The Searcy College

SearcyCollege.jpg (12368 bytes)
In the fall of 1891, the properties of the Searcy College on the corner of Pine and Center Streets
(Pine St. was later renamed to Gum St.)
were sold and the school was relocated at the west end of Race Street, now the twelve hundred block.
The main building of the new college was four stories in height and finished in pressed brick

See original town plan
Original Picture courtesy Richard G. Deener Estate
Donated by Julia D. Brent
to the White County Library
Back

Author: Wayne Greenhaw
James E. Chrisp,
... spent one session as a student in Searcy College
Abstract from Sharp Co., AR Record Newspaper
Robert Edward Lee Saner    Julian Ashby Burruss #1  #2

From the book "Searcy, Arkansas: A Frontier Town Grows Up With America"
by Raymond Lee Muncy 1975

Located in the White County Library

page 111-115

     In 1883 W. H. Tharp, from Fayette County, TN and a graduate of the Macon Masonic College, moved to Searcy and opened the Searcy Male and Female College, the town's first attempt at coed higher education. The building which housed the school was located first on the corner of Center and Pine Streets. With the assistance of John W. Conger, who later became the first president of Ouachita Baptist College, Tharp secured the services of some of the best teachers in the area. The campus consisted of several buildings which were Searcy landmarks for many years. The former Carl Dodd house was the administration building. A two story girl's dormitory was moved to the corner of Gum and West Pleasure Streets where it later served many years as a rooming house. The houses of W. E. Davis and Cecil Lammers were constructed of materials from the house west of the administration building that was once used for piano practice. West of this building a double log house with a dogtrot served as the primary department, later the location of the P. A. Robertson house. 

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The old Searcy College built at the end of the Civil War. Also served as the Dudley Gill and Woods Hotel, the William Watkins house, and Sue Lee's boarding house, photographed in 1937. Courtesy of Richard Hill

     The old Searcy College built at the end of the Civil War. Also served as the Dudley Gill and Woods Hotel, the Williom Watkins house, and Sue Lee's boarding house, photographed in 1937. Courtesy of Richard Hill.
      In 1883 W. H. Tharp. t'rom Fayette County. Tennessee. and a graduate of the Macon Masonic College. moved to Searcy and opened the Searcy Male and Female College. the town's first attempt at coed higher education. The building which housed the school was located first on the corner of Center and Pine Streets. With the assistance of John W. Conger. who later became the first president ofOuachita Baptist College. Tharp secured the services of some of the best teachers in the area. The campus consisted of several buildings which were Searcy landmarks tor many years. The former Carl Dodd house was the ad- ministration building. A two story girl's dormitory was moved to the corner of Gum and West Pleasure Streets where it later served many years as a rooming house. The houses of W. E. Davis and Cecil Lammers were constructed of materials from the house west of the administration building that was once used for piano practice. West of this building a double log house with a dogtrot served as the primary department, later the location of the P. A. Robertson house.

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P.A. Robertson house on the corner of Center and Elm Streets located where the
Townhouse Apartments are now. Courtesy of Neil Cope

     The Searcy College Catalogue, 1886-1887, boasted of two large buildings, well ventilated, one for the college proper and one for the boarding of young ladies, "located on the most beautiful building site in town, convenient to the Square, and yet sufficiently removed to avoid the noise and bustle of business." The administration building had two fronts and separate "play grounds," one for the ladies and one for the young men. The sexes were never mingled except under the strict supervision of the teachers. Everything was reported to be done "decently and in order," yet without "the police force system." Although the Searcy College maintained high religious and ethical principles, it was not sectarian. College exercises began each day with chapel services. which all students were required to attend on the threat of expulsion from school. Orderliness was the watchword, and Professor Tharp insisted that everything and every person had a place and should be kept in it. The curriculum consisted of Latin, Greek, moral philosophy, mental philosophy, natural philosophy, familiar science, physiology, political economy. chemistry, rhetoric. trigonometry. algebra. professive grammar. geography. Roman and American history, reading and dictionary. Calisthenics for the ladies was included, military tactics for the men, and freehand drawing for everybody.

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Searcy College Commercial Department 1897 graduating class.
Standing L. to R.: E. Tucker, F. Barton, S. Davis, C. Petit.
Seated L. to R.:     F. Goode, W. Booth, L. Biggs, Prof. James, J.E. Lightle, M.P. Jones, H. Wells, G.L. Ford. Courtesy of Mrs. Lee Biggs., Jr.


     In the fall of 1891, the properties of the Searcy College on the corner of Pine and Center Streets were sold and the school was relocated at the west end of Race Street, now the twelve hundred block. The main building of the new college was four stories in height and finished in pressed brick. At the first graduation exercise in the lew location there were eighteen graduates, only two of whom were males. Academics were not always on the boy's minds. Not long after Searcy College settled on the new campus, they received approval of the following "official cheer:"
      Hors, hors,
      Gorunk, gorunk, gorn
      Ha, Ho. hi. he!
      Rah! Rah! Searcy!
     The street running north to Race bespeaks the efforts of Professor Tharp. since it is named appropriately, College Street. Tharp received recognition outside of Searcy for his progressive ideas in education. He was president of the Arkansas
Teacher's Association and the Arkansas Summer Normal School tor school teachers needing additional training. He was also the managing editor of The Arkansas Educational Journal, ..A live and progressive monthly." 12'1 Professor
Tharp moved to Little Rock in 1892 and opened an academy bearing his name. In 1898, at the commencement exercises of the Searcy College it was announced that the name of the school was being changed to Speers-Langford Military Institute and would be under the direction of Lieutenant Charles S. Fowler, with R. B. Willis and G. T. Storey as academic principals. Funds for the institute had been supplied by Mrs. John R. Speers and Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Langford of Pine Bluff. The name of the school honored the memory of Major John R. Speers and young William Henry Langford, the husband and son respectively of the new institute's benefactors.

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The older Cadets of the Spears-Lankford Academy. Courtesy of Mrs. Lee Biggs

     Several modifications were made in the two buildings to facilitate the transition of the school from a predominantly female to an all-male school with emphasis on military training and discipline. A new system of electric lights arid a new waterworks were added in 1900 as well as cannon to give it a fortIfied appearance. But tragedy struck the Institute twice within a year in the form of fire. The dormitory was burned to the ground and students were forced to board in private homes. The following year a fire destroyed the classroom building and students were left without a place to continue their studies. Since the benefactors of the school were the claimants to the insurance policies, they refused to allow the moneys to be used to rebuild the buildings. The city of Searcy brought suit for the insurance, but since attorney Stephen Brundidge, Jr.. was unable to locate the papers which allegedly obligated the Speers and Langford families to perpetuate the school in such eventualities, the suit was lost and the Institute ceased altogether.

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A group of students from Speers-Langford Academy. Located on the North sie of Arch Street.
Note: Dumbells in the hands of the cadets. Courtesy of Mrs. Lee Biggs

     One attempt to establish a school in the late nineteenth century apparently never made it off the ground. A warranty deed for the property on which to locate a female school under the supervision of the Methodist Church's Iacksonport District White River Conference was filed in the White County courthouse June 2, 1873.131 The articles of incorporation for the proposed school were not filed, however, for another two years. Israel Moore, I. B. Crane, Dandridge McRae and W. B. Carter were the original board of trustees, but nothing is known of the school's location or function. An article in the Arkansas Gazette, dated June 9, 1889, did note that General Dandridge McRae, president of the board of trustees, presented a diploma to the sole graduate, Miss Winnie Walker, and Bible Medal to Miss Laura Rumel. When the Central Collegiate Institute was moved from Altus, Arkansas, in 1889, Searcy was among the cities which bid to have the school located in their limits. Clarksville, Morrilton, Stuttgart, Arkadelphia and Conway were also interested in having the school. After four days and fifty one ballots, in which Searcy ran high, Conway was chosen and the school, newly named Hendrix College, moved there.

Compiled from numerous sources by Chird Bobbitt
White County Computer Services                  White County all rights reserved
501.279.6209 ...... wccomp@cswnet.com

Also see The White County Historical Society 

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