Mississippi Colleges and Academies

Within the period of Spanish occupation it is possible that there were some attempts at schools among the Methodist settlers of Vicksburg and vicinity, and the Congregationalists and Baptists near Natchez, but such things like Protestant churches would have been innovations on Spanish policy.

There were families, even then, able to hire private tutors and send. their children to eastern or even European colleges, but generally, there was little opportunity for education in the district which constituted the nucleus of Mississippi in 1797. In 1799 Governor Sargent transmitted to Congress a memorial from the inhabitants of Natchez, praying for aid in the establishment of a seminary. Rev. David Ker (q. v.) started the first public school for girls in 1801 at Natchez.

In May, 1802, at a special session of the general assembly, Governor Claiborne particularly urged the establishment of “a seminary of learning” at some central location, fostered by the government, under the direction of a board of trustees. This resulted in Jefferson college (q. v.), founded May 13, 1802, and opened in 1810.

Madison academy near Port Gibson was chartered in 1809; Jackson academy, in Wilkinson county, in 1814; Pinckneyville academy and Williamson academy near Woodville, and Amite academy, in 1815; Shieldsboro academy (Pass Christian) in 1818; Elizabeth female academy at Washington, and Natchez academy, Pearl Hill academy, Jefferson county, and Wilkinson female academy, in 1819; Columbian academy, of Marion county, in 1820. Franklin academy, Columbus, was founded in 1821. After the Choctaw lands were opened to settlement, Mississippi college (q. v.) had its beginnings as an academy incorporated in 1826, and located at Mt. Salus, now known as Clinton, where a building was completed in 1830, with $5,000 State aid. Oakland college (q. v.) was founded in 1830, the first institution of collegiate grade that was successful.

After this the number of academies rapidly increased. Among them were Fayette academy, founded in 1827, which survived many decades; Brandon academy, in operation in 1830 near Fort Adams; the celebrated old Mt. Carmel academy in Covington county; the Vicksburg institute in 1831; the Sharon college and academy for boys and girls, which had a brilliant career until 1861; Holly Springs university, in 1837, the predecessor of St. Thomas’ hall; the Holly Springs female institute, “one of the most successful and useful ever in the State;” the Oxford male and female academy, in 1838, the latter branch of which was merged in the Union female college in 1854, which institution was therefore the oldest college north of Jackson.

In 1839 Jefferson college had been closed for several years; Oakland college was in a prosperous condition; male and female academies were in successful operation at Sharon, Columbus, Holly Springs, Port Gibson and several other places. Mississippi college, at Clinton, was not prosperous.

In 1839 the legislature enacted that the “fines, penalties, forfeitures and amercements,” which had theretofore, since 1821, gone into the Literary fund, should, in certain counties named, go to the support of certain academies, as follows: Port Gibson academy in Claiborne county, Faye.tte academy in Jefferson, Lexington male and female academy in Holmes, Marion academy in Lauderdale, the Orphan asylum in Adams, the Oxford and Wyatt academies in Lafayette, Gallatin female academy in Copiah, Quit-man male and female academy in Newton, Mount Carmel academy in Covington, Raymond, Clinton and Cayuga female academies in Hinds, Monticello academy in Lawrence, Ripley and Salem academies in Tippah, to the erection and support of a hospital and poorhouse in Vicksburg in Warren, to Paulding academy in Jasper, to the Pontotoc female academy in Pontotoc, to the male and female academies in Rankin, to the university and female academy in Marshall, to the Woodville classical school in Wilkinson, to the male and female academies at Starkville in Oktibbeha, to the Kosciusko female academy in Attala, to Macon academy in Noxubee, to the schools on the sixteenth sections in Lowndes, to the Yazoo library association in Yazoo, to the Farmington female academy in Tishomingo, to the Hernando academies in DeSoto, and in other counties to such academies and schools as the board of police should designate.

In 1841 Montrose academy was opened in Jasper county by Rev. John N. Waddel, and Centenary college was established at Brandon Springs, in Rankin county, by the Methodist church, and about that time the first manual training school in Mississippi, Judson institute (q. v.). In all, during the decades 1830-50, 76 academies and colleges were incorporated, and there were many in successful operation without charters. In the decade 1850-60, 35 academies and colleges were incorporated, of which the best known were the Port Gibson collegiate academy, the Eudocia female college (later the Winona district high school) and Whit-worth college. The State University and various other notable institutions are described in special articles. This article is derived mainly from an address by Chancellor Edward Mayes, printed in the State superintendent’s report for 1889. Summerville institute, in the “mountains” of Noxubee, was founded by Thomas S. Gathright in January, 1854. The Columbus male high school was established 1867.

Pass Christian college was founded by the Christian Brothers. Brother Geffery was president in 1871, with fifteen brothers associated. At Dry Grove, Hinds county, there was in 1875 a theological school of the Episcopal church, supported by a missionary fund from the East.

Back to: Mississippi History

Source: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, by Dunbar Rowland.

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