Schools and Colleges in Calloway County

Schools came early. Among the first, if not the first, was one taught by Joseph James, four miles above Cote Sans Dessein (in the Ramsey settlement, probably), in the winter of 1818-19, according to T. J. Ferguson, who has been previously quoted. Another pioneer schoolmaster was ''Pegleg" David Dunlap, who taught in Fulton shortly after the town was laid out.

The Missouri School for the Deaf

Before the Hospital for Insane was opened, an act of the general assembly was approved on February 28, 1851, establishing the Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (now officially designated The Missouri School for Deaf) and giving to it forty acres of ground and a two-story frame building that had belonged to the State Lunatic Asylum. The building was located near the building now used by the State Hospital as a cow barn, and there, on November 5, 1851, under the superintendency of Prof. William Dabney Kerr t the first pupil t of the school was enrolled. In 1854 the present site of the school was bought and a building costing $28,000 erected. The school closed during the first two years of the Civil war, part of which time its buildings were used by soldiers as barracks, but was reopened in April, 1863. The principal buildings of the institution were burned on the night of February 27, 1888, making the largest fire in the history of Fulton. Temporary buildings were provided immediately, and the work of the school went on without interruption until new buildings could be erected. Professor Kerr continued as superintendent of the school until February 28, 1889, when he resigned, after having devoted fifty-eight years of his life to the education of the deaf.

Westminster College

The first institution of higher learning in Fulton was the Fulton Female Seminary, established in 1850 by the Rev. William W. Robertson, D. D., and at which many of the older women of the county received their education. It was the only school for the higher education of women between Fulton and St. Louis, and during the ten years of its existence was liberally patronized, the attendance probably averaging 125. The school opened in a dwelling located somewhere southeast of the State Hospital, and soon afterward moved into buildings Dr. Robertson erected for its use at the corner of West Seventh and Walnut streets. Mrs. Anna Patton Vance, then and now a resident of Fulton, was the first graduate, receiving her diploma in 1854. At the beginning of the Civil War. Dr. Robertson moved to Concord, where he opened and conducted a seminary for boys and girls several years.

Westminster College dates from February 23, 1853, when it was chartered by the general assembly of Missouri, though Fulton was selected as the site of a Presbyterian college for boys at a meeting of the Synod of Missouri in Fulton in October, 1852. The cornerstone of the main college building and the cornerstone of the School for Deaf were laid on July 4, 1853, when the principal address was delivered by the Rev. Nathan L. Rice, D. D., afterward president of the college. The main building, with a chapel building which was erected in 1887, was destroyed by fire on the night of September 10, 1909. James Green Smith, afterward a minister of the Baptist church, who received his diploma in 1855, was the first graduate from the college. Judge Robert McPheeters, an honored and respected citizen of Fulton, who was a member of the class in 1856, is the oldest living alumnus of the college. Westminster has had the following presidents: Rev. Samuel Spahr Laws, D. D., Rev. John Montgomery, D. D., Rev. Nathan L. Rice, D. D., Rev. Edwin Clifford Gordon, D. D., John Henry MacCracken, Ph. D., Rev. David Ramsey Kerr, D. D., and Rev. Charles Brasee Boving, D. D., the latter being in office now. Though the college is in its sixtieth year, all of the men of this illustrious list are living except Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Rice. After the Civil war the college for many years was controlled entirely by the Synod of the Southern Presbyterian church, but in 1901 the Synod of the Northern church united in its control and support.

Fulton College

From Fulton College, chartered by the officials and members of the Fulton Presbyterian church on February 18, 1851, grew Westminster College, which is the only college in Missouri outside of St. Louis that did not suspend during the Civil war. Fulton College was owned independent of both presbytery and synod, and located on the site of the present Westminster. The college opened on the first Monday in October, 1851, and the record shows that the Rev. Benjamin Y. George, D. D., then a resident of Fulton and now a resident of Elmwood, Illinois, was the first student enrolled. Prof. William Van Doren was the president and during the first session fifty students were in attendance.

Floral Hill College

Floral Hill College, located on the west end of what is now known as Hockaday Hill, just south of Fulton, was opened about 1858 by the Rev. P. K. Dibble, a minister of the Christian church, who came from Ohio. A comfortable frame college building was erected, a large and competent faculty was employed, and until the beginning of the Civil war the school enjoyed a substantial patronage. Many of its pupils were from places outside of Callaway county, and but for the war, the college doubtless would be in existence today.

Synodical College

Synodical College, the successor of Fulton Female College, though thirteen years intervened between the close of one and the opening of the other, was located at Fulton by the Synod of Missouri (Southern Presbyterian) at a meeting held at Cape Girardeau in October, 1871, Several towns made bids for the institution, but the offer of $16,500 in money and four acres of ground valued at $3,500 made by Fulton was the one accepted. The present college building was begun in the spring of 1872 and finished during the summer of 1873, the cost being $25,000, including furnishings. The first session opened in the fall of 1873 with Prof. T. Oscar Taylor, of Virginia, as president. Through all of its history the college has done splendid work, and at this time plans are being made for the enlargement of its plant to meet present requirements.

William Woods College

William Woods College for girls, then known as the Orphan School of the Christian Church of Missouri, opened in Fulton on September 18, 1890. Following the burning of the orphan school at Camden Point, Fulton offered $40,000 in money and ten acres of land to have it located here, and the offer was accepted. The school opened in the Lehmann Hotel building, and during the following winter moved into the present main building of the college. When the institution became involved in financial troubles in 1901, Dr. William S. Woods, a banker of Kansas City, came to its rescue and his name was given to the college. The college has a large patronage throughout Missouri and the Southwest. 


© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913