This Week in Texas Methodist History November 29
East Texas Conference Meets in Henderson, Promotes Fowler Institute 1851
One of the ways that Texas Methodists honored the memory of Littleton Fowler was by creating a school in Henderson and naming it Fowler Institute. Fowler died in January 1846, and the school began under the auspices of the East Texas Conference in January, 1850.
In the middle decades of the 19th century Rusk County, and its county seat of Henderson, was quite an educational center. Fowler Institute was the third school to be organized there.
Fowler Institute got off to a good financial start because Robert A. Kaufman donated the proceeds from the sale of 160 acres to the Institute. The East Texas Conference started a fund raising campaign to raise $5,531 to build a one story brick building where the Henderson Hospital was later located. The Institute had three divisions, Primary ($25 tuition per term), Middle ($30), and Senior ($35).
In November 1851 the East Texas Annual Conference convened in Henderson so that preachers could see the new brick college building. For the second year in a row no bishop arrived to preside. In 1850 Bishop Henry Bascom died before he could come to Palestine to preside. In 1851 Bishop Capers had to cancel because of sickness. Rev. S. A. Williams was elected to preside over both sessions of the East Texas Annual Conference.
A main reason for choosing Henderson as the conference site was to show off the new conference college. Preachers were expected to spread the word about the college among their congregations and encourage both student enrollment and contributions.
Fowler Institute prospered during the 1850s. An advertisement in 1859 listed the courses offered:
Orthography, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, English Grammar, History, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric, Logic, Astronomy, Algebra, Latin, and Greek. Napoleon Burks was the President.
As with most 19th century Methodist colleges, Fowler Institute did not last. One reason for the failure was oversupply. On the eve of the Civil War Henderson was also home to the Masonic Female Academy in addition to Fowler Institute. Nearby were the Millville Male and Female Academy, and Sylvania School House, between Henderson and Marshall. Rusk County also boasted schools at Minden, Rock Hill, and Mount Enterprise.