Relatively Short History of Greensboro College from 1830-1941
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Peter Doub, the Methodist pastor of the Guilford Circuit at the time,
oversaw the construction of the first Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C., in
1830. Not long after the completion of the Church, Rev. Doub saw the need for
a school to educate the children of his Methodist parishioners, in particular
the female children. By early 1833, Greensboro Female School was in operation.
of those modest beginnings grew an increasing interest during the mid-1830s to
create a true "college" for women, and in 1837, a committee of three
headed by Rev. Doub petitioned the Viriginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, asking that a female college be established in Greensboro under the auspices
of the denomination. On December 28, 1838, members of the Methodist North Carolina
Conference (having separated from the Virginia Conference in 1837) secured a charter
for Greensboro Female College from the State Legislature.
the College was even formally chartered in 1838, a few of the Trustees who had
been appointed by the Virginia Conference in 1837 purchased 210 acres (in two
parcels - 110 acres & 100 acres) of land lying west Greensboro for the sume
of $3,350. Once the College was chartered, they, in turn, sold the land to the
College. Of the 210 original acres, 40 were reserved for the College proper, and
the rest were gradually sold off piecemeal as a means of recouping the original
see early land deeds, click here.
to a recession in the late 1830s and early 1840s, sufficient funds could not be
raised to begin the construction of Main Building until 1843. Completed in 1845,
Main Building was a three story brick structure that cost around $20,000. The
west and east wings were added in 1856 and 1859 respectively.
1st Main Building
- circa 1860
learn more about the history of Main Building, click here.
Click to see selected
images of Main Building
and Other Campus Buildings.
Click to see selected images of Early College Postcards.
Or click to see early
College View Books.
College first opened its doors for classes on April 15, 1846. Eighty-seven young
ladies were in attendance at that time. Prior to the actual opening of the College,
Greensboro Female Academy, which had begun as the Greensboro Female School in
1833, continued to operate and educate young Methodist ladies. In June of 1848,
six young women became the first graduates of Greensboro Female College.
arriving at the College, each young lady was tested in a number of areas (reading,
math, writing, knowledge of specific topics, etc.) according to her interests,
and based on her performance she was placed into one of four classes - first,
second, junior, or senior. Consequently, it was possible for the young ladies
to graduate from the College in as little as one year if their prior schooling
had been sufficient to prepare them for the entrance tests at the College. Classes
taught here at the College included arts, sciences, foreign languages, religion,
and philosophy, in addition to music, art, and sewing.
their graduation, each young woman received either a cetificate of proficiency
or a diploma depending upon her course of study. It was not until 1886 that the
College began offering a true collegiate course of study that required four years
of study regardless of how well the ladies tested upon their admittance. And it
was not until 1913 that the College granted its first A.B. degree. In 1926, the
College (then Greensboro College) underwent another major educational development
when the College was admitted to membership in the Association of Colleges and
Secondary Schools of the Southern States.
the College's early years, the movement and behavior of the young ladies was rather
restricted and closely monitored. As the time between, 1846 and 1941 passed, the
young women gradually gain more rights and priviledges.
Four young ladies from the Class of 1912
see selected early annual catalogues, click here.
To see Dr. Deems' treatise "What Now? A Present for Young Women," click
Test of Faith - The Fire of 1863
August 9, 1863, a fire severely damaged Main Building and forced the closure of
the College. For a short time after the fire, classes were held in buildings in
the surrounding community. When it became apparent, however, that the College
could not be rebuilt immediately due to a lack of money and the on-going Civil
War, classes ended. The College's president at the time, Rev.
Dr. Turner M. Jones, tried unsuccessfully for two years to raise sufficient
funds to rebuild Main Building before leaving Greensboro and teaching at several
other schools around the state.
in the rebuilding of the College remained strong, however, and by the late 1860s,
sufficient funds had been raised to begin the process of rebuilding the College.
In 1869, a new charter was granted, and in 1871, restoration of Main Building
began. The College officially reopened on August 27, 1873 with an enrollment of
2nd Main Building
- circa 1890s
Sale (1882) and Repurchase (1884) of the College
the early 1880s, the College was in serious financial difficulty, and the Trustees
ordered the sale of the College in 1882. A group of prominent Methodist laymen,
of whom one was J.M. Odell and of whom several were involved with the North Carolina
Railroad Company, purchased the College on June 5, 1882. Through their support
and management, the school was able to continue operating.
years later, the North Carolina Railroad Company resold the College to the Greensboro
Female College Association (Alumni) which was established in 1884. Through "An
Act For The Promotion of Female Education," the College was able to secure
the right to sells bonds, a financial move that helped in the short term.
see selected materials relating to the sale (1882) and repurchase (1884) of the
College, click here.
Cultural and Social Coming of Age - The 1880s, 90s, and 00s
the 1880s, 90s and 00s, the College underwent significant cultural and social
development. Music performances were common, and in 1889, the Coney Club, which
later became the Euterpe Music Club of Greensboro, was formed at the College.
The first of the College's many plays was one of Shakespeare's. The Iriving and
Emerson Literary Societies were, in 1882 and 1890 respectively, formed out of
what remained of the older Sigourneyan and Philomathesian Societies. Begun in
1885, The College Message
was a literary journal by the College's young ladies that gave them a voice and
opportunity to express themselves. And in 1903, the young ladies published the
College's first offical yearbook, the 1903
College's Only Female President to Date
Lucy H. Robertson, the College's only female president to date took office
in 1902, and her tenure lasted until 1913. Interestingly, she has also been the
College's only president to date who had neither a divinity degree nor a doctorate.
Much beloved and valued though, she became the College's first (and still only
one of two) President Emeritus.
Proposed Sale of the College in 1903
1903, the Board of Trustees decided to sale the College due to financial hardships.
This decision did not sit well at all with the College's many alumae, one of whom
was Miss Nannie Lee Smith, an alunma
of the class of 1893. Miss Smith took the lead and was the driving force in raising
the necessary $25,000 (primarily in pledges) in thirty days to keep the College
open. Several years later, Miss Nannie Lee Smith became the first woman to sit
on the College's Board of Trustees.
see selected materials relating to the proposed sale of the College in 1903, click
February 18, 1904, the College suffered its second major fire, but was able to
reopen by October 12 of the same year. Main Building's new rotunda porch quickly
became a favorite spot of the young ladies and the College's alumnae.
3rd Main Building
- circa 1920s
1912, the faculty, administration, and alumnae successfully petitioned the Trustees
of the College to change the College's name from Greensboro Female College to
Greensboro College for Women because they felt that the term "female"
used in conjunction with "college" demonstrated a lack of progress in
terms of educational development. And in 1920, the young women of the College
and the alumnae successfully petitioned the Trustees to change the College's name
from Greensbro College for Women to simply Greensboro College because they felt
that the term "for women" was unnecessary.
see selected materials relating to the College's name changes, click here.
1932, the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church recommended
the merger of Davenport College (another school under the auspices of the Methodist
Church) in Lenoir, N.C., with Greensboro College. The decision was chiefly a financial
one, and the process of working out and negotiating the details took several years.
see slelected materials relating to the 1930s merger with Davenport College, click
a record enrollment approaching 400, Greensboro College celebrated the centennial
of its original chartering in 1938. As a part of the celebration, an elaborate
pagent/production with a cast of 130 was performed that traced the College's history
from its foundings to that time. The Centennial Celebration was also the platform
that the College used to launch a financial campaign aimed at developing additional
Fire of 1941 and a Few Other Comments
September 9, 1941, lightning struck the top of Main Building's rotunda at around
midnight. The College's Treasurer and Business Manager, Mr. Henry McEntire, was
killed while trying to save some documents. Restoration of Main Building was completed
were not admitted to the College as degree-seeking students until 1954.
For a larger timeline
of the College's history, click here.
learn more about the history of the College, continue exploring the Museum website
and Greensboro College's Beyond Books and Buildings project website.