Library 101: Early College History

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Posted on: Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by Jody Hanshew

Welcome to all new and returning students, faculty and staff!

To start off the new school the Library would like to share some interesting tidbits of the College history.

Most of us know that the college was founded in 1836, especially since that date is used in all the logos and branded items.  Planning for a seminary/school to be located in the Holston Conference actually began in 1825. One of earliest locations considered was in Knoxville, on the current site of the University of Tennessee.  A seminary was established near New Market TN, but the desire for a second educational institution soon led to the search for another location in 1835.  An agent for the Conference, Creed Fulton, spent the night with a farmer near Abingdon after a district meeting.  The farmer, Tobias Smyth who was a prominent Methodist layman, was instrumental in securing a location nearby.  The land consisted of 554 ½ acres and cost $4,158.75.  The cornerstone of the main building was laid on September 30, 1836.  Plans for the new school included it being a manual labor school.  The prevalent philosophy at the time was that manual labor promoted health, favored habits of industry which rescued students from vice and dissipation, and provided the motive and profitable investment of one’s labor absent from gymnastic exercises. (Stevenson 73).  Students worked for 3 hours a day after lunch, doing general farm work, clearing land, grubbing out stumps, laying fences and erecting buildings.  Payment was 3-5 cents an hour depending on the difficulty of the work.  Students were required to work at least 18 hours month to avoid being reported to their parents. The money earned went mostly to pay for boarding.  Board, in 1838, was one dollar a week and tuition was ten dollars a session.

Students were awakened at 5AM by the college bell for morning prayers in the chapel at 5:30.  Two 30 minute recitations preceded breakfast at 7AM.   The 9PM bell called for students to settle down to study or go to bed.  Classes included the requisite Latin, Greek and mathematics, in addition to natural, mental, and moral sciences and German or French.   (Emory and Henry College 18)

The founders of our school chose two names to reflect the values of commitment and civic virtue, Bishop John Emory and Governor Patrick Henry.  (Vejnar vii)

The Wasp nickname started appearing about 1923 when a Knoxville journalist, referring to a football game between UT Knoxville and E&H, reported that E&H gave UT “quite a stinging” (Vejnar 109). The Wasps lost, but held UT 0-0 for the 1st half.

Women were officially admitted  in 1923 when 32 women transferred from Mary Washington College, the female counterpart to E&H..

All of this history, and more, is available in these titles in our collection:

Legacy & vision: a pictorial history of Emory & Henry College / Robert J. Vejnar.  LC1751.E375 V45

Increase in excellence: a history of Emory & Henry College, 1836-1963 / George J. Stevenson. LD1751.E372 S8

Semi-centennial catalogue and historical register of Emory and Henry College, Washington County, Virginia / Emory and Henry College.   REF   LD1751 .E3772

Formative influence and origin of Emory and Henry College / by R. Moorman Parker. LD1751.E367 P3