Friday, March 13, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 15

Mortgage Holders Foreclose on Marvin College, March 15, 1879

The General Conference of 1866 of the MECS authorized the creation of new conferences in Texas. The northern portion of the East Texas Conference was broken off and named the Trinity Conference. Four years later it was renamed the North Texas Conference. The northern portion of the Texas Conference was broken off and formed the North West Texas Conference. In 1910 that conference was divided to produce the conference boundaries that exist today.

The North West Texas Conference soon began establishing colleges. Waco Female Seminary and Marvin College sprang up. Unfortunately both were encumbered by crushing debts and had to close.

Most Methodist colleges of the 19th century began with optimistic prospects, but none more so than Marvin College in Waxahachie. It quickly opened a preparatory department and hired J. W. P. McKenzie, the most prominent Texas Methodist educator of the era, as the college's first president. The venerable McKenzie, already over sixty years old, moved from Itinerant’s Retreat near Clarksville and assumed the presidency.

Unfortunately McKenzie gave his personal guarantee for some of the debts of the school. A creditor sued him and obtained a $1000 judgment. Other disputes with trustees over debt and declining health made Itinerant’s Retreat look better all the time. He left after one year as president.

The trustees turned to a Mississippi minister named Josiah Pugh as the new president. There were some successes. Marvin College received its incorporation from the state in 1873 and boasted a three story classroom building and two dormitories. In addition to the usual classical curriculum, students could take courses in military science, telegraphy, geology, and waxworks.

When the conferences united on a central university in Georgetown rather than Waxahachie, Marvin College had too much competition. Trustees continued to borrow and pledge the college property as collateral. The 12% interest rate was just too heavy a burden. The mortgage holders foreclosed on March 15, 1879.

The college operated without a formal Methodist connection for a few more years, but the buildings were finally taken over by the Waxahachie public schools.


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