Saturday, March 12, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 13

Fire Destroys Seth Ward College, March 16, 1916

Plainview, the county seat of Hale County, is located in the center of a prosperous agricultural region in the South Plains. Increasing population during the first decade of the 20th century created a demand for education, and when the facilities of Central Plains College, a Nazarene institution, became available, the Plainview District of the Northwest Texas Conference purchased them for $32,000 and founded a two year school.

They named the two-year college after the recently deceased Bishop Seth Ward. Ward was the first native Texan to have been elected a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1909 he died in Kobe, Japan,, so naming the college for him was a posthumous honor.

Seth Ward College was adopted by the annual conference. Its academic program was designed to prepare students for Southwestern University in Georgetown, and it soon offered football, basketball, and baseball in addition to academics. A keen athletic rivalry arose with Wayland Baptist College, also located in Plainview.

Seth Ward College enrollment reached as high as 321 students in the fall of 1912. Students could take advantage of a fine library, chemistry lab, literary societies, a pre-ministerial club, and oratorical contests. As was the custom of the era, there were campus revival meetings.

Seth Ward College showed much promise, but it also had problems. Counting the holdover president from Central Plains College, it had five presidents in six years. In the spring of 1914 the men’s dormitory burned. It was being rebuilt when, on March 16, 1916, the Administration Building and women’s dormitory also burned. That was too great a blow. The college closed. In 1929 the Conference transferred any remaining assets to the Board of Education. Seth Ward alumni continued holding reunions until 1975, and maps of Hale County still show Seth Ward as a place name.


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