I. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) Blandin.

History of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. online

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Settlements " on the western border, and the settle-
ments in the valley of the Tennessee River.

The settlers of this last named section were largely
from that Scotch-Irish stock that has played so con-
spicuous a part in the development of the South. They
were noted for their intelligence and culture. In this
section there were several thriving towns. Of these,
Athens, in Limestone County, ranked second in popu-
lation; the population was constantly increasing, and
already several schools of primary and grammar-
school grades had been established, and an academy
was much needed.

Some enterprising citizens, among them the men
whose names appear in the charter as trustees, called
a meeting of the citizens to consider the educational
needs of the town. After some discussion a resolu-
tion to establish an academy for girls was adopted,

Athens Female Academy

was opened October, 1822, and on December 9, 1822,
just a few days before the " section 17," which estab-
lished a university for women, was adopted, a charter


was granted to this first academy in Alabama exclu-
sively for girls.

The trustees were Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll,
Beverly Hughes, Daniel Coleman, Andrew Foster,
John W. Smith, and Joshua Martin.

The corporation was declared perpetual, and em-
powered to buy and sell or otherwise dispose of the
property of the Academy as might seem best to the
trustees; and these trustees were empowered to make
such regulations for the government of the Academy
as were not repugnant to the law of the State or of
the United States.

Daniel Coleman and Joshua L. Martin were very
active in the interest of the Academy. These men be-
came quite prominent in the history of Alabama.
Judge Martin rendered valuable service to the State
at a time when the judiciary as well as the executive
department needed strong and fearless men of unim-
peachable integrity. It is not surprising, therefore,
that Athens took the initiative in so important an en-
terprise as the establishment of an academy for girls.

A few years after the incorporation of the Academy,
provision a teacher and one piano was made for a
course in music. Some time after this addition was
made, the advantages of the Academy were extended
to a course in drawing. Music was elective and an
extra, but drawing was taught to the whole school free
of extra charge.

A number of the distinguished men of Alabama
were natives of Limestone County, and many of their
wives were educated at the Athens Academy. This
Academy had a long and a prosperous career, and was
finally merged into the Athens Female Institute.

Tuscumbia Female Academy, 1826

Encouraged by the success of the Athens Academy,
the citizens of Tuscumbia decided to organize an
academy for girls and applied for a charter.


The trustees named in the charter were Thomas
Wooldridge, Alexander A. Campbell, William H.
Wharton, and Robert B. Marshall.

The corporation was declared perpetual, and the
usual powers concerning acquiring, holding, and dis-
posing of property granted. Also the power to make
any regulation deemed advisable, provided it was not
repugnant to the constitution and laws of the State
and of the United States.

A music department was added to the usual academic
curriculum at the organization of the school. For a
time the school flourished, but misfortune came, and
after six years it became necessary to amend the char-
ter, to avoid closing the school.

The charter was approved January 13, 1826, and on
January 13, 1832, the following amendment was ap-
proved : " Whereas, the trustees of Tuscumbia
Academy appointed and incorporated by an act to
which this is an amendment, have ceased to act as such,
and a majority of the surviving said trustees having
removed from the State, without having appointed or
elected successors, be it enacted that Philip G. Godby,
Sterling R. Cockrill, William H. Wharton, Branham
Murrill, David Dreshler, and Micajah Tarver, and
their successors appointed or elected, shall be a body
politic and corporate by the name of Trustees of Tus-
cumbia Female Academy. Second and third section^
of act to which this is an amendment are hereby re-
vived. The powers granted to these trustees are the
same as those granted by the original charter."

The Academy thus revived continued with varying
success, until closed by the War between the States.
It was never reopened. The building was repaired
and remodeled, and used for the Public School of Tus-

Financial Troubles
During the first decade of Alabama history schools


did not flourish nor their number increase as the people
had expected and as was very desirable.

The " sixteenth section " lands were not good agri-
cultural lands in many parts of the State, and the
commissioner found it very difficult to maintain the
schools even when supplemented by tuition fees. The
lack of funds prevented the completion of the univer-
sity buildings, and perhaps the same reason prevented
the establishment of many academies. However, dur-
ing this decade several academies for boys were estab-
lished and two for girls. This did not discourage the
friends of education of girls or incline its advocates
to abandon the cause. On the contrary, they deter-
mined to make more strenuous efforts, and accordingly
the General Assembly prepared a " memorial to Con-
gress in behalf of academies for girls."

Memorial to Congress

The work of establishing schools for girls progressed
slowly, though interest in the cause never died, as is
manifest from the following Memorial by the General
Assembly to the Congress of the United States. It
was entitled: "Memorial (Joint) Regulating a
grant of lands by Congress of United States, for use
of a Female Academy in each County of the State."

" The Senate and House of Representatives of the
State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened,
respectfully represent to the Congress of the United
States: That your memorialists have witnessed with
great pleasure the munificence and liberality of your
honorable body in the promotion of education by grant
of 1 6th section for use of common schools in every
township, and of other lands for the advancement of
an asylum for the use of deaf and dumb, and for the
establishment and maintenance of a university, and
whilst they have been greatly benefited and much
pleased with such liberality in the promotion of objects
so intimately and essentially interwoven with the moral


and political prospects of the country, they respectfully
suggest that another subject of equal or superior
claims upon your liberality and munificence has not
received the attention due to the importance which
properly belongs to it, either from our own citizens or
their Representatives in the National Legislature, to
wit : the proper and necessary education of the females
of this free and happy Republic. Your memorialists
beg the indulgence of your honorable body, in remark-
ing that the ornaments of this and every other country,
so -far as relates to talents, learning, and virtue, rest
their claims mainly on the early impressions made by
mothers. That it seldom happens that impressions
derived from this source are calculated to sap the
foundations of morality or to injure in the smallest
degree the best interests of society, but, on the contrary,
the education, information, and examples drawn from
them exalt and ennoble our character, and constitute
the foundation and prop of our most estimable virtues
and consequent prosperity in life. Your memorialists
derive much pleasure from the reflection that the peo-
ple of this State have aroused from their lethargy upon
this all-important subject, and are now making exer-
tions to compensate in some measure for their former
apathy, by laudable attempts on their part to promote
female education. But your memorialists would here
remark that common schools are not places at which
females can receive more than the first rudiments of
education, and the importance of institutions exclu-
sively for the use of female education must be admitted
by all.

" Your memorialists therefore respectfully request,
that your honorable body will grant to the State of
Alabama as much as two sections of land for each
county and to be exclusively applied to the erection
and support of an academy in each county of the State
for the education of females. Your memorialists
sincerely believe that by the selection of the best un-
appropriated lands and prudent management of the


same, that no portion of the public land has been here-
tofore, or will be hereafter applied in a manner to
accomplish more good: Therefore, be it resolved,
That our Senators be instructed, and our Representa-
tives requested to use their best exertions to obtain
the object of this memorial. And be it further re-
solved, That it shall be the duty of the Governor to
transmit, as early as may be, a copy of this memorial
to each of our Senators and Representatives in Con-
gress, and one to the President of the United States.
Approved January 13, 1830."

This memorial did not receive attention from Con-
gress, but the people had awakened from their apathy,
and academies began to multiply rapidly.


Academies In and Around Tuscaloosa

THE State University had been located in Tus-
caloosa, and when Cahaba proved an undesirable loca-
tion for the capital of the State, Tuscaloosa was chosen
as the best location for the capital. Thus the little
town became a place of much importance and man>
interests centered there.

Before the first decade of Statehood had passed, the
Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists had estab-
lished churches in the town, and were earnestly advo-
cating the establishment of schools.

Common schools had been established, and in 1829
Mr. Edward Sims, an energetic business man. an
ardent Methodist, and a strong advocate of higher
education of women, as a step in that direction built
a large brick house which he offered to the Methodist
Conference for an academy for girls as long as the
Conference would keep a school in it.

A school called " Sims's Female Academy " was
opened in the building in October, 1829, and on Janu-
ary 15, 1830, a charter for this school was approved
by the Legislature of Alabama. This charter, after
granting the usual judiciary powers, and declaring the
corporation perpetual, and giving the trustees power
to establish and break the common seal at will, also
empowered the trustees to make such by-laws as would
not be repugnant to the laws and constitution of the
State and of the United States ; and provided that the
trustees should not at any time hold property of greater
value than twenty thousand dollars; and provided no
religious tenets to the exclusion of others should be
taught. This charter also prohibited the trustees from


dealing in notes, or bills of exchange, or exercising
banking powers.

There is a strange inconsistency between Mr. Sims's
avowed intention of establishing a Methodist academy
and the positive statement in the charter that the tenets
of any one church should not be taught to the exclu-
sion of others. It is very certain that Mr. Sims was
disappointed, and the Sims's Academy passed out of
existence in 1830, after continuing only one year.

It is very uncertain whether the Methodist Confer-
ence ever accepted Mr. Sims's offer, but if it did, its
connection with the school very soon ceased.

Since this school continued for so short a time, little
is known of it, no records are extant, nothing to show
what the curriculum was, except the name " Acad-

When Mr. Sims decided to close the school he sold
the building to Dr. Leach, and it is still known as
the " Leach Place/'

Tuscaloosa Female Association

About the same time the Sims's Academy was char-
tered, at the session of the Legislature of 1830 there
was chartered an association called " The Tuscaloosa
Female Association," whose object was the " promo-
tion of female education, and a higher standard of
morals in the community."

This association thought an undenominational
school preferable to a denominational school. Mr.
Sims did not oppose their plans, but to some extent co-
operated with this association in establishing the Tus-
caloosa Female Academy, which was chartered Janu-
ary 15, 1831.

The first provision of this charter was: Presi-
dent and trustees and stockholders of the association
founded in Tuscaloosa, in 1830, are hereby created a
body politic and corporate in law, with powers to
establish in Tuscaloosa a female academy according


to any plan and system they may see fit. They may
have a common seal, changeable at pleasure."

The usual powers concerning acquisition and dis-
posal of property were granted, and the following ad-
ditional powers : " And finally to do all such things,
by themselves, their agents, trustees or servants as may
be necessary and proper to carry into effect said Female
Academy. The affairs of the corporation are to be
transacted by the president and the trustees. Corpora-
tion property to be exempt from taxation."

Ideas concerning morals have so changed that the
next provision of the charter seems rather a strange
one to twentieth century people; but in the early part
of the nineteenth century it was not uncommon to call
in the aid of the lottery for educational and civic pur-
poses. " Said corporation shall have power to raise
by lottery in one or more classes upon such scheme as
they may devise, any sum or sums of money not ex-
ceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), to be applied
to the use of said Academy." Having granted this
power it was only consistent that they should make
the following prohibition : " Said Academy shall be
purely literary and scientific; and trustees are prohib-
ited from the adoption of any system of education
which shall provide for the inculcation of the peculiar
tenets or doctrine of any religious denomination."

The trustees, thus granted almost unlimited powers,
and provided with a lottery, indulged in " great ex-

In the Tuscaloosa Gazette of September 10, 1830,
under heading, " Tuscaloosa Female Academy," A.
Ready, Esq., secretary of the board of trustees, made
the following announcement : " A union between the
' Tuscaloosa Female Educational Society ' and ' Sims's
Academy ' has been effected. The first session of the
Tuscaloosa Female Academy commenced on Friday,
September 6, 1830, under management of Miss
Brewer, Miss Howe, and Mrs. Robinson. Mr. A.
Pfister and Mrs. Patrick have charge of the music


department. The board is making arrangements for
the erection of a suitable edifice."

This beginning was a favorable augury for the suc-
cess of the school. Music was a great attraction, as
every one was anxious for his daughter to have a
musical education. Mr. Pfister had a favorable repu-
tation as a music teacher, and he also taught French,
which was another popular study.

Notwithstanding the favorable conditions under
which the academy began, its career, for some unex-
plained reason it did not meet the expectations of its
friends and they agreed to promote the establishment
of the Alabama Female Institute. (This institution
will be treated under another chapter.)

Wesley an Academy

This Academy, as its name implies, was under
Methodist direction, but there is no evidence that it
was ever the property of the Methodist Conference
or was controlled by it. Its existence was largely due
to the energy and zeal of Mr. Edward Sims, who be-
gan to plan for the establishment of a Methodist
academy for girls, as soon as the Tuscaloosa Female
Academy was fairly under way. What pressure was
brought to bear upon him to induce him to abandon
the establishment of a Methodist school, when the Sims
Academy was established, or why the charter of the
school he had projected so positively forbade its being
a Methodist school, cannot now be ascertained; but
certain it is, that, though he relinquished his scheme,
and united with the Tuscaloosa Female Educational
Association " in establishing an undenominational
school, The Tuscaloosa Female Academy, he never
entirely abandoned his intention of establishing" a
Methodist academy for girls. He made a decided
effort to have the Alabama Institute a Methodist
school, but failing in that attempt, he purchased the
McLester residence, a large brick building in the


suburbs of the town, and in it the Wesleyan Academy
was opened in 1834. Its charter was approved in


At last Mr. Sims's long desired school was estab-
lished, and the following announcement was made,
July 10, 1836:

" The Wesleyan Female Academy will be prepared
by opening of fall session to accommodate one hun-
dred and fifty pupils. After all our enlarging our fear
is we shall not have room for all who will apply. The
main building and the boarding-house are now
finished, and the large brick building will be finished
in a few weeks. Other buildings and the grounds
will undergo thorough repair.

" Signed, J. FOSTER/'

Miss Chapman was the principal and Mr. Pfister
had charge of the music department.

Mr. Sims offered this school also to the Methodist
Conference, but whether it was accepted or not the
record does not say. However, it had a brief exist-
ence. Tuscaloosa was too small to support so many
schools, and one of them exclusively a Methodist
school. The buildings were sold to Mrs. R. E. Fitts
for $6,000, and Mr. Sims abandoned the idea of a
Methodist school.

Washington and Lafayette Academy

This academy was chartered about the same time as
the Wesleyan, 1835, an< ^ attained its greatest popular-
ity in 1837, when Alexander M. Robinson was prin-
cipal. It continued to flourish for six or seven years,
and then its popularity began to wane, and about 1846
it was closed and the buildings sold for a private
residence. John S. Boale purchased the property and
thoroughly renovated it, and presented it to his
daughter, Mrs. Eddins. In 1905 Sloan purchased it


and converted it into a veritable palace, and it is now
the handsomest residence in Tuscaloosa.

Location of Schools: The Athenaeum was on
East Major street; The Institute, Ninth street and
Twenty-second avenue; Washington and Lafayette,
Tenth street and Twenty-fourth avenue; Wesleyan
Academy, Fourth street and Twenty-fourth and
Twenty-fifth avenues.


Academies Continued

THE interest in the establishment of academies for
girls seems to have revived during the thirties; and
from that time until 1860 twenty-one academies ex-
clusively for girls and sixty-six academies for
boys and girls were chartered ; besides these there were
seven academies for girls whose charters granted the
privilege of conferring certificates or diplomas, and ten
for boys and girls granting such privilege.
The academies exclusively for girls were :

Somerville, Morgan County, chartered January

21, 1824;
Moulton, Jackson County, chartered January 21,


Wesleyan, Tuscaloosa, December 15, 1835;
Talladega, Talladega, January 5, 1836;
Demopolis, Demopolis, December 23, 1836;
Hayneville, Lowndes County, December 15,


Gainsville, Sumter County, December 23, 1837;
Farmer's, Carterville, Butler County, December

23, 1837;

Livingston, Sumter County, January 15, 1840;
Spring Grove, Russell County, January 15, 1840:
Warcoochee, January 15, 1840;
Dayton Association, Marengo County, February

14, 1843 ;

Florence, Limestone County, March 24, 1848;
Uchee, Russell County, March 3, 1848;
Newbern, Green County, March i, 1848;
Carrollton, Pickens County, February 12, 1850;
Citronelle, Mobile County, February 5, 1858;
Palmyra, Barbour County, January n, 1860;


Newbern, Green County, February 9, 1852.

Academies granting honors:

Northport, Tuscaloosa, December 15, 1835;
Jacksonville, Calhoun County, January 28, 1837;
Turnbull, Monroe County, February i, 1843;
Aberfoil, February 15, 1843;
Claiborn, Wilcox County, January 13, 1844;
Mesopotamia, Eutaw, Green County, January 17,

, 1845;

Gainsville, Sumter County, February 8, 1854;
Mountain Home, Lawrence County, February 9

Irwinton, Barbour County, 1835.

Eufaula Female Academy, Eufaula, Alabama, 1844

Eufaula was first settled in 1833, an d incorporated
as Irwinton in 1837. The Irwinton Academy for
girls was incorporated in 1836. By requirement of
its charter it was to be strictly a literary school, and
peculiar tenets of every denomination were prohibited.
The usual privileges of buying, selling, and disposing
of property were granted, but the amount of property
that could be owned by the corporation was limited to
twenty thousand dollars. This charter was approved
January 9, 1836, but was amended December 22, 1836.
This amendment referred mostly to property rights,
but it also empowered the trustees to confer honors on
graduates. In December of the same year an academy
for boys was chartered, and in 1841 these academies
were consolidated and the charter for this school was
approved December 20, 1841.

The name was changed from Irwinton to Eufaula
in 1843, an d in 1844 t^ e Eufaula Female Academy
was established. The " act to incorporate the Irwin-
ton Female Academy," also the " act to consolidate
Irwinton Male and Female Academy," were repealed.
This act was approved January 17, 1844.


The school question was by no means settled, for
the next year another change was made, and the
several acts incorporating the Eufaula Female
Academy and the Alabama Military and Scientific
Institute were repealed and all property belong-
ing to said corporation, also all property belong-
ing to the late Eufaula Male and Female Academy of
Irwinton, was vested in the body corporate of the Male
and Female Academy. This act was approved Janu-
ary 27, 1845. J ust wnv a ^ these changes were made
does not now appear; one fact is well substantiated
at no time were the so-called male and female acad-
emies co-educational.

The last arrangement seems to have lasted until the
academy was merged into the public school, the build-
ings being used for the public school of Eufaula.

The interest in education seems to have been great,
for in spite of the many changes Eufaula always has
had good schools. A few years after the Eufaula
Male and Female Academy was chartered the Metho-
dist Church established a college in Eufaula, which
flourished for a number of years; and was finally
merged into the Eufaula High School.

Union Female College Alabama Brenau,

In 1853 the citizens of Eufaula decided to establish
an undenominational school for the higher education
of women, and in 1854 they put this determination into
practical effect by the opening of what was known
as Union Female College for more than fifty years.
This school belongs now to the Odd Fellows, the
Masons, and the city of Eufaula. The founders ex-
perienced much difficulty in maintaining the high
standard they had planned, and to complete for patron-
age with institutions maintained by the treasury of
the State and denominational support.

The decline began in the seventies, but under able
and persevering presidents it was able to keep its doors


open, with varying degres of success, until 1905, when
for lack of patronage and means the school was
abandoned, as its friends thought, for all time.

Just at this time Presidents VanHoose and Pearce,
of Brenau College-Conservatory, Gainsville, Georgia,
decided to extend the sphere of usefulnes of Brenau
in other States. One of the first cities to attract their
attention was beautiful Eufaula, situated on the
Chattahoochee. When the citizens of Eufaula learned
that there was a possibility of inducing these gentle
men to undertake the task of founding an institution,
they responded instantly to the opportunity.

A subscription of $1,500 was quickly raised for the
purpose of putting the old buildings in first-class re-
pair, and a lease of ten years, free of charge, was
offered the Brenau association. The offer was ac-

The old building of the Union Female College had
been christened " Minerva Hall," on account of the
quaint wooden figure of a woman which crowns the

Online LibraryI. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) BlandinHistory of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. → online text (page 5 of 24)