Presbyterians and Education (3)

From Scotch and Irish Seeds in American Soil by Rev. J. G. Craighead

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CHAPTER XI.concluded

A large number of Presbyterian families moved at an early day from Virginia and the Carolinas into Tennessee, who carried with them their love of education. Rev. Samuel Doak, a graduate of Princeton College, opened a classical school in Washington county, which was afterward incorporated under the name of Martin academy, and finally became known as Washington College. This was the first literary institution established in the Mississippi Valley. The books that formed the nucleus of the college library were transported from Philadelphia over the mountains in sacks on pack-horses. After acting as president of the college for several years, Mr. Doak resigned and removed to Bethel, where he founded Tusculum academy, and continued to be the active advocate and patron of learning, as he had ever been the decided friend of civil and religious liberty.

Greenville College was indebted mainly for its origin to the Rev. Hezekiah Balch, and it was through his patronage that it subsequently rose to great usefulness, as was Blount College to its first president, the Rev. Samuel Carrick, the friend and co-presbyter of Balch. If Davidson academy was not originated by the Rev. Thomas B. Craighead, it was indebted to his untiring labors in its behalf for its subsequent prosperity. After serving for twenty years as president of its board of trustees, he was elected president of Davidson College when the academy was chartered as a college.

Without enumerating the other institutions of learning founded in these new and sparsely-settled regions of country, we perceive that the Presbyterian clergy of the South, like their brethren of the North, were the devoted friends of education. They felt the necessity of promoting the general intelligence of the people, but more particularly of training up an educated ministry for the rapidly extending missionary-field. Hence in nearly every congregation a classical school was taught by the pastor. And who can calculate the influence for good which such men as these exerted in training noble minds who have given impulse and direction to the intellect of the entire country? The names of many of these ministers and teachers may be forgotten, but their labors, by which they so largely contributed to the intellectual advancement of the people, are imperishable.

But these schools, though so excellent and useful in the communities where they were located, did not do away with the necessity of establishing still higher institutions of learning, in which the benefits of a regular collegiate education might be enjoyed. Without permanent funds, libraries, scientific apparatus and an enlarged corps of instructors, they could not meet all the intellectual needs of the young men of the country. And as it was extremely difficult, and in most cases impossible, for parents, on account of the great distances, to send their sons either to Scotland or to the colleges of New England, the synod of New York and Philadelphia turned its attention at an early period to making provision for a more liberal education nearer home. A charter to incorporate the College of New Jersey was procured from the governor of that province, mainly through the influence of Jonathan Dickinson, of Elizabethtown, where the infant institution was first established, with Dickinson as its first president. His death occurring the following year, the Rev. Aaron Burr was chosen his successor, and the college was removed to Newark, where it continued until 1755. Buildings for the accommodation of the students having been erected at Princeton, the college went into more complete operation at that place, where it has since been permanently located, and has continued more and more to realize the expectations of its founders.

It was with extreme difficulty that the means were provided during the first years for the current expenses of the institution and for placing it on a solid basis. Ministers freely contributed for its support from their meagre salaries, and the synod of 1752 ordered collections to be taken up in the churches on its behalf. A deputation of ministers was also sent to England and Scotland to advocate its claims. Their mission proved eminently successful. Between four and five thousand pounds was collected, which placed the college on a sure financial basis, and cheered the hearts of all the friends of liberal education in the Presbyterian Church.

The first commencement under the new charter was held at Newark in 1748. Governor Belcher, the friend of religion and the patron of learning, was on the platform, and around him was gathered a company of honored trustees—of ministers, Samuel Blair, Pierson, Pemberton, Gilbert and William Tennent, Treat, Arthur, Jones and Green; and of laymen, Redding, president of the council, Kinsey, Shippen, Smith and Hazzard. It was a great day in the annals of our Church and of the State.

Most of those who had been actively engaged in founding this college, whose fruits now began to appear, had been educated at the LOG COLLEGE or in schools taught by those who had been instructed there. Thus it came to pass that a humble institution established by a single godly minister was the means of training many talented youth for honor and usefulness in their generation, who in their turn founded other schools of learning, and eventually became the originators of not only the College of New Jersey, but of Jefferson and Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and Hampden-Sidney and Washington College in Virginia. These institutions, together with many others which have come into life of Presbyterian parentage, which have sent forth so many men of learning and piety to bless and adorn our country, evince the high character and intelligence of the early ministers of our Church, as also the wisdom of their labors and sacrifices in behalf of liberal education.

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