Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 19

No Yankees Need Apply! Says President Forshay at Rutersville  April 23, 1857

One of the recurring themes of Texas Methodist History—from the 1840s until the present—is the unpleasantness that has surrounded the demise of many of our schools.    The closings have been caused by poor fiscal management, faculty scandal, fire, death of key leaders, epidemic disease, and denominational rivalry.  Some colleges had the misfortune to be caught up in historical forces such as economic depression and war over which the school had no control.  

As one studies the closing of Methodist schools, one notices the desperation attempts that trustees have sometimes employed when things start to go bad.
Among those desperation measures have been consolidation efforts with other schools.  That attempt has rarely been successful.  Consider, for example the case of Rutersville College which opened its doors to students in January, 1840 and received a charter from the Republic of Texas in February of that year.  The following December it served as the venue for the organization of the Texas Annual Conference.  

A series of unfortunate events resulted in its failure.  By the mid-1850s it still had property and its charter, but few students.  Its last gasp desperation consolidation effort is one of the strangest in the history of higher education.  It was a three-way consolidation made up of Rutersville College, the Texas Military Institute of Galveston, and the Texas Monumental Committee of Fayette County.    The third member of the consolidation was a local organization that had formed to honor the victims of Dawson’s Massacre, many of whom were from Fayette County. 

The name of the new school was the Texas Monumental and Military Institute.  It occupied the former buildings of Rutersville College from 1856 until its students left for the Civil War.  

Its president was Caleb Forshay (1812-1881) a former cadet at West Point and a very good engineer and scientist.   In a letter he wrote to a job seeker on April 23, 1857, he revealed himself to be a contributor to the growing sectional hostility.  A teacher from New York wrote to inquire about employment at TM&MI.  Forshay’s response, which he distributed to the press, reveals the sectional division that would turn into war in a few years.  The letter is so interesting it is reproduced here

Sir—Your letter of the 9th inst, inquiring as to the demands for a teacher in this vicinity, has been referred to me by the Postmaster, and I shall answer it in what I am sure is the sentiments of those in this country, viz.,

The wants in this section and many other in the State, for good instructors is great, and the time was when an inquiry such as you address, might have opened the way to employment and future reputation and fortune.  But that time has passed by, and our people have learned by very dear experience at home, as well as intercourse abroad, that a very large majority of the people of your quarter are not to be trusted in a country with institutions such as ours; that they have, by some very solemn formalities have decided that our national charter, the Constitution should protect us only in things not contravening their fanaticism.  

These results are painful to contemplate by the true patriot, but they are so true that we are compelled to act upon them—neighborhood treachery and family insurrections and innocent blood, as well as pecuniary losses, are theprices we have paid for these conclusions.
It is your misfortune, if not really liable to such suspicions, to hail from a quarter in which private fanaticism is paramount to the Constitution; and with such surroundments. Your services in that or any other capacity, would not be welcome, even if your grammar and orthography were unexceptional, as your handwriting is neat and faultless.

Caleb G. Forshay\

One wonders why Forshay released this personal letter to the newspapers.  Perhaps it was to burnish his Southern credentials.  After all, he had been born in Pennsylvania—perhaps he needed to reassure his fellow Texans.


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