By Henry T. M'Donald, President
History Of Education In West Virginia
(Charleston: The Tribune Printing Company, 1904)
By Henry T. M'Donald, President
The tidal wave of battle had hardly subsided at the close of the Civil War before a strikingly different wave swept over the southland. The north, having freely given of its best blood and treasures for the maintainance [sic] of the Union and banishment of slavery with unparalled [sic] generosity volunteered to assist its late foe in retrieving their broken future by aiding in the establishment of schools for the newly freed negro. Churches and religious societies were the first to enduringly enter into the work. And in the somewhat imaginary divisions of the State among such organizations, the valley of Virginia was assigned to the Free Baptists. Such assignments to various parts of the South were made, that conflicting efforts might be avoided and more efficient work be done.
The Free Baptist denomination had always stood unswervingly against the holding of slaves and so there was a peculiar fitness in the fact that the town, made famous by the heroic efforts of John Brown in precipitating the cause of freedom, should later become the headquarters of the work to be carried on in the freedmen's behalf.
During the last year of the war, Rev. N. C. Brackett had been stationed by the Christian commission in the Shenandoah Valley and had become quite intimately acquainted with the needs of the colored people. So it was most natural that he should be called to superintend the work about to be opened by the Free Baptists in West Virginia, and especially since he had been superintendent of schools for the Freedman's Bureau.
Storer College was founded through the munificence of John Storer, of Sanford, Maine. He signified to Dr. O. B. Cheney, President of Bates College, a willingness to give ten thousand dollars towards founding in the south a college for colored people. This gift was conditioned on an equal amount being raised by others in a limited time. The money was pledged and collected and Storer College was a reality.
The kindly interest and aid of Congress was sought and obtained through the efforts of Senator William Pitt Fessenden in the Senate, and the good offices of General James A. Garfield in the lower house. The College was granted the four large brick mansions formerly occupied by the Government officials in charge of the armory and arsenal. And in one of these, "The Lockwood," Storer College had its birth on Monday, October 2, 1862 . It began with a faculty of two teachers and nineteen students.
Large numbers sought admit[t]ance, and urgent demands for new and more ample home accommodations for the men resulted in the erection of Lincoln Hall. The funds for its erection were apportioned by the Freedman's Bureau. A dormitory for young women was a necessity and through the generosity of a large number of friends directed by the generosity of the Free Baptist Woman's Missionary Society, Myrtle Hall was erected.
Anthony Hall, the central and largest building of the college group and named in honor of L. W. Anthony of Providence, Rhode Island, was the next building added. This is the recitation hall and in it also are the chapel and library. The Dewolfe Building, named in honor of Mrs. Mary P. Dewolfe, one of the college benefactors, is now used by the Department of Cookery. And now a fine, new Industrial Building is nearing completion. In it instruction in carpentry, blacksmithing, canning, upholstery and painting will be given. Across the street from the college campus stands the Curtis Memorial Church.
The group of college buildings, well proportioned and sightly in themselves, and commandingly situated on Camp Hill made famous because of its having been used as a camping ground by United States troops for more than a hundred years.
Mention need scarcely be made of the magnificent water-gap, the historic Potomac, and the lovely Shenandoah, or the great tragic act which has made the town forever famous, or the situation of the college at the entrance of the eastern "panhandle" to show the importance and good fortune of its location.
Being the oldest school for colored people in the State, it has always been a potent factor in moulding the sentiment of the State to a healthy appreciation of the just deserts of the colored citizens in matters educational. For many years after the founding of Storer College the chief demand made upon the college was the training of teachers. And this demand was responded to. And the chief work of the school has always been the developing of leaders for the colored people. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, nurses, and farmers are numbered among the sons and daughters of Storer.
As the needs of the times have changed and it has become apparent that normal work ought to be supplemented with the other work, Storer has changed her Curriculum. From her founding the school has stood by the theory that honest labor never degrades a man.
And so it has been very easy for the college to expand its work to include industrial training.
The State has shown her appreciation of the great work the school has done for the commonwealth at so small a cost, by making a small biennial appropriation to its current funds. The last Legislature made an appropriation to be used in payment for industrial training, and the college has secured funds enough to complete a roomy substantial building in which such instruction may be given.
The college at present, besides doing normal and academic work, has a department of music, a department of cookery, a department of dressmaking, a department of practical gardening, and the industrial department. And each separate department is under the management of a well trained and competent head.
It is the purpose of the college to-day to develop the sterling qualities of manhood and womanhood, to give a reasonably broad and fair view of one's civic duties, and to well ground character in the basic principles of Christian living. The college in its larger future of usefulness will forever stand a monument to the unflagging zeal and self denial of Dr. N. C. Brackett, who during the first thirty years of this checkered career, wisely administered its affairs.
He was succeeded by Rev. E. E. Osgood; and Mr. Osgood was succeeded by Henry T. McDonald, who for five years has been President.