Saturday, June 10, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   June 11

Granbury College Holds Commencement Exercises  June 15, 1883

19th century Texans didn’t have many choices for higher education.  The state government didn’t see its role as spending tax money for colleges and universities.   Public higher education came to Texas only after the Civil War through the federal legislation creating land grant colleges which had been sponsored by Justin Morrill  (1810-1898) of Vermont.   The passage of the Morrill Act was one of the most important events in American history since it spurred the creation of universities throughout the nation.  The Morrill Homestead in Vermont has been preserved.  I have visited it to my great pleasure.   The impact on Texas was the creation of Texas A & M and Prairie View A & M.

Those two institutions could not begin to meet the educational needs of the state, and the denominations continued to create schools as they had done before the Civil War.

In 1873 the Weatherford District of the North West Texas Conference of the MECS authorized the construction of a 3 story stone building that would be used as a high school in Granbury.  The school opened but was beset by difficulties.  In 1881 it expanded to junior college status under the presidency of Rev. David A. Switzer. 

Commence exercises often consumed an entire week, and in 1883 the festivities were to begin with a worship service on Sunday, June 10 and continue through the 14th as students demonstrated what they had learned—mainly through elocution exercises, musical numbers,  and standing before audiences who asked them questions over their course material.

The week started poorly when Rev. John Murphy of Weatherford who was to preach the commencement sermon, became ill and didn’t arrive.  The newspaper report said—“No great loss.  There had been a heavy rain and most of the congregation didn’t come either.”

The elocution exercises were competitive so a highlight of the proceedings was the announcement of the winner.  P. B. Ward of Bosque County won the most prestigious award, the Lane Gold Medal, donated by the Presiding Elder of the Eastland District, Rev. J. K. Lane.  The Faculty Medal for the female who submitted the best original composition went to Miss Fannie Tramell of Coryell County. 

In January 1887 Granbury College burned and all its contents were lost.  It survived by moving to Weatherford.  The institution went through several reorganizations, but has managed to survive when many other similar institutions failed.  From 1943 to 1949 it was part of Southwestern University under President J. N. R. Score’s plan to make Southwestern the head of university system with feeder junior colleges.

 It officially serves Parker, Hood, Jack, Palo Pinto, and Wise Counties with multiple campuses and educational programs.


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