A look back at defunct colleges
While there has been a great expansion in the number of institutions of higher education over the years since the Enquirer has been publishing a newspaper in Hartselle, there has been a decline in some types of schools.
David Burleson, in his and his uncle Howard L. Burleson’s valuable publication “Hartsell … Before the ‘E,’” note that Hartselle’s original college was founded by the Rev. Thomas Morrow in the 1880s and had the name of the Union Male and Female College at Hartsell.
Although Morrow’s school was called a college, it taught grades from beginners up.
- M. McGough became president in 1885.He was followed by Albert G. McGregor, who changed the name to Hartselle College.He, in turn, was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Wood, J. H. Windes and J. H. Riddle, who became the private owner of the college and changed the name to Hartselle Male and Female College, a combination of the former names.
A decade after the first Hartselle College was founded, Blount College was established in Blountsville, south of Cullman and a few miles off what would later become Highway 31. This county had already established a college, Oak Grove College, which was coeducational, as its successor institution would be also.
Its female graduates typically went on to be teachers. This was the experience of Sudie Murphree, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Huffstuttler, Blountsville residents. Mrs. Murpphree began teaching at the institution from which she graduated and then taught at Selfville and Pine Bluff.
The Huffstuttler name is well known in gospel songwriting, her brother L. D. Huffstuttler being the author of numerous compositions that were recorded. The most popular is “Hand in Hand with Jesus,” which is still widely used.
The very small college town is still incorporated, but the school was short-lived. It was located on the town square from 1890 until it burned in 1895. In its place, the Ninth District Agricultural School was created, and it operated from the date of the fire until 1917. At that point it was incorporated into the state system of secondary agricultural schools – high schools.
At the time Hartselle was going “co–ed” in education, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa remained a strictly male institution. The Druid City also had a college for women; however, in its issue of Nov. 12, 1897, the editor of a Hartselle newspaper said, “The behavior of some of the state university students (all classified as military cadets) at a recent concert given by the Tuscaloosa Female College, is said to have been disgraceful and disreputable.”
Even though women had been admitted as students to the State University four years before this incident, they continued to be few.
Even when I registered as a political science undergraduate major in 1958, women students continued to amount to a small minority in most classes.
At present, women are on a parity with men in most classes and might be a majority in some. Another coeducational institution at the beginning of the 20th century was the Albertville College. The college suffered a loss of students during an epidemic of typhoid fever in 1902.
The Hartselle school continued under the name Male and Female College until 1908, when the Morgan County High School was organized with Prof. Riddle as its first principal. I remember hearing my dad talk about Prof. Riddle since he was the head of the first school Bill Sr. attended. When not in the classroom, Prof. Riddle grew wonderful peaches that would rival the Chilton County peaches of today.
The Hartselle Elementary school was then established to take care of the lower grades.
Some of the early colleges were called “normal” schools and were primarily for women who were expected to fill the ranks of classroom teachers, most of them as yet unmarried.
The integration of males and females into one college as executed by the Rev. Morrow back in 1883 was not unheard of, but it was not the most common pattern either. More common were institutions such as the Athens Female College.
There was generally close cooperation among college heads. In mid-July 1899, the Enquirer noted that the Rev. W. H. Browder, president of the Athens Female College, had paid Hartselle a visit.
As women began to move into the workforce, their leaders argued that segregating females from males in upper–level schools resulted in men having the best jobs while the more menial tasks were left for men to perform.
Many colleges were organized on a military basis and did not admit women until recent years.
My first full-time teaching assignment was at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. At that time, only men could enroll; however, when the federal government threatened to take action against the Virginia Military Institute, The Citadel and other similar institutions began admitting women.
The most accessible institution for military-oriented Hartselle young men was the La Grange Military Academy. It was located near Leighton.