as music teacher; and that, owing to the rapid increase of pupils, Miss Mary Wilson, Miss Georgia Pride and Mrs. Bozeman had also been employed as assistants. The college had been incorporated by an Act of the Legislature. They claimed that the location they had secured was one of the most desirable in Georgia; excellent health had prevailed among both teachers and pupils, and, altogether, the prospects of the institution were most flattering. In addition to the buildings already on the premises, they had contracted for another, to comprise rooms for chapel, music, apparatus, etc., for which they were to pay $8,500 00. They had purchased three pianos, but had not yet obtained an apparatus, and the treasurer reported $12,500 00 as having been raised. There were ninety-three pupils in the various departments. This was certainly a most prosperous beginning for an institution which, two years before, had not been thought of.
The next year, 1853, the college had one hundred and thirty-eight pupils, two new professors had been secured, the main building was nearly completed, an apparatus costing $600 00 had been purchased, also two additional pianos, and the finances of the college were in a favorable condition. Yet the Trustees complain of opposition, which had manifested itself in the form of a Methodist institution, and which was being raised up in the town of Cuthbert. The Methodist brethren, no doubt, saw that, for once, they had been caught napping, and that, unless they bestirred themselves, they would soon lose all influence in Southwestern Georgia.
In 1854, the Trustees close their annual report thus: "It is firmly believed by the Board that the institution is on a firmer basis than at any former period of its history." By the following year, the College had become involved in debt to the amount of $3,200 00, and a vigorous effort was made during the session of the Association for its extinguishment, which was only partially successful. In 1856 it was still somewhat embarrassed, but in 1857 we find in the report of the Trustees the following: "At the last Association your Board reported the institution encumbered with debt. But, as was then stated, some brethren of Lumpkin, prompted by a noble generosity, made a strong appeal to the friends of the College to come up and relieve it of this encumbrance. The appeal was not in vain; and it is now the good pleasure of your Board to report the Baptist College of Southwestern Georgia OUT OF DEBT." The report of this year goes on to state that the institution is steadily advancing, that it had one hundred and twenty-five pupils, that a gracious revival of religion had been experienced, during which twenty-four of the young ladies had joined the Baptist church. The faculty as then constituted consisted of R. D. Mallary, President, Rev. J. F. Dagg, Mrs. R. D. Mallary, Mrs. J. F. Dagg, Miss C. Cleaves and Miss Lucretia Mallary. The ensuing year the institution was visited by another gracious revival of religion, and it is recorded that "the institution was never in a more prosperous condition."
In 1859, the Trustees, in submitting their report, "take great pleasure in congratulating our brethren upon the success of our institution for the last year." Whole number of pupils, one hundred and twenty. Quite a fine state of religious feeling, and many of the young ladies had embraced the Saviour. The health of both teachers and pupils was excellent. The Trustees say in their next annual report that the institution is still in a flourishing condition under R. D. Mallary, President, and an able corps of assistants; but that "its increasing patronage and growing popularity concur in demanding additional arrangements for the accommodation and comfort of its pupils, and the entertainment of the crowd of visitors who annually attend its commencement exercises." [The buildings thus called for were not erected, in consequence of the war, which soon followed.] In 1861 the Board had to report the resignation of President Mallary, who had served in that capacity six years, and had given "entire satisfaction to the Board and patrons, and to the public generally." Up to that date the prosperity of the College had been uninterrupted, hundreds of its pupils had been converted to Christ, and it had proved a blessing to all that portion of the State. But from that time it began to feel the blighting effects of the war, whose dark shadows were even then being cast across its path. The next annual report of the Board announces that Rev. J. F. Dagg had been elected to the Presidency of the College and had accepted. The small pox had broken out in Cuthbert, causing a temporary diminution in the number of pupils, from the effects of which, however, the institution soon recovered.
Another year of cruel and unnatural war entailed still further disasters upon the institution. The Confederate Government had taken possession of its buildings for hospital purposes, and Mr. Dagg, the President, found it necessary to use a portion of his own dwelling for the accommodation of his pupils. It was the best that could be done under the circumstances. The patronage, of course, was greatly diminished. In 1865, President Dagg reports to the Board that the College buildings had been restored to him, but that the number of pupils, owing to the financial embarrassments of the country, was quite small as compared with former years. The following year, 1866, the patronage was still small, owing, as the President avers, in part to want of boarding accommodations. He had served five years as professor and five as President, and now resigned all connection with the institution.
In 1867 the College was in charge of Rev. T. H. Stout and Miss C. A. Hansell, as associate principals, with Miss Hattie Platt in the primary department, and Miss A. B. Armstrong teacher of vocal and instrumental music.
The plan of this work does not admit of a more extended notice of this institution, which is matter of regret with the author. He trusts that its future historian may have it in his power to record its renewed and increased prosperity and usefulness, under the fostering care of the younger generation of men into whose hands it is fast falling.
Mr. William B. Seals, who is one of the best educators in the South, (or anywhere else,) is now President of this College. Under his management it cannot but be greatly prosperous and useful.
Besides the foregoing institutions, the Baptists have flourishing schools at Madison, Rome, Dalton and other places.
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