"Pioneer of the
A History Of Burritt College
Table Of Contents
Chapters 1: The Church of Christ And Nineteenth Century
Reform And Education
Chapter 2: Burritt College To The Civil War
Chapter 3: The Unstable Years: 1865-1890
Chapter 4: The Age Of The Phoenix: 1890-1918
Chapter 5: Sunset And Evening Star: 1918-1938
Appendix A: 27th General Assembly Of Tenn. - Burritt
Appendix B: Incorporation Of The Church of Christ In
Appendix C: Rules And Regulations Governing Burritt
Appendix D: Burritt College Courses Of Study For 1871,72
Appendix E: 29th Gen. Assem. Of Tenn., 1851,52 - Incorp.
Of Burritt College Philomathesian Society
Appendix F: Gen. Assem. Of Tenn. 1878 - Incorp. Of Burritt
College Calliopean Society
Appendix G: Literary Programs Of Burritt College
Well Known Christians Related With Burritt College
Historical Marker: Burritt College
Directions To Spencer, Tennessee & Location Of The Remains
Of Old Burritt College Campus
The undertaking of any project
involving research and time requires much assistance on the part of many people.
Cooperation on the part of those without whose help the materials could not be
assimilated; counsel on the part of those whose experience qualifies them to
give advice to the inexperienced; and patience on the part of all those in any
way connected with the project are three qualities which are prerequisite to the
successful conclusion of that project.
The writer wishes to express his
grateful appreciation to the following persons for their cooperation in this
project: first, Miss Mary Gillentine of Hollis, Oklahoma, for her lending the
writer a number of original materials, without which this study would be
incomplete. It is her wish that these materials be placed in the Burritt College
Memorial Library at Spencer, Tennessee, for permanent keeping. The writer has
complied with this wish. Secondly, Creed Shockley of Spencer, Tennessee, who
gave so much needed assistance in revealing to the writer the local history of
Burritt College and Van Buren County. His intimate knowledge of these areas
proved invaluable in this study. Finally, Miss Mattie Cooper, research librarian
at Tennessee Technological University, who cooperated so freely in complying
with the writer's requests for rare and specialized studies unavailable locally,
deserves a special word of thanks.
Remembrance is also made of the wise
counsel and direction provided the writer by his graduate committee chairman,
Dr. H.W. Raper. By his patience and advice the writer was able to complete this
study. The assistance of the other members of the graduate committee, Dr. Nolan
Fowler of the Department of History, and Dr. John Warren, of the Department of
English, Tennessee Technological University, is gratefully acknowledged.
Special recognition is given to Mrs.
John (Lois) Anderson of the Department of English, Tennessee Technological
University, who, despite her very busy schedule, so graciously consented to
proofread this paper. Mrs. Anderson's suggestions proved helpful in eliminating
many incongruities in the mechanics of this paper.
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CHURCH OF CHRIST
CENTURY REFORM AND EDUCATION
The year 1848 was in many ways
pivotal for both Western Europe and the United States. For Europe it was a time
of political crisis and upheaval. Intense nationalistic feelings produced
revolutions in Italy and Prussia, while there were also uprisings in Spain and
Austria-Hungary. In this same year Louis Napoleon of France became President of
the Second Republic following the flight of Louis Philippe from the country.
While Europe experienced political
unrest, the United States was enjoying comparative calm. In January of 1848 gold
was discovered in California; shortly thereafter the treaty ending the war with
Mexico was signed, and later in 1848 Wisconsin became the thirtieth state in the
union, a short time before Oregon was organized as a free territory. Thus the
year 1848 was momentous for both Americans and Europeans in that it was a year
in which economic expansion, political independence, and military conflict
dominated the world scene. Although victory evaded the grasp of many of the
liberal groups in Europe, 1848 was one of the notable years in world history.
For the people of the Cumberland
mountain village of Spencer, Tennessee, the year 1848 was also a momentous one.
The political ferment of Europe and even the events which were changing the
political, economic, and geographic picture of America were very far away;
however, an event more immediate and more personal commanded the attention of
the citizens of the town. It was in the early months of 1848 that a small but
influential group of Spencer's citizens made the decision to establish a college
in the town.
The first idea concerning the
possibility of establishing a college in Spencer is credited to Nathan F.
Trogden, who was by trade a mason and a leading citizen of the village. Trogden
had been contracted to erect a brick courthouse to replace the original log
structure. It was while he was constructing this building that Trogden first
thought about erecting a school for the children of the area. He conveyed his
idea to John Gillentine, a native Virginian whose family was one of the first in
the territory that later became Van Buren County.
Trogden’s proposal was
enthusiastically received by Gillentine and other leaders and resulted in a
general meeting of the citizens from which a board of twenty-six, by Gillentine,
was selected to secure a charter from the state and to set in motion the
administrative machinery of the proposed school.
The first order of business which the new board
took up was the matter of raising funds for the purpose of erecting a building
to house the college. Interested citizens of Van Buren, White, and Warren
counties contributed a sufficient amount of money to warrant construction of the
Nathan F. Trogden was awarded the contract for the building. Trogden cut the
timber for the edifice, hauled it to the site of the campus, dressed the lumber,
and burned the brick, all virtually without help.
The building, a two-storied structure, was not completed in time to begin school
in the fall of 1848; therefore, the opening was delayed until February, 1849.
In selecting a name for the college
the founders desired one which represented the ideals which they sought to
embody in the school: scholarship, the dignity and worth of labor, and service
The name finally chosen was "Burritt College," named for Elihu Burritt of
Worcester, Massachusetts. The founders’ choice of a name has presented a number
of intriguing questions that need to be answered before the study of the college
itself is undertaken. These questions deal mainly with the nature of the
religious group with which Burritt College was associated throughout its
existence. Of special interest is the group’s views on social reform and
education. In order to answer these questions it will be necessary to notice
something of the nature and work of Elihu Burritt.
Elihu Burritt, commonly known in his
lifetime as “the learned blacksmith,” gloried in the concept of
self-improvement, and like many of his contemporaries, became a self-made man.
Though a poor man with few opportunities for education, Burritt through
initiative and determination acquired a working knowledge of approximately fifty
languages. Even more outstanding in Burritt's own life was his ideal to serve
mankind in some humanitarian endeavor rather than to accumulate a personal
fortune, for "unlike most Americans, he had no ambition to rise above the
working class from which he came.
Burritt was born in New Britain,
Connecticut, in 1810. At the age of twenty-seven he moved to Worcester,
Massachusetts, where he was first exposed to the crusade against war, Burritt
aligned himself with these peace forces and therein found his life's work. In
1844 he began the publication of a weekly newspaper, the Christian Citizen,
which was to serve as an Organ for the peace movement until its demise in 1851.
It was Burritt's work with this newspaper that first brought him to the
forefront as a leader of the peace crusade.
In 1846 Burritt went to England to
enlist support for the peace movement. It was here that he first conceived the
idea of a "league of universal brotherhood" whose object was "to employ all
legitimate and moral means for the abolition of all. . .war throughout the
world.” It was not long afterward that he succeeded in setting up this
organization. Burritt was in Belgium establishing local chapters of the league
in 1848, the year that Burritt College was chartered. These undertakings on the
continent brought international fame to Burritt, and the response to his efforts
was so great in Europe that he remained there until 1855, making only two trips
back to the United States during this period.
In addition to the Christian
Citizen, which went defunct in 1851, Burritt also edited The Bond of
Universal Brotherhood, an outlet for the parent league. Burritt served as
co-editor of this paper with Edmund Fry until 1856. The most widely circulated
of all Burritt's printed materials was the so-called Olive Leaves, a
pamphlet which Burritt published periodically and sent to some 1,500 newspapers
in the United States. A number of these pamphlets were sent to a few
newspapers in Tennessee.
Although Burritt's work in the peace
movement in the Northeast contributed much to its success in this area, the work
suffered in other sections of the United States. One of its weaknesses was the
failure to carry its activities in to the South. By 1850 leaders in the peace
effort felt that those most susceptible to the arguments of peace had been
reached and because of this no concerted, effort was made to cultivate the
support of sympathizers in either the South or West.
Until 1854 only a limited number of Burritt’s Olive Leaves, as well as
periodicals of the American Peace Society, had circulated in the South. It was
in this same year that the Reverend William Potter, an agent for the American
Peace Society, toured Tennessee and Alabama and met with what he described as “a
kind reception.” Although many of the citizens were "open to appeals, Potter
wrote that "they were all practically unacquainted with the subject of peace."
There are indications which run
contrary to Potter's view that the citizens of Tennessee and Alabama were not
familiar with the peace movement. In the first place, Potter himself admitted
that the people were "open to appeals," therefore not entirely averse to the
idea of pacifism. Secondly, Burritt himself felt there was sufficient peace
sentiment in Tennessee to warrant a tour through the state on behalf of the
American Peace Society in the mid-1850's.
Finally, that the founders of a college atop Cumberland mountain knew enough of
the work and personality of Elihu Burritt to name a school after him indicates
there was some degree of sympathy, if not outright support for the peace
A contributing factor to the
existence of this sympathy in Tennessee lay in the presence of a large number of
members of the Church of Christ, a splinter group which resulted from the "New
Light" schism in the Presbyterian Church in the early years of the nineteenth
The nature of this group, as well as the loosely-knit organization
characterized the movement prevented any comprehensive unity on the moral and
social questions of the day. Lacking my rigid organization, no one person or
group could pronounce ex cathedra, the church’s official position on
issues such as war, slavery, or education. Many of the more prominent leaders of
this “restoration movement”
maintained the position that these were in the realm of human opinion upon
which, in the absence of explicit instructions from the Bible, the church could
not take a definite stand.
Despite the abstinence by the church
from social issues, many of the more influential leaders spoke out freely on the
problems which faced the church in the nineteenth century. It should be noted,
however, that this response was intended only to point out the Christian's
relationship to them, and not because the leaders were interested in the
problems for their political content.
An example of this response came from
Alexander Campbell, the leader of the restoration movement in Pennsylvania and
Virginia. In speaking on the issue of war Campbell pointed out that war was
immoral because it was the result of rebellion against God. He also emphasized
that Christians could not participate in war because they were pacifists, being
followers of Christ, the “Prince of Peace."
Despite the fact that he did not actively participate in the peace movement of
the time, Campbell nevertheless lent his moral support to it end used every
method short of involvement to assist the effort. The Millennial Harbinger,
Campbell's magazine, was used to reprint the articles of the various peace
organizations as well as report their activities.
The war with Mexico provided the
first real test of the position of the Church of Christ on the question of war.
The pattern of support or denunciation in the church generally followed that set
by other religious groups and was determined partly by the geographic
distribution of the membership and partly by the attitudes of the leadership.
The most vigorous protests to the war came from the Northeast, where the
pacifist sentiment was strongest. The only organized attempt by the church In
this section to express its disapproval of the war came from New England, where
150 members drew up a petition voicing ardent opposition to the war. This
petition denounced the action as an outright invasion of Mexico and identified
the motives as a lust for additional territory and the desire to extend slavery.
The petition further described the continuance of the war as "one of the
greatest crimes against our modern history."
That the most vehement opposition to
the war should come from the North is seen by the fact that over forty per cent
of the congregations of the Church of Christ were located in the East Central
region, composed of the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. On the
other hand the attitude of members in the South was similar to that of other
southerners. The states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi,
contributed 16,000 volunteers for the war, approximately one in 140 for the
white population. This is to be compared to one in thirty-three for the
Southwest area (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas), and one in 2,500 for New
Some of the church's ministers rent so far as to defend the war as a struggle to
free the oppressed people of Mexico from Catholic despotism.
There were exceptions to the pattern
on both sides, however. For example, Campbell, who lived all his life in
Pennsylvania and Bethany, Virginia, now West Virginia, did not oppose the
Mexican war and, in fact, did not take up the anti-war cause until after the
conclusion of the conflict. On the other hand Tolbert Fanning, an influential
Church of Christ minister in the Nashville and Middle Tennessee area, opposed
the war vehemently. Condemning the war as “a violation of Christian ethics,”
Fanning said that Christians could not participate "under any circumstances."
The most pacifistic element within the church
was in Middle Tennessee. The strength of this sentiment was due mainly to the
influence of the many writers and ministers in the area. The most influential of
these was Tolbert Fanning of Nashville, the editor of the Gospel Advocate,
the most effective periodical in the church in the South. It was through the
Advocate that Fanning exercised the greatest authority; however, it was
Fanning who, more than any other man, trained the corps of preachers who
dominated the church in Tennessee and the lower South for the next half century.
It was Fanning's pacifistic pronouncements during the Mexican war that served as
"a solid foundation for the later militant pacifism of church leaders in the
While virtually every major leader in the Church of Christ in Middle Tennessee
followed Fanning's lead, not every lay member agreed with Fanning. In fact, many
of the members of the church in this area "packed their Bibles into saddlebags
and rode off to war."
The same characteristics which divided the
church's thinking on war were also present in the issue on slavery. As in the
question of the Mexican war, the attitudes of the membership were partly
determined by the position of the leaders and partly by geographic distribution,
although again an irregular pattern was followed. Barton Warren Stone, for
example, rejected radical abolitionism in favor of the “humanitarian
emancipation and colonization" of all Negro slaves to Africa, Stone went so far
as to form a colonization chapter in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1830. Hopes for
the success of gradual emancipation waned during this decade, however, and Stone
eventually moved closer to the abolitionist cause.
Like Stone, Alexander Campbell began
his antislavery campaign on a moderate, humanitarian basis. Campbell had been a
slaveholder atone time, but was converted by the anti slavery arguments of his
father, and ultimately freed his slaves on a gradual basis. In 1829 Campbell,
who was well respected in Virginia as an outstanding religious and educational
leader, was elected as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention.
Acceptance of this position brought much criticism upon Campbell, who had
espoused the idea that Christians should not actively participate in
governmental affairs, Campbell's critics accused him of “turning from heavenly
things to follow the path of worldly ambition in politics." Campbell justified
his position by explaining that he "wished to do something toward ending slavery
in Virginia," and that by participating in the convention he might succeed in
As the years passed, it became
evident to Campbell that the moderate position on slavery was a lost cause. As
the abolitionist element in the church in the North and Northeast became more
restless and he was openly attacked for not coming out in favor of immediate
emancipation, Campbell assumed a harder line on the entire question.
Consequently in 1845 he began a series of articles in the Millennial
Harbinger in which he sided with the advocates of abolition. He evaded any
further pursuit of the question by reaffirming an earlier statement that
American slavery was not a religious problem but a political one, therefore, a
matter of opinion rather than faith.
He attempted to discourage any sympathy for slavery by enumerating the economic
risks involved. While admitting that the Bible did not explicitly condemn
slavery, Campbell felt there the real danger to be in the area of a Christian's
responsibility as a steward over his possessions.
Despite the moderate attitude taken
by many of the better known leaders, pockets of militant abolitionism developed
within the church. Nathaniel Field, a minister in Jeffersonville, Indiana, wrote
in 1834 that he had determined not to fellowship as Christians with any who were
slaveholders. John Boggs, abolitionist editor of a Church of Christ newspaper in
Cincinnati, Ohio, remarked that a biblically-founded congregation would not
tolerate slaveholders as members.
Very few ministers in the church
encountered Pardee Butler's experience as an antislavery preacher. Butler had
been instrumental in establishing the Church of Christ in Kansas in the early
1850's as well as assembling the first convention of churches at Leavenworth,
Kansas, in 1857. He first attracted attention when he began to preach
abolitionism from the pulpit. As his sermons became more extreme, Butler was
warned by proslavery elements in Kansas to stop his attacks. When these warnings
proved unsuccessful, Butler was kidnapped by members of the proslavery faction
In Atchinson, Kansas, and threatened with hanging if he did not stop. Rescued
from this, Butler continued his antislavery campaign. Captured again, he was
tarred and feathered and set a drift in the Mississippi river. This failed to
intimidate Butler, however, and he continued to preach abolitionism. The climax
came when the proslavery elements in the churches which supported Butler
withdrew his funds. When he applied to the American Christian Missionary Society
for financial assistance, it offered to provide the aid only if Butler would
"preach the gospel and keep out of politics, which in effect meant to
discontinue his antislavery agitation.
While there existed a distinct
abolitionist group in the Church of Christ camp,
this faction was in the minority, for most members of the church refused to
accept the uncompromising conclusions of radical abolitionism. Numerous church
leaders shared the aversion of many Protestant churchmen to the extreme demands
which the abolitionists espoused particularly after 1830. Such southern
ministers as Tolbert Fanning and Philip S. Fall of Nashville, along with such
border area ministers as Alexander Campbell, John T. Johnson, and Thomas M.
Allen rejected militant abolitionism because "it smacked of a social fanaticism
essentially out of step with the tolerant mind of the restoration movement.
Consequently, they remained “unemotional, rationalistic moderates" and by doing
so kept most of their followers in the moderate camp.
The church's aversion to "preaching
politics” determined the position of many of its leaders on the subject of
slavery. One of the primary tenets of the restoration movement was that church
and state should be distinctly separated. For the Church of Christ the
restoration movement was essentially a religious one with matters of faith
assuming primary importance over all temporal affairs; hence political questions
were relegated to the realm of opinion. This helps to explain why the Church of
Christ never openly split over the issues which divided other religious groups
and resulted in the Civil War.
The comparative unity which existed
among the congregations of the Church of Christ in Middle Tennessee on the issue
of slavery is attributed to a number of factors, he of the most important of
these was the relative freedom of much of the Middle Tennessee economy from
Connected with this is the fact that the appeals of the church found response
among the poorer farming element of the area. Of no small consequence was the
attitude of the Gospel Advocate, the most powerful periodical in the
church in the South. Edited by Tolbert Fanning, the Advocate officially
assumed a neutral position on the question. Unofficially, Fanning leaned
somewhat toward the proslavery camp. He took the liberty to write in the
Advocate that he implicitly accepted the enslavement of the Negro. Fanning
stated the three conditions upon which he could accept this state of affairs:
first, men may be deprived of liberty because they may not be qualified to enjoy
it; secondly, slavery is permissible if it serves the good of those in slavery;
and thirdly, the regard of those whose qualities fit them to rule over others
must be preserved. Fanning was quick to point out, however, that this was only a
personal conclusion and that he could not speak for others on the matter. He
expressed the belief that all social ills could best be alleviated through
In summation, then, the position of the Church
of Christ on the questions of war and slavery hinged primarily upon two factors:
the geographic distribution of the membership and the positions of the
leadership. Members in the North, especially those In New England, were pacifist
icon the topic of war while their counterparts in the South, although deploring
war as an evil, were not entirely averse to the idea of participating in war on
a moral and sectional basis.
On the question of slavery the most
ardent abolitionists in the church were those in New England. These tended to
look upon slavery as a moral wrong that could be neither justified nor
tolerated; therefore, it had to be abolished at all costs. Members of the church
in the South, while regretting the trepidations brought about by the moral
implications of slavery, nevertheless justified its existence. Members in Middle
Tennessee viewed the question as one of a political nature to be settled on an
individual basis by one's conscience. By dismissing the issue in this manner,
they succeeded, in evading any real confrontation which could have divided the
The third issue facing the Church of
Christ in the first half of the nineteenth century was one which confronted the
entire country: education. The trends which characterized American education in
this period were present in the educational efforts of the church. The church
school founded in the nineteenth century was usually designed to meet the needs
of the community in which it was located. It was established either by an
individual or a small group of people affiliated with one of the major religious
groups, With few exceptions the school was beset with numerous problems which
prevented any real progress in providing an adequate education for the public.
The first and often most critical issue which the school had to meet was that of
Churches were expected to supply
students, furnish publicity for the school, and give the school the opportunity
to make its appeal before the congregation "with some degree of sympathy on
Lay members of the region in which a college was located were expected to give
as much as possible toward the maintenance of the institution; however,
donations of money were few and such gifts as were made usually consisted of
labor, agricultural produce, lands, or a combination of these.
Because of the existence of an unsure
source of capital, a college had to struggle over a period of years before it
was either firmly established or suffered its demise because of the lack of
support. In many cases the colleges which became established did so only because
they begged for aid "until even their friends sickened at the sight of a
subscription list and the sounds of old arguments."
When the founding of an educational
institution was not under the auspices of a religious denomination the problems
were more acute. The question of location in such instances was of prime
importance. Competition among the communities was at times so keen that the
entire affair often resembled an auction with the highest bidder receiving the
If the location of a college was settled in this manner, the community which was
awarded the college often found itself unable to support the institution, having
exhausted its resources securing the contract. In such instances the college
often found it less difficult and often necessary to close its doors permanently
rather than attempt to move to a different location. A number of private and
church related colleges met their fate in this way.
problem common to many of the early colleges was internal dissension,
which took on a number of forms. One of these was discipline, perhaps the most
common question facing the schools. The student body often consisted of youth
accustomed to the undisciplined and often capricious conditions of the isolated
communities and the rigid conditions of the classroom often resulted in open
conflicts with the faculty. Dissension also existed between the faculty and the
trustees who exercised considerable authority in planning the policies of the
Natural disasters proved to be a
major problem to the isolated or frontier college. The most common and certainly
the most destructive of these calamities was fire. Many of the schools which had
no permanent endowment with which to provide funds for rebuilding following such
a misfortune were forced to close. A second calamity was disease. Although great
care was taken to choose locations most conducive to the health of the students,
the prevalence of diseases such as malaria, smallpox, cholera, and various
fevers at times led to the suspension of school for prolonged periods. This
problem was uppermost in the minds of the administrators and trustees as they
attempted to persuade students to attend their colleges. One of the most common
advertisements of the school catalogues of the nineteenth century boasted the
fact that the school was located in the best and most healthful environment,
"entirely removed from all malarial influences.
Many of the colleges founded in the
South during the first half of the nineteenth century were the products of
religious effort. Church leaders propagated the idea that education was the
function of religion by predicting that profitable results would benefit society
if education and religion were united and that fearful consequences would follow
if they were not. Between 1820 and 1860 over fifty church colleges were
established in the South. The primary purpose of this outburst of educational
effort was to fulfill the critical shortage of educated ministers. A secondary
purpose was to perpetuate the basic teachings of the church.
Private and denominationally
remained popular in the South longer than elsewhere primarily because the public
high school which replaced the academy was late in coming to the South. These
academies fell into two classifications, the first of which was merely an
expansion of the tutorial system which was common to the South. This type was
highly localized and remained under the control of the individual or group which
had initiated the tutorial system. The other class consisted of larger more
organized efforts which were generally chartered by the state. This type had a
wider patronage because of the excellence of the work offered.
The purposes of the private academies
were "to develop the moral and spiritual natures, give emphasis to the cultural
side of education, and develop a body of intelligent citizens.
Although generally religious in tone, most the academies managed to
avoid the narrow sectarianism which otherwise divided the people of the South
religiously and politically. It should be pointed out, however, that this
non-doctrinaire attitude was necessary in order to win the allegiance and
financial support of the community.
Control of these schools remained in
the hands of the founders or other private individuals who were mentioned in the
charter as a "body politic” or "board of trustees" empowered to set up the
necessary administrative machinery. The board or governing body also exercised
considerable influence over the president and faculty in determining the school
policy. Although classified as "private” schools, these academies in effect were
semipublic institutions, for they relied upon the public including individuals
of other denominations for their support.
The Church of Christ assumed a more
liberal attitude towards education than it did upon the questions of war and
slavery. In fact, education was viewed as a cardinal tenet in the development of
the religious, social, and moral fiber of the nation as well as the members of
The acceptance of the responsibility to educate its members was stressed as one
of the three chief functions of the church.
The first college established by the
Church of Christ in the South was Bacon College, founded in 1836 at Georgetown,
Walter Scott, one of the outstanding leaders of the restoration movement in
Kentucky, as one of its first presidents. While a number of other colleges were
founded in the first half of the nineteenth century, none exceeded Bethany
College in prestige and influence. Founded by Alexander Campbell in 1840 in
Bethany, Virginia, now West Virginia, the school was primarily a "preacher's
school," although it attempted to cater to the needs of every student.
Franklin College, founded in 1845,
was the first Church of Christ college in Tennessee. Located some five miles
east of Nashville, the school, a product of Tolbert Fanning, reflected the
conservative ideas of Fanning and other leaders of the church in the area.
Although it was in existence for less than a quarter of a century, Franklin
College exercised considerable influence upon members of the Church of Christ in
Middle Tennessee. One of the primary reasons for the school’s failure was
Fanning's refusal to acceptor seek monetary endowment.
In this matter Fanning encountered
the opposition of Campbell, who recognized the necessity of providing some sort
of permanent support. Said Campbell, "Not a College in the world has existed one
century without endowment, nor can they. This fact is worth a thousand lectures.
Can any one name a College that has seen one century without other funds than
the fees or tu1tion?"
Despite Campbell's warnings against the failure to provide such an endowment,
schools supported by the Church of Christ continued to spring up without this
Franklin College was unique among
early church of Christ schools because it was opened as a manual labor school.
One of Fanning's purposes in operating the school was to bring education within
the reach of the poor. Perhaps this explains the silence of Franklin's charter
on the subject of religion. Although Fanning proposed to use the Bible as a
textbook in the school, he did not intend that the college be denominational in
any way, or for it to be a "preacher's school.” In addition, the school had no
requirement that the board and faculty be members of the Church of Christ,
although most were.
An important adjunct of the
educational efforts of the church was coeducation. Campbell was among the first
to voice his approval of this undertaking. In 1838 he wrote:
education of the female sex, I contend, is at l east of equal importance to
society as the education of our own. In moral results it is perhaps greater.
Their influence in extending and perpetuating general education, as well as
their moral influence, is likely to be greater than ours.
Coeducation in the church's schools
was concentrated primarily in the North because higher education for women in
the South came from schools designed especially for them.
Consequently coeducation in institutions of higher learning was unknown in
Tennessee during the first half of the nineteenth century. Burritt College was
the first school in the state and the South to admit girls on an equal basis
The founders of Burritt College chose
the name of Elihu Burritt to affix to their school because they admired the
initiative, perseverance, and determination which characterized Burritt's rise
to national prominence.
While there was not an overwhelming amount of pacifistic sentiment within the
Church of Christ, there was nevertheless a sufficient amount for the small band
of Christians in the isolated village of Spencer, Tennessee, to know of the life
and work of one of the outstanding leaders in the peace movement. Generally the
Church of Christ followed the pattern set by other religious groups in questions
such as war and slavery. Geographic distribution of the membership and the
stands taken by the leadership determined the thinking of the laity; however,
deviation from this pattern was exhibited.
Burritt College epitomized the
attitudes taken by the Church of Christ on the matter of education and also
reflected the traditional developments in the educational field during the first
half of the nineteenth century. Problems of discipline, administration, finance,
and maintenance which plagued the frontier college combined to shape the destiny
of Burritt College as the "pioneer of the Cumberlands."
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BURRITT COLLEGE TO THE CIVIL WAR
The story of Burritt College is the
story of Van Buren County, for whatever prestige the area has received has been
the result of Burritt’s presence. The own of Spencer
owes its existence to Burritt College, for many parents who enrolled their
children in the school moved to Spencer to eliminate many of the costs of
education. The conditions and circumstances surrounding the establishment of
Burritt College are closely connected with the history of Van Buren County.
The people who settled the Cumberland
Plateau in the latter half of the eighteenth century came mainly from North
Carolina and Virginia, They were of basic Scotch-Irish stock with strongly
Calvinistic concepts, Among the prominent family names who settled the area in
the nineteenth century were Clark, Walling, Glllentine, Stewart, Parker, Smith,
Seitz, Trogden, and York.
In 1839 state senator Samuel Hervey
Laughlin of McMlnnville
received a petition from Uriah York, William Armstrong, and others, containing
the names of "three or four hundred citizens” of the Caney
Fork, Rocky River, and Cane Creek areas of Warren County requesting the
establishment of a new county. Laughlin succeeded in getting the legislature to
authorize the new county, which he named Van Buren, after the eighth president
of the United States.
The town of Spencer was settled shortly thereafter and was named by Samuel
Turney, state senator from White County.
A.K. Parker, a native Virginian who owned some 5,000 acres of land in the
vicinity of Van Buren County, deeded fifty acres of land for the town site and
built the first house there. John Gillentine, also a Virginian, followed Parker
into the area and along with John Stewart built a storehouse and a small log
structure which served as the first courthouse.
The first court was held on April 6, 1840.
Spencer was isolated from the main
arteries of transportation of the area. The nearest towns were McMinnville,
eighteen miles west, and Sparta, fifteen miles north. Roads leading to and from
Spencer were extremely rough, and a journey to either of these towns usually
required several hours, particularly on the return trip up the mountain. The
Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis railroad, the only other means of
transportation serving the area, was not begun until 1848 and was not completed
until 1853. The nearest branch of this line was located at Doyle Station, nine
miles north of Spencer, in White County.
Initial census reports for Van Buren
County, conducted in 1850, indicate the county had a population of 2,674,
while Spencer's population stood at 164.
was the latter group which made the decision to establish a college in Spencer,
although support for the undertaking was promised by the people In the county as
well as citizens living in the surrounding counties. This support was given
despite the number of educational efforts already underway. However, the group
responsible for the establishment of Burritt College felt the need to found a
school of higher caliber than that of existing institutions.
In addition, the isolation of the community, compounded by poor transportation,
plus the inability of the people of the county to send their children to better
schools in McMinnville or other towns
prompted the people of Spencer to go ahead with plans for the college.
Of no small consequence was the fact
that most of the colleges of the area were associated with religious bodies
other than the Church of Christ.
Arguments among members of this group expressing the desire for a college
resembled that later advanced by J.A. Hill, a future secretary of Burritt's
board of trustees. In arguing that the school have a religious emphasis, Hill
As a people of the South and
Southwest we are not very far behind the foremost, in numerical strength, and
material Resources, yet what have we done in preparing for the education of the
rising generation, nay, even our own children?
While the Methodists have a
magnificent university at Nashville, the Baptists one at Jackson, the
Presbyterians one at Clarksville, the Cumberlands one at Lebanon, the
Episcopalians one at Sewanee, what have we? Where have we a first-class college
in the South built by our money, and controlled by us as a people, to which we
may send our children, where our morals will be safe, and their education
In short, then, Nathan F. Trogden’s earlier
suggestion of April, 1848, that a college be established in Spencer was readily
accepted by the townspeople, because the conditions made such a suggestion
feasible and attractive.
The charter granted to the
stockholders made them “a body politic and corporate by the name of Burritt
College, and shall under that name have succession for five hundred years.” Each
stockholder was given one vote for each share of stock he held. This arrangement
made it possible for the school to be dominated by one man or a syndicate
representing the policies or interests of one man, and it resulted in a number
of conflicts between the president of the college and the stockholders. From the
stockholders a board of twelve trustees was to be chosen, with the president to
be an ex officio member. These trustees, whose terms ran for two years,
had the power to elect the president, hire "such professors, tutors and other
officers. . .as they may deem necessary," and make "such by-laws, rules, and
regulations as in their opinion may be expedient or necessary,"
Also delegated to them was the authority to subscribe stock in the college,
contract the building of additional structures on the campus, and advise the
president on the policy of the school.
Upon completion of the main
structure, the school opened on February 26, 1849, with seventy-three students
and three teachers.
The total amount of money available to the college that year from all sources,
primarily tuition and donations, amounted to $1,500.
Isaac Newton Jones, a native of McMinn County, Tennessee, and one of the chief
promoters of the college, was the first president. Although he was well liked by
the trustees, Jones lacked the academic training needed for the position.
Consequently the school failed to make the progress the trustees desired. Jones
succeeded, however, in establishing the type of curriculum which Burritt was to
follow for sixty years virtually without change. The basic courses comprising
the curriculum were classical and included Latin, Greek, philosophy,
mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, and evidences of Christianity.
After serving one year Jones
resigned, He and W.B. Huddleston, a member of the board of trustees, secured the
services of William Davis Carnes to succeed Jones as president.
Expanding upon the start made by Jones, Carnes made Burritt the well-respected
institution it was, for he shaped its policies and set its standards. That the
trustees were pleased with his administration is seen by the fact that Carnes,
with the exceptions of William Newton Billingsley and Henry Eugene Scott, served
as president of Burritt longer than any other man.
born in Lancaster district, South Carolina, in
1805, but moved with his parents to McMinnville, Tennessee, when he was five.
His childhood was spent in Warren and Rutherford counties. After marrying at an
early age, he moved to the Sequatchie valley, where he became a successful
farmer as well as a preacher for the Church of Christ. Without formal education,
Carnes determined to secure his formal training and was persuaded by a professor
James Garvin of East Tennessee College to enroll in that school. After selling
his farm in Pikeville, Carnes moved his family of seven to Knoxville in 1839, at
which time he entered the school. He was then thirty-four years of age.
Carnes finished the school's four
year course in three years and went on to receive the master's degree from the
same institution. Upon completion of this degree Carnes was made principal of the
preparation department. After two years in this capacity he became a professor
of English language and literature.
A serious illness forced Carnes to abandon his teaching duties at East Tennessee
College, and he returned to Pikeville, where he farmed and taught locally until
the presidency of Burritt was offered to him. Carnes accepted the position when
he learned that he would be given a free hand to initiate whatever reforms he
deemed desirable and that the trustees, especially Jones and Huddleston, were
members of the Church of Christ.
Upon becoming president in 1850
Carnes initiated several reforms in the school's operational make-up. During his
first year Carnes introduced coeducation at Burritt, a step taken despite much
opposition on the part of many supporters and citizens in Spencer. It was this
step which had the most far-reaching effect in Burritt's history, for it singled
the school out as the pioneer in bringing coeducation to the South. Many of the
school's supporters looked upon this move as a dangerous experiment at best. Few
parents regarded their daughters safe at a boarding school where they would be
associated with the boys almost as intimately as sisters with brothers in the
To offset this opposition Carnes erected a small dormitory adjacent to his house
and appointed his daughter Mary the head of the female department.
While there was some dissent among Burritt officials over the acceptance of
girls at the school, most defended Carnes' action by emphasizing that it was
. . .God's law that the young of the opposite
sexes should exert a healthful influence in the formation of each other's
characters, and no place is better fitted to this purpose than the class room
and lecture room. By being continually associated at the table and in the class
room, the young man does not lose his gentleness nor the young lady her
strength. . . . Parents having boys and girls to educate can place them all at
the same institution, where brothers and sisters can enjoy each other's society.
Despite this support, however, the
pressures and opposition of members of the Church of Christ in the area forced
Burritt officials to include in the school's regulations a rule governing the
male-female relationship on campus.
This rule forbade all oral and written communication between the students except
that permitted by the faculty. This rule did not apply to brothers and sisters,
however, so long as they did not abuse the privilege by seeing and speaking to
others at the time of visiting each other.
Failure to comply with this rule resulted in suspension of both boys and girls
for a lengthy period.
The rule was lifted only for special occasions such as athletic events or school
picnics to nearby Falls Creek Falls on weekends. These chaperoned dates were the
only ones permitted by school Officials.
In keeping with the general purpose
of the school to develop the complete student, the social relation of the sexes
was made "an object of sleepless vigilance." All social meetings including the
weekly debates of the literary societies
were arranged by the president. The daily chapel exercises followed rigid
patterns with boys and girls marching into the auditorium separately and being
seated on separate sides of the auditorium with a rope between them designating
It was because of such close supervision that coeducation was maintained and
later won the approval of even the most severe critics. Carnes continued the
classical curriculum which Jones had introduced the first year; however, he
modified it somewhat to conform to that of East Tennessee University.
Among the modifications was the inclusion of a number of elective courses not
included in the first year's curriculum. These included French, German, drawing
and painting, instrumental music, and needlework and embroidery.
Each student was required to take at
least three but not more than four courses in any term unless approval was
granted by the faculty. While all students were enrolled either in the "regular
course or the "English department," the college was divided into two levels,
each with its own course of study, The first of these, the academical
was subdivided into two classes, with the first, or lower class, required to
take Latin, mathematics, geography, orthography (spelling), and writing the fall
term, while the only change for the spring session was the deletion of
orthography and the addition of history. Greek and English composition were the
only additions to the second class.
In the collegiate department Latin,
Greek, and mathematics were required of freshmen, sophomores, and I juniors.
Freshmen also were offered physiology, sophomores had rhetoric and logic,
juniors found surveying, philosophy, political philosophy, and botany a part of
their course of study. The only major changes in requirements occurred in the
senior curriculum, Latin was deleted altogether and mathematics was required
only for the fall session. In place of these chemistry and mental philosophy
were offered the first term, along with geology and political philosophy. The
spring session included astronomy, moral philosophy, theology, criticism, and a
general review of Latin and Greek.
Chapel attendance was made an
integral part of the daily exercises by Carnes and was required of every
student. In addition, Carnes required a half hour of calisthenics each day;
however, the gymnastics program was not made a permanent part of the curriculum
The collegiate year was divided into
two terms of twenty-one weeks each, and were classified "fall" and “spring”
terms. The fall session began the last Wednesday in July, and the spring term
started the last Monday in February.
The courses offered in each of the departments were one-term courses. This
permitted students to attend school in "broken terms.” Many took advantage of
this arrangement to attend the fall session and work the spring term, Inasmuch
as most of the boys had to assist in farm work in which most of their parents
were engaged. Consequently the educational career of many students extended over
a number of years.
Each of the terms amounted to one academic year. This arrangement made it
possible for Burritt students to complete two academic years in two terms and
also explains why many students finished at an early age.
College offered the Bachelor
of Arts degree during the early years and by 1871 was offering its equivalent to
The Master of Arts degree was conferred upon those who had "attained to fair
scholarship, and to eminence in some literary or professional calling."
Entrance requirements for the school were
liberal. The only condition which prospective students had to meet was to
"present satisfactory evidence of good moral character; to read (or have read)
the laws of the institution; and to pay the required contingent fees cash in
Expenses were charged by the term and remained fairly constant throughout
Maintenance fees and tuition charges ran as follows:
Tuition in the primary department, per session
Tuition in the advanced branches, per
Boarding and washing, per
Contingent Fee per session ………………………………. 1.00
Tuition On The Piano, (extra) ……………………………
Use of the instrument, (extra) …………….…………..
Tuition On The Guitar, (extra) …………………………..
Tuition on the
Tuition on the violin …………………………...............
Tuition in painting and drawing
Tuition in French
Tuition in Drawing, (extra) ………………………………....
Fuel and candles will be furnished by the
Students entering within two weeks of the
school's opening were charged full tuition; those entering after that time were
to pay from the time of entrance. The only exception to this rule was in cases
of protracted sickness which amounted to at least two weeks atone time. Students
who were expelled forfeited the entire amount.
Carnes’ first year as president
proved so successful that Burritt outgrew its facilities.
He urged the trustees to issue a new stock subscription to build additional
dormitories, but when his request was turned down he sold his farm in Pikeville
and gave the money toward the erection of the needed buildings. The result was
three small brick edifices which served as dormitories for boys. In return for
his action the trustees awarded Carnes stock in the college at par value equal
to the amount he invested in the structures. These shares in addition to those
he already owned gave Carnes a controlling interest in the college.
During his first year Carnes
introduced the practice of Bible reading as an integral part of the students'
activities on campus. Although Carnes' real interest was in secular education
and the establishment of academic quality, it was through his influence that the
school's atmosphere became congenial to religious interests.
To help facilitate the study of the Bible by students, Carnes required them to
attend Wednesday evening Bible classes and Sunday School. Both of these were
conducted in the school auditorium. Sunday morning services were held in the
It has been said that this high moral and religious tone was one of the primary
reasons for Burritt’s growth.
Considered a pioneer among the
Churches of Christ in the South in combining a career of teaching and preaching
Carnes established himself as a strong disciplinarian. He viewed one of
Burritt's highest functions to be the building of Christian character. To
accomplish this, he "strove religiously to lay the foundation. . .of virtue,
honesty, and perseverance.” While attempting to establish high scholarship and
efficiency at the school, he also sought to make Burritt "the School of the
Burritt's supporters were in full
agreement with this principle. In their view,
it was not necessary that the institution have
two hundred, one hundred and fifty, or even one hundred students; but it is
necessary that it should have a class of high-minded, noble, Christian young men
and young ladies. For the education of such we devote our time and means, and
have none of these to give to those who do not intend to make such characters.
Because of Carnes' strictness and the
strong skepticism of some supporters of the school among members of the Church
of Christ that coeducation would succeed, every attempt was made to control the
students activities on campus.
Despite these efforts, however, a number of problems with discipline developed,
The greatest of all was whiskey as the hills surrounding Spencer abounded in
“moonshine" operations. Disregarding the warnings of the school regulations and
those issued periodically by the faculty, a number of young men brought whiskey
onto the campus. Attempts by the faculty to curb its use were thwarted by the
fact that the owner of one of the stills from which the students received their
supply was a preacher "of great influence.
In order to help combat the threat
which whiskey presented, the faculty was given additional powers to govern more
closely the activities of the boarding students. It was part of their duty to
know how, when, and where the young man spends
all his time. It is fully realized that when a large number of young men are
associated together at college, without parental advice or restraint, some of
them will go to ruin unless the teachers take the place of the parents, and, by
wholesome restraint, control their inclinations and desires and, by salutary
advice, direct their young footsteps into the way of virtue.
this step failed to solve the problem, Carnes submitted to the trustees a
resolution which imposed severe academic restrictions and penalties upon
students who were in any way associated with the liquor traffic. The trustees
granted approval to these limitations, and as a result a number of students were
expelled from school. There were occasions in which twelve or more students many
of whom were “scions of prominent families” were expelled at one time.
This fact did not prevent Carnes from executing the rules of the college in an
impartial fashion, however, The upshot of this policy was to provoke the
resentment of a number of his supporters in Spencer, Tennessee, many of whom
broke with him openly calling him "a tyrant and a fanatic."
When the whiskey problem persisted,
Carnes proceeded with the assistance of state representative, John Myers of
to draw up a proposal forbidding the sale of intoxicants "within four miles of a
chartered institution of learning except in incorporated towns and cities," and
went to Nashville to secure such a law.
Shortly after Carnes returned from
Nashville his home in Spencer mysteriously burned. While he had no proof as to
the cause of the fire, Carnes believed it to be the work of persons who opposed
his efforts to eliminate the whiskey threat at Burritt.
Carnes was so embittered by this act that he sold his stock to the other
stockholders, resigned a s president, and moved to Knoxville, where he assumed
the presidency of East Tennessee University.
Carnes was a vital asset to Burritt, for he stabilized it and provided the
forceful administration needed to assure its future growth.
Carnes was succeeded as president by
John Powell, who, like Carnes, was both a minister and educator. Powell, a
native of McMinnville, had served as president of Central Female Institute there
before coming to Burritt.
Little is known of Powell except that as president of Central Female Institute
he was described as "an efficient tutor and a man of fine accomplishment and
Powell's first term
proved to be uneventful. The political developments which culminated in the
Civil War prevented Powell and school officials from doing little more "than
hold the school together.”
The school closed completely in 1861 following the conclusion of the spring
One of the more immediate reasons for the closing was that many of the boys
volunteered in the Confederate army.
A more significant reason was that Powell could not prevent a schism from
developing between the trustees and himself.
With the suspension of school in 1861
and the enlistment of many of Burritt's male students, Spencer became more
isolated and deserted; however, this isolation helped the town to escape the
ravages of the armies as they maneuvered through Middle Tennessee. The nearest
military posts were located at McMinnville and Sparta, but the roads leading to
Spencer proved so unsatisfactory that even the foraging parties of the armies
made no attempts to penetrate in to the valleys surrounding the town until the
Federal troops occupied the area during the closing months of the war.
Like their southern counterparts in
the Mexican war, many members of the Church of Christ in Spencer "packed their
Bibles into their saddlebags and rode off to war.” The majority of the people in
Spencer and Van Buren County were sympathetic with the southern cause and
continued to support it throughout the war, although this support was rather
inactive during Federal occupation of the area.
Volunteers from Burritt College and
Van Buren county composed one of ten companies from seven Middle Tennessee
counties which fought under Colonel John Savage of McMinnville, commander of the
Sixteenth Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers.
Company I, composed of men from Van Buren county, consisted of 121 men and
officers. The fourth ranking officer of the company was Third Lieutenant A.T.
who graduated from Burritt in 1854 and who became its sixth president.
Also included in the ranks of Carroll
Henderson Clark, later an ardent supporter and trustee of Burritt College.
Although he was not educated at Burritt, Clark did receive what schooling he had
at Spencer, where he had moved with his parents in 1846 at the age of four, He
received his earliest education in an old schoolhouse which was minus a floor
and chimney. For a time he studied under a Reverend Patrick Moore. Later he attended York Academy in Spencer.
It was while he was a student here that the
Civil War broke out, and he left to enlist in the Confederate army as a private.
During the winter of 1863 Carnes
moved his family from Nashville to Spencer because the mountain town "was
comparatively free from restraints” brought on by the war.
Upon finding out that Carnes had moved back to Spencer, the town's citizens made
numerous requests upon him to open a "war school" on Burritt's campus. While
willing to do so, Carnes expressed the fear that either Federal troops in the
area or bands of Confederate guerrillas in the mountains would prevent such an
undertaking. Carnes' reluctance was prompted by the knowledge that the leader of
the guerrillas was the owner of a tavern in Spencer when he had attempted to
secure a prohibition law in 1856 forbidding the sale of liquor near Burritt.
Despite the objections, however,
Carnes was persuaded by his friends to attempt the establishment of a school at
Burritt. With the assistance of Judge Thomas N. Frazier
Carnes persuaded the commander of the Federal troops in the area
to issue a special order granting immunity and protection to the property of
The school opened in January of 1864
and stayed in operation for two sessions.
The second session was marred by reports that the Confederate General, Joseph
Wheeler, was to make a raid through Middle Tennessee in an effort to drive the
Federal troops from the area. Southern sympathizers in Spencer met this news
with joy, giving Federal troops in the area much concern, who complained that
Spencer was "a nest of Rebels who made the school a pretext for gathering there
to give aid and comfort to the guerrillas.” A detachment of Federal troops
closed the school and sent the students and temporary residents home.
Following the breakup of the school,
Federal soldiers occupied the school grounds. The buildings were used as
barracks for the soldiers while the dormitories served as stables for the
horses. By the conclusion of the war the campus was laid waste; the buildings
partially destroyed and the student body scattered.
Thus the efforts to reopen Burritt in 1866 were made more difficult than they
would have been had the school grounds remained intact, However, the spirit of
the school's supporters, as symbolized by the name and seal of the school,
triumphed in the end and allowed Burritt College to become one of the most
influential schools in Middle Tennessee following the Civil War.
Thus the Civil War that closed
Burritt's doors temporarily also closed the first chapter of its history. This
chapter was a successful one, for despite the problems of administration,
discipline, financing, and isolation, Burritt’s leaders succeeded in
establishing "a school of the heart," one which became a fortress of knowledge
for the folk of the Cumberland Plateau.
The characteristics which typified
the school throughout its history were due mainly to the work and influence of
President Carnes. The school's reputation as a stronghold of discipline, moral
strength, and Christian principles permeated the entire area for the next
Back To Top
THE UNSTABLE YEARS: 1865-1890
The year 1865 brought peace to the
South; however, little else remained the same as it was prior to the war. The
economy was changed and the lives of the people made more adverse by the
accompanying political and social difficulties. While they escaped the harsher
indignities of the postwar depression, residents of Spencer, nevertheless, felt
the repercussions of having lost the war. The town already isolated by its
geographic and economic conditions became even more separated from the
surrounding area. In fact, Spencer experienced a loss in population because of
the acute economic conditions, declining from just over 400 to 283.
Despite the setbacks brought on by the war and
the ensuing depression, the friends and supporters of Burritt determined to
reopen the school. In 1866 the trustees sold part of the college grounds to
raise funds to repair the damaged buildings. Not having an endowment,
the college had no available funds from which to draw teacher’s salaries or
operating expenses. Consequently the trustees continued the policy first
enunciated in the charter which stipulated that teachers accept shares of stock
in the college as payment of salary. With this condition the meager faculty
returned to the school in January of 1867. At that time the college was
Martin White was chosen as the first
postwar president. White, a native of Virginia, had walked from North Carolina
to Spencer as a young man to enter Burritt.
White remained at his alma mater for three years and devoted himself to trying
to rebuild the school to its former stature. These efforts were compounded by
the difficulty in raising funds. As a result the growth of Burritt was
negligible during his term. Only two students were graduated during the first
two years; however, by 1869 most of the former students had returned, and this
resulted in an increased graduating class in 1869 and 1870.
Because of ill health White resigned
in 1870 and was succeeded by a former Burritt president, John Powell,
whose second term, like the first, was without any significant events. At the
close of the 1872 session Powell had sold his stock to one of the trustees
Elijah Denton, who was given the responsibility of finding a successor to
Powell. Denton, a close friend of William Davis Carnes, persuaded Carnes to
return to the school and assume the presidency.
Carnes was at this time the president of Manchester College, another school
supported by the Church of Christ. He resigned his position in the spring of
1873 end returned to Burritt.
At the time of his resignation from the Manchester school he had been president
of that institution for seven years.
With a seemingly natural bent for
challenges, Carnes set about to make Burritt the prestigious school it was
before the Civil War. Because of his advanced age, however, Carnes did not
experience the success which characterized his first term.
In addition, the concern for morality and discipline assumed first place in
Carnes' priorities for the school at a time when the harder realities of finance
and aggressive leadership were more needed. Consequently progress at the
Cumberland mountain school was delayed by many years until new blood was
introduced into to the leadership.
In keeping with his concern for the
moral development and strong discipline of the students, Carnes first enunciated
the daily routine governing the students' activities. The school day began at
five in the morning and extended until nine o'clock in the evening. The students
spent the first half hour of each day arranging their rooms for inspection.
Following this, one hour was devoted to study and class preparation before
breakfast. After the morning meal the students marched in to the auditorium for
a thirty minute devotional period, which consisted of singing, prayer, and on
occasions a talk by the president or a prominent visiting preacher.
At eight-thirty the students practiced vocal music. Class recitations followed
until twelve o'clock when one and one-half hours was given to lunch. Recitations
then continued for the remainder of the afternoon.
At the conclusion of the class day
another devotional period was conducted, which, like the one in the morning,
each student was required to attend. The evening meal concluded the day's
activities. Following the meal the students were required to spend two hours in
private study in their rooms. At nine o'clock a bell ending the day was rung.
Each student has to be in bed and have his light out when the bell rang, or
stern disciplinary action was taken.
To insure that all students adhered to the rules, the faculty reserved the
right to make room checks "to see if the occupants are engaged in legitimate
A later president explained that this rigid schedule was necessary "in order for
the student to accomplish the most work, and we have observed that the youth
require close attention in order to get them to direct their efforts in the
Remembering his experiences with the whiskey
problem, Carnes redoubled his efforts to control the students' activities on
campus. The results of these attempts were so effective that a half century
later the school was still following the principles first enunciated by Carnes.
As late as 1914 the purpose of the discipline at the school was "to save young
men from their evil propensities and appetites and to make them honorable,
noble, and useful citizens." It was much better for the young men to be
uneducated than be "bankrupt in morals." Declaring that hundreds of young men
had been ruined in the colleges because they were turned loose in "large cities,
full of vice, wickedness, and dissipation, with none but the wicked to guide
their footsteps," Burritt determined to avoid such effects by exercising at all
times "the closest scrutiny" over the young men committed to its care. When, in
the eyes of the school, a young man displayed a will which could not be
controlled, he was sent home.
All behavior "calculated to corrupt
the morals of youth” was prohibited. Swearing, the use of obscene language,
gambling, card playing, smoking, and drinking were forbidden.
Later the school limited the number of visits to the parents and other relatives
who lived out of town that a student could make. “Such visits,” it was believed,
"cause students to lose a good portion of time, and often loss of lessons of
importance, and imperfectly learn others essential to their progress.” It was
also believed that visiting "begets restlessness in the whole class, until many
want to visit home and friends when it is impossible for them to do so.
Student life, then, was somewhat
austere and simple, but was an a high intellectual and religious plane. Because
of the close supervision and limitations of the students, extracurricular
activities took on greater importance in campus life. Such activities centered
primarily around the weekly debates conducted between the two literary societies
formed by the students. The first of these, the Philomathesian Society, was
founded in 1851 by twenty-four male students "for the purpose of mutual
improvement in the arts and sciences," to interest students "in the world's
truly great literature," and to cultivate the students' social characteristics.
The Philomathesians debated questions
of literary, religious, and social merit; however, the bulk of the debates
consisted of rhetorical and classical subjects, inasmuch as the constitution
forbade the discussion of any question "either political or immoral or bordering
on immorality or sectarian," Despite the restriction, however, questions of a
political nature proved to be one of the favorite topics of the society. Among
the topics which brought lively discussion from the members were: "That
Napoleon’s banishment to St. Helena was justifiable;" "That Robert E. Lee was a
better general than Grant;” “That the Southern States had a constitutional right
to secede from the Union;" and "The Merits of Socrates as a philosopher.”
All male students were eligible for
membership into the Philomathesian Society, The membership fee was fifty cents,
and monthly dues amounted to ten cents per member.
A two-thirds vote of the membership was necessary to ratify a new member.
Initiation consisted of a simple oath of allegiance by the prospective member
"to promote the welfare of the society."
Failure to adhere to the rules of the society
resulted in fines and exclusion from meetings. Fines were levied against members
for passing between the president and the speaker, speaking without first rising
to the feet, speaking without first addressing the president, resting feet upon
society property, leaving the room without permission, impersonating the
president, and spitting upon the walls, carpet, and furniture. In such instances
the guilty party was fined not less than ten cents nor more than twenty-five
cents for each misdemeanor.
The second of the literary societies
was the Calliopean Society, founded in 1878.
The charter members consisted of thirteen members of the Philomathesian Society.
Conducted similarly to the Philomathesian Society, the Calliopean Society was at
first open only to boys; however, after the Philomathesians accepted girls into
membership In 1885, the Calliopeans followed suit in 1887.
This action "became a healthful factor in the social, as well as the
intellectual, development of these organizations.”
The school set Saturday aside as the
day on which the two societies conducted their discussions. At first the boys
refused to let the female members participate in these discussions with them;
instead the girls were given one Saturday each month to themselves, whereas the
male members reserved the other three Saturdays for their discussions. After the
school fire in 1906, however, a new policy initiated by the societies permitted
the girls to engage in all the activities on an equal basis with the boys.
What library the school possessed was
built by the literary societies. This library began with an old dry goods box
and a few used books but by the time of the fire in 1906 each society had
collected nearly a thousand volumes.
The fire destroyed most of these, however; in 1915 the Calliopean Society could
boast of a library of only "several hundred volumes.”
By 1925, however, the two societies possessed a combined library of
approximately 3,000 volumes. This growth was made possible by monetary donations
and private collections that were given to the societies, like that of a wealthy
Florida planter, who contributed a valuable library of several hundred volumes.
In addition, the college on its own acquired a library of 2,000 volumes,
one-half of which was religious in nature, consisting of reference works,
commentaries, books of sermons, biographies of preachers, and related works.
The literary societies not only
provided the students with the bulk of their outside activity, but were also
looked upon as being "an important additional means of culture” for the
students, and were considered as important as any other feature of the college.
It was through these societies that students could secure "Independent thought,
critical investigation, and ready utterance. . . Besides, it begets a confidence
students so much need, and wear off the embarrassment [sic] they all feel when
appearing before an audience, to give utterance to their thoughts,
Because of the experience gained in debating and public speaking, many of
Burritt's students went on to achieve notable careers in public office.
Shortly after Carnes arrived at
Burritt, Dr. Thomas Wesley Brents, physician and a member of the Church of
moved to Spencer and suggested the ideas of expanding the facilities of the
college in an effort to restore the school's prestige and prosperity. It was
Brents' belief that the school was unstable because it was not meeting the
academic needs of the students, due to the conservative policies of the
administration. Brents proposed the initiation of a fund drive to help build a
new campus, purchase additional land, and buy new equipment for the school.
Impressed with Brents' enthusiasm and suggestion, the trustees with Carnes'
approval employed Brents to engineer a drive for the sale of stock for the
stated purpose of securing funds to erect “a new Burritt College.” Brents proved
successful as a fund raiser, for within a few months he sold all the stock which
the charter permitted.
A new administration building, the
center of the proposed "new school," was completed in 1878. A magnificent
structure, it was three stories high, contained seventeen rooms, and had a main
hall eighty by fifty feet. Described as "large, commodious, and elegant,
the edifice had a protruding tower centered in front, extending a full four
stories, with a small portico attached on both sides for the first two floors.
It clearly dominated the campus, being located at the very front with the
smaller dormitories situated just to its right.
The building cost $12,000, whereas
the old buildings, including the three small dormitories, were worth from $7,000
to $8,000. J.R. Ryan of Chattanooga was architect for the building, while O.S.
Wright of Nashville served as contractor.
In addition to the new building, fifteen acres of ground were added to the ten
acres which composed the campus.
The expanded campus was to be the
nucleus of a "brotherhood school."
In order to facilitate more efficient efforts toward this end, Elijah Denton
deeded one-half of his stock in Burritt to Brents so that Brents could
personally direct the fund drive.
To persuade more people to contribute to this drive Brents proposed to make
Burritt a religious school.
This strategy paid off, for more than $25,000 was raised in cash and pledges
from members of the Church of Christ in Middle Tennessee and elsewhere.
When the new building was completed
in 1878, Brents, who now had a controlling interest in Burritt, demanded that
Carnes resign and that he take Carnes' place. This caused a great sensation
among Burritt supporters, for Brents' administrative experience was at best
Carnes' friends were shocked "with astonishment and indignation" at Brents'
demands. Many openly protested to Brents, while a few of the trustees expressed
their opposition by resigning their positions.
Finding himself in a quandary, Brents
attempted a reconciliation with Carnes' faction by proposing that Carnes remain
on at Burritt in a teaching capacity. Carnes declined the offer, however, and
severed all ties with the school at the end of the spring session in 1878 to
become president of Waters and Walling College, a new school at McMinnville
supported by members of the Church of Christ.
With Carnes’ resignation Brents
seized the presidency for himself. The man whom he replaced had made important
contributions to the school which he had served so well and which in turn had
served him. Besides establishing the academic and moral quality of Burritt,
Carnes also helped to perpetuate the thoroughness of the educational process. It
was said of his terms as president that "graduates were not turned off. . .as
fast as some would desire;" however, "a diploma signed by him meant something.
At the same time he pointed "to the nobility of the right," and appealed to the
nobler sentiments of youth, which connected with his own example, "inspired the
student with aspirations after that kind of greatness that comes from purity and
Brents' chief contribution, on the
other hand, lay in establishing Burritt’s financial and operative foundation.
The highlight of his association with the institution was raising the funds to
build the new college building as well as expanding the scope of the school into
a religiously-oriented institution.
In keeping with his purpose to build
"a new Burritt," Brents reorganized and expanded the curriculum. Whereas the
curriculum had followed the traditional pattern, Brents, being a physician,
stressed the scientific field, and during his tenure as president he made it a
special object to interest students in suck subjects as anatomy, physiology, and
The curriculum was divided into ten departments, including such subjects as
English, science, mathematics, history and political economy, and foreign
Burritt College prospered during
Brents' term more than at any other time since its reopening. In the academic
year 1879-1880, 213 students were enrolled.
Prior to that time one of the largest enrollments was in 1876, when Burritt
recorded seventy-nine students for the first day of classes.
Brents resigned in 1882 to devote
himself to writing and preaching. He became widely known for his The Gospel
Plan of Salvation and a collection of sermons entitled Gospel Sermons.
In 1884 he established a bank at Lewisburg, Tennessee, where he lived until his
death in 1905.
Brents was followed by *Aaron Tillman
Seitz, a native of Warren county and a lawyer by profession.
Seitz was educated at Burritt, having graduated from there in 1854.
While a student at Burritt he was baptized into the Church of Christ by
President Carnes, and during the Civil War served in Company I, Sixteenth
Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers.
Although Seitz had had little
the trustees selected his as successor to Brents because of his association with
Carnes. The term under Seitz opened with considerable optimism:
The fall session of this institution
. . .opened with as favorable prospects as usual. More than one hundred students
are now in attendance. Others are here, ready to enter, and it is probable that
they will be coming for a month yet. . . .
The ability of President A.T. Seitz
to discipline a school and elicit from his pupils earnest efforts for their
improvement is always recognized by those acquainted with the workings of the
college. Altogether the prospects for the session now begun areas encouraging as
have been those of any session in the recent past.
There was evidence, however, that Burritt was
not making the progress which was expected and hoped for. The student body
dropped to one-half the number of 1880, and even though this was considered
sufficient to “render the session interesting and profitable in all the
departments of the college," the in ability of the students to attend meant the
reduction of the already meager funds which the college was receiving.
Consequently at tempts of the officials to pay the teachers and provide the best
facilities for the students were made more difficult.
The student body had dropped to
seventy by 1886, and the prospects for the future of Burritt looked dim indeed.
Discouraged, Seitz resigned at the close of the 1886 term and went Italy, Texas,
where he devoted himself to preaching and to operating a school which he founded
Seitz was followed by A.O. Thomas, a
native of Atlanta, Georgia.
Thomas served only one year, proving unsuccessful in reversing the downward
trend which Burritt had experienced for five successive years. The student body
of seventy was reduced to thirty-five by the middle of the fall term. Thomas'
inability to stop Burritt’s decline was best described by one of his students,
who referred to both him and his faculty, which he brought with him, as "kid
William Howard Sutton, himself a
Georgian, was the next Burritt president. With only a meager education Sutton
began teaching at the age of eighteen, but entered Manchester College to receive
additional education. Finishing this school during Carnes' administration,
he entered Cumberland University at Lebanon, at the same time teaching in the
business department. When this department consolidated with Bryant and
Stratton's Business College in Nashville, Sutton remained to teach there.
Following his marriage in 1875 Sutton went to Chattanooga and established a
business school. In 1881 he accepted a teaching position at Burritt, and
continued as a professor there until 1887, when he was asked to take over from
Thomas. Like his predecessor, Sutton proved unable to improve Burritt's
financial situation after two years resigned to devote full time to preaching.
Sutton’s resignation was prompted by
the closing of the school during the spring term of 1889 due to the lack of
funds to continue its operation. The trustees were presented with the problem of
either closing the school permanently or making renewed efforts to raise
sufficient money to keep the college open. This problem was compounded by a
Methodist proposal to buy the entire campus. A meeting of the trustees was
called to discuss the fate of Burritt College. Meeting in Bouldin's hotel in
Spencer, some of the trustees made a motion to close the school and sell the
grounds; the majority, however, favored keeping the college open, and promised
renewed efforts to secure the necessary funds.
Richard Lee Gillentine, a board
member and the son of Spencer pioneer John Gillentine, suggested that Sutton and
James Logan Molloy, another trustee, secure a person who would be willing to
lease the school plant and conduct the college as a privately-owned enterprise.
Officials closed the school for both
the spring and fall terms of 1889 during which time Sutton and Molloy devoted
full time searching for a new president.
After searching for the better part
of the summer and fall of 1889, Sutton and Molloy persuaded William Newton
Billingsley, an educator in White county, to take control of the school and put
it in successful operation again.
Resigning his position at Sparta, Billingsley moved to Spencer in the autumn of
1889 and made preparations to reopen Burritt College. In Billingsley the
trustees acquired one of the most competent men who ever served Burritt College,
and it was he who gave Burritt its greatest period of growth and prosperity. The
next quarter century was to be a period of great achievement for "the pioneer of
Back To Top
OF THE PHOENIX: 1890-1918
The conditions facing Burritt College
in 1890 were similar to those which confronted it immediately following the
Civil War. The student body was greatly reduced and the school, although with a
new and expanded campus, was bankrupt and incapable of functioning. Perhaps the
most pressing need was strong, forceful leadership. Seitz, Thomas, and Sutton,
good men in their own right, had not been efficient administrators. Their
incompetence permitted Burritt to fall into a period of constant and steady
decline, which was compounded by the continuing, economic distress which the
patrons of the school experienced twenty years after the war.
Spencer's isolation, which was once viewed as
advantageous to the welfare of the students and the school alike, acted as a
drawback in the appeal for support,
and served to restrict Burritt’s service to the mountain people.
The population of the town had only reached its pre-war high,
but other physical growth was negligible. A quarter century later Spencer was a
small village consisting of two stores, one boarding house, a small courthouse,
a dilapidated jail, and a post office located in the general store. There was
only one street in the town and one road leading up the mountain from Doyle.
Conditions made this road all but impassable in winter.
Spencer was very much affected by the
problems which confronted Burritt, since it was largely composed of "select”
people whose residence in Spencer was determined by their desire to provide
Christian education for their children. "It is only the best class of people who
are influenced by such considerations. . . .The salutary influence of such
surroundings will be appreciated by all parents who desire the perfect
development of their children's characters.
It was imperative, therefore, that Burritt College be resurrected, not merely
for the good of the school, but for the benefit of the town as well, for without
the school the town would wither and die.
William Newton Billingsley was aware
of the overwhelming challenges confronting him when he took control of Burritt.
Billingsley was well equipped to deal with crises, since he was grounded in a
career in education. Like Carnes, Billingsley was a native of Pikeville, having
been born there November 9, 1853. The family moved to Van Buren County in 1855,
where Billingsley lived until adulthood.
After attending Union Academy in White County, Billingsley entered Burritt
College in 1868 and graduated in 1872, being one of four graduates for that
Following graduation Billingsley returned to White County to teach. He was
principal of Eaton Institute for two and one-half years, then of Onward Seminary
for fourteen years. During his last four years at the latter school Billingsley
was Superintendent of Public Instruction for White County.
Billingsley's efficiency as
superintendent of schools gained him prominence in educational circles in the
state and was instrumental in securing his election as president of the State
Association of Public School Officers in 1888.
While in this capacity he undertook the grading of the county schools and
adopted a uniform series of textbooks for White County.
Upon his selection as Burritt’s
president in 1889 Billingsley resigned his position with the State Association
of Public School Officers; however, he continued to participate in state-wide
educational efforts. In 1889 governor Benton McMillin appointed Billingsley to
the State Textbook commission, on which he served with distinction until 1904.
In addition Billingsley served as president of the State Teachers' Association,
and was a member of the State Board of Education.
Billingsley's work as Burritt's
president was made more difficult by the number of turnovers in administration
and faculty of his predecessors. Enrollment was only a fraction of that which
had existed during Brents' term, with only one student graduating in 1889;
discontent among students over the frequent changes in administrations prompted
Billingsley to initiate new policies toward the students. The first act of his
term was to prohibit the students from signing petitions criticizing the
administration of the college and the dismissal of faculty members.
The stricter control of the students, coupled with the unstable condition of the
college, led many prospective students to go to other schools, such as the
university at Knoxville, while those unable to afford such schools enrolled in
Burritt. Their erratic attendance
made Burritt's existence precarious and virtually impossible for Billingsley to
determine the school's course. The first year under Billingsley began with 150
students and five teachers.
While the problem which had closed the school in 1889 was resolved,
the constant turnover in the faculty was one question which remained unsolved
during the first half of Billingsley's twenty-one year term. From 1891 to 1900
more than thirteen different teachers were named on the faculty lists, although
the actual size of the faculty increased from only five to eight.
The strong and efficient leadership
provided by Billingsley, strengthened by a fifteen year lease given him by
resulted in a larger student body which averaged from 150 to 175 each year until
1899 when a record 231 students were enrolled, In addition, twelve students,
more than during any previous year, were graduated that year.
From 1899 on the enrollment for the fall term never fell below 200 as long as
Billingsley was president, although in 1904 a drop from 214 to 200 occurred.
When fire destroyed the school in 1906 a record-equaling 231 students were
The increased enrollment reflected
confidence in Billingsley's competence as an administrator, and not in the
appeal of the curriculum. Few changes were made in the course of study which
Brents, who included scientific subjects into the curriculum, had established.
Subjects were divided into four levels: the primary, intermediate, preparatory,
and collegiate departments. The latter was divided in to classical and
scientific sections, with the classical division being broader in scope and the
one which the majority of the male students took. It included Greek, Latin,
mathematics, English, natural science, and philosophy for freshmen, sophomores,
and juniors. The senior classical subjects included history, zoology, political
economy, psychology, and evidences of Christianity, in addition to Greek, Latin,
The scientific division for males was
offered to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors only and consisted of mathematics,
English, and natural science. The classical department for girls was virtually
the same as the boys' scientific division with the exception that girls were
required to take Latin. The only difference between the girls' classical and
scientific courses was that in the latter mathematics stopped at trigonometry.
The first six years of the twentieth
century were prosperous ones for Burritt College, for it experience once more
the stability and reputation which had made it one of the outstanding
educational institutions in the area prior to the Civil War. In many ways
Burritt exceeded its lofty position of pre-Civil War days. The student body was
at an all-time high, and numbered so many that a new section was added to one of
the men's dormitories to accommodate all the male students. The faculty was
and the curriculum, although still with a classical emphasis, nevertheless was
now updated to include subjects of a scientific value. It appeared that this
growth and prosperity answered those who doubted Burritt’s capability to
continue its existence.
The hope of continued growth and
expansion received a severe setback on the night of March 5, 1906, when students
and citizens alike were awakened by the sound of firearms and the ringing of the
college bell. The cause for the excitement was a fire which was discovered in
the administrati6n building by the night watchman. The fire started on the
second floor in the girls' department and had gained such headway by the time it
was discovered that there was little hope of saving the building.
President Billingsley, a bachelor whose apartment was located downstairs in the
building near the east entrance,
only had time to remove books and personal belongings from the building.
Included among these was a large bookcase filled with first edition books. These
rare books were initially saved, but were destroyed in the course of the fire by
fall in g bricks and burning timers.
The only articles salvaged from the fire, outside of Billingsley's belongings,
were a few books and relics belonging to the Callipean and Philomathesian
societies. All other property and records were destroyed. In addition to the
administration building, one of the three dormitories located nearby also
Effie Gillentine, a Burritt student,
recalled that all of Spencer turned out to watch the spectacular fire despite
the fact that it occurred after midnight. Especially striking to her was
grief-stricken president Billingsley gazing at the ruins of the structure long
after the fire had gone out, The people went home "heavy-hearted” asking such
questions as “Will there no longer be a Burritt College?" and "'Will the boys
and girls go home?” After the initial shock wore off, the people went home to
await President Billingsley’s first action.
A meeting was held in the church
building the next day to discuss the fate of the school. With only little
dissent the trustees, with Billingsley’s agreement, voted to continue operation
and made plans to resume classes with as little delay as possible. The church
building and private homes, both of faculty members and other families, served
as classrooms until a new administration building was constructed. The students,
rather than being turned out, were required to remain in Spencer, ad after a
short delay and much inconvenience resumed classes.
A building committee, headed by
Professor William Vernon Freiley, was appointed to lay plans far the new
building and to solicit funds from both alumni and patrons of Burritt.
The committee raised more than $2,300 in pledges and cash contributions on the
first day of the fund drive.
This amount was deemed sufficient by Billingsley to warrant the beginning of
construction on the building. Voicing belief that the work could be completed
quickly if former students and friends contributed liberally, Billingsley urged
all concerned with Burritt’s welfare to make renewed efforts to help secure the
much needed funds.
Billingsley's enthusiasm, although
understandable, was due to the good start made by the fund drive but was
somewhat premature, since the to total loss amounted to approximately $18,000,
and the school carried insurance on the building to the amount of only $5,000.
While the school continued operation during the spring and fall terms of 1906,
efforts to complete the fund drive went on. Only $2,000 was added to the initial
amount, and, with the $5,000 insurance policy, less than one-half of the total
loss was accounted for. As time progressed
Billingsley and the building committee experienced greater difficulty in
securing donations, Billingsley even sought a sizeable contribution from the
philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
Carnegie answered Billingsley's appeal by saying he would donate one-half of the
remaining amount if the school raised the other portion.
The necessity for securing the
remaining funds was made more urgent by the fact that actual construction of the
building was underway, and the lack of funds prevented its completion. A year
after the fire the edifice was still unfinished, despite the contributions of
lumber and materials by citizens of Spencer,
and students continued to meet in private homes and in the church building.
After more than a year's delay, though, the funds were secured, and the
structure was completed.
Unlike the edifice which burned, the new
building stressed simplicity and practicality. There was no tower to adorn the
structure, no porticos to enhance the appearance in the front. The building was
three stories high and contained eighteen rooms. The auditorium seated almost
1,000 people, and contained individual seats for the comfort of the students.
The primary department and young ladies' room were separate, and each contained
seats so arranged that the teachers could supervise each of the students. The
“large and commodious” classrooms were furnished with “splendid blackboards made
on the solid walls.”
Besides the administration building,
the dormitory which had burned was replaced, thus allowing for mare male
students to move back onto the campus. School officials pointed out the
importance of dormitories by saying the students could pursue their studies in
their own rooms without molestation from others, By living off campus, the boys,
isolated from the supervision of school authorities, "lost their gentleness and
became rough and unpolished. The school boasted that "nothing of the kind occurs
While the fire caused a great
sensation among the citizens and inconvenience for both the administration and
student body of Burritt. It only caused Billingsley to redouble his efforts to
insure the continuation of the college. These efforts were so successful that in
the academic year of 1908-1909, the first in the new building, 211 students were
enrolled in all departments, and patronage increased so steadily that it
exceeded the expectations of the officials.
It was due to consistent support by
the patrons that Burritt’s student expenses were not raised. Tuition ran from
$5.00 per term for students in the primary department to $20.00 per term for
college students; the more advanced the course of study, the higher the tuition.
Room rent for males averaged from $1.50 to $3.00 per term, while their board was
$1.75 to $2.00 per week. Board for females ranged from $2.00 to $2.25 per week.
Young men were also permitted to live off campus.
By this arrangement board averaged $35.00 per term. With the tuition, contingent
fees (maintenance fees), and other incidentals such 8,s books, stationery, and
fuel, male students could attend Burritt for approximately $65.00 per term.
Burritt had hardly recovered from the
fire when it was faced with another crisis—the resignation of President
Billingsley in 1911. The popular administrator,
whose fifteen year lease on the school
was renewed in 1905 for another fifteen years,
was offered a teaching position at Middle Tennessee State Normal at
Murfreesboro. Robert Lee Jones, a graduate of Burritt, was president of this
school, and he persuaded Billingsley to accept the job.
Hardly secondary to Billingsley's
resignation was his death on March 26, 1912, the result of complications arising
from an operation. Having been a resident of Spencer since his early youth until
his removal to Murfreesboro, Billingsley's body was returned to Spencer for
burial. A memorial service was conducted in the college auditorium on March 28,
with L.S. Gillentine, an associate of Billingsley’s at Burritt,
delivering the oration.
The Spencer Times described the atmosphere on that occasion:
A gloom of despondency overlays the
town and county because of the loss of such a noble man, whose place cannot he
filled; but the beneficent wave of his life upon the great ocean of time will
lash the shores of eternity, swelling the chorus of redemption's song, to be
heard by the soul of the departed and enjoyed a the sweetest song that ever was
News of Billingsley's death brought
lavish praise for his work and life from persons all across Middle Tennessee.
The Sparta Expositor referred to Billingsley as a pioneer In Middle Tennessee in
the drive for better schools and more and better opportunities for the young
people of the mountains. "There has not lived another man in this portion of the
State in the last forty years whose influence has been more widespread and
powerful for good than was his.
The Gospel Advocate remarked:
He came in touch with all his
students. He taught much more than the lessons contained in the textbook; he
taught the principles of honesty, integrity, truthfulness and loyalty, fidelity
and courage to his students. He never promised reward or punishment without
giving it. He taught with firmness, punctuality and originality. No better
teacher for his day ever entered the classroom. His habits were well regulated,
and he never deviated from his daily routine of work. He was a successful
A former student described him as "earnest, honest, modest, clean, wholesome,
high-minded, honorable, tireless and unceasing in the discharge of his duty, a
well-grounded scholar, a wise counselor and true friend. . . “
White Solomon Graves, the dean of faculty under
Billingsley, was promoted to president. A native of Utica, Mississippi, Graves
received his education at Burritt, graduating in 1887.
As a student Graves was described as "at all awkward boy from the swamps of
Mississippi” who was handy around the girls.
Following his graduation Graves remained at Burritt to teach mathematics. He was
made the dean of faculty during Billingsley's second year at Burritt.
As a person Graves was pictured as “a
large man with a pleasant and forceful personality who had an intimate
understanding of all his students.
As an administrator he was viewed as "a man of rare executive ability, broad
views, and a kind heart, and a man with a high and accurate insight in the real
workings of human nature.
Graves so admired Billingsley’s method of administration that he retained
virtually all the latter's policies intact in an attempt to continue the
prosperity and growth. Graves also retained Billingsley's faculty, which, for
the first time since Brents’ administration, had begun to stabilize both in
number and the low turnover in the various departments.
The retention of Billingsley’s policies and staff did not, however, prevent a
decline in the student body. Whereas 224 were enrolled in 1910,
by 1912 that number bad dropped to 150.
The decline in patronage did not
reflect Graves incompetence as an administrator. The years spent as a teacher
and assistant under Billingsley gave Graves the experience needed to carry on.
While it may be argued that the loss was the result of Billingsley's leaving, it
should also be pointed out that Billingsley was the last of the respected
leaders needed to maintain Burritt’s status.
With his departure the school began to lose its stature as a “college” as
indicated by the ratio of students enrolled in the various departments of the
school. By 1914 the collegiate department contained only seventy-three
students—the senior class was composed of ten students; the junior class
numbered seventeen; the sophomore class twenty-one, and the freshman class
twenty-five. On the other hand the sub-freshman class, corresponding to the
upper division in high school,
consisted of forty-five students; the
preparatory department had twenty-seven members, and the primary class had
forty-five students, a total of 116 students for the division.
In an attempt to make Burritt more
appealing Graves made Bible an integral part of the curriculum in 1912 when
Harvey Denson was added to the faculty.
For the first time a detailed program of Bible was offered, although Burritt had
been made a "religious school” in 1878.
The Bible program was offered to all classes in the collegiate department. For
the first year Old Testament history and studies in the Pentateuch were offered;
the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and selections from the epistles composed the
sophomore study, while Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles formed
the junior study. For the senior year church history and an analytical study of
the epistles were offered. One unit of credit was offered for two years of Bible
study, making it possible to gain two credits in four years.
Bible continued to be an optional
subject in the curriculum. According to school officials, the purpose of the
Bible department was not to make preachers but to "teach the Bible, excluding
all human opinions and philosophies, to male and female alike, and leave it: to
guide them in to the work for which they are fitted.
Since there was yet no state
requirements governing the course of study, the college was given the liberty to
teach those subjects which the president saw fit and necessary, as it had done
since its beginning. It was Graves’ policy not to classify the students
according to grade, although all students were either in the primary,
intermediate, preparatory, or collegiate departments. Rather he chose to give
special attention to those subjects In which the students were most deficient.
The classical subjects continued to be emphasized.
Graves resigned at the end of the
fall term in 1915 because of conflicting personal interests and because he felt
he had failed to maintain the stature of the school which Billingsley had
established. Harvey Denson, the instructor in Bible, was employed to serve as
acting president until the trustees could find someone who would accept a
long-term lease over the school. Denson reluctantly accepted the position, but
only because he thought it best for the school.
At the close of the 1916 spring term
Denson traveled in behalf of the school In search of a replacement; however,
this search proved futile. No one wanted to accept a lease over a school which
was losing its influence and reputation. When Denson refused to serve for the
fall term of 1916 the secretary of the trustees appealed to Graves that he
return to Burritt, since no one else would serve. Graves refused, however,
arguing that personal a f fair s prevented his returning. Finally, Henry Baker
Walker, an English instructor, agreed to fill the vacancy temporarily until the
trustees could find a successor. Denson stayed on to teach Bible and English
With the conclusion of the spring
term in 1917 the trustees had yet to find a successor for Graves. They insisted
that the president accept a lease on the school, and it was this requirement
which prevented possible replacements from accepting the position. In turn the
rapid change in administrations deprived Burritt of the leadership and guidance
it needed during this critical period. Consequently the school's effectiveness
deteriorated to such a degree that, with the attendant difficulties of patronage
and an inadequate student body, the school became little Gore than a high school
during the last twenty years of its existence.
A second appeal to Graves brought his
consent to return to Burritt as its president on the condition that he not be
required to be in Spencer constantly.
When this condition was agreed to by the trustees, Graves returned to Burritt on
a temporary basis after an absence of two years. He remained, however, until
1918, at which time Henry Eugene Scott agreed to take control of Burritt. As it
turned out, Scott was to be Burritt’s last president, as the school continued to
lose both its appeal end its patronage.
The period from 1890 to 1918 saw both
victory and defeat, joy and frustration for all concerned with Burritt College.
The efficiency of W.N Billingsley
brought the school a measure of the success it
had experienced in previous years. With the end of his term came the years of
frustration and defeat which severely limited the effectiveness of the pioneer
of the Cumberlands. Twice the school had arisen like the phoenix out of the
ashes of despair; the third time, however, Burritt did not have the strength to
pull itself out of the quicksand of change which had dragged so many
institutions like it under the surface, never to rise again.
Back To Top
Sunset And Evening Star: 1918-1939
The final chapter in the history of Burritt
College was marked by the change and uncertainty which characterized the first
three decades of the twentieth century. In the words of one historian:
This was a period of progressive legislation,
violent politics, war waging and peace making, in which the American people were
undergoing profound changes in their environment, their racial composition,
their mental processes, and their moral climate. Rural America was moving to the
city, horsey America was becoming motor conscious, the American melting pot
stopped bubbling; female America broke out of her former 'only place, the home,'
and morally Puritan America, having put over the puritanical Amendment XVIII,
became a country of wild drinking and loose morals.
While not all the processes which
affected traditional interpretations and standards of urbanized and
industrialized America came to the South, those which came in many instances had
a greater impact with far-reaching consequences. Southern thinking exhibited the
in ability and/or refusal to accept the new synthesis, thereby causing the
agrarian South to cling to and defend the traditional "Protestant ethic” which
characterized American thinking until about 1910.
One segment of southern thought defended its rejection of “progress” by pointing
out the evils of the city and the dangers of accepting “modernistic” thinking,
and proudly emphasized that these dangers were conspicuously lacking
in the South. The agrarian ideal was
thus preserved and remained central in this portion of southern thinking.
The isolation of Burritt College
prevented its immediate exposure to the newer educational practices which were
at work in other sections of the country, while at the same time it perpetuated
the classical ideal which had characterized the school since its inception.
Burritt's isolation also perpetuated and, in fact, compounded its problems and
gave Henry Eugene Scott cause for much concern as he accepted the challenge of
heading the school in 1918. Scott, a native of Warren County, was educated in
Burritt College and the University of Tennessee, where he received both the
Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees. Following his graduation in 1915
Scott returned to Burritt to teach mathematics and science.
A portent of the school's
difficulties occurred in 1919 when an epidemic of influenza swept through
Spencer, striking over 100 of Burritt’s students.
All school work was suspended for four weeks while the disease was at its peak.
The study hall in the administration building was converted into a ward for the
sick, and a doctor from McMinnville made daily trips to Spencer to care for the
A more serious problem facing Scott
was the challenge to provide more and better facilities for Burritt students to
replace those in existence. The older dormitories were in a bad state of repair,
and what equipment there was in school was inadequate. This problem was
accentuated by the rise of well-equipped, tuition-free public schools which drew
off many prospective students and caused patrons to withhold support from
private institutions such as Burritt.
These conditions cast shadow over Burritt’s future, and those closest to the
school feared for its existence, Scott also recognized the urgency of Burritt’s
situation and in 1920 set art to insure Burritt’s continuance by initiating the
Burritt Improvement Campaign, a long-range fund drive to raise $50,000 for a new
dormitory and new equipment that Burritt might be "a proper junior college.”
Only six students graduated during
Scott's first term,
but by 1922 enrollment had increased to 190, more than at any time since
Billingsley's term. The increased enrollment was viewed with great encouragement
by school officials, and was described in these words:
term drew near the close the number of inquiries about the school, the town, the
church, boarding facilities, and residences for sale or rent increased daily.
Every mail brought letters from prospective patrons and pupils. Never before had
so many substantial citizens visited Spencer to judge of its educational
advantages. Several real estate deals were consummated, in which the school
population of the town will be measurably increased.
One of the reasons for the renewed optimism was
the decision by the Van Buren County Board of Education to allocate $2,650 to
President Scott for expenses incurred in educating the children of the county in
Burritt’s elementary and high school departments. Scott also received $325.00
for the services which he rendered in overseeing the public school term at the
school which lasted from August to December.
Funds paid to Burritt during the 1922-1923 school year from the county funds
were earmarked by school officials for the expansion and improvement of the
existing facilities while the money raised by the Improvement campaign was
reserved for a new dormitory for boys.
A residence near the campus was
purchased and converted into a dormitory for girls, repairs were made to the
boys' dormitories, and particular pains were taken to provide for students
coming from a distance. A water system was installed in the administration
building following the 1922 fall term to aid the domestic science (home
economics) department which was being added to the curriculum for the spring
A brochure prepared for circulation to the public boasted of Burritt’s
"beautiful campus, Christian influences, splendid gymnasium, and electric
Despite the optimism concerning the
prospects for success, the spring term of 1927 disappointed officials who
expected the facilities to be filled to capacity. Instead, the school
experienced s decline of seventy students. The senior class consisted of only
eight students and the junior class two. The high school class claimed only ten
students while the lower departments could boast of but 100 members.
Scott also experienced difficulty in
maintaining a full-time faculty to teach all the subjects. While there were as
many as ten listed on the roll, many of these were required to teach more than
three subjects, Scott himself taught bookkeeping, typing, English, and
mathematics in addition to attending to the administrative duties.
One of the difficulties which prevented a solution of the teacher shortage was
the matter of funds. While the teacher salary schedule is not known, it is
believed that most received much less than those who were public school
The Burritt Improvement Campaign,
after initially bringing in "a few hundred dollars” in from friends and alumni,
bogged down, and from 1923 to 1925 the drive was virtually nonexistent.
The lack of funds stopped construction on the dormitory after the basement and
foundation had been completed.
By 1925, however, renewed efforts were made to reach the goal of $50,000.
To encourage people of the area to contribute to the campaign, an elaborate and
attractive brochure containing testimonials from both prominent educators and
ministers at testing to Burritt’s worth and contributions to the people of the
area was prepared and circulated.
The fund drive went on for two years, during which time enough money was raised
to continue work on the building. The campaign slackened again, however, and
construction was suspended a second time until a decision concerning the crisis
was reached. At the spring meeting in 1927 the trustees elected to complete the
structure, but the campaign to raise $50,000 was all but abandoned. After enough
money was raised to purchase the necessary materials for the building, the drive
ceased; nevertheless, the building was completed in time for the spring term of
building, named Billingsley Hall in honor of the beloved president,
was a two-story structure with thirty-six rooms, a large basement, and a central
heating system. When the new building was put into use, two of the older
dormitories were torn down and the third repaired and preserved "as a souvenir
of former days.
The plant was now composed of the administration building, two boys'
dormitories, and a dormitory for girls. The campus consisted of thirteen and
one-half acres of ground.
Later a residence for the president was added.
Besides attempting to update the
facilities, Scott sought to change the curriculum to give it a competitive
rating among other schools of the area. Of Special iterest was the goal to make
Burritt a "fully accredited junior college.” Up to this time Burritt had not
received credit and recognition except in the quality of the graduates it had
The revision of the curriculum was under the supervision of the University of
Tennessee and was “to direct attention in an authoritative way to the solid work
Burritt College has not neglected to do. This is but right and legitimate.
The primary department was revised to
include the first three grades of the Graded Course for Elementary Schools of
Tennessee as drawn up by the state board of education. Subjects taught in this
department included reading, writing, numbers (elementary arithmetic), spelling,
and language. The intermediate department was composed of fourth, fifth, and
sixth grades, although it was emphasized by school officials that no attempt
would be made to force classification of students into particular grades. On the
other hand each student was to be given special attention in those areas where
the greatest deficiency was shown. State-adopted texts were used; however,
Burritt officials reserved the right to supplement these whenever they deemed
The preparatory department consisted
of the seventh and eighth grades an4 was administered according to the
guidelines which governed all elementary schools in Tennessee. While the
subjects taught in this department were accepted by Burritt officials, the right
to supplement the suggested texts was reserved by the school. One such
substitution saw the state textbooks for spelling and English grammar replaced
by Reed's Word Lessons and Reed and Kellogg's English Grammar.
When a student completed the required
courses in the preparatory department, he was permitted to enter the high school
department. This department was divided into classical and scientific courses.
The first three years of the classical course consisted of six subjects:
mathematics, English, Latin, history, spelling, and current events. Science
(physics) was added the fourth year. The scientific course differed in that it
dropped Latin as a required subject and replaced it with science, which, like
mathematics, graduated into more complicated studies as the student progressed.
One year of college work was offered
under the revised curriculum and it was also divided into classical and
scientific courses. During the fall term the students enrolled in the classical
course studied mathematics (spherical trigonometry and surveying), English
(rhetoric, composition, Milton, Tennyson, and Shakespeare), psychology,
sociology, political economy, and, if he chose, Bible.
the spring term he was offered mathematics (analytical geometry), English,
evidences of Christianity, logic, classical mythology, and Bible. The scientific
course followed the same pattern with the exception of sociology, where science
(geology and astronomy) was substituted.
A second year of college work was
added in 1924, and from this time until the closing of the school, two years of
college credit was offered at Burritt. It was during the 1924-1925 school year
that the classical and scientific divisions were dropped from both the high
school and collegiate departments. Mathematics, English, American history,
psychology, and sociology made up the first year of collegiate work. The same
courses with the exceptions of psychology and sociology, were retained for the
second year. These latter two courses were replaced by logic and the history of
Besides the required courses a number
of optional classes were included in the curriculum, The department of
expression, taught by Margaret Ehresman, a graduate of Sophia Newcomb University
in New Orleans and of the Curry School of Expression in Boston, sought to
“broaden the student's knowledge of life; to deepen his own experiences; to lead
him to greater use of instincts and to realize the character and dignity of his
work” through the medium of voice training and speech composition. This
department offered classes in public reading, story telling, oratory, dramatic
reading, characterization, and reading in literature. Tuition for all classes
was $4.00 per month.
The department of music was taught by
Bess Gillentine, who, like Miss Ehresman, was a graduate of Sophia Newcomb
University, as well as of the New England Conservatory in Boston.
Piano, violin, and voice were taught in this department. Classes were divided
into elementary, intermediate, and advanced divisions. Before a student received
a certificate from this department he must have completed one year in musical
history, harmony and theory, and must have given a recital from memory, The
recital was given at commencement exercises at the end of the spring term. Band
music was added in 1923 with twenty-seven students composing the band.
The commercial department was open
only to students who had completed two years of high school. This department
taught typewriting, bookkeeping, business English and composition, commercial
law, and commercial spelling. Tuition for the complete course was $60.00.
The Bible program continued to be optional
although more than one-half of the student body was enrolled in one of the three
In 1922 a course in church history was added to the Bible curriculum. Coupled
with the required attendance at Sunday school, Sunday worship, and Wednesday
evening prayer services, the Bible program offered students an atmosphere
conducive to moral and spiritual growth. This explains why the majority of the
older students became members of the Church of Christ by the time they left
school, and also why many of the boys became ministers.
Art courses were taught only when the
interest was sufficient to warrant the organization of a class. An extensive
course was set up in 1921 under the direction of Margaret Ehresman, who also
taught in the department of expression. Tuition for the art course, like that in
the departments of expression and music, was $4.00 per month.
A teacher training course, to be
taught in summer school, was organized in 1920 although it was not until the
summer of 1921 that this became a reality. The county board of education
cooperated with the school in setting up this course, the purpose of which was
to give county teachers additional training and students who failed courses
during the regular terms an opportunity to make up the credit. The entire summer
school program cost $300.00 and was financed jointly by the county and state
boards of education. The only stipulation placed upon the program by the state
board of education was that at- least ten teachers be in attendance.
Miss Martha Myers, of Greenville,
Tennessee, was chosen as supervisor of the entire summer school program. Miss
Myers, formerly an instructor at East Tennessee State Normal in Johnson City and
also in Teacher Training for Elementary Schools at the University of Tennessee,
supervised a corps of five teachers who served as instructors in the school.
The teacher training program was an
immediate success. More than seventy teachers enrolled for the first session
which began June 13, 1921. The prospects were so bright that President Scott
made plans to accommodate 200 teachers for the 1922 session. The prospects
failed to materialize, however, and after several sessions the teacher training
course and summer school was discontinued until 1937 when it was taught during
Burritt’s last full year of operation, When the summer school was dropped, a
proposal was made to Scott that a boys' summer camp be started, According to the
proposal the camp would consist of classes in history, mathematics, Bible, and
English during the morning for the length of the summer, while the afternoons
were to be devoted to hiking and sporting activities. This proposal was not
enacted upon, however.
Agriculture was added to the
curriculum in 1926 when the county board of education allocated $325.00 for the
purchasing of farm equipment and supplies to be used in the setting up of the
course of study at Burritt.
A full time teacher was employed by the county in 1927 to head the department.
He was allotted $2,200 in salary and expenses for the school year.
The course of study was a two year program and consisted of classes
in field crops, animal husbandry, horticulture, and farm management. One unit
of credit was offered for each year of work. In 1929 the boys taking
agricultural courses were organized into the Future Farmers of Tennessee, later
called the Future Farmers of America. This group held club meetings, conducted
farm experiments, and held programs at the school.
The decade from 1924 to 1934 saw
additional changes and modifications in Burritt’s operations, thus bringing
about a greater conformation with the state requirements for schools. Entrance
requirements to the high school department became more rigid. Applicants must
have completed all eight grades of the elementary school as proved by a
certificate of promotion. If the student did not have a certificate, though, he
could still enter the high school department by passing an entrance examination.
Requirements for graduation from the
high school department were also enforced. The student must have passed sixteen
units of work, Including eight and one-half units in English, mathematics,
history, and science, as well as seven and one-half units of electives.
Attendance to at least two-thirds of all recitations in all subjects was
required before the student could receive full credit.
Examinations were held monthly and at
the end of each term in each of the departments with an average of seventy-five
per cent necessary to pass each subject. Reports of a student's progress in all
departments except the collegiate were sent to his parents monthly, College
students received their reports at the end of each term. An incentive to do the
best possible was given the students when the school announced that the student
making the highest grade during the term in each department received free
tuition for the next term.
This created considerable competition among the students and doubtlessly
increased the amount of study devoted to the subjects.
The academic school year was changed
from the semester basis to the quarter system in 1929. The chief objective of
this change was to make the courses in the curriculum sequential. In earlier
years the classes were one term courses. The purpose of this was to permit
students to work the spring term. With the changing of the school year, however,
students had to attend all three quarters in order to receive full credit for
the courses. Although each department awarded the student with a certificate
upon completion of the courses, the education of the Burritt student was not
considered complete until he finished the collegiate courses offered him.
Athletics became an integral part of
Burritt’s program early in Scott's administration.
At first all athletics were on an intramural basis with the boys' clubs, the
Pythian and the Cremonian, providing the competition in baseball, basketball,
and tennis. Later, however, the girls incorporated their own basketball and
tennis teams. Football was added to the athletic program in 1929, but a boy had
to have written permission from his parents in order to play. A fifty by eighty
feet gymnasium was erected to house the equipment and provide the basketball
courts for the teams.
The basketball team became
extramurally competitive in the mid-1920's. The “Mountaineers,” made up of
members of Burritt’s Athletic Association,
played teams from schools in Chapel Hill, Livingston, Lafayette,
McMinnville, Cookeville, Woodbury, and Smithville. During the 1926-1927 season
the team competed in the Upper Cumberland Tournament at Cookeville and captured
runner-up honors. That year the team compiled a record of sixteen wins and seven
losses, defeating such teams as Tennessee Polytechnic Institute and Livingston
Early in Scott's administration a
school newspaper, he Sparks, was begun. Published on a monthly basis,
the paper, in addition to carrying the news of the school and town,
served to stimulate literary efforts of would-be poets and gave Calliopeans and
Philomathesians the opportunity to carry on their debates through the printed
word. The paper was published until 1932 when publication stopped due to lack of
In 1929 the two literary societies
combined their libraries with the small collection of books the school
possessed. The total number of books amounted to over 6,000 volumes. A large
room in the administration building was designated as the library and consisted
of books, a systematized catalogin5 system and reading facilities. A full-time
librarian was appointed to administer the library.
Extracurricular activities were
provided by the literary societies. These activities took on greater importance
because of the strict discipline which prevailed on the campus. Boys and girls
were not allowed to date either during the week or on the week-end. The
only period of recreation outside of the intramural athletic teams was on
Saturday afternoon when the students were free to go on hiking expeditions to
Falls Creek Falls or other scenic spots. Boys were not permitted to walk with
the girls, however.
The literary societies, with the
cooperation of the departments of music and expression, conducted periodic
programs consisting of plays, dramatic readings, and musical productions.
Besides these special programs and the weekly debates of the societies each
student was required to attend an assembly in the auditorium every Friday
afternoon in which the student body was divided into sections and each section
was asked to present a skit, dramatic or Bible reading, or poem. It was because
of such exercises that Burritt continued to called a "literary school” by many
Despite the participation in such
programs and the attempts by officials to control the activities of the
students, discipline remained one of the major problems which confronted the
school. One of the reasons for the persistence of this question was the
isolation of the town and the fact there was no entertainment to keep the
The imbibing of whiskey was a perennial problem which faced the officials. On
one occasion a practice session of the department of music, which was to conduct
a program in the school auditorium, had to be cancelled because the student
director got drunk and could not be sobered up in time for the evening practice.
Before the close of one spring term of school a group of boys agreed to
celebrate the school's ending early. A week before the term ended the group
brought whiskey onto the campus, were caught, and evicted from school by the
disciplinary committee without being permitted to finish the term.
One of the primary methods of control
employed by the school was the requirement that all students spend their free
time out of class in the study of their assignments. A study hall, dubbed "the
bullpen” by students,
was provided in the administration building for those students who found it
difficult to study in their rooms. Students wh3 could afford to do so rented
rooms as private study rooms.
So much emphasis was placed upon the students complying with the rules governing
study that certain periods of the day were set aside for the review of the
different subjects making up the student's curriculum. As an example, algebra
was to be studied before breakfast while geometry was reserved as one of the
subjects reviewed in the evening.
While such rigid rules limited the freedom and activity of the student, they did
mold the thinking of the pupils. Because the school frowned upon card playing as
an evil, for instance, many graduates of Burritt still look upon the activity as
The attempts by Burritt officials to
control the activities of the students proved more successful than efforts to
control the financial crisis. The expansion of the school's facilities
and rising costs of operation prompted Scott to increase tuition and maintenance
fees. The funds allocated by the county board of education, while alleviating
much of the financial distress at the school, were Inadequate to meet the needs
of Burritt. Tuition fees for the primary department were set at $10.00 per
quarter; for the Intermediate department, $12.50; for the preparatory
department, $15.00; for the high school department, $20.00; and for the
collegiate department, $25.00 per quarter. Extra charges were applied to the
newer courses as they were added to the curriculum. Optional courses including
home economics, biology, general science, chemistry, and agriculture carried
fees not included in the regular charges. These fees ranged from $1.00 to $4.00
per course. Room rent for boys was set at $4.00 per quarter and board at $3.50
per week. During later years a fee of $15.00 was charged male boarders who
occupied furnished rooms. Room and board for girls was set at $4.00 per week.
Despite the Increase in fees the
financial problem persisted. Much of Scott's time was spent in pleading with
friends and supporters of the school for money to help Burritt carry on.
Scott based his appeal upon the need for the furtherance of Burritt’s Christian
influence. In an open letter to former students Scott pointed out that
Not many schools are on the basis that this one
is; it holds Christianity uppermost and holds as one of its main purposes the
development of Christian character. Very few schools offer the advantages this
one does for the money: in fact, no other school in the South attempts to run on
as little money from its students as Burritt College; and we are glad to say
that it is the Christian spirit which prompts the directors of this institution
to offer the advantages of this school at such a small cost.
Scott's plea had little effect, however, and
the financial crisis continued.
Burritt’s basic financial problem was
the lack of a permanent endowment.
Because there was no sure source of revenue, the school had to rely upon the
capricious generosity of its supporters to keep it in operation, end for the
better part of Burritt’s history the tangible results of this policy left a
great deal to be desired. However, there were isolated Instances of giving which
eased the financial strain considerably. Miss Bertha Mai Woodlee, a Spencer
resident, Burritt graduate, and a long-time Burritt teacher, in 1928 bequeathed
an insurance policy to Burritt valued at $500.00.
A much greater boon to Burritt’s fortunes was a contribution of cash and real
estate valued at $10,000 given to the school in 1930 by C.A. Moore of Nashville.
Interest drawn from this amount, transferable to Burritt at Moore's death, was
to be used to employ a Bible teacher for the school.
The difficulty which Burritt
experienced in raising the necessary funds made it more dependent than ever upon
the county board of education for support. As early as 1924 the county began to
assume a major portion of the cost of operation. In this year the board agreed
to pay two-thirds of the cost of a fire escape at the school. The facility,
which cost $900.00, was eventually installed with Burritt committing only
$300.00 to the project.
Four years later the board allocated $1,000 to pay for repairs made to the
administration building. Scott was replaced that same year as principal of the
high school by Sam Davis Tatum, a Burritt teacher. Tatum, whose chief
responsibility was to coordinate the course of study at the school, was allotted
$160.00 a month for salary. Scott, meanwhile, remained as the superintendent of
the county schools, a post he held for a total of twelve years. He continued to
draw a salary from the county board.
A major change in the means of
financing the public schools in Van Buren county occurred in 1935 when the
county board initiated a yearly school budget rather than the traditional
monthly budget. Burritt’s status did not permit it to operate independently of
the county board, for this body was the main source of support for the school.
Consequently Burritt was more limited than ever in its attempts to continue
operation. For 1935 the board set the budget for the high school department at
$4,412.50. The same amount was allocated for 1936 although Scott asked for
For 1937, the last year for both the elementary and high school departments to
be together at Burritt, the combined budget for the departments was set at
The end of Burritt College, which
began with the rise of the public school system in Van Buren county and the
immediate area, started its final phase in 1936 when the county board of
education agreed to hire and pay all the high school teachers and set up the
course of study at Burritt. Up to this time President Scott had the liberty to
choose the teachers and select many of the courses; however, with the county
board assuming these responsibilities the school was deprived of its last thread
of independence. It was now totally dependent upon the board for support. At the
meeting of the board on July 6, 1936, it was decided to discontinue the
elementary department at Burritt and to establish a separate school, built and
operated by the county. By August a building had been rented and with the
opening of the fall term the county-operated elementary school went into
The final blow was struck on
September 10, 1936, when the board approved a proposal to build a county
operated high school.
A large building owned by E.B. Clark of Spencer was rented for the school year
1938-1939 for $250.00.
A faculty was selected, including Waldo Power, Chester Haston, Miss Wilba
Austin, and J.M. Taft, then superintendent of the county schools, Taft was to
become the principal of the high school. Salaries for the teachers ran from
$680.00 to $765.00 per year. In addition the little faculty was asked to serve
as the textbook and curriculum committees to recommend texts for use in the
school and the course of study to be followed.
The school year 1937-1938 was Burritt’s last. By the fall of 1938 the elementary
school building was completed and ready for use. The high school held its first
session in the rented building, but by the following summer was ready to move
into the newly-built facility. With the removal of these departments from
Burritt the school lost the last and only sure source of financial support. The
two years of college work offered did not bring a sufficient number of students
to warrant keeping the school open. With the conclusion of the 1938 spring
quarter the school closed and the facilities were sold. The two larger
buildings, Billingsley Hall and the administration building, stand today as the
only physical reminders of Burritt’s existence. The former structure is now part
of a shirt factory which stands on part of the college grounds while the latter
is occupied by the county as office space. The remainder of the grounds serve as
the Van Buren county fairgrounds.
All else that remains of Burritt
College is a memorial library and the memories of its graduates. The rooms of
the Calliopean and Philomathesian societies, as well as the collection of books
of the regional library service, comprise the memorial building. Memories of
Burritt College are preserved by means of an annual reunion held in August each
year at Spencer. The reunion was begun in 1902 and continued for three
years but was thereafter discontinued until 1920 when President Scott
reorganized and directed the affair.
Burritt College can justly be called
"the pioneer of the Cumberlands” for it brought education of a higher caliber to
the people of the mountains than had existed there before. Burritt also
introduced coeducation to the South, a practice frowned upon by many people both
North and South. It may be argued that the initiation of this concept was begun
out of necessity, for Burritt was the only school of its caliber which the
people of the area could afford to send their daughters. The fact that Burritt
permitted, and even encouraged, girls to attend on an equal basis with the boys,
as well as overcoming opposition to this practice, is of significant moment,
On the other hand, Burritt throughout
most of its history tended to reflect the traditional classical concept of
education. Only in the last fifteen years did the school begin to modernize its
structure to meet the practical educational needs of the students, This change
came too late, however, to prevent the school from losing its appeal. The
purposes, curriculum, requirements, and problems which other schools faced
during their early years were thus perpetuated in this Cumberland mountain
school whose isolation was looked upon as being its greatest advantage.
It was Burritt’s standard, as it was
the standard of many schools in the nineteenth century before modern educational
practices and methods came into use, that
. . .it should be a fixed principle in
education, not to build a large structure upon a slender foundation. Solidity
and strength should never be sacrificed for extent and variety. Some branches of
knowledge, both useful and ornamental, must be omitted, or slightly touched, in
our literary institutions; and by those who desire an acquaintance with them,
may be better acquired in other places. The rule should be to render the student
thorough in the elementary and fundamental parts, and to add, of others, as much
as can be comprehended in the time allotted to the course; still giving
precedence to those branches which are most important and useful.
So Burritt College died. It died because of its
isolation from the mainstream of society and because this isolation tended to
perpetuate the classical ideal, an ideal which belonged to the past. It died
because it failed to plan for the future by providing sure and continuous
sources of support.
And finally, Burritt College died because of the development of public schools
and free education which deprived the school of its patronage. The competition
was too great to overcome so the school quietly but surely faded into the past
into which it belonged. There was no fanfare, no eulogies, no recounting of the
accomplishments Burritt made during its years of service to the people of the
Perhaps the most significant aspect
of the history of Burritt College is the paradoxical nature of its
contributions. Established to serve the needs of the people of the mountains,
Burritt prepared its students for service to those in the mainstream of society.
Having received the finest education the school had to offer, men of the stripe
of Robert Lee Jones, Henry Leo Boles, T .W. Brents, William Newton Billingsley,
Joseph Henry Eagle, and countless other educators, preachers, lawyers, and
writers went off to places like Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Houston to
establish their roots and make their contributions. The primary contribution of
Burritt College, then, was not to the ultimate benefit of Spencer, Tennessee,
and the area, though it was intended to be, but to the good of students,
clients, and church members of Middle Tennessee and other parts of the South.
Back To Top
Historical information concerning the founding of Van Buren County will
be more fully discussed in Chapter II.
Approval of the charter was granted the board on January 24, 1848, fully
a year before the school opened its doors.
Glllentine, the board was composed of the following
men: W.B. Huddleston, D.F. Wood, F.G. Plumblee, John Stewart, Daniel
Walling, W.B. Cummings, Uriah York, Joshua Morris, Major Parpson, John
Morris, E.G. McKinney, Joab Hill, John Pain, James A. Haston, G.P.
Cummings, N.F. Trogden, G.W. York, J.G. Mitchell, James W. Copeland,
John G.W. Woods, George W. Anderson, John A. Minnis, Joseph Cummings,
William Worthington, Abijah Crain, and William Templeton. From this
group a board of trustees was selected. Acts of the State of
Tennessee. Passed at the First Session of the Twenty-seventh General
Assembly for the years 1847-48 (Jackson: Gates and Parker, 1848),
pp. 142,143. Hearinafter cited as Acts of Tennessee. See Appendix
A for the complete charter.
Precisely how much money was raised is not known, inasmuch as all
original records containing information on the initial phases of
Burritt’s origin were destroyed by a school fire in March, 1906. It is
known, however, that the money was raised by subscribing shares of stock
in the amount of $50.00 each. It has been estimated that $8,000 was
invested in the original building. An unpublished typewritten
questionnaire in the possession of Mary Gillentine, Hollis, Oklahoma.
Daniel Walling, one of the original trustees, owned a number of slaves.
These and perhaps others were employed to assist Trogden in burning the
brick. Eston Walling, letter to the writer, December 13, 1967.
Effie Gillentine-Ramsey, Burritt: Our Alma Mater (Nashville:
McQuiddy Printing Company, 1914), pp. 21-23. Hereinafter cited as
Ramsey, Alma Mater.
Charles Lee Lewis, "Burritt College Centennial Celebration," originally
an address delivered at the Burritt College alumni reunion, Auqust 14,
1948, at Spencer, Tennessee. Printed pamphlet in the possession of Creed
Shockley, Spencer, Tennessee.
Merle Eugene Curti, ed., The Learned Blacksmith. The Letters and
Journals of Elihu Burritt (New York: Wilson-Erickson, Inc., 1937), p. 1.
Merle Eugene Curti , The American Peace Crusade: 1815-1860 (New
York: Octagon Books, 1929), pp. 143-147. Hereinafter cited as Curti,
Peter Tolis, letter to the writer, December 11, 1967, Mr. Tolis is
professor of History at Central Connecticut State College in New
Britain, Connecticut, and has done extensive research on Burritt's role
in the peace movement.
The leaders felt that efforts to win support from southerners and
westerners would be fruitless because of the political controversy
surrounding the slavery question. In addition, the South and West viewed
the peace effort as a sectional undertaking, since it was located in New
England, also the center of abolitionism. Curti, Peace Crusade,
Peter Tolis, letter to the writer, December 11, 1967. On the other hand
Tolis says in his biography of Burritt, Elihu Burritt: Crusader for
Freedom (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1968), p. 230, that
Burritt's trip to the South was in behalf of penny postage.
This group had its origins primarily in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Barton Warren Stone was the chief spokesman for the faction in Kentucky.
Stone and four other Presbyterians had broken from the Synod of Kentucky
over doctrinal matters and established their own presbytery. By the end
of 1803, however, Stone's group dissolved with the statement that all
Christians should be united. The group adopted the name ''The Christian
Church," and rejected all forms of organization and worship which did
not conform to a scriptural precedent.
A similar movement occurred at approximately the same time
in Pennsylvania, where a Scottish Presbyterian preacher, Thomas
Campbell, and his son, Alexander, opposed a decision by the Associate
Synod of Pennsylvania which forbade communion with other bodies of
Christians. The Campbells conducted meetings without the authorization
of the Synod; and, in 1811, they merged with the Redstone Baptist
Association. The union with the Baptist group was only nominal, however,
for when the elder Campbell retired from active participation in the
movement Alexander began to attack all human innovations which were not
scripturally-based. By 1826 the so-called "Reformers" had separated from
the Baptist churches, and had established a quasi-independent group of
their own. Gradually Campbell's group came into contact with the
followers of Stone. Discovering that both groups had much in common,
churches from each group began to merge. In 1832 two men, one from each
group, went out to unite the factions in Kentucky and other areas where
each of the groups had churches. William Warren Sweet, The Story of
Religion in America (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930), pp.
The term “Church of Christ" will be used throughout this study to
describe the restoration movement, inasmuch as it was the most widely
accepted term In the South at the time. The question of names has been
one of the most persistent and confusing problems in the entire
movement. During the early years of the nineteenth century three names
were prominent and generally acceptable among all factions: “Disciples
of Christ;” “Christians;” and “Church of Christ." As the differences
between the conservative and liberal elements over the question of the
missionary society and instrumental music became more pronounced after
1850, however, the term "Church of Christ" came to be favored by the
conservatives of the South, while the terms "Disciples of Christ” and
"Christians” came to identify the members of the movement in the North
and East. David Edwin Harrell, Jr., "Disciples of Christ Pacifism in
Nineteenth Century Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, XXI
(1962), 264-265, Hereinafter cited as Harrell, “Disciples of Christ
Pacifism in Nineteenth Century Tennessee."
The terms "conservative and liberal" were applied to those
groups which opposed and favored the use of instrumental music in the
church. Those who opposed such practices as “human inventions” were also
called "anti,” while those who favored them were known as “progressives"
or “digressives.” United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the
Census, Religious Bodies, 1936, Vol. II, Statistics, History,
Doctrine, Organization, and Work (Washington United States
Government Printing Office, 1941, pp. 332-334.
The group in
Spencer has always been known as the "Church of Christ," although
non-members have referred to it as the "Campbellite” church. Creed
Shockley, letter to the writer, October 21, 1968. The Church of Christ;
was established in 1853 in Spencer, and the church was called by this
name from its beginning. See Appendix B for the charter of
“incorporation” of the church.
So called because the group sought to restore New Testament
Winfred Ernest Garrison and Alfred T. DeGroot, The Disciples of
Christ: A History (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1948),
p. 421. Hereinafter cited as Garrlson and DeGroot, Disciples.
Davis Edwin Harrell, Jr., Quest for a Christian America: The
Disciples of Christ and American Society (Nashville: Disciples of
Christ Historical Society, 1966), pp. 139-140. Hereinafter cited as
Clayton Sumner Ellsworth, "The American Churches and the Mexican War,"
American Historical Review, XLV (January, 1940), 311.
Ibid., p. 319. These figures are for all religious groups.
Harrell, “Disciples of Christ Pacifism In Nineteenth Century Tennessee
," pp. 263-264.
While there is no estimate of the number who fought in the war, it is
known that many had no qualms about the possible inconsistency they
exhibited in engaging in a "carnal” war, Harvell, Quest, p. 151,
Garrlson and DeDroot, Disciples, p. 199. Stone and Campbell were
chosen to emphasize the attitudes of the Church of Christ leadership
because they were most representative of this segment.
Harrell, Quest, p. 106.
Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples p. 331.
David Edwin Harrell, Jr., "The Sectional Origins of the Churches of
Christ," Journal of Southern History, XXI (August, 1964), 265.
Hereinafter cited as Harrell, “Sectional Origins of the Churches of
The missionary arm of the church, founded in the 1840's.
Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples, pp. 320-321.
When the American Christian Missionary Society refused to support an
outspoken antislavery preacher as a missionary to Kansas in 1850,
extremists in the North became enraged and formed their own society with
an antislavery constitution. Harrell, "Sectional Origins of the Churches
of Christ, " p. 266.
Harrell, Quest, p. 131.
Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples, p. 331.
A notable exception was the northern portion of the area, particularly
the Nashville area.
John Allen Chalk, "A History of the Gospel Advocate, 1856-1868:
Its Social and Political Conscience" (Unpublished Master's thesis,
Tennessee Technological University, 1967), pp. 115, 99.
Merle Eugene Curti and Roderick Nash, Philanthropy in the Shaping of
American Higher Education (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1965), pp. 44-45.
founding of the University of Georgia is an excellent example. See E.
Merton Coulter, College Life In the Old South (New York: We
Macmillan Company, 1928).
Donald G. Tewksbury, The Founding of American Colleges and
Universities Before The Civil War (New York: Teachers College,
Columbia University, 1932). p.27.
Albea Godbold, The Church College of the Old South (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1944), pp. 46-50.
The terms "academy" and "college" were in prominent use in the
nineteenth century to ascribe the educational institutions which
dominated the educational scene. The term “academy” generally referred
to those schools which were inferior and more limited in aim than other
schools. "Academy” as defined in Carter V. Good, Dictionary of
Education (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1959), p. 4, refers to
"an independent secondary school not under public control; the
predominant type of secondary school in the middle half or two-thirds of
the nineteenth century."
The term "college," on the other hand, as defined by Good,
may be used in three ways: to refer to "an institution of higher
education, usually offering only a curriculum in the liberal arts and
sciences, and empowered to confer degrees, or, in junior colleges,
associate titles; a major division of a university, especially one that
requires for admission no study beyond the completion of secondary
education; or an institution of secondary education. Good suggests (p.
108) that the latter usage is not frequent in the United States at the
While superior to other types of schools, particularly the
academies, in their own day, the colleges of the nineteenth century are
not to be equated with the schools of higher learning of the twentieth
century. Many schools which were designated “colleges” were merely
advanced high schools, and are to be considered in the light of the
third definition as given by Good. Inasmuch as there were few, if any,
state-wide laws governing such schools, each institution was free to
determine its own classification. Burritt College is such an example.
Edgar W. Knight, ed., A Documentary History of Education in the South
Before 1860 Vol. IV, Private and Denominational Efforts (5
vols.; Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina
Press, 1953), 1-2. Hereinafter cited as Knight, History of Education.
Robert H. White, Development of the Tennessee State Education
Organization: 1796-lQ29 (Kingsport: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1929),
pp. 10-11, Hereinafter
as White, Development.
Only the characteristics which describe the efforts of the private,
church-controlled academies are included in this study. White's
Development and Knight's History of Education contain good
accounts of the evolution of state-controlled academies and schools.
Claude Spencer, Educational Institutions of the Disciples of Christ"
(Unpublished manuscript in the possession of the Disciples of Christ
Historical Society, Nashville: 19551, pp. 1-3.
The only functions of the church are benevolence and evangelism.
Shortly after its founding it moved to Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples pp. 249, 250
M. Norvel Young, A History of Christian Colleges (Kansas City: Old
Paths Book Club, 1949), p. 34. Hereinafter cited as Young, Christian
Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples, p. 251.
Later schools sponsored by the church, realizing the import of
Campbell's argument, included an endowment fund in their charters.
Lucius Salisbury Merriam, Higher Education In Tennessee
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893), p. 236.
Young, Christian Colleges, p. 41.
Mabel Newcomer. A Century of Higher Education For American Women
(New Harper, 1959), p. 12. Eureka College, founded in 1850, Abington
College, chartered in 1853, and Berea College, established in 1854 and
all in Illinois, were some of the early coeducational Christian
colleges. Harrell, Quest, p. 206. Berea College is not to be
confused with the Berea College of Kentucky, founded as a self-help
Burritt College had primary, preparatory, and collegiate departments.
Girls were admitted to all three departments in 1850 under the
administration of William Davis Carnes. The college boasted the fact
that it pioneered in coeducation. “It is God's law that the young
of the opposite sexes should exert a healthful influence in the
formation of each other's characters. . . .The popular verdict is
unmistakably in favor of coeducation. . . . The best, most successful
and most popular schools are those modeled as nearly as possible after
the family. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Burritt College,
1904-1905, pp. 25-30.
Creed Shockley, interview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee,
July 23, 1968, Burritt's motto, "There is no excellence without great
labor” is reminiscent of Elihu Burritt's struggle for excellence.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 23.
Effie Gillentine-Ramsey, Burritt: Our Alma Mater (Nashville:
McQuiddy Printing Company, 1914), p. 21. Hereinafter cited as Ramsey,
Laughlin, a native of Virginia, came to McMinnville in the spring of
1811 at the age of fifteen to clerk in a local clothing store. He
studied in a McMinnville law office and rose to prominence in Tennessee
journalism and politics. He was elected senator from Warren and Franklin
counties during the twenty-third General Assembly, and later served as
Recorder for the United States General Land Office. Walter Womack,
McMinnville at a Milestone (McMinnville: Womack Printing Company,
1960), p. 314. Hereinafter cited as Womack, McMinnville.
Van Buren County was founded in 1840 from portions of Warren. White, and
Bledsoe counties. E. Kay Kirkham, The Counties of the United States:
Their Derivation and Census Schedules (Salt Lake City: Kay Publishing
Company, 1961), p.63.
Womack, McMinnville, p. 314. It is commonly believed that Spencer got
its name from Thomas Sharp Spencer, revolutionary period personality who
was well known in Middle Tennessee as a hunter whose physical size made
him famous. He was given the name "Big Foot" by the Indians.
Spencer came to Sumner County, Tennessee, from Virginia. He
is reputed to have lived in a hollow sycamore tree for over six months
at Castalian Springs, near Gallatin, Tennessee. He was killed near
Knoxville by Indians in 1794 as he was returning from Virginia,
"Spencer's Hill," near Knoxville, was named after him. General William
Hall, Early History of the South-west (Nashville: The Parthenon
Press, 1968), p. 28-29, reprint of the South-Western Quarterly,
There is also the belief that the town of Spencer was named
for-a local family who lived near the town site. This view holds that
because Thomas Sharp Spencer was never any nearer to Van Buren County
than Crab-Orchard the people in the area did not know about him, Creed
Shockley, letter to the writer, October 16, 1968.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, pp. 21-22.
Will T. Hale and Dixon L. Merritt, A History of Tennessee, and
Tennesseans (8 vols.; Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1913), III,
Charles Lee Lewis, "Burritt College Centennial Celebration," an address
delivered before the Burritt College reunion held a t Spencer,
Tennessee, August 14, 1948, a printed pamphlet in the possession of
Creed Shockley, Spencer, Tennessee, Hereinafter cited as Lewis, "Burritt
Seventh Census of the United States (Washington: Robert
Armstrong, Public Printer, 1853), p. 574. Hereinafter cited as
Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Report for Van Buren
County Microfilm, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville. )
Van Buren County counted 732 students enrolled in all types of schools
in 1850. There were eleven “public schools” with eleven teachers and 505
students; there was also one public academy, with one teacher and
thirty-five students. Seventh Census, pp. 579, 581.
The academy was York Academy, a public academy already In
operation when Burritt was founded. Creed Shockley, letter to the
writer, October 16, 1968.
The counties surrounding Van Buren contained only a limited number of
schools. Bledsoe County could boast of only and academy and eight
primary schools; Warren County contained twenty-eight primary and common
schools; and White County had no public schools or academies of any
description. Sixth Census, or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the
United States, 1840 (Washington: Blair and Rives, 1841), pp.
The nearest school controlled by the Church of Christ was Franklin
College at Nashville.
J.A. Hill, "Burritt College," Gospel Advocate, XIX (September 20,
1877), 580-581, Hereinafter cited as Hill, "Burritt College."
Acts of Tennessee, 1847-1848, pp. 142-143.
This was a common policy in educational circles in the nineteenth
century. See Lucius Salisbury Merriam's Higher Education in Tennessee
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893) and Donald G. Tewksbury's
The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil
War (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1932).
The student body the first year was all male. It was not until the
following year that girls were admitted.
Seventh Census, p. 578.
Jones was only twenty-six years of age when he assumed the presidency.
He was described as "both a scholar and a gentleman and a man af great
energy. Lewis, "Burritt Centennial, " p. 6.
Following his resignation Jones went to McMinnville, where he assumed
the presidency of the short-lived Waters and Walling College, also
controlled by the Church of Christ. After three years he assumed the
same position with Manchester College at Manchester Tennessee. After a
short time as president of this school, Jones retired and remained in
Manchester until his death in 1898. Ibid.
Billingsley served a period of twenty years, from 1890 to 1911, and
Scott for a total of sixteen years, from 1922 until 1938.
Isaac Newton Jones, "The Reformation in Tennessee” (Unpublished
manuscript in the possession of the Disciples of Christ Historical
Society, Nashville, 1897), p. 60. Hereinafter cited as Jones,
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial,” pp. 6-7.
Alva Lee Kelton, "Biography of William Davis Carnes, President of
Burritt College, " McMinnville (Tenn.). Southern Standard
(February 22, 1934), p. 1. Hereinafter cited as Kelton, "Biography.”
Ibid. Merriam, in his Higher Education, p. 19, points out that
even by the close of the century coeducation was not a popular practice
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial," p. 9.
Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Burritt College, 1904-1905,
pp. 29-30. Hereinafter all catalogues will be cited as Burritt
See Appendix B for the regulations of the college.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1913-1918, pp. 30-31.
C.L. McCollum, letter to the writer, August 25, 1968.
Thelma Hennessee, letter to the writer, August 26, 1968.
The literary societies will be discussed in Chapter III.
Creed Shockley, interview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee,
July 23, 1968.
Kelton, "Biography," p.1. Burritt’s presidents were given a free hand to
shape the school's curriculum, Shockley interview.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1854-1855, p. 10.
The academical department was later called the preparatory department.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1871-1872; p. 11.
A primary department was listed in the catalogue of 1854;
however, this was only in the enumeration of the expenses, and not in
the course divisions.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1856-1857, p. 12.
questionnaire in the possession of Mary Gillentine, Hollis, Oklahoma.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1854-1855, p. 14.
Creed Shockley, interview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee,
July 23, 1968.
A number of students graduated at the age of sixteen, inasmuch as there
were many who continued their education until its completion, Mrs.
William Lee (Mattie) Swallows, interview with the writer held at
Cookeville, Tennessee, September 27, 1968.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1856-1857, p. 15; 1871-1872, p, 10.
The Master of Arts degree was honorary. There were no state requirements
limiting the issuance of such degrees or determining the restrictions
concerning the academic standards as prerequisites. "The laxness of
requirements for the establishment and supervision of smaller
institutions makes it impossible to secure anything approximating an
accurate report on their educational offerings and their work. The state
has no requirements which must be met, nor does it demand that the group
be answerable for the type of instruction which is given. As a
consequence, people are often misled concerning the ability of these
so-called 'colleges' to provide the type of training which many of them
advertise." Report of the Tennessee Educational Commission, 1934,
Part I (Nashville: Tennessee Education Association, 1935), p.256.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1854-1855, p. 11.
Comparison with later catalogues reveal that the only major chances in
fees occurred in the maintenance fees rather than tuition prices. The
catalogue for 1922, p. 33, for example, showed the tuition to be $20.00
per term, the same as for 1871. However, one of the reasons why the cost
of tuition was not raised any higher than it was lay in the fact that
during the later years the school changed to the quarter system. The
addition of one term to the school year brought in the money that higher
tuition would otherwise have provided.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1854-1855, p.11
Ibid.; 1904-1905, p.21.
It is not known how many students were enrolled during 1850. The first
year of operation saw seventy-three students enrolled; by 1854 that
number had increased to 140, including twenty-three females. In 1856
there were 200 students in the college, but only fourteen of these were
females. Burritt College Catalogue, 1854-1855, p. 9; 1856-1857,
Kelton, “Biography,” p.4.
J.B. Cowden, Dr. T.W. Brents. Superman and Master Builder of the
Christian Church and the Church of Christ (Nashville: John B.
Cowden, 1961, p. 19. Hereinafter cited as Cowden, Brents. Burritt
was "to be a college to which our children may go and be thoroughly
educated, physically, intellectually, and morally---not a military
school, not a law school, not a medical school; but a school offering
every known facility for physical, intellectual, and moral development.
. .and where health and morals will be secured." Hill, 'Burritt
College,” pp. 580-581.
Carnes' penchant for Bible study motivated a certain "C.B.”
to warn readers of the McMinnville Baptist Messenger "that if
they do not want their children made Campbellites they had better not
send them to Mr. Carnes at Spencer, for he not only teaches it in his
school, but he also makes all of his students listen to him preach.
Quoted in the McMinnville (Tenn.) New Era, (September 16, 1874), p. 4.
E.G. Sewell, Gospel Lessons And Life History (Nashville: McQuiddy
Printing Company, 1908), p. 8. Hereinafter cited as Sewell, Gospel
H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers (Nashville:
Gospel Advocate Company, 1932), p. 124. Hereinafter cited as Boles,
Sketches. Carnes was considered among the four or five men most
responsible for establishing the Church of Christ in the eastern portion
of the state. Jones, "Reformation," p. 61.
James E. Chessor, 'Bright Prospects for Burritt Colleges," Gospel
Advocate, LXIV (December 21, 1922), 1212.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1908-1909, p. 30.
Carnes' efforts to control the student were so constant and vigilant
that students gave him the nickname of "Pap," indicating that his
authority resembled that of a parent, Boles, Sketches, p. 124,
Kelton, “Biography,” p. 1. It is thought that this person was a Church
of Christ preacher, although it cannot be confirmed.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1908-1909, p. 31.
Kelton, "Biography,” p. 4.
Myers was an attorney in Warren county who had moved to Pikeville
following his marriage. He had been in Pikeville for some time when he
was elected representative from this district. Creed Shockley, letter to
the writer, November 7, 1968.
Sewell, Gospel Lessons, p. 7.
There is much
confusion concerning the time when Carnes attempted to secure this
prohibition law. Charles Lee Lewis, a Burritt graduate and former
professor and historian at the United States Naval Academy, places this
attempt during Carnes' first administration, in 1856-57. However, Effie
Gillentine-Ramsey, a former teacher at Burritt, places it during Carnes’
second term, which ran from 1872 to 1878. Most of the secondary sources
conform to Lewis' view.
There is also
some question concerning Carnes' place in actually concluding such a
law. Young, in Christian Colleges, p. 58, calls this law the
famous Tennessee “Four Mile law,” the first prohibition law which
was state-wide. Lewis and Ramsey also agree. However, there is cause to
doubt the validity of the statement. As early as 1824 efforts at
limiting the sale of intoxicants within one mile of church buildings had
been initiated. In 1853 the trustees of Bethel College in Carroll county
asked for a law forbidding the sale of liquor within two miles of the
college, Although these efforts failed of passage by the state
legislature, they did serve as patterns for other efforts and as early
as 1865 different school charters granted by the state legislature
contained articles prohibiting the sale of liquor within as much as
three miles of the school, pail E. Isaac, Prohibition and Politics:
Turbulent Decades in Tennessee, 1885-1920 Knoxville: The University
of Tennessee Press, 1965), pp. 9-11, Hereinafter cited as Isaac,
The first successful step in securing antiliquor legislation
in Tennessee in the nineteenth century was taken by Major G.R.
Fairbanks, business manager for the University of the South at Sewanee.
As early as 1870 Fairbanks saw the need for such legislation in order to
"improve the general conduct of the people adjacent to the university's
domain." The initial step in this direct was taken in 1873 when
Fairbanks attempted to have passed an anti-liquor bill which related
exclusively to the university. The bill would have prohibited the sale
of intoxicants within specific distances of the school. Upon finding
that such local measures were illegal under the new state constitution,
Fairbanks drew up a general bill, which was passed by the legislature on
March 19, 1877. This act made it unlawful to dispense an intoxicating
beverage within four miles of an incorporated institution of learning
within the state. It was this bill which became known as the
“Four Mile law,” and is important because it brought local prohibition
to numerous rural areas over the state, and eventually resulted in
statewide prohibition by 1900, Grace Leab, "Tennessee Temperance
Activities, 1870-1899," East Tennessee Historical Society
Publications, XXI, (1949), 58-59.
Isaac, in Prohibition, p. 11, concurs in this
statement concerning the effect of the law. He states that the law did
not arouse any furor at the time of its passage, nor was it greeted with
wild enthusiasm by the temperance forces; it appeared, in fact, to have
very limited application.
Examination of the Acts of Tennessee for the years
1856-1859, the time during which Carnes reputedly secured passage of his
law, does not reveal any such law. In addition, the Tennessee Supreme
Court cases which ruled upon the constitutionality and application of
the "Four Mile Law" places its date as 1877 rather than 1856. See The
State v, Rauscher, 69 Tenn., 1 Lea, 96, (1878), p. 78,
in Benjamin J. Lea, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in
the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Robert J. Shannon, Ed, (Louisville:
Fetter Law Book Company, 1902).
did secure the passage of such a law, It was purely a local law and not
one which became state-wide. Such evidence as exists, however, fails to
confirm that even the latter situation ever prevailed.
Kelton, “Biography," p.4.
This was in 1858. "William Davis Carnes," McMinnville Southern
Standard, (March 22, 1934), p.1. Hereinafter cited "Carries,"
Carnes' first term amounted to eight years; however, the first
graduating class was not until 1853, There was no graduation in 1858,
the year Carnes left. Burritt's graduates and the year in which they
graduated, are as follows:
1853: Abijah Crain, W.J. Hill, A.P. Setiz, Mary M. Carnes, and Miss N.A.
1854: F.M. Marchbanks, W.S. Templeton, A.T. Stitz, and M.L. Wood;
1855: Henry C. Anderson, Sterns Eichbaum, Thomas H. McCallie, John
Washburn, and Miss F.A. Sewell;
1856: S.E. Carnes, S.V. Ely, William H. Gernaud, J.R. Howard, G.A.
Kuykendall, G.W. Rogers, and U.L. York;
W.H. Westbrook, Martin White, and Miss Sophie Mauzy.
1854-1855, p.9; 1855-1856, p.9; 1871-1872, p.11.
This academy was founded in 1851 by the Salem Association of the Baptist
Church. Womack, McMinnville, p. 233.
Powell also served from 1870 to 1872.
Young, Christian Colleges, p. 59.
It is not known how many students were enrolled in the school at the
time of its closing; however, only two students were graduated in 1861.
The list of graduates during Powell's first term is as follows: 1859:
1860: F.M. Smith, C.S. Rascoe, and Miss S.C. Stubblefield;
1861: James Worthington and Mary J. Stewart.
Burritt College Catalogue,
1871-1872, p. 11.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 23.
Central Female Institute was controlled by the Baptists. Whether Powell
was a Baptist is not known; however, after his administration "utterly
failed,” Carnes' friends took advantage to buy a controlling interest in
the college in order "to restore the institution to its original status
under the patronage of the Christian Church." "Games," Southern
Standard, p. 4.
Creed Shockley, interview with the writer held at Spencer; Tennessee,
July 23, 1968.
Thomas H. Head, Campaigns and Battles of the Sixteenth Regiment,
Tennessee Volunteers (McMinnville: Womack Printing Co., 1961), pp.
17-18. Reprint of the 1885 edition, published by the Cumberland
Presbyterian Publishing House, Nashville. Hereinafter cited a s Head,
Seitz served from 1882 to 1886.
York Academy was founded before Burritt and was not of the same caliber.
In fact, York furnished students for Burritt College.
C.M. Clark, "My Grandfather's Diary of the War: The Diary of Carroll
Henderson Clark” (McMinnville: Privately published, 1963), no
It will be recalled that in 1858 Carnes became president of East
Tennessee University. After one year in that position he resigned
because of the failure to accomplish his objectives. Merriam, Hiqher
Education. p. 67. Carnes then became president of Franklin College; when
this school closed in 1861 he remained in Nashville until 1863, Boles,
Sketches, pp. 122-123.
"Carnes,” Southern Standard, (March 15, 1934), p.1.
Frazier was an outstanding Spencer lawyer who had moved to Nashville in
Brigadier General George Henry Thomas, the hero of the battles of
Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Richard B. Morris, ed.,
Encyclopedia Of American History (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), p.
Some fifteen families moved to Spencer in 1864 to enroll their children
in the school. Young, Christian Colleges, p, 59.
"Carnes, " Southern Standard, (March 22, 1934), p. 1.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 23.
The seal showed a blacksmith with an upraised hammer toiling over an
J.W. Grant, "A Sketch of the Reformation in Tennessee (Unpublished
manuscript in the possession of the Disciples of Christ Historical
Society, Nashville, 1897), pp. 79-81.
Statistics of the Population of the United States, Tenth Census
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883), p. 339.
Burritt College never had a permanent monetary endowment, although in
later years private donations of large amounts were set aside as
The faculty consisted of only three members, including the president.
Before the school was closed the faculty numbered as many as eight.
Effie Glllentine-Ramsey, Burritt: Our Alma Mater (Nashville:
McQuiddy Printing Company, 1914), p. 25. Hereinafter cited as
Ramsey, Alma Mater. Little is known of White except that he was a
relative of John White, for whom White county, Tennessee, was named. It
is thought that White chose to attend school at Burritt because he had
relatives living in the area. Creed Shockley, letter to the writer,
January 20, 1969.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1871-1872, p. 11. A total of seven
students graduated in these years. The student body numbered 122 in
Powell had served from 1858 to 1860.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 24
(Tenn.) Tribune, January 22, 1873, p.4
W.Y. Kuykendall, "Elder W.D. Carnes," Gospel Advocate, XXII
(March 10, 1880), 149. Hereinafter cited Kuykendall, "Carnes."
Carnes was sixty-eight when he assumed the presidency the second time.
Stella Bohannon, "No Students with Dirks," Nashville Tennessean,
November 23, 1947, p. 12. Hereinafter cited as Bohannon, "No Students."
Charles Lee Lewis, "Burritt Centennial Celebration,” an address
delivered before the Burritt College reunion, August 14, 1948, a printed
pamphlet in the possession of Creed Shockley, Spencer, Tennessee.
In the summertime the class day extended until five o'clock; in the
winter until four.
The student was first warned. The second offense automatically barred
him from participating in the weekend activities.
Bohannon, “No Students,” p. 12.
Henry Eugene Scott, letter to former students of Burritt College, May
18, 1921, located in the Calliopean Society Room, Burritt Memorial
Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 46.
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial,” p. 8.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 46.
Acts of the State of Tennessee, Passed at the First Session of the
Twenty-ninth General Assembly, for the years 1851-2 (Nashville: Bang and
McKennie, Printers to the State, 1852), p. 568. The charter of the
society was issued by the state. Constitution and bylaw of the
Philomathesian Society, located in the Philomathesian Society room,
Burritt Memorial Library, Spencer, Tennessee. Hereinafter cited as
Minutes of the Philomathesian Literary Society, August 9, 1902-April 12,
1921, pp. 1-43. The recorded minutes of the society begin with the 1902
For the charters of the societies see Appendices E and F.
The Cumberland, 1914, no pagination.
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial,* p. 8.
Leslie Acuff, letter to the writer, August 23, 1968, Mr. Acuff, a 1927
graduate of the high school department at Burritt, is a son of Mr. J.E.
Acuff, a member of the board of trustees at David Lipscomb College.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 30. Although this chapter only covers the
period from 1865 to 1890 information concerning the school library is
included here because it was through the efforts of the literary
societies that the school was able to maintain the same.
The Cumberland, 1914, no pagination.
The Sparks, October, 1927, p. 1. Burritt College newspaper.
"Burritt College: The Pioneer of the Cumberlands," printed brochure
located In the Calliopean Society room, Burritt Memorial Library,
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 70.
Among the public figures who graduated from Burritt are: Joseph Henry
Eagle, United States Congressman from Texas from 1913 to 1921 and 1933
to 1937; John Preston, a member of the California House of
Representatives in 1908, later United States attorney for the northern
district of California (1913-1918), also an associate justice on the
California Supreme Court (1926); Thomas Robert Preston, a brother of
John Preston and a financial magnate in Knoxville; Robert Lee Jones,
first president of Middle Tennessee State Teachers Normal (later Middle
Tennessee State College) and also commissioner of Memphis City Schools;
Henry Leo Boles, twice president of David Lipscomb College in Nashville
(1913-20; 1923-32) and editor of the Gospel Advocate (1920-23); Ernest
Nathaniel Haston, the Secretary of State for Tennessee from 1921 to
1936, whose sixteen years service gave him a longer term in this office
than any other man; Harry Camp of Sparta, a district judge; and Jasper
Acuff, a circuit judge in Alabama.
Burritt College produced many other ministers and lawyers
whose names are not as prominentes the above mentioned. The significant
aspect, is, however, that each of these first gained speaking ability
and confidence in one of Burritt’s literary societies. From all
indications the Philomathesians had the edge on the Callipeans, both for
popularity and in the number of prominent figures, Young, Christian
Colleges, p. 52; Creed Shockley, letter to the writer, December 6,
1968; Leo Lipscomb Boles and J.E. Choate, I'll Stand on the Bock: A
Biography of H. Leo Boles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company,
1965), p. 142, 162, 190, 202.
Brents was a native of Lincoln county, Tennessee, having been born there
February 10, 1823, of poor farmers. John T. Brown, Churches of Christ
(Louisville: John P. Morton and Company, 1904), p. 456; Danny Cottrell,
"T.W. Brents: Restoration Scholar," Gospel Advocate, CLX (March
7, 1968), 151. Educated at Macon Medical College, in Macon, Georgia,
Brents taught there after his graduating in 1841 until the outbreak of
the Civil War. He was also the president of the school for a short time
before the war. J.B. Cowden, Dr. T.W. Brents Superman and Master
Builder of the Christian Church and the Church of Christ (Nashville:
John E. Cowden, 1961), p. 17. "Brents preached periodically for the
Church of Christ while teaching at Macon; however, he soon gave up this
position to devote himself entirely to preaching. Brents moved to
Spencer from Macon because he was concerned that his children would not
receive a “proper” education at the medical school.
Brents was described as possessing "a clear, strong, and
vigorous intellect," combined with a powerful “physical constitution,
large and robust body, which presented a portly and magnificent
appearance." M.C. Kurfees, "T.W. Brents," Gospel Advocate, XLVII
(September 7, 1905), 564. Hereinafter cited as Kurfees, "Brents."
The charter permitted stock subscriptions to reach a maximum of
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial, p. 9.
“Burritt College,” printed questionnaire in the possession of Mary
Gillentine, Hollis, Oklahoma.
J.A. Hill, "Burritt College,” Gospel Advocate, XIX (September 20,
It will be recalled that during the first administration of Powell there
was some question as to whether Burritt was under the auspices of the
Church of Christ or persons outside this group. See Chapter II.
This drive included the sale of stock in the school, but also included
donations of cash for operating expenses and new equipment.
H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers
(Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1932), p. 206. It should be
remembered that although Carnes was primarily interested in the moral
growth of the students, he was also interested in academic excellence.
Thus during his second term he placed little emphasis on making
Burritt a religious school since the moral standards were already
Pledges made to the school were to be paid in ten installments of equal
amount. It will be remembered that money for the old building was
subscribed in shares of $50.00 each, and that a certain per cent of this
stock was good for tuition and was taken by the faculty in payment of
The trustees hoped to escape the possibility of having a few
stockholders control the major shares of stock and thus dictate the
policy of the school. In order to do this the trustees sought to make
each contributor equal with the rest. Thus the requirement that the
donations, regardless of the size, be paid in ten installments of equal
Despite this precaution there existed the fear that a
person's stock could be bought up by other donors after his death and
thus fall into the control of a few people. To guard against this
possibility, the stock stipulated that the subscriber was to own and
represent the shares of stock he held for the duration of his life, and
that at his death the stock be willed to a congregation of the Church of
Christ of the subscriber's choosing.
In this way the Church of Christ forever secured the stock,
insuring against the possibility that the school would pass outside the
control of this group. Hill, "Burritt College," pp. 580-581.
This practice also prevented the corruption of one man, or a
few men, inasmuch as the congregation as a whole was to control the
Brents' only experience was a three year term as president of Macon
McMinnville (Tenn.) Southern Standard, March 22, 1934, p. 4.
Kuykendall, 'Carnes," p. 149.
It was said that Carnes delighted to read to both devotional services
from the book of Solomon. Associated with this reading was "the fervent
and trusting prayer, full of faith in God, and of tender sympathy and
solicitude for the precious souls under his care. The heart that was not
purified and devotionalized by these prayers must surely have partaken
deeply of the depravity of human nature. " Ibid.
Kurfees, “Brents,” p.564.
Burrltt College Catalogue, 1894-1895, pp. 14-19.
M. Norvel Young, A History of Christian Colleges (Kansas City:
Old Paths Book Club, 1949), p. 62.
The Sparta (Tenn.) Index, February 25, 1876, p. 4. The year 1870
saw 122 students enrolled; however, this was for the fall term.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1871-1872, p.11. The college permitted
students to register late since many of them lived at great distances
from the school. The number given above (seventy-nine) was one of the
largest first day registration in the history of the
school since it reopened in 1866.
Kurfees, “Brents,” p. 564.
Lewis, "Burrltt Centennial," p. 10.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1871-1872, p.11.
Head, Campaigns, p. 186. This regiment was attached to the army
of General Braxton Bragg and participated i a number of significant
engagements, including Perryville and the battle of Murfreesboro.
Seitz was vice-president and dean under Brents. Young, Christian
Colleges, p. 63. These offices were purely titular for the actual
control of the school was under the president.
"Burritt College, " Gospel Advocate, XXV (August 15, 1883), 520.
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial," p. 10.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1910-1911, p.4
Lewis, "Burritt Centennial,” p. 10.
Carnes had become president of the Manchester school in 1865 and had
served until 1871. Boles, Sketches, p. 123.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, pp. 24-25.
Burritt boasted the fact that it was "nine miles distant from the
railroad, and on top of the Cumberland mountain, and is entirely free
from the noise and bustle of the world. No traveling show disturbs the
tranquility of the student, nor are citizens often annoyed by the
presence of a tramp. The busy scenes and struggling activity of the peat
centers of trade and commerce, the dissipation and evil influences of a
large city, and the constant interruption occasioned thereby, being far
removed from the College, make it one of the most delightful situations
for the students in the bounds of our acquaintance. There is not a
saloon, gambling hall, billiard room, or other places of improper resort
in our vicinity. The religious and moral element predominates in the
school. It is not respectable here to indulge in wicked and vicious
habits. But few students have the audacity to persist in habits which
are discountenanced by the Faculty and a majority of the students and
the citizens of the town. Burritt College Catalogue, 1910-1911,
Although Burritt could claim students from Georgia, Arkansas, Ohio, and
Mississippi, the great majority were from local mountain communities
like Hurricane, Peeled Chestnut, Goodbars, Crinkley , Bone Cave, Bean's
Creek, Fall Mills, and Lois, Tennessee. Of the 190 students enrolled in
1904 only twelve were from outside the Middle Tennessee area. Burritt
College Catalogue, 1904-1905, pp. 12-13.
The population for Spencer in 1890 stood at 572 while that for the
county numbered 2,863. Report on Population of the United States at
the Eleventh Census, 1890, Part I (15 vols.; Washington: Government
Printing Office, 1895), I, 327. By 1900 the population of Spencer
numbered 665 and Van Buren county had increased to 3,126. However, by
1910 both the population of Spencer and Van Buren county decreased to
580 and 2,784, respectively. Twelfth Census of the United States,
Taken in the gear 1900 Population, Part I (10 vols.; Washington:
United States Census Office, 1901), I, 40, 375; Thirteenth Census of
the United States, Taken in the year 1910, Population, 1910, Reports by
States, with Statistics for Counties, Cities, and other Civil Divisions
(15 vols.; 'Washington: Government Printing Office, 1913), 111, 734.
Dr. C.H. Dowell, letter to the writer, September 3, 1968.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, pp. 41, 43.
H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers
(Nashville: Gospel Advocate company, 1932), p. 413. Hereinafter cited as
Burritt College Catalogue, 1871-1872, p, 11. The other graduates
were S.S. Hale, Mansil Crane, and Mary Dyer.
Effie Gillentine-Ramsey Burritt: Our Alma Mater (Nashville:
McQuiddy Printing Company, 1914), p. 47. Hereinafter cited as Ramsey,
Boles, Sketches, p. 413.
This was prior to a uniform textbook system for the state, This latter
innovation did not come into being until the close of the 1920's.
Boles, Sketches, p. 413.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1890-1891, p.32.
The students were not required to attend both semesters. As each course
was completed in one semester, there was no continuity in the subjects
for the students to miss. Consequently many attended only the fall term
and worked the spring term. Such was the case with William Howard
Sutton, a Burritt president, who, as a student, taught every spring
session in order to help pay the expenses for his own education at
Burritt. Boles, Sketches, p. 404.
The faculty consisted of W .S. Graves, teacher of mathematics; W.C.
Cummings, primary department; Sallie Parkins, music; W.E. Shockley,
vocal music, and Carroll Henderson Clark, dean. Burritt College
Catalogue, 1890-1891, p. 2.
Billinqsley became president of Burritt with the understanding that he
was to lease the school for a fifteen year period, Burritt College
Catalogue, 1910-1911, p. 4.
Fluctuation in the number of teachers was due to the lack of
*qualified" teachers in other departments to replace those who
resigned. Consequently many teachers had to teach courses outside their
specialty. The faculty in 1904, for example, numbered only eight;
however, four of the teachers taught at least two subjects. Burritt
College Catalogue, 1904-1905, p. 2.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1910-1911, p.4.
be remembered that T.W. Brents came to Spencer in 1873 and immediately
associated himself with the school. It was he who suggested that Burritt
be expanded into a religious school. Carnes appointed Brents to head a
fund drive to issue as much stock subscription as the charter allowed.
Brents not only sold all the stock but secured a controlling interest in
Burritt. He then demanded Carnes' resignation as president. This demand
touched off a furor among the trustees and stockholders and resulted in
the resignation of Carnes. Brents sought a recognition with Carnes but
failed in this attempt. With Carnes resignation a steady decline in the
patronage of the school resulted in a succession of changes in
administrations, each of which proved unable to reverse the trend. The
school closed for the spring and fall terms of 1889. In an effort to
solve the problem of administration the trustees sought a man who would
personally conduct the school by means of a lease. While the control of
the school was under the auspices of members of the Church of Christ the
president was given a free hand to employ the teachers, plan the
curriculum, and determine many of the policies of the school.
Billingsley accepted a fifteen year lease on the school in 1890. This
lease was renewed for an additional fifteen years in 1905.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1899-1900, p. 9.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1904-1905, pp. 11-15.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1906-1907, p. 2.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1904-1905, pp. 16-18.
The faculty in 1906 numbered ten; by 1908, however, the number was down
to six. Burritt College Catalogues, 1905-1906, p.2; 1908-1909,
p.2. From this time on the number fluctuated from six to ten.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, pp. 31-32.
Mrs. Mattie Swallows, interview with the writer, September 27, 1968.
Ibid., January 21, 1969. All of Billingsley papers and records were
destroyed in the fire.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 33.
Letter from W.N. Billingsley to E.A. Elam, March 10, 1906, cited in
"Help Burritt College," Gospel Advocate, XLVIII (April 5, 1906),
1. Hereinafter cited as Elam, Help Burritt."
It is believed that the majority of these funds were in pledges rather
than cash, although the sum pledged by the donor was payable on demand.
The donations ran from $1.03 to $300.00 in size, the latter being a
contribution of President Billingsley. From a ledger containing the
names and amounts of money of the donors, in the possession of Mary
Gillentine, Hollis, Oklahoma.
Elam, "Help Burritt," p. 1.
The figure has been placed at $15,000; however, the figure is closer to
$18,000. F.B. Srygley, "Meeting at Spencer, Tennessee Gospel Advocate,
XLIV (May 16, 1907), 320. Hereinafter cited as Srygley, "Meeting.”
The fund drive went on for over a year.
The writer has been unable to locate Billingsley’s papers and
correspondence. Besides those destroyed in the fire in 1906 the only
other collection of these papers was located in the offices of the
Sparta Expositor. While on a trip to Europe a member of the Paris
Exposition in 1900 Billingsley supplied articles to the Expositor on a
regular basis. The newspaper paid Billingsley for these articles, and it
was in this way that he was able to finance the trip. Swallows
interview, January 21, 1969.
The Expositor office burned in 1934, and all records,
including the collection of Billingsley papers and other work done for
Burritt College, were destroyed. It is believed that all of
Billingsley's personal correspondence was in the collection which
There is some confusion about the amount of money Carnegie offered to
donate. Creed Shockeley, in an interview with the writer on July 23,
1968, stated that Carnegie offered to contribute one-half of the
$18,000. Other sources, however, place the figure at $4,250, which was
one-half of the remaining $8,500. F.B. Srygley, in the Gospel
Advocate, XLIV (Mary 16, 1907), 320, says that Billingsley wrote
Carnegie only after the fund drive stalled, and this appeal was more or
less a last resort to get the funds immediately. In Srygley's words,
"Professor Billingsley wrote to Mr. Andrew Carnegie of their loss, which
was then eighty-five hundred dollars above what they had raised; and he
offered to donate one-half of the balance if they would raise the other
half; but they were not able to raise that amount. They still lack over
two thousand dollars; but if they could raise this, they would then get
his donation of forty-two hundred and fifty dollars. It does look like
that amount might be raised among the old friends of the college. . . .”
The Sparks, November 1931, p. 2. Burritt College Newspaper.
The spring term opened a month late due to the uncompleted building and
the difficulty in locating available homes for the students.
There is much confusion concerning whether or not Carnegie ever made his
matching offer. Shockley believed that Carnegie never made the actual
donation due to "other problems” between Burritt officials and himself.
Just what these “problems" were is unclear; it is thought, however, that
Carnegie placed a restriction on the use of the funds. It had been
Carnegie’s practice to donate library buildings outright, or else
earmark cash contributions to this purpose. See Durand R. Miller, ed.,
Carnegie Grants for Library Buildings, 1890-1917 (New York:
Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1943), pp. 7,17. Donations for
Tennessee during this period totaled $335,000 for thirteen "free public
library buildings," Tennessee colleges receiving grants for academic
library buildings during this period included Fisk, Knoxville College,
Lincoln Memorial, Peabody, and the University of Tennessee, Ibid.,
It is also uncertain whether Srygley's statement referring
to the possibility of Burritt patrons raising "that amount” meant the
$2,000 which had to be raised before Carnegie matched the amount given,
or the $4,250 which was one-half of the needed 88,500, Margaret Barcley
Wilson, compiler, A Carnegie Anthology (New York: Privately
Printed, 1915), pp. 1-182, makes no mention of Burritt College or of
Carneqie’s alleged donation, although other Tennessee colleges are
A Manual of the Public Benefactions of Andrew Carnegie
(Washington: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1919), p.
319, lists the contributions Carnegie made to all the schools in the
United States during his lifetime. Contributions to all colleges in
Tennessee amounted to $1,607,333, and were broken down into the
following divisions: six grants for library buildings, $280,000; seven
grants for other buildings, $155,750; $1,076,533 for endowment; and five
grants amounting to $95,000 for "other purposes."
Some, on the other hand, believe that Carnegie matched the
funds. Swallows, in the September 27, 1968 interview with the writer,
stated as much. That it is possible that Carnegie made his contribution
is confirmed by the fact that nothing further is said about the fund
drive after Billingsley made his appeal to Carnegie. It is doubtful that
the building could have been completed as soon as it was had the funds
not been available. However, the question remains unresolved.
Burritt College Catalogue. 1908-1909, p. 26.
Ibid., p.21 With special permission a number of girls were
allowed to five off campus in a house owned by professor Freiley.
Burritt Colleqe Catalogue, 1910-1911, p. 4.
Boles, Sketches, p. 413.
Gillentine, a member of the pioneer family of Van Buren county, was a
teacher at the school.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p.50
Spencer (Tenn.) Times, March 29, 1912, p. 2.
Sparta (Tenn.) Expositor, March 29, 1912, p. 3.
Gospel Advocate, LXXII (February 13, 1930), 158.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p.49.
Young, Christian Colleges, pp. 64-65.
Ramsey, Alma Mater, p. 49.
Young, Christian Colleges, p. 65.
Dr. C.H. Dowell, letter to the writer, September 3, 1968.
The Cumberland, 1914, Burritt College yearbook, no pagination.
Besides Graves, the faculty was composed of A.B. Walker, instructor in
the preparatory department and teacher of higher English; Iola Hodges,
teacher in the primary department; Virginia Myers, instructor in
elocution; B.M. Flemming, teacher of vocal music, and an art instructor,
to be named. The only addition to this faculty was Mary Gillentine,
instructor in Latin and Greek, Burritt College Catalogue,
1910-1911, p. 2.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1909-1910, p. 2.
Spencer (Tenn.) Times, January 12, 1912, p. 1.
Of all the presidents of Burritt College, only two, William Davis Carnes
and William Newton Billingsley, proved effective in the administration
of the school, Carnes was respected because he established a strong
moral code for the school; Billingsley was admired and respected because
of his outstanding career in education and because he brought to Burritt
an intimate knowledge of the workings of a school. It this type
of leadership needed to maintain Burritt’s existence.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1913-1916, p. 3. By 1915, the year
Graves resigned, the student body dropped to 173 with the senior,
junior, and sophomore classes claiming twelve, eleven, and sixteen
students, while the four lower levels numbered-thirty-five. Forty-two,
and twenty-seven students. The Cumberland, 1915, no pagination.
Little is known of Denson except that he was a minister.
Evidences of Christianity was the only course taught until 1912. This
was common, however, to most private, church-related schools in the
South. See Edgar W. Knight, ed., A Documentary History of Education
In The South Before 1860 Vol. IV : Private and Denominational
Efforts (5 vols.; Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina
Prsss, 1953), 1-2.
Burritt College Catalogue 1913-1914, p. 19. Each of the courses
in Burrltt's curriculum had the equivalent of one-half unit.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 51.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1913-1914, pp. 11-12. In 1914 an
agreement was reached between Burritt’s trustees and the Van Buren
County Board of Education to teach the high school in the school's
facilities. Graves was to be the principal of the high school
department. Four licensed teachers, including the principal, were to
direct the department. $200,00 was allocated to Burritt for expenses
incurred in teaching the high school students. The board also allotted
from $40.00 to $70.00 per teacher as their salaries. Minutes of the Van
Buren County Board of Education, August 3, 1914, p, 28; December 10,
1918, p. 36.
H.C. Denson, "Burritt College,” Gospel Advocate, LVIII (August, 1916),
860-861. Hereinafter cited as Denson, “Burritt."
Burritt College Catalogue, 1915-1916, p. 9.
Denson, “Burritt,” p. 861.
Samuel Eliot Morison, Oxford History of the American People (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1965), p.888
This ideal is best revealed in a work by twelve southerners entitled
I'll Take My Stand (New York: Peter Smith, 1951). Reprint of the 1930
edition. This work seeks to point out the evils of industrialism and to
defend the agrarian standard as the preserver of the American ideal.
While it does not represent the complete picture of southern thought, it
is the epitome of the agrarian ideal.
This ideal also characterized other schools founded in the nineteenth
century, and is best exemplified in the following statement from the
laws of Wake Forest, founded in 1839: "The purpose of education is to
lead students to think and act for themselves, to give them the power
of learning, the skill in acting, as it is this that prepares them for
any station or pursuit to which they may be called, rather than the kind
or amount of knowledge that may he acquired. . .In a word, it is to give
the power and habit of self-education, as it is this alone that will
make man an independent agent. . .” Quoted in Edgar W. Knight, ed., A
Documentary History of Education In the South Before 1860 Vol. IV,
Private and Denominational Efforts (5 vol.; Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1953), 329.
Winston Phifer, "Henry Eugene Scott," Gospel Advocate, CLX
(October 14, 1967), 516.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1919-1920, p.7.
Creed Shockley, interview with the writer, February 12, 1969.
A state-wide county school system was established by an act of the
legislature in 1873. The County High School Act of 1899 authorized the
establishment of county high schools; however, it was not until 1909
that state aid for high schools was made effective in the General
Education Bill of that year. Efficient administration of these schools
was initiated by the Tennessee legislature in 1921 when it substituted
one county board of education for the separate elementary and high
school boards which were created in 1907 and 1899, respectively.
from 1913 to 1922 saw a change in attitudes towards public support for a
public school system. The main purpose of state aid for county schools
from the passage of the County High School Act to about 1913 was to
serve as an incentive for better and more local support. What assistance
the state gave to the local system was to be matched by it and the
actual amount given by the state was minimal. The next decade saw the
acceptance of the concept that the state should assume a larger share of
the burden of supporting the public schools.
period also saw the development of the view that equal educational
opportunities should be offered to all white children of the state. This
meant in effect that the state should give special aid to the poorer
counties to help Improve the e3ucatlonsl facilities and make them more
equal to the facilities of other sections of the state. High schools
received the bulk of this aid, reaching-some twelve and one-half per
cent of the total by 1921. As a result over 576 high schools were in
existence by 1922, Andrew David Holt, The Struggle for a School
System of Public Schools in Tennessee (New York: Teachers College,
Columbia University, 1928), pp. 64, 85, 103, 263, 316, 326-327.
Hereinafter cited as Holt, Struggle.
best the church-aided and private colleges took no active part in
the development of the public school system. On the other hand
considerable resentment was aroused among some leaders. Lucius Salisbury
Merriam, Higher Education In Tennessee (Washington: Government
Print Office, 1893), p. 105.
“Burritt College: Pioneer of the Cumberlands.” Printed brochure in the
Calliopian Literary Society Room, Burritt College Memorial Library,
Spencer, Tennessee. This is the first public acknowledgement by school
officials that Burritt was no longer classified as a "college."
Burritt College Catalogue, 1919-1920, pp.9, 12.
James E. Chessor, “Bright Prospects for Burritt College," Gospel
Advocate, LXIV (December 21, 1922), 1212. Hereinafter cited as
Minutes of the Van Buren County Board of Education December 6, 1921, p.
52. Hereinafter cited as Minutes. The school term was later
extended to six months. Minutes, June 6, 1923, p. 8.
Minutes, September 17, 1921, p. 2.
Unpublished brochure announcing the fall term of 1921, located in the
Calliopean Literary Society Room, Burritt College Memorial Library,
The Cumberland, 1923, Burritt College yearbook. No pagination.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 6.
It is believed that most of Burritt’s teachers received $50.00 or less
per month. This was the approximate amount of the public school salary
in 1902. In 1920 a resolution to increase and set the minimum wage for
public school teachers at $100.00 a month was brought before the state
board of education; however, it was not until 1925 that this became the
state schedule for teachers. See Holt, Struggle, pp. 22, 328.
of some Burritt teachers' salaries were paid by the County Board Of
Education, providing they taught those subjects in which county students
were enrolled. By 1927 the board was paying the salaries of four Burritt
teachers who taught in the high school department. Salaries ran from
$100.00 to $150.00 per month, depending upon the amount of education the
teachers had, Minutes, May 10, 1927, p. 18; February 25, 1928,
The Sparks, October, 1927, p. 1.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1924-1925, p. 7.
The list included Robert Lee Jones, superintendent of the Memphis City
Schools, Perry Lee Harned, Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Henry
Leo Boles, editor of the Gospel Advocate, Nicholas Brodie (N.B.)
Hardeman, widely known evangelist, and E.A. Elam, former president of
David Lipscomb College and Well-known minister.
The Sparks, October, 1927, p.1.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1937-1938, p.11.
The Sparks, October, 1927, p.1.
“Burritt College: The Pioneer of the Cumberlands."
Burritt College Catalogue, 1937-1938, p. 12.
Burritt College was never accredited, although by the mid-1930's a
number of teachers held state-issued certificates. In 1934 the high
school department was accredited by the state. Burritt College
Catalogue, 1933-1934, pp. 19-21. There were twenty-seven high
schools and forty-one junior and senior colleges with approved rating
from the state. Burritt was not included in either category. Report of
the Tennessee Educational Commission, 1934, Part I (Nashville: Tennessee
Education Commission, 1935), pp. 264-265.
Chessor, “Prospects,” p. 1212.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1922-1923, pp. 10-13. Subjects taught
in the intermediate department included reading, writing, grammar,
arithmetic, geography, spelling, Tennessee history, beginners' history
of the United States, elementary physiology, and selections from English
Unless the parents specified by means of a written request, the students
were required to take the classical course.
Mathematics began with arithmetic, advanced to algebra, plane geometry,
and solid geometry. Science started with botany and zoology, progressed
to commercial and physical geography, chemistry, and physics. Burritt
College Catalogue, 1922-1923, pp. 12, 15-17.
The Bible courses were optional, and consisted of analytical studies of
the Old and New Testament. The traditional evidences of Christianity was
a part of the optional
Burritt College Catalogue, 1921-1922, pp. 17, 19-20.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1924, 1925, p. 14.
Ibid., pp. 19-20. Nothing is known of Miss Ehresman or why she
came to Burritt to teach. Her contributions as expression teacher were
many, since many of the boys who became preachers gained their knowledge
and training In public speaking from this class. The student body
conducted periodic assembly programs with each student expected to
participate actively by conducting a dramatic or Bible reading, put on
short skits, or sing. Since these programs provided one of the few
sources for entertainment, many students took expression to assist them
in putting on better performances. Swallows interview, September 27,
Miss Gillentine was a member of the pioneer Gillentine family of Van
Burritt College Catalogue, 1923-1924, p. 27.
The large number of students enrolled in Bible courses is explained by
the fact that boys who were preparing to become preachers received free
A number of the boys received practical experience by conducting the
prayer services at the church building and by preaching at those
mountain congregations which could not afford a preacher. Swallows
interview, September 27, 1968.
Minutes, December 17, 1921, p. 2; April 1, 1922, p.6.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 60. It is not known how
long Miss Myers directed the teacher training program at Burritt;
however, it is believed that she was at the school only for the first
year to organize and set the program in motion. The teacher training
course was the nucleus of the summer program. Other courses were taught.
The number of classes depended upon the demand.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1924-1925, p.19; 1936-1937, p.12.
Minute's, July 6, 1926, p. 15.
The high amount of the salary here as compared with that of the other
teachers is explained by the fact that the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917
provided Federal grants-in-aid, to be matched by contributions of the
several states, for promoting instruction in agriculture and the trades.
It also set up a Federal Board of Vocational Education.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1929-1930, p.19.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1920-1921, p. 12.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1932-1933, p.15.
Since there was no law governing the issuance of diplomas in the early
years, the school was permitted to create and distribute the diplomas
indiscriminately. The girls were issued their own certificates, the
Mistress of Arts and the Mistress of English Literature; however, as the
state laws became more rigid, both the kind and the number of degrees
declined. In the later years only two, the A.B. and the B.S., were
offered. C.H. Dowell, letter to the writer, September 3, 1968.
A “gymnastics program” had been a part of the school's activities since
its founding; however, this program had hitherto consisted merely of
Burritt College Catalogues, 1923-1924, pp. 41-42; 1929-1930,
p.14; 1937-1938, p. 12. Money for the gymnasium was raised among
citizens of Spencer. The construction of the building was done by
students, teachers, and citizens, thus eliminating the costs incurred in
hiring a contractor.
This association was composed of the intramural clubs.
The Sparks, October, 1927, p. 3.
The paper was published bi-monthly during later years, The Sparks,
November, 1931, p. 2.
Spencer had had a newspaper earlier. The paper, the Spencer Times, was
founded and published by Ernest Haston during the presidential campaign
of 1912. Haston was a delegate-at-large to the Democratic National
Convention of that year, and had campaigned actively in behalf of the
candidacy of Woodrow Wilson. Shockely interview, July 23, 1968.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1929-1930, p. 10.
Swallows interview, September 27, 1968.
See Appendix G for typical programs of the literary societies.
Waldo Power, Interview with the writer held at Cookeville, Tennessee,
March 31, 1969.
It was thought that this practice caused students to retain much more of
what they studied than they would by a random method. Swallows
In addition to the new dormitory and the additions to the administration
building, laboratories for chemist r y , biology, agriculture, and home
economics were added.
Burritt College Catalogues, 1936-1937, p. 31; 1937-1938, P. 31.
Letter of H.G. Scott to Burritt College alumni, August 15, 1921, located
in the Calliopean Literary Society Room, Burritt College Memorial
Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
A $25,000 contribution in cash and real estate was bequeathed to Burritt
by President Billingsley at his death in 1912. Although listed as
"endowment,” the Interest on the money was to be used to aid the Church
of Christ in Spencer. A small portion was allotted to Blllingsley's
half-sister, Jennie Billingsley. Burritt College Catalogue,
1931-1932, p. 11. Burritt only realized a small amount of this sum.
This was a cash contribution.
Burritt College Catalogue, 1931-1932, p, 11. It is unclear
whether the school ever realized any benefits from the bequest, inasmuch
as nothing more is said of the matter.
Minutes, March 15, 1924, p.11.
Minutes, April 14, 1928, p. 23; December 29, 1928, p. 27. Scott's
salary for the school term as superintendent of schools was $400.00.
Minutes, August 8, 1915; pp. 47-48; September 10, 1936, p. 51.
Minutes, July 7, 1937, p.55.
Minutes, March 12, 1936, p. 48; July 6, 1936, p.50; July 31,
Minutes, September 10, 1936, p. 51.
Albert Jones, lnterview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee
February 12, 1969. Mr. Jones is presently the superintendent of Van
Buren county schools.
Minutes, August 26, 1938, p. 61.
Letter from H.E. Scott to former students, May 18, 1921, in the
Calliopean Literary Society Room, Burritt College Memorial Library,
The origin, operation, and administration of Burritt College was not
dissimilar to that of other colleges in the nineteenth century. Wake
Forest, founded in 1833, had virtually the same requirements for
admission and maintenance as Burritt. In addition the curriculum of the
schools was virtually alike. Like Burritt, Wake Forest divided the
school into departments and subdivided the collegiate department into
classical and scientific sections. See Knight, Documentary History,
IV, 323-324. See also Merriam’s Higher Education in Tennessee,
pp. 63-187 passim. for a discussion of the problems of finance,
administration, and discipline which the early schools in Tennessee
Extract from an address to the alumni of Washington College by Archibald
Alexander, as quoted in Knight, Documentary History, IV, 335.
Having a permanent source of endowment was sometimes the only reason for
the continuous operation of many of the private schools during the
financial crises which confronted them. The University of the South,
located at Sewanee, Tennessee, is an example. This school, which was
founded in 1859 under the auspices of the Episcopal church, was similar
to Burritt College in many respects, Its location in the Cumberland
mountains isolated it from the main arteries of communication and
transportation. Like Burritt, the University of the South stressed the
classical ideal during its early years of operation. It was also like
Burritt in that it was founded as a private institution. The University
of the South survived the period of the rise of public schools and the
depression, however, because it had a source of permanent endowment.
The school was initially supported by dioceses of the
Episcopal church in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida,
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The sum
of $500,000 was to be raised to underwrite the cost of establishing the
college. Once the money was secured, the plans to found the school were
completed. To insure continuous financial support, treasurers serving
the dioceses were appointed to receive voluntary subscriptions of money.
The treasurers, in turn, invested this money insecurities, paying over
to the corporation overseeing the school the interest received from this
investment. Thus the school had a permanent endowment and a dependable
source of monetary support. Knight, Documentary History, IV,
Back To Top
A. PRIMARY SOURCES
Burritt College Memorial
Library Collection, Burritt College Memorial Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
This collection includes:
A. Calliopean Literary Society Room:
Catalogues of the Officers and Students of Burritt College for the Collegiate
Years of 1894-1895, 1899-1900, 1900-1901, 1907-1908, 1909-1910, 1910-1911,
1915-1916, 1922-1923, 1924-1925, 1933-1934, 1936-1937, 1937-1938.
(2) Unpublished brochure announcing the
fall term of school for Burritt College, 1921.
Unpublished typewritten questionnaires on Burritt College, 1886. Originally in
the possession of Mary Gillentine, Hollis, Oklahoma.
manuscripts contain pertinent statistical Information relating to the curriculum
and students of Burritt College, in addition to other academic information.
B. Philomathesian Literary Society
Typewritten unnumbered volume, Constitution and Bylaws of the
Philomathesian Literary Society.
Unumbered volumes, Minutes of the Philomathesian Literary Society, 1902-1936.
records contain the origin and programs of the Philomathesian Literary Society
of Burritt College.
Creed Shockley Collection, Spencer,
Tennessee. These private collections include:
Catalogues of the Officers end Students of Burritt College for the Collegiate
Years of 1854-1818; 1855-1856, 1856-1857, 1871-1872, 1902-1903, 1904-1905,
1913-1914, 1919-1920, 1920-1921, 1931-1932, 1932-1933.
catalogues and yearbooks provide vital statistics concerning the number of
students enrolled in the primary, preparatory, intermediate, and collegiate
departments of Burritt College for the respective years.
Grant, J.W. "A Sketch of the
Reformation in Tennessee,"
Unpublished handwritten manuscript, Nashville, 1897. Disciples of Christ
Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.
manuscript is a series of articles tracing the various efforts of the Church of
Christ in Tennessee to restore primitive Christianity during the nineteenth
century. Of special interest was the emphasis given to those men and
institutions who contributed more to spread the Church of Christ in the state,
Brief mention is made of the role Burritt College assumed in this action,
particularly after the Civil War,
Jones, Isaac Newton. "The
Reformation in Tennessee."
Unpublished handwritten manuscript, Nashville, 1897. Disciples of Christ
Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.
manuscript is a collection of biographical sketches of the leaders of the
movement to restore ancient Christianity in Tennessee. Of particular interest
was an article on the life of William Davis Carnes, second president of Burritt
II. OFFICIAL AND COLLECTED DOCUMENTS
Acts of the State of Tennessee, Passed at the First Session of the
Twenty-seventh General Assembly, for the years 1847-48. Jackson: Gates and
Acts of the State of Tennessee,
Passed at the First Session of the Twenty-ninth General Assembly, for the years
1851-52. Nashville: Bang and McKennie, Printers to the State, 1852.
A Manual of the Public Benefactions
of Andrew Carnegie. Washington: The Carnegie Endowment for International
"Burritt College: The Pioneer of the Cumberlands." Printed brochure. Calliopean
Literary Society Room, Burritt College Memorial Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
Curti, Merle Eugene, ed. The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters And Journals of
Elihu Burritt. New York: Wilson-Erickson, Inc., 1937.
Knight, Edgar W., ed. A Documentary History Of Education in the South
Before 1860. Vol. IV, Private and Denominational Efforts.. Chapel
Hill: University of Worth Carolina Press, 1953.
Report of the Tennessee Educational Commission, 1934,
Part I. Nashville: Tennessee Education Association, 1935.
Reports of Cases Argued and Determined In the Supreme Court of Tennessee. State v. Rauscher, 69 Tenn., 1 Lea, 96, (1878). 78.
Louisville: Fetter Law Book Company, 1902.
Report on Population of the United States at the Eleventh Census, 1890.
Part I. Vol. I. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895.
Seventh Census of the United States: 1850. Washington: Robert Armstrong,
Public Printer, 1853.
Seventh Census of the United States: 1850. Report for Van Buren County.
Microfilm. Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Sixth Census, or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States: 1840.
Washington: Blair and Rives, 1841.
Statistics of the Population of the United States, Tenth Census.
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883.
Thirteenth Census of the United States, Taken in the year 1910.
Population, 1910, Reports by States, with Statistics for Counties,
Cities, and other Civil Divisions. Vol. III. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1913.
Twelfth Census of the United States, Taken in the year 1900. Population,
Part I, Vol. I. Washington: United States Census Office, 1901.
United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. Religious Bodies,
1936: Statistics, History, Doctrine, Organization, and Work. Vol. 11.
Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1941.
Van Buren County Board of Education Minutes, 1914-1938. unnumbered
volumes, Van Buren County Courthouse, Spencer, Tennessee.
III. MISCELLANEOUS CONTEMPORARY WRITINGS
Anon. , "Burritt College. " Gospel Advocate, XXV (August 15, 1883), 520.
Anon., Gospel Advocate, LXXII (February 13, 1930), 158.
Anon., "Help Burritt College." Gospel Advocate, XLVII (April 5, 1906), 1.
Bohannon, Stella, "No Students with Dirks," Nashville Tennessean, (November 23,
Chessor, James E. "Bright Prospects for Burritt College." Gospel Advocate,
LXIV (December 21, 1922), 1212.
Clark, C.M. "My Grandfather's Diary of the War: The Diary of Carroll Henderson
Clarke.” McMinnville: Privately published, 1963.
Denson, Harvey C. "Burritt College. " Gospel Advocate, LVIII (August 24,
Hill, J.A. "Burritt College." Gospel Advocate, XIX, (September 20, 1877),
Kelton, Alva Lee, "Biography of William Davis Carnes, President of Burritt
College," McMinnville Southern Standard, (February 22, 1934), 1ff.
Kirkham, E. Kay. The Counties of the United States: Their Derivation and
Census Schedules. Salt Lake City: Kay Publishing Company, 1961.
Kurfees, M.C. "T.W. Brents." Gospel Advocate, XLVII (September 7, 1905).
Kuykendall, W.Y. "Elder W.D. Carnes." Gospel Advocate, XXII (March 10,
Lewis, Charles Lee. "Burritt College Centennial Celebration." Originally an
address delivered before the Burritt College alumni reunion, August 14, 1948,
now a printed pamphlet in the possession of Creed Shockley, Spencer, Tennessee.
Mlller, Durand R., ed. Carnegie Grants for Library Buildings, 1890-1917.
New York : Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1943.
Scott, Henry Eugene. Letter to former students, May 18, 1921. Calliopean
Literary Society Soon, Burritt College Memorial Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
_____. Letter to Burritt College alumni, August 15, 1921. Calliopean Literary
Society Boom, Burritt College Memorial Library, Spencer, Tennessee.
Srygley, F.B. "Meeting at Spencer, Tennessee." Gospel Advocate, XLIV (May
16, 1907), 320.
The Sparks, Burritt College newspaper,
(October, 1927), 1ff; (November, 1931), 1ff.
McMinnville New Era, 1873-1874.
Sparta Expositor, 1912.
Sparta Tribune, 1873.
Spencer Times, 1912.
The Sparta Index, 1876.
Acuff, Leslie. Letter to the writer,
August 23, 1968.
Dowell, C.H. Letter to the
writer, September 3, 1968.
Hennessee, Thelma. Letter to
the writer, August 26, 1968.
Jones, Albert. Interview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee, February
McCollum, C.L. Letter to the wrlter, August 25, 1968.
Power, Waldo. Interview with the writer held at Cookeville, Tennessee, March 31,
Shockley, Creed. Interview with the writer held at Spencer, Tennessee, July 23,
1968; February 12, 1969. Letters to the writer, October 16, 1968; October
21, 1968; November 7, 1968; December 6, 1968.
Swallows, Mrs. William Lee (Mattie), Interview with the writer held at
Cookeville, Tennessee, September 27, 1968.
Tolls, Peter. Letter to the writer, December 11, 1967.
Walling, Eston. Letter to the
writer, December 13, 1967.
B. SECONDARY SOURCES
Ellsworth, Clayton Sumner. "The American Churches and the Mexican War."
American Historical Review, XLV (January, 1940), 311.
Harrell, David Edwin, Jr. “Disciples of Christ Pacifism In Nineteenth Century
Tennessee.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, XXI (1962), 264-265.
_____. “The Sectional Origins of the Churches of Christ.” Journal of Southern
History, XXI (August, 1964), 265.
Leab, Grace. "Tennessee Temperance Activites, 1870-1899." East Tennessee
Historical Society Publications, XXI (1949) 58-59.
Phifer, Winston. "Henry Eugene Scott. Gospel Advocate, CLX (October 14,
Spencer, Claude. “Educational Institutions of the Disciples of Christ."
Unpublished article, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville,
II. MONOGRAPHS AND SPECIAL STUDIES
Boles, Leo Lipscomb, and Choate, J.E. I'll Stand on the Rock: A Biography of
H. Leo Boles. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1965.
Brown, John T. Churches of Christ. Louisville: John P. Norton and
Chalk, John Allen. "A History of the Gospel Advocate, 1856-1868: Its
Social and Political Conscience." Unpublished master's thesis, Tennessee
Technological University, 1967.
Coulter, E. Merton. College Life in the Old South. New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1928.
Curti, Merle Eugene. The American Peace Crusade: 1815-1860. New York:
Octagon Books, 1965. Reprint of the 1929 edition.
_____., and Nash, Roderick. Philanthropy in the Shaping of American Higher
Education. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1965.
Cowden, J.B. Dr. T.W. Brents, Superman and Master Builder of the Christian
Church and the Church of Christ. Nashville: John E. Cowden, 1961.
Garrison, Winfred Ernest, and DeGroot, Alfred T. The Disciples of Christ: A
History. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publications, 1948.
Gillentine-Ramsey, Effie. Burritt: Our Alma Mater. Nashville: McQuiddy
Printing Company, 1914.
Godbold, Albea. The Church College of the Old South. Durham: Duke
University Press, 1944.
Hale, Will T., and Merritt, Dixon L., A History Of Tennessee and Tennesseans.
Vol. III. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1913.
Hall, General William, Early History of the South-west. Nashville: The
Parthenon Press, 1958, Reprint from the South-western Quarterly, 1852.
Harrell, David Edwin, Jr. Quest For A Christian America: The Disciples of
Christ 2nd American Society. Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical
Head, Thomas H. Campaigns and Battles of the Sixteenth Regiment, Tennessee
Volunteers. McMinnville: Womack Printing Company, 1961. Reprint of the 1885
Holt, Andrew David. The Struggle for a State System of Public Schools in
Tennessee. Hew York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1938.
Isaac, Paul E, Prohibition and
Politics: Turbulent Decades in Tennessee, 1885-1920. Knoxville: The
University of Tennessee Press, 1965.
Merriam, Lucius Salisbury, Higher Education in Tennessee. Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1893.
Newcomer, Mabel. A Century of Higher Education for American Women. New
York: Harper, 1949.
Sweet, William Warren. The Story of Religion in America. New York: Harper and
Tewksbury. Donald G. The Founding of American Colleges and Universities
Before The Civil War. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. 1932.
White, Robert H. Development of the Tennessee State Education Association.
Kingsport: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1929.
Young, M. Norvel. A History of Christian Colleges. Kansas City: Old Paths Book
AND MISCELLANEOUS WORKS
Boles, H. Leo. Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers. Nashville:
Gospel Advocate Company, 1932.
Good, Carter V. Dictionary of Education. New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, Inc., 1959.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Oxford History of the American People. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Morris, Richard B., ed. Encyclopedia of American History. New York:
Harper and Row, 1961.
Sewell, E.G. Gospel Lessons and Life History. Nashville: McQuiddy
Printing Company, 1908.
Twelve Southerners. I'll Take My Stand. New York: Peter Smith, 1951.
Reprint of the 1930 edition.
Back To Top
PASSED AT THE FIRST SESSION
TWENTY-SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Burritt College Incorporated
SECTION 9. W.B. Huddleston, D.F.
Wood, F.G. Plumblee, John Stewart, Daniel Walling, John Gillentine, W. B.
Cummings, Uriah York, Joshua Morris, Major Parpson, John Morris, E.G. McKinney,
Joab Hill, John Pain, James A. Haston, G.P. Cummings, N.F. Trogden, G.W. York,
J.G. Mitchell, James W. Copeland, John G.W. Woods, George W. Anderson, John A.
Minnis, Joseph Cummings, William Worthington, Abijah Crain and William Templeton
be, and they are hereby incorporated a body politic and corporate by the name of
Burritt College, and shall under that name have succession for five hundred
years, and a common seal, and they and their successors by the name aforesaid,
shall have and are hereby invested with all legal powers and capacities to buy,
receive, possess, hold, alien, dispose and convey any property, both real and
personal, for the use and benefit; of said college, and may sue and be sued,
plead and be impleaded, and may commence prosecute any legal process and have
the same instituted against them.
10. The stockholders hereby incorporated shall hold a meeting in the town of
Spencer, after giving twenty days public notice, and if a majority shall meet,
they may proceed to elect from their own body twelve Trustees for said college,
each stockholder being entitled to one vote for each share, and said Trustees
shall have full power and authority to elect a President of said college, who
shall be ex-officio a member of said board of trustees and president of
the same; also, such professors, tutors and other officers in said college as
they may deem necessary, and fix their salaries, and to make such by-laws,
rules, and regulations as in their opinion may be expedient or necessary.
Seven of said Trustees shall constitute a quorum to transact business; and the
president shall have authority to convene them, by giving five days notice; and
it shall lie in the power of any three members of said board to c all a special
meeting of the trustees, by giving two weeks notice in the nearest newspaper
published to said college.
11. If by death, resignation or removal of any trustees, their vacancy may be
filled by the remaining trustees, first giving twenty days public notice. . .
12. The president and professors, with the advice and consent of the board of
trustees, shall have full power and authority to confer upon any student in said
college, or upon any person the degrees of bachelor of arts, master of arts, and
any other degrees known and used in any college or university in this State or
in the United States.
13. Said trustees may receive subscription for stock in said corporation for any
amount, so the capital stock shall not exceed ten thousand dollars including the
stock heretofore subscribed as well as that may hereafter be subscribed shall be
divided into shares of fifty dollars each; the trustees shall have full power to
contract for completing the erection of said college, or doing any act they may
deem for the interest of said institution in as full and ample a manner as can
be given consistent with the laws of this state , and may give certificate of
stock as well to those heretofore subscribed, as hereafter when said
subscription is paid in.
14. Said trustees shall hold their appointment for two years and until others
are appointed, and shall have full power to make such by-laws as may be
necessary to carry out the objects. of this act, and consistent with the laws of
SOURCE: Acts of the State of
Tennessee, Passed at the First Session of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly
for the years 1847-8.
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INCORPORATION OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
Church of Christ at Spencer, Tennessee met according to the previous
appointment, on Saturday the 21st, of May 1859 for the purpose of availing
themselves of the benefit of Article 3 Chapter 2 and Title 9 of the Code of
Tennessee and for purposes selected the following Corporate name The Church of
Christ at Spencer Tenn. Said Corporation shall continue in full force for 50
years from the date here on.
following persons were elected Trustees: Aaron Seftz, John Gillentine, John L.
Forsythe, W.B. Huddleston, W. Layman, John M. Billingsley, J .W. Gillentine, F.Y.
Hamilton and L.M. Langford who are to hold their office for five years or until
their successors are named. The Trustees shall have the power to enact such
by-laws as may be necessary, not conflicting with the laws of the State of
Tennessee. The object of this corporation is to preserve a certain lot known as
Lot No. 44, in the plans of Spencer and the Church House thereon. This June 4,
John M. Billingsley
G.B. Johnson (Clerk of Court)
SOURCE: Book “B,” Registrar's
Office, Van Buren County, August 1, 1859, p. 562.
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RULES AND REGULATIONS
GOVERNING BURRITT COLLEGE
student shall quarrel or fight, or encourage others to do so, or foment strife
or-riotous proceedings of any kind. He will not be permitted to avenge an insult
offered by another, however provoking it may be, but must report it to the
President for correction; and if he will not do this, he must submit to it
student will be allowed to insult another by word, gesture, or otherwise; on the
contrary, a courteous, polite, and respectful bearing is required among the
students, not only toward each other, but toward everyone else; and especially
must every student speak respectfully to and of all officers of the College at
all times and in all places.
3. No student shall carry any dirk,
pistol, or other deadly weapon about his person, or keep such thing or things
about his room or any other place accessible to him; and should he bring such
weapon to the College, he must forthwith deliver it to the President, who will
keep it and at the proper time return it to him; and should the President
suspect such things are in the hands of any student, it is made his duty to
search persons, trunks, rooms, or any other place where he may suppose such
weapons to be; and, if found, he may take possession of them, and punish the
student as he may think the offense deserves; and should the student refuse to
open his trunk or submit to such examination, he will be sent home.
4. All wrestling, scuffing, boxing or
other exercise out of which difficulties are liable to arise between the
students, or in which there is danger one or more may be hurt, must be strictly
5. No student will be allowed to curse,
swear, or use any obscene or vulgar language.
student or number of students shall engage in or encourage any hazing party (by
whatsoever name called), or engage in any initiating process whatever.
7. No student shall attend or visit any
gambling house, billiard room, bawdy house, or house of ill-fame; nor shall he
bring on the College premises or keep about him any playing cards, obscene
books, pictures, or any other thing calculated to corrupt the morals of youth.
8. No student shall bring or cause to
be brought on the College premises any intoxicating liquors of any kind, or
drink them if brought by another; nor shall he visit any place where such
liquors are kept for sale.
9. No student shall, during the hours
assigned for study or sleep, leave the College premises, or visit the room of
another student for any purpose, without permission of the faculty.
student shall injure or in any manner interfere with the property of another
without his consent, whether it be student or citizen.
communication is allowed between male and female students of the College, either
orally or in writing, except as permitted by the Faculty; nor shall any student
bear such oral or written communication from one student to another without
submitting it to the President; nor will students be permitted to board at any
house where this rule is not enforced by the proprietor. This rule is not
intended to apply to brothers and sisters, if they do not abuse the privilege by
seeing and communicating with others at the time of visiting each other.
12. No student will be allowed to
injure or deface the College property by marking, cutting, writing, or polluting
it in any way. Any student so doing shall pay for all damages done, and be
subjected to such other punishment as the Faculty or Trustees may deem proper.
13. All students are required to
promptly obey the summons of the College bell, as interpreted to them by the
President; and no one will be allowed to ring or in any way interfere with it
except the regular bellman, and he only according to instructions.
14. All plays are to be omitted on
Sunday, and every student is required to spend his Saturdays and Sundays as the
President may direct.
student shall shun and discountenance disorderly combinations of students or
citizens, and shall cooperate with the Faculty in every way to promote the
interests of the College; and students failing or refusing, when required, to
disclose any information within their knowledge, about such combination, or
about any other matter inquired into, will at once be sent home.
student or students shall sign a petition or other paper to the Board of
Trustees in regard to the government of the College or the appointment or
dismissal of professors or officers, nor shall he or they attend or give
countenance to any meeting to criticize the government of the College.
17. Any other rules and regulations
necessary to good order in the College the Trustees order and direct the
President to enact and announce to the students, and they must respect and obey
such rules and regulations, as though formally enacted by the Board of Trustees,
until they are repealed by said Board.
President of the College shall have the power to remove from the College
premises any student or students whose deportment is such as is, in his
judgment, detrimental to the interests of the institution; and any student who
is directed to leave, and refuses to do so shall be regarded as having subjected
himself to the highest censure of the College.
19. Any student or students violating
or refusing any of the foregoing rules and regulations shall be dealt with and
punished as, in the judgment of the President, his, her, or their crimes may
deserve; or, in any case, referred to the Board of Trustees, as they may deem
proper under the circumstances.
Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Burritt College, 1913-1910, pp.
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COURSE OF STUDY
Primary Grammar and Writing
Latin--Bullion's Latin Grammar
Greek--Bullion's Greek Grammar
completed and Algebra commenced
History--Wilson's Outlines of
Latin--Sallust and Cicero's
Elocution--Russell and Murdock
Latin--Horace: Odes, Satires,
Greek—Homer’s Iliad and Greek
completed and Conic Sections, Davies'
Latin--Cicero de Oratoric et
Latin--Tacitus and Terrases
Trigonometry, . . .with field exercises
Latin--Cicero de Officiis
Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry, Davies’
Mathematics--Differential and Integral
Geology and Mineralogy--Hitchcock's
Physiology--Cutter's Anatomy, Physiology and
Criticism—Kame’s Elements of Criticism
Moral Philosophy—Wayland’s Moral Philosophy
Theology--Alexander's Evidences of
General Review of Latin and Greek
Catalogue of the Officers and Students. Burritt College, for the Collegiate
Year 1871-72, pp. 12-13.
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PASSED AT THE FIRST SESSION
TWENTY-NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
STATE OF TENNESSEE
FOR THE YEARS 1851-2
CCXCVII. An Act to incorporate the Philomathesian Society, of Burritt College,
in the county of Van Buren, and far other purposes.
1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of then State of Tennessee, That W.J.
Farris, W.J. Hill, A. Crain, George W. Rogers, E.J. Howard, B. Wallen, W.J.
Borden, J.H. Denton, J. Walker, T.G. Curbe, J. Douglass, W.M. Simpson, N.
Baulden, J.A. Pettit, B.F. Bosson, C.S. Bands, W.M. Metcalfe, J.D. Billingsley,
H. Cruse, D.H. Wootan, J.C. Green, W.S. Templeton, A.P. Seltz, M.H. Litt, and
many others associated, and their successors, be, and they are hereby
incorporated and constituted a body politic, by the name and style of the Active
Members of the Philomathesian Society of Burritt College, for the purpose of
mutual improvement in the arts and sciences, with full power and authority to
form and adopt such a constitution and by-laws as may be thought proper for its
government. Provided, That the same be not inconsistent with the constitution or
laws of the United States, the State of Tennessee or of Burritt College.
2. Be it enacted, That said corporation may have and use a common seal, may sue
and be sued, plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered in any court of law
or equity in this State or elsewhere, and may hold any books, maps, charts,
apparatus, or any other property, which may be given, granted, or devised to
them, whether real, or personal, or mixed, not exceeding five thousand dollars
in value, and may sell and convey the same at pleasure, and may in general
exercise all powers usually belonging to corporate bodies, for the purpose of
promoting and disseminating useful knowledge, and shall have all the privileges
given to the Appolonian Society of Franklin College, and subject to all the laws
governing the same, except so far as the same may be inconsistent with the
provisions of this act. Provided, That said corporation shall in all respects be
subordinate to, and submissive to the rules and regulations of Burritt College.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Speaker of the Senate.
Acts of the State of Tennessee. Passed at the First Session of the
Twenty-ninth General Assembly, for the years 1851-2 (Nashville: Bang and
McKennie, Printers to the State, 1852), p. 568.
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STATE OF TENNESSEE
CHARTER OF INCORPORATION
Calliopean Literary Society of Burritt College
known that J.J. Brents, J.W. Brents, G.P. Cummings, A.J. Denton, E.A. Elam, E.B.
Etter, W.H. Goodpasture, L.D. Hill, J.S. McMillan, J.J. Meadows, H.R. Northcutt,
L.K. Smith, W.A. Sutton and I.J. Thurmon are hereby constituted a body politic
and corporate by the name and style of the active members of the Calliopean
Society of Burritt College for the purpose of mutual improvement in the Arts and
Sciences, and general literature under the Acts of 1875, 3rd paragraph, of
Section 1st, Chapter 142, which paragraph is embodied as follows: The support of
any literary or scientific undertaking as a college or university, a debating
society, lyceum, the establishment of a library, the support of a historical
society, the promotion of painting, music, or the fine arts, the support of
Boards of Trade, or Chambers of Commerce or other subjects of like nature.
The General powers of said Corporation shall be to sue and be sued by the
Corporate name to have and use a common seal, which it may alter at pleasure, if
no common seal then signature of the name of the Corporation by any duly
authorized officer shall be legal and binding. . . .and hold or receive by
gift, bequest, or devise, in addition to the personal property owned by the
Corporation--real estate necessary for the transaction of the corporate
business, and also to purchase or accept any real estate in payment or in part
payment of any debt due the corporation and sell the same to establish by-laws
and make all rules and regulations not inconsistent with the laws and
constitution--deemed expedient for the management of corporate affairs and to
appoint such subordinate officers and agents in addition to a President and
Secretary or Treasurer as the business of the Corporation may require--designate
the name of the office--and fix the compensation of the officer.
The said five or more corporators shall within a convenient time after the
registration of this chapter in the office of the Secretary of State--elect from
their members a President, Secretary and Treasurer. The general welfare of
society not individual profit is the object for which this charter is granted,
and hence the members are not stockholders in the legal sense of the term and no
dividends or profits shall be divided among the members. The members may at any
time voluntarily dissolve the corporation by a conveyance of its assets and
property to any other corporation holding a charter from the state for purposes
not of individual profit, first providing for corporate debts. A violation of
any of its provisions of the charter shall subject the corporation to
dissolution at the instance of the state.
This charter is subject to modification or amendment and in case said
modification or amendment is not accepted corporate business is to cease, and
the assets and property, after payment of debts, are to be conveyed as aforesaid
to some other corporation holding a charter for purposes not connected with
Acquiescence in any modification thus declared shall be determined in a meeting
of the members specially called for that purpose, and only those voting in favor
of the modification shall thereafter compose the corporation.
The means, assets, income or other property of the corporation shall not be
employed directly or indirectly for any other purpose whatsoever than to
accomplish the legitimate objects of its creation and by no implication or
construction shall it possess the power to issue notes or currency, deal in
currency notes or coin, buy and sell products or engage in any kind of trading
operation nor hold any more real estate than is necessary for its legitimate
purposes. Expulsion shall be the only remedy for the nonpayment of dues by the
members, and there shall be no individual liability against the members for
corporate debts but the corporate property--shall be liable for the claims of
We the undersigned apply to the State of Tennessee by virtue of the laws of the
land for a charter of Incorporation for the purposes and with the powers, etc.,
declared in the foregoing Instrument. Witness our hands the 17th day of April
J. W. Brents
State of Tennessee, Van Buren
Personally appeared before me, R.J. Head, Deputy County Court Clerk for said
county, M.A. Cummings with whom I am personally acquainted, and makes oath that
E.A. Elam, J.J Brents, J.J. Meadows, J.W. Brents, E.B. Etter and A.J. Denton,
signed the above application for the purposes therein contained, Given under my
hand and seal at office, this April 17th, 1878.
Charles W. Gibbs, Secretary of State of the State of Tennessee certify that the
foregoing instrument with Certificates of Probate and Registration was filed in
my office the 20th day of April 1878 and was recorded April 25th, 1878.
Chas. W. Gibbs
Sec. of State
Office of the Secretary of State of the State of Tennessee, Records Section,
Central Services Building, Nashville, Tennessee.
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LITERARY PROGRAMS OF BURRITT COLLEGE
Program of Classes
in Music and Expression
Friday Evening, May 22, 1908
Graduates in Expression
Chorus- - - -“Over The
Oration - - - “America’s Spirit Of Progress” ….. P.A. Hennessee
Piano Solo - - -Spring ……………………………….. Lela Moore
Reading - - - "Pro Patria"............................... Mattie Hutcheson
Piano Solo- - -“The Dying Poet”..................... Fannie Hutcheson
Dialogue - - - "The Rival Stars”…………………... J.L. Haston, E.M. Cummings
Reading - - - "Sisterly Scheme” .................... Helen Heron
Vocal Solo - - - “Anchored” .......................... Watson, Howard S. Potter
Reading - - - “Sister and I” (by request) …….. Alberta Lewis
Character Sketch - - - “Two Sides to all Questions" ....... F.W. Passons, Ioa
Haston, Mary Clark
Piano Duet - - - “Trumpeters Match” …………. Irene Marler, Fannie Hutcheson
Oration - - - "A National Problem" ............... Euclid Miller
Declamation - - - "The Man in the Moon” .... James Sewell
Piano Duet - - - “Negro Melody” ………………. Ray Graves, Daisy Gamble
Recitation - - - “Who Was Spoken” …………… Bertha Mae Woodlee
Declamation---"Going on an Errand”……...... Lester Haston
Drill of Ten Virgins and Tableaux
2. "Beholding the Bridegroom Cometh”
3. “Too Late”
Piano Solo - - - "Hunter’s
Song" ............. Clemma Hutcheson
Recitation - - - “I’se Good” ………………….. Gladys Graves
Vocal Duet - - - “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” ……. Mattie Lewis, Eugene Miller
Play - - - “Economical Boomerang”
E.G. Sewell, Jr.
Mrs. Dabbleton ...................... Fannie Yutcheson
Mr. Plover.............................. Iea Haston
Mrs. Plover............................ Ollie Horn
Doctor................................... E.D. Austin
Maid. ................................... Myrtle Johnson
Trio---Waltz----Cherry Dowd Dalryrnple, Eugene Miller, Clemma Hutcheson
"Frolic of the Clowns”
Friday Evening, 8 o‘clock
May 23, 1913
Trio …………………………………. Misses
Graves, Anderson and Cannon,
Readings by Margaret Wilson …..
1. “Soul of
the Violin” …….. Margaret Merrill
2. (a) “The Bugle Call” ……. Tennyson
(b) “Mammy’s Li’l Boy” (Lullaby) ….. Edwards
3. Preciosa, the Spanish Dancer.........Scene I
By Bertha E. Wilson.
Adapted from Longfellow's "Spanish Student."
(b) Piano Solo.......................Clata Ray Bouldin
(c) Piano Solo.......................Marian ........ Gillentine
Dec.- - - "The Goal of Labor” …. Jno. Worthington
Duo - - - "Marche Triumphale"
Wilson, 1st Piano
Lillian Graves, 2nd Piano
Pant. - - - "Jesus Lover of My
Soul” .................... Girls
Pant. - - - "My Faith Looks Up to Thee"…………….. Evelyn Haston
Georgia B. Shapero
Indian Club Drill ........................ Powell Walker
Trio ............... Messrs. Drake,
Haston, and Sparkman
Dec. - - - “Old Jack In The Well” …………………. C.E. Kell
Piano Quintette - - - "Gypsy Rondo ...................Haydn
Anderson, Graves and Moore..1st Piano
Misses Wilson and Graves…............. 2nd Piano
Pant,- - - "The Ten Virgins”
the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
II. Behold, the bridegroom cometh!
III. Too late! Too late! ye cannot enter now.
.............................. Miss Moore, Passons and Moore
Reveries of a Bachelor…………………………. By Class
Piano Solo ........................................... C.E. Sparkman
Purling Brook" ........................ Lillian Moore
(b) “Philopena Mazurka” …………………….. Bonnie Lee Passons
(c) "Summer Fragrance" ……................. Linnie Moore
Play - - - "An Economical Boorerang"
Cast of Characters
Mr. Alexander Dabbleton, suddenly seized with an economical streak, ……….. E.S.
Mrs. Alexander Dabbleton, although disagreeing, acquiesces ………... Margaret
Mrs. Bird Plover
Mr. Bird Plover a
recently-married couple. Birdie York and T.A. Meadows
Doctor, who is laboring under
a misapprehension ....... R.L. Donaldson
Maggie, a servant girl
.................. Ray Graves
Delivery of Diplomas and Pedals
......................................................... Miss Bessie Gillentine
.............................................. O.L. Hammer
June)............................................ Young Ladies
.............................. (Long Looking Multiplies The State) E.L.
Oration (The Progress of Man)
............................. C. H. Meadows
........................................................... Miss Etta Steppe
.......................................... Misses Gladys Graves and Ollie Cannon
…………………………………....................... Miss Lillian Graves
Recital by the Philomathesian Society
December 18, 1908, 6:30 p.m.
Address By The President
............................................. R.D. Davis
Messrs. Moore, Stepp, Thurman
and Johnson, Misses Mattie Hutcheson, Fannie Hutcheson, Lorena Havron, Cherry D.
Recitation - - - "What Betsy
Thinks Of Bobby” .... Bertha Mai Woodley
Plano Solo - - - "Train of
Sylphs" ................. Wagner, Lorena Havron
Oration - - - “The South”
…………………………. R.C. Johnson
Pantomine - - - "The Bridge.”
Clemma and Edith Hutcheson and Inez Woodley
Vocal Quertette .............
Messrs. Thurman, Stepp, Johnson and Moore
Recitation - - - "The First
Settler's Story” …………. Eron Rascoe
Piano Duett [sic] "Il
Trovatore” ......................... Misses Hutcheson
Dialogue - - - “The Sweet
Ma Sweet ……………………............................
Armenty Ann Sweet
.................................. Cherry D. Dalrymple
Betsy Belindy Sweet
.................................. Allene Fenney
Caroline Cordelia Sweet
………………………….. Nanny Terry
Dorothy Delilah Sweet
............................... Lorena Havron
Elizabeth Eliza Sweet
................................. Eno Horn
Francis Fedory Sweet
................................ Alice Walker
Glavana Gadabout Sweet
........................... Mamie Walker
Vocal Quartette ........
Messrs. Moore, Stepp, Thurman and Johnson
……………………………………............... E D Miller
Recitative - - - "Nappanee”
........................ G.G. Thurman and Lorena Havron
Declamation - - - "The Boy’s
Conclusion” ….. Walker Finney
.............. Nannie Terry, Cherry D. Dalrymple, Lorena Havron, Allene Finney
Recitation - - - "A Violin
Fantasy” ................ Mattie Hutcheson
Declamation - - - “March of
Mind” ……………. J.W. Mitchell,
Play - - - “Scout of the
Charlie Crawford - - “The
Scout Of The Philippines ..... R.C. Johnson
Leslie Crawford - - His Uncle
................... F.W. Passons
Warren Beglow - - A Renegade
Spaniard… H.C. Moore
Tom Bascom - - A Renegade
American …........ A.L. Freiley
Sebastian Corncob - - An
Unluckey Creature Fleeing from Matrimony....H. Stepp
Cloudy - - A Colored Servant
………………………. R.D. Davis
Deitrich Dinglehaunes - - A
German .............. J.C. Passons
Leory - - An Importation
Aguinaldo - - A Malay
Insurgent ................... R.J. Sedberry
Santino - - His Lieutenant
............................. H.L. Broyles
Sonq Tung - - A
Chinaman............................ G.G. Thurman
........................................... Eron Rascoe
Mrs. Crawford - - Her Mother
Daisy Gamble ……. Daisy Gamble
Levinia Melinda Shortcutt - -
An Old Maid ............. Mattie Hutcheson
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Central Tennessee College that trained
many people including members of Christian churches from all over the south.
Long time minister,
W.D. Carnes served as its second president. Later
Dr. T.W. Brents also served as president.
Noteworthy Teachers Included Carnes,
Emma Page Larimore,
Students of Burritt who became
preachers included men like George W. Dehoff,
E.G. Sewell, B.C.
Goodpasture, H. Leo Boles
Established 1848 through the
efforts of Elihu Burritt, a black-
smith who intended that the
youth of his community should
get the benefits of education
denied to him. It closed its doors
in 1939, as a result of the de-
velopment of the public school
system and improvement of
Location Of Burritt
The remains of the
old campus at Burritt are located in Spencer, Van Buren County,
Tennessee. From I-24 take Exit 111 (Hwy. 55) northeast toward
McMinnville. North of McMinnville take Hwy. 70S toward Sparta. Very
soon turn right on Spencer Rd. (Hwy. 30). Go into Spencer township.
What is left of the college campus is on the left. While in Spencer,
be sure to visit the city cemetery where
W.D. Carnes and W.N. Billingsley,
two of Burritt's Presidents are buried.
Note Of Thanks: Special thanks are
extended to Marion West for his permission to reproduce his thorough
research paper on the history of Burritt College.
*May 2009, an update was made known concerning the notice that Aaron Tillman Seitz followed Dr. T.W. Brents as president of Burritt College. Instead of "Aaron" it should be "Anderson" Seitz. Anderson Seitz, the son of Aaron Seitz, moved to Italy, Texas and is buried there., This was reported by Sheryl Davis, historian for the Highland Oaks Church of Christ, formerly the Pearl and Bryan church in Dallas, Texas. She went on to report that Anderson Seitz served as an elder in the Pearl and Bryan church for a few years.