Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 24

Commence Exercises at Wesleyan College, San Augustine, July 29-31, 1845

Commencement exercises in 19th century Texas included far more than sermons, speeches, and walking across a stage to receive a diploma. If the July, 1845 exercises at Wesleyan College in San Augustine are typical, they lasted for three days and included public examination of the students—all the students—not just those graduating seniors.

As the name suggests, Wesleyan College was Methodist, but the Congress of the Republic of Texas insisted on non-sectarian charters for its schools. Methodist schools did not impose denominational strictures on the curriculum. The course of study in all the Methodist schools was a general liberal arts curriculum.

One way the school and the Eastern Texas Conference related was through the “visiting committee” which was a body distinct from the Board of Trustees and examined the students on their educational progress. The visiting committee at Wesleyan in July 1845 consisted of Eastern Texas Conference stalwarts, Littleton Fowler, J. W. Fields, and Daniel Payne. Fowler and Payne were presiding elders. Fields was station preacher at San Augustine.

The committee report was later printed and served to reassure parents of prospective students that Wesleyan College provided a sound education. Here are highlights from the reports which may be found at date:1845-1845

. . .The exercises commenced on the 29th of July, and continued three days. The first day was devoted chiefly to the examination of introductory classes, in the Preparatory Department: several of these classes had completed the studies in which they were engaged; and all showed a thorough acquaintance with with their respective studies, so far as they had proceeded.

The 2nd and part of the 3rd day was employed in the examination of classes in the studies of Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years. The classes of Mathematics, especially the 1st and 2nd, in Algebra, in Geometry, and in Trigonometry, plain and spherical, evinced a knowledge and familiarity highly gratifying to all.

The classes in Latin and Greek languages exhibited not only a readiness of acquaintance with the verbiage of the authors studied, but also of the deep meaning and spirit which they contain.

The class in Olmsted’s Natural Philosophy, and Comstock’s Natural Philosophy, and General History, displayed a more thorough knowledge than we had witnessed on any previous occasion.—The evening of the third day was devoted to the reading of original compositions, with a number of original speeches by the more advanced students.

On Thursday night, after the exercises of the College had concluded, a literary society, composed of the students of the institution, met and an able essay was read by one of its members, and flowed by an eloquent address by another.

The whole examination together, evidenced a proficiency in the students, in the various studies, considering the length of time they had been engaged in them, rarely, if ever met with any where.
. . .There has been altogether, 129 students during the session that has just passed—a fact that will doubtless surprise many of the friends of Texas at a distance, when contemplating the recent settlement of this country, the difficulties she had to encounter, and above all the recent establishment of “Wesleyan College.”

Parents guardians may rest satisfied that no pains have been spared by the Faculty in cultivating properly the minds, and guarding the morals of the students. Energetic efforts have been, and will continue to be made by the Faculty, to elevate the standard of morals of the students and pursue a sound scientific course of instruction. . .


Blogger Karen Witemeyer said...

Hello. I am a Christian historical fiction author for Bethany House, and I ran across your blog while I was searching for information on how preachers were trained in Texas in the late 1800s.

I read through several of your posts and loved all the historical details. You sited information about how the Texas government required all educational institutions to be non-sectarian. So since Methodist schools were liberal arts institutions, what were the procedures for training ministers? Were there divinity schools or theological seminaries in Texas in the 1870-80s? I haven't been able to find any prior to the turn of the century. Any help you could offer would be much appreciated.

You can contact me at: kwitemeyer[at]hotmail[dot]com and view my website at www[dot]karenwitemeyer[dot]com.

Thank you very much!

11:56 AM  

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