Saturday, October 13, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 14

Texas Monumental and Military Institute Opens at Rutersville, October 1856

Texas Methodists had high hopes for their university named in honor of Martin Ruter establishing near LaGrange in 1840, but those hopes were shattered and abandoned for good in 1856.  Immediately after Martin Ruter’s death in May, 1838, Texas Methodists bought a league of land in Fayette County, surveyed it into lots, and began the process of organizing both a town and college. 

They hired Chauncey Richardson to be the organizing president, lobbied the Congress of the Republic of Texas for a charter and land grants to support the college.  In 1840 those aims bore fruit when Rutersville College began instruction.  There were three departments, collegiate, preparatory, and women’s.   Methodists sent their children there, eager to have them educated in a Methodist institution. 

By 1856, it all came crashing down.  Chauncey Richardson was not particularly effective as president, there was a sex scandal, and the great bugaboo of almost all Methodist colleges in the 19th century, debt, was too much to overcome.
As the end drew near, the school still had some assets, buildings and its charter.  The trustees agreed to keep something going by merging with the Monumental Institute and the Texas Military Institute of Galveston.  The Monumental Institute had been chartered in 1850 to build a monument at Rutersville to honor the fallen who had perished in the two disastrous military episodes of 1842, the Mier Expedition and the death of so men under Dawson’s command at the Battle of Salado.   Many of the fallen had volunteered from Fayette and surrounding counties.  

Colonel Caleb Forshey brought his TMI from Galveston and assumed control of the new institution while Rutersville’s last president, William Halsey, went ot Chappell Hill to try to kick start Methodist educational efforts there.

Forshey had attended West Point and was an engineer, scientist, and educator.  He came to Texas as the Chief Engineer for the Galveston, Houston, Henderson Railway.  He started that project and then founded the Texas Military Institute in Galveston in 1854 but moved it to Rutersville when that site became available.  
Prospective cadets had to 12 years old and 52 inches tall.  They had to be able to spell, read, write and cipher.  They also had to bring their own furniture to college and supply a uniform.   Tuition for the preparatory department was $50 and for the collegiate was $100.  

The TMI lasted until the Civil War.  The cadets all joined the Confederate forces and Forshey returned to his previous occupation of military engineer.  He planned coastal defenses and gave the orders for the “cotton clads” which helped retake Galveston Island from the Federals.  If that weren’t enough, he also composed Civil War songs.

After the war he returned to civilian engineers of railroads, canals, and river improvements.  He died in Carrollton, LA, in 1881.


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