Saturday, August 18, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 19

Trustees Name Georgetown as Site for Central University, Aug. 21, 1873

One of the main activities of 19th century Texas Methodists was establishing schools. Unfortunately one of the other main activities was closing schools. The enthusiasm for establishing schools created an unsustainable number. As John McLean said in his Reminiscences, “. . .we overdid the school business.”

Francis Asbury Mood came from South Carolina to be president of Soule University and almost immediately realized that a central university supported by all of the conferences in Texas would have a better chance of survival than schools with support from only one conference. The task of getting the conferences to unite behind a central university was tremendously difficult, but Mood threw his efforts into that cause and eventually succeeded.

One of the incentives Mood had to offer was the prospect of the central university’s location. As long as conference members thought their conference might contain the university, they would be more likely to support the establishment of the university. Mood used that incentive skillfully. At one point he had to stop a movement to locate the university in Waxahachie. Criteria for the location were established. The desertion of Soule because of a yellow fever epidemic meant that coastal Texas was completely excluded from consideration. That exclusion also silenced some of Mood’s critics who suspected him of trying to make Soule the central university.

Several cities vied for the university and presented Mood with another problem. How could he keep from offending potential patrons in the cities that were not chosen? Mood solved that problem by adding new conditions until only Georgetown remained. The formal announcement for establishing the central university in Georgetown was made August 21, 1873.

To read more about Southwestern University’s founding and location, see To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University, 1840-2000 by William B. Jones.


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