THE PORT GIBSON FEMALE COLLEGE

 
Now known as the Irwin Russell Memorial, the building that was constructed as the Port Gibson Academy, Collegiate Institute and Female College, as it was variously known 1839-1928, serves today as the City Hall and public library, as well as fire department for the city of Port Gibson. Renovated in recent years, the building is a striking facility which stands within a few blocks of the Methodist Church on College Street.
 

 

THE PORT GIBSON FEMALE COLLEGE

 

This institution is located at the town of Port Gibson, the county seat of Claiborne County, on the Louisville, New Orleans and Texas Railway.  It was established in September, 1843, by the following gentlemen as proprietors: James H. Maury, Benjamin H. Humphreys, Elias Bridgers, Joseph Davenport, John S. Chambliss, Peter C. Chambliss, D. G. Humphreys, D. S. Humphreys, F. S. Jefferies, N. Jefferies, Samuel Coburn, H. T. Ellett, and G. W. Humphreys.

 

The institution was opened for the reception of students in April, 1844.  It was fortunately exonerated from all need to do pioneer work.  The way had been effectually prepared for it by a series of fine schools, the town of Port Gibson being one of the oldest in the State.  The Madison Academy, under the charge of Henry C. Cox, was incorporated by the territorial legislature in 1809, and ran a successful career for a number of years.  The Clinton Academy was incorporated in 1826, changed its name in 1829 to the Port Gibson Academy, and worked more or less successfully until about the year 1843.  The earliest faculties are now unknown, but the principals in and about 1835 were E. A. and S. Royce; from 1838 to 1840, a Mr. Smith, graduate of Brown University, and his wife; and thenceforward, Prof. George P. Strong and his wife, late from Mississippi College.  Mann Butler’s Academy, also a school of collegiate grade, had been in operation from 1836 to 1841, the principal being a teacher of experience in some of the best Kentucky schools.

 

When the academy the subject of this chapter was founded, therefore, the material for it had already been prepared,  Nor even then did it stand without a rival; a Mr. E. P. Merrill was conducting a female institute of high grade in the town, and held his ground.

 

When the proprietors organized the academy, they placed Mr. John Harvie, A. M., in charge.  He was assisted by his wife, Mrs. Mary A. Harvie, and by Mr. W. L. Whitney, A. M., Miss Mary J. Smyth and Miss Marcia Howe, and by Mr. L. G. Hartage as professor of music.  The usual higher classes in the English branches and the classics were provided for, besides instruction in modern languages, natural philosophy, chemistry, and music.  An extensive apparatus for illustration of the studies in natural philosophy and chemistry was supplied.  The academy buildings and premises donated by the founders were valued at $15,000.

 

The management of President Harvie was successful.

 

Unfortunately the records of this institution were for a long period imperfectly kept, and it has proven impossible to obtain information as precise as is desired.

 

On the 1st of February, 1854, a charter was granted by the legislature, under the name of the Port Gibson Collegiate Academy.

 

In the year 1859, the Rev. Benjamin Jones, a minister of the Methodist Church South, was president, and again in 1871.

 

In 1869 the institution was taken under the patronage of the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Church, and the property conveyed to that body.

 

The Rev. John A. B. Jones was president during the seven years from 1875 to 1881.  He was followed by the Rev. Thomas C. Bradford for the six years from 1882 to 1887.  In 1888 the Rev. Edwin H. Mounger was chosen president, and the college is still under his charge (1891).

 

From its foundation until this day the college has been in successful operation.  The turmoil and disasters of the late war, even, did not cause any suspension; and it can thus claim the longest uninterrupted career of any female school in the State – one of forty-seven years.

 

The degrees conferred are those of Mistress of English Literature (M. E. L.), and A. B. and M. A.

 

The attendance has ranged from 60 (the lowest) to 125 (the highest), about one-third being boarders.  The school has been freely patronized by Alabama and Louisiana, with occasional students from other States.

 

The expenses are $170 per annum for boarders; $45 for collegiate day scholars.  Music and art are extras.

 

The equipment consists of a full square of the town, inclosed.  There are two large brick buildings, two stories high, with necessary outbuildings, all valued at $20,000.

 

The faculty consists of Rev. E. H. Mounger, president and professor of mathematics, mental and moral science, French, and Latin; Miss M. E. Compton, lady principal, and teacher of mathematics; Miss Belle E. Pierson, teacher of Latin, literature, elocution, and calisthenics; Miss A. M. C. Pearce, principal and teacher of theory, solfege, and technique in music; Miss Mary G. Dailey, instrumental music; Miss Ruth J. Drake, assistant instrumental music; Miss Mary G. Dailey, drawing, painting in oil and water colors, embroidery, etc.; Miss M. J. Austin, manager and principal of primary department.

 

taken from The History of Education in Mississippi by Edward Mayes, published in 1899 in Washington, D. C., by the Government Printing Office, pgs. 96-97.

 


1860 CENSUS, CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI – PUPILS AND TEACHERS BOARDING AT FEMALE COLLEGIATE ACADEMY

Port Gibson, Aug. 3, 1860, Roll 580, page 506

 

NAME

Occupation

Age

 Place of Birth

Sex

Rev. B. Jones

Teacher and M. Preacher

50

Virginia

M

Mrs. R. B. Jones

Teacher

39

New York

F

M. M. Barlow

Teacher

33

Delaware

F

Rhoda Alling

Teacher

25

Connecticut

F

E. M. Redfield

Teacher

28

New York

F

E. B. Phelps

Teacher

30

Connecticut

M

Alice V. Phipps

 

17

Mississippi

F

L. Bloodgood

 

16

Louisiana

F

M. N. Prade

 

18

Alabama

F

Hester Jones

 

17

Mississippi

F

M. A. Norman

 

17

Mississippi

F

E. W. Jones

 

16

Mississippi

F

Kate Wade

 

15

Mississippi

F

M. R. Wade

 

15

Mississippi

F

M. L. West

 

13

Louisiana

F

M. J. Jones

 

13

Mississippi

F

M. Rowe

 

13

Louisiana

F

M. O. Shelby

 

14

Mississippi

F

M. Beasley

 

14

Mississippi

F

E. Leighton

 

16

Mississippi

F

S. L. Coleman

 

13

Mississippi

F

R. A. Phipps

 

13

Mississippi

F

A. E. Vaughn

 

13

Mississippi

F

C. A. McCaa

 

13

Mississippi

F

E. Buck

 

14

Mississippi

F

E. J. Shelby

 

12

Mississippi

F

M. E. Griffin

 

14

 

F

M. Nesmitt

 

14

 

F

Sallie Wade

 

13

 

F

Mary J. Hopkins

 

14

 

F

M. A. Sugg

 

14

 

F

L. C. Sugg

 

12

 

F

N. E. Sugg

 

9

 

F

Submitted by Sue B. Moore, sbmoore@swbell.net

 

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