Saturday, January 10, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 11

Sam Houston Signs Charter for Wesleyan College, January 16, 1844

Wesleyan College of San Augustine, one of the four institutions that Southwestern University claims as its predecessors, received its charter on January 16, 1844. It opened the following March and enrolled 155 students. The high hopes of its supporters in the Texas and then the Eastern Texas Conference were not fulfilled. It closed in 1847 after having awarded only two degrees.

The failure of a denominational college in the 1840s is not remarkable. As a matter of fact, failure is much more common than success. Debt, removal of leadership by death, maladministration, and fire were all common reasons for those failures. Some of them, especially debt and the death of Daniel Poe in 1844 (see post for September 16, 2007) occurred at Wesleyan College.

There were other circumstances particular Wesleyan’s situation. The most notable was the rivalry between Wesleyan (Methodist) and San Augustine University ( Presbyterian). The presidents of the respective institutions also edited newspapers. An unfortunate personal item led to the shooting death of the president/editor of San Augustine University. The reputation of both institutions suffered. Even with the efforts of Wesleyan’s main supporter, Francis Wilson, it was forced to close. Readers interested in the complete story can find it in William B. Jones, To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University University 1840-2000, Georgetown, Tx 2006.


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