History of Education in West Virginia, by B. S. Morgan and J. F. Cork. Charleston: Moses W. Donnally, 1893.
The close of the Civil War in 1865 found Mercer county, like many of her sisters in Virginia and other southern States, without a Court House; it having been burned with almost the entire town of Princeton, by order of Col. Jenifer in 1862.
As soon as it was determined to rebuild the court house, the question of re-location began to be agitated by the people in the lower end of the county, who had long been complaining of the injustice to them in the first location of the court house at Princeton. Through the influence of the "Board of Registration," the question was submitted to a vote of the people, which resulted in the location of the court house at Concord Church.
After the court house had been removed from Princeton to Concord, the people of Princeton, now in possession of the registration machinery, became very anxious to obtain it again. Before the court house was completed another vote was taken which resulted in taking it back to Princeton. This change was brought about by the people in the lower end of the county voting for Princeton. For this favor Princeton gave her assistance in having the lower end of the county cut off and formed into the county of Summers. After losing the lower end of the county, the voting population was thrown near Princeton, which left no hope of ever getting the court house back to Concord.
The unfinished court house and jail reverting to the original owner of the land on which it stood, he tendered it to the State on condition that a branch of the State Normal School should be established at Concord. Accordingly, on the 28th day of February, 1872, the Legislature passed "An act to locate a Branch State Normal School at Concord, in the county of Mercer." This act required the buildings to be fitted up and furnished for the convenience of such school, free of charge to the State.
Before anything was done toward the completion of the building, the owner of the land died, leaving his affairs in such confusion as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to procure such a title to the property as the State would accept. The friends of the measure, on the 2nd day of December, 1873, procured the passage of an act authorizing, among other things, the procurement of the title to any other lot in Concord, and the erection of suitable buildings thereon without cost to the State. The act further provided that in case a suitable building was not erected and furnished within twelve months from its passage the school should be transferred to Princeton. I am forced to the conclusion that this last named provision contributed as much as anything toward establishing a school at Concord. It stimulated the people to make efforts which they would not otherwise have made. The inhabitants of the village of Concord, smarting from the loss of the court house, now began to realize that action was necessary or the normal school would follow in the wake of the court house.
The village consisted of five families; and it now became necessary for this little band to secure a lot and erect a building, or lose the school. Capt. Wm. Holroyd, who was the oldest resident in the village, took the matter in hand and impressed the people with the great advantages to be derived from the school. On the 29th of May, 1874, W. H. Martin and wife conveyed to the State of West Virginia, six acres of land upon which io [sic] erect the Normal building.
One of the conditions in locating the school at Concord was that no money was to be appropriated for the erection of the buildings, so the money for this purpose had to be raised by subscription. With the money thus raised, a wooden structure was erected at a cost of about $1,700. On the 22nd day of February, 1874, the corner stone of the old building was laid with Masonic honors.
On the 21st day of April, 1875, Capt. John A. Douglass and Hon. Wm. M. Reynolds appeared before the "Board of Regents of the Normal Schools," then in session at the Capitol in Charleston, and presented the deed of W. H. Martin and wife to the State of West Virginia. The board inspected the same and accepted it as a compliance with the act of the Legislature of December 2, 1875. At this meeting of the board, Capt. James Harvey French was appointed Principal, at a salary of $700, and Hon Wm. M. Reynolds, assistant, at a salary of $600. The Board of Regents ordered that the Concord School should open on the 10th day of May, 1875 and continue twelve weeks, and then take an intermission until the first Monday in March, 1876, at which time it should be re-organized and continue twenty weeks longer.
The surroundings were not very inviting on that memorable morning of the 10th of May, 1875, when the school was first opened[.] Imagine the beautiful rolling lawn upon the summit of which now stands the State normal buildings, then a wilderness of red-brush and chinquapin bushes, in the midst of which stood a rough, unfinished building about 39x48 feet, two stories in height, without either windows or doors, and you have a faint idea of the outside appearance of the Concord Normal building, as it stood in the May sunshine guiltless of paint or other ornaments. The inside was not more inviting. There was a floor in the lower story, with a partition of rough boards across the building dividing it into two unequal rooms. With an unobstructed view of the weather-boarding without and the rafters over head, many of the boys, for want of better seats, sat upon the sapling joists and studied their lessons. There was not a seat in the house, except such as could be hastily improvised from the odds and ends of the boards lying around the newly constructed building. The house was not furnished with any apparatns [sic] whatever. There were no fire places nor stoves the first session, so that on chilly days, the students, when not reciting, were out of doors warming themselves by fires made of logs with which the school grounds abounded.
There was no bell by which to assemble the students. The arrangement for that purpose being rather primitive, consisting of a cow's horn, which was in 1878, replaced by a small bell. On the adjoining page is a cut of the "Old Normal School Building," made from a photograph that was taken soon after its completion in 1876. This building was used until commencement, July 2, 1886.
Early in July, 1886, they commenced work on the new building, for which the Legislature of 1885 had made an appropriation of $5,000.00, and completed it the first week in January, 1887. On the 10th day of January, with Capt. French unable to leave his room and Mr. Sweeney in the Legislature, Mr. James F. Holroyd, Sweeney's substitute, began school in the new building. The transfer of the school from the "Old Church," which is now used for a stable, to the new building marks the beginning of a period of progress, which before that time had not been dreamed of by the most hopeful friends of the institution. The Legislature of 1887 appropriated $3,000 to complete the building and furnish the same. In 1888 the building was enlarged by a $3,500 addition. The "New Concord Normal School Building," as shown by cut on adjoining page, is a large, handsome, and commodious structure. It will easily accommodate 300 students, and for convenience and comfort it is surpassed by no other building of its kind in the State. It contains nine recitation rooms, library and reading room, janitor's room and chapel or commencement hall. This hall is 40x85 feet, handsomely furnished, and will seat about 1,000 persons. The building is situated on a slight eminece [sic] near the center of the village, and presents an imposing appearance from all parts of the town and surrounding country.
The "Ladies Residence," built by an appropriation of the Legislature of 1891, has been placed under the management of a competent person and is quite an acquisition to the school. This three-story building containing thirty rooms is situated on a beautiful and commanding site about 300 yards north of the normal school. The grounds consist of two acres, of which 1 1/3 acres were given by J. D. Sweeney, the other two-thirds of an acre was purchased by the faculty and citizens and presented to the State.
The rude furniture that was used in the Normal from 1875 to 1887, has been replaced by modern desks and benches. The school is supplied with ample scientific and philosophical apparatus.
The reading room and well selected library for the free use of teachers and students is the growth of the last five years.
The Literary Societies in connection with the school are in a flourishing condition.
The annual appropriation for the support of teachers in this school is now more than double what it was in 1886.
In addition to the Normal and Academic departments provided for by the Board of Regents, the faculty has established a commercial department, a penmanship department, a short-hand and type-writing department and a musical department. . . .