yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


compiled by Brenda Kirk Fiddler

History of the Lexington Baptist Male and Female College

by J. A. Deere (written circa 1956)

The college was located on what is now Highway 20 in the southeast section of Lexington where the dairy bar now is, south of the general store of Mr. Lewis. The Jones Mfg. Co. was built from the material of this building. It had a very large campus running back of the N.C. & St. L. railway and west one block contributed by Joe Hall. The building was a two-story very commodious having two large auditoriums or study halls several lesson or recitation rooms, music rooms, etc.

It was built of beautiful red brick, with white stone etchings and would accommodate three to four hundred students.

The primary grades were supported by public funds and tuitions, the upper grades by tuition; no endowments [sic] so far as I have been able to determine.

Its erection was begun in 1894 and opened for instruction in 1895. E.W. Essary was its first president and is the only surviving one. [Penciled in is this note: "Prof. J. A. Mount of Trenton is very much alive."]

Its pupils ranged from 6 to 70 years of age. The Rev. N. M. Byous, 70, was the oldest to enroll. Rev. Alonzo Nunnery was probably the second oldest he being at least 50 years of age. His own sons were his classmates. It was my pleasure as a 17-year-old boy to recite with him and occupy a desk in front of his. Rev. Nunnery was a very noted minister, debater and moved to Oklahoma and edited a Baptist paper at Chickosha. Rev. Clarence Azbill of Jackson, who had held many pastorates in Tennessee and Illinois was schooled here. Bob Kimbrough was a student here, preached his first sermon in the First Baptist Church of Lexington and was later president of Union University of Jackson and held many successful pastorates throughout the southland.

This institution produced the following attorney-at-law, Hon. John F. Hall of Jackson, member of the state senate. John H. Hayes after moving to Oklahoma became a noted jurist in the state.

The following physicians got their premed training here: Dr. Fred C. Watson, of Petersburg, Virginia, one of the class of 1899, recently passed away. Dr. E. G., Dr. Maxwell, Drs. Jim and Len Dennison, who were brothers of the Bargerton community; Dr. W. I. Howell who spent his life in Henderson County practicing his profession; and Dr. Ernest Nunnery of Chickosha, Oklahoma, who got his early training here. Many successful businessmen, farmers, bankers, teachers and housewives were taught here.

The following served as presidents of the college: E. W. Essary, 1895, Dr. J. A. Mount, Dr. A. J. Barton, 1896, Andrew L. Todd of Murfreesboro, who served one half year of 1898 before leaving to go to Cumberland Law School at Lebanon. J. L. McNatt succeeded Todd and served the rest of 1898 and later went into railroading in Nashville. W. R. Phillips of Union University served in 1899 and 1900, Prof. Phillips later went into the insurance business in Jackson. Robert L. Sutton came to the school in 1901 and served until 1903, later went into the newspaper business at Sparta. It has been suggested that Prof. Sutton was an uncle of Congressman Pat Sutton of Lawrenceburg.

The following were assistant teachers: Prof. W. R, Wilson, Miss Bell Westbrooks, Miss Mae Fielder Graper, Miss Johnnie McCowan, music teacher, Mrs. W. R. Phillips and Miss Beulah Henry. [Married women have married names but are given title of "Miss."]

The following students, Alba Watson, who later married our own E. W. Essary, Sallie White and George W. Stewart received the highest scholastic honors ever accorded by this institution.

The following Dr. W. T. Watson, Mayor L. A. Stanford and Joe Hall constituted the board of trustees and with the assistance of the Fielder heirs and Stewart and Kimbrough family and a few others were outstanding contributors to the erection and maintenance of the dear old school.

Probably being so close to Union University and the establishment of a state system of schools which occurred in 1903 as the cause of the closing of the college.

It will be remembered that at the time of its operation Lexington had another school of higher learning. The Academy located in the western section of the city with Capt. Seymour A. Mynders as principal later became State Supt. of Public Instruction in Tennessee. It was a small town for two splendid schools.

The influence of this dear old institution has lived for more than one half a century and will live on in the hearts of its pupils and is best expressed by the following poem by Longfellow.

Not enjoyment and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way.

But to act that each tomorrow
Finds us farther than today.

Let us then be up and doing
With a heart for any fate.

Still achieving still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.

[Pencil notation reads: "My diploma is dated June 6, 1892. I was in the school as a pupil two years and graduated and then taught in the schools.--Sallie May [Mag?] Kimbrough Dunlap]

Baptist College at Lexington. Photo from Henderson County, by G. Tillman Stewart.

May 18, 1956
Lexington Progress

Baptist Academy Reunion Planned

On Sunday, May 20 a reunion of the students and faculty of the Lexington Baptist (male and female) Academy will be held at the Lexington High School at 2 p.m.

An interesting program built around the theme, "I Remember," is planned.

The old college was located on Highway 20 in the southeast section of town where the Dairy Bar is now located. The original building was of red brick and could easily accommodate three or four hundred students.

E. W. Essary, Sr., is the only living former principal of the old academy.

From A Brief History of 115 Years of Beech River Baptist Association, compiled by Ruth Carrington:

Included in the summaries of the activities of the association are several facts about the Baptist College, a private school which operated in Lexington in the last decade of the 19th century. This private school operated during part of the same period that the Lexington Academy was operating.

1890: "The Lexington Baptist College under the direction of Dr. A. J. Barton was recommended for a good education."

1894: "Dr. A. J. Barton was head of the Lexington Baptist College with E. W. Usury [E. W. Essary] as principal. W. R. Wilson was the assistant. Due to the large enrollment of 50% more, the tuition was dropped 50%."

1895: [Principal was J. A. Mount. The math teacher was W. R. Wilson, who soon resigned.]

1896: "A. L. Todd, president of Lexington Baptist College reported 127 pupils were enrolled. The college was being sold for an indebtedness of $700. If the association would cover the debt then it would belong to the association. Immediately $535 was raised. The churches were asked to provide funds for the rest of the debt."

1897: "Tuition at the Male and Female College (formerly Lexington Baptist College) was $1.00 to $2.50 per month with J. L. McNatt as the principal with four additional teachers."

August 12, 1904
Lexington Progress
[Lexington School Board recommended the purchase of the Baptist College at the price of $1,500 upon the condition of immediate possession.]

May 25, 1956
Lexington Progress

Academy Reunion Big Event to Many

By Mrs. C. B. Scatterday

Again, the curtain has been pulled back and a good number of the faculty and students of a renowned institution of the past, and several interested visitors were permitted a figurative journey into the land of memories Sunday afternoon, May 20, at Lexington High School.

The occasion was the reunion of students and faculty who cherished their old school, The Lexington Male and Female Academy, established sixty years ago in 1895, with E.W. Essary as its first principal, and the only surviving one.

His assistant teachers were the following: Prof. W. R. Wilson, Miss Bell West Brooks, Mrs. Beulah Henry, Mrs. Mae Fielder Graper, and Miss Johnnie Cowan, music teacher.

Pupils who received the highest honors ever achieved in this institution were Miss Alba Watson (Essary), Miss Sallie White (Smith) and George W. Stewart.

The board of trustees were: Dr. W. T. Watson, Mayor L. A. Stanford and Joseph Hall. These, with the assistance of the Fielder heirs, the Stewart and Kimbrough families and other outstanding contributors helped erect and maintain this impressive and commodious academy, built of red brick with beautiful white stone ornaments. There were two large auditoriums of study halls, several recitation rooms and some music rooms, all of which would easily accommodate three to four hundred pupils. It stood on what is now Highway 20, where the Dairy Bar now is located..

Public funds and tuition, with no outside endowments, financed the school. The pupils ranged in age from 6 to 70 years. The oldest pupils to enroll were Rev. N. M. Byous, age 70 and Rev. Alonzo Nunnery, age 50.

Each day began with scripture reading and prayers for guidance, which no doubt explains the tremendous influence this institution had, and continues to have. The ambitious students who made a sacrifice to better themselves, and who were thoroughly drilled in the fundamentals of education, blazed the way for our educational system today. They filled and with their descendants continue to fill responsible positions in all walks of life.

The reunion program Sunday afternoon was centered around the theme, "I Remember," and was as follows: Call to order, Joe A. Deere; Invocation, Rev. E. E. Deusner; Recognition of alumni and guests; Musical Selections, Ann Howell and Lucille Jamison; Group singing: "When I Grow Too Old To Dream"; History of the Old College, J. A. Deere; Roll Call, Myrtle Parker (memories by students), Presentation of Class of 1899, Rev. Deusner; Reading: "Fifty Years Ago", Sarah Montgomery; Tribute to the Old School, Tillman Stewart; Address, Hon. E. W. Essary, only surviving president of the school; Song: "God Be With You", led by E. D. Deere.

This reporter considered it a rare privilege to sit in on this reunion and to be taken back to the olden days, which I am convinced were the golden days.

Our hats are off to these students and teachers of Old Lexington Baptist Academy. May they have many more reunions and memories.

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