Soule College, 1851-1917

1903 – Soule College

SOULE COLLEGE 1851-1917 was located on Depot Street to the east of the present MTEMC building on the south side of Maple Street. It was on the site of the old Methodist Church and is shown on the 1878 Beers Map. The college was named for Methodist Bishop Soule of Nashville.

On October 18, 1845, Theodore G. Jones conveyed to Marmon Spence the same lot no. 111 of 81 square poles which had been laid off by William Lytle in 1818 and which had been later deeded to Benjamin Rucker, et al., Trustees of the Methodist Church. John Jones acquired the lot through Martha Spence, executrix of the Marmon Spence estate, and through a decree of Chancery Court. In a deed registered May 17, 1852, Jones sold
the property to Thomas Robertson who had been using the land for the manufacture of cotton gins. Robertson, in turn, conveyed the lot to the Trustees of Soule College.

The school opened September 1851 in the old FEMALE ACADEMY across the street. This gave credence to the claim that it was founded in 1825.

1873 – Soule College

The new building, which cost $25,000, was ready for occupancy in November 1853. It was a large brick structure, three stories high, and about 135x 115 feet. The form was that of a massive Roman cross with a fine cornice extending around the eaves. In the building were family rooms, parlors, a chapel, a dining room, a fifty foot square study hail, a library, and recitation, laboratory, and apparatus rooms.

Twenty-six dormitory rooms, twenty feet square and fourteen feet high furnished accommodations for the boarding students. From 1868-1874, the building was modernized with gaslight, furnaces, and plumbing.

Presidents were: Dr. J. B. Finley, 1851-52; Dr. S. P. Baldwin, the first in the new building, l853-October 1856; C. W. Callendar, a professional educator, 1856-1858; Rev. George B. Naff, 1858-Feb. 1862; Rev. James R. Plumer, Jan. 1866-1868, who opened the school again after the war “with no school marms from the North . . . all . . . Southern magnolias”; Rev. R. D. Moore, fall 1868-1874; Dr. Joseph B. West, who bought the college property for $12,000; T, A. Z. Adams, in 1878; John Ransom Thompson, who bought half interest in the school, in 1879; and John G. Paty, who bought the college in 1889. Miss
Virginia Oceania Wardlow, a graduate of Wellesley College, and her sister, Mrs. Mary Snead, operated the college. They were joined in 1903 by a sister, Mrs. C. W. Martin, who acquired title to the college for $9,000 and then transferred the title to Miss Wardlow for $4,000 and a mortgage note of $5,000. They were known as the “three sisters in black.”

September 26, 1860 – The Murfreesboro News

On July 8, 1905, the college was bought by M. R. Overall for $8,000 and Miss Alice Glascock w as hired as principal. Miss Martha Hopkins and Mrs. Ada B. Hyde, 1906-1917, first rented the school and then bought it in 1909 for $11,300.

The first faculty in 1851 consisted of: President J. R. Finley, J. Hoffman, Jane Raymond, Julia Knapp, and Jane Wolf.

The last faculty members, besides Mrs. Hyde and Mrs. Hopkins, were Margaret Rhea Dann, science; Roxana Whitaker, ancient languages and mathematics; Elizabeth Thompson, primary and kindergarten; Martha Quarles, assistant academic depart ment; Daisy Leuhon Hoffman, music; Gertrude Richards Schumacher, voice; Jennie Mae McQuiddy, expression and physical training; Mme. Lorene Gobel, art and modern language; and Catherine Reeves Bell, home department.

Among local students were: in 1854, Sue F. Dromgoole; in 1894, Eugene Neilson; in 1895, Stella Cross and Lizzie Bates of Smyrna; in 1898, Nell and Anna Eliza Holloway of Jefferson, Ivie Mal Smith McFerrin, Rosa Moore Cannon, and Neima Childress. Others were Augusta Huggins, Mary Witherspoon Clark, who won a Greek medal under Dr. Graves, the Licker sisters Mrs. Ethel Harney and Mrs. Esther Maxwell, Mattie Lowe Hall McFarlin in 1909, and Elizabeth Hall Barker. Doc Earthman is said to have
been the only boy who attended SOULE.

The college was closed during the Civil War from February 1862-January 1866. It was used by both the Confederate and Union armies for a hospital. The occupation caused considerable damage and the loss of books and equipment. The school again became prosperous and attained wide scholastic recognition until competition with other schools such as TENNESSEE COLLEGE and MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE NORMAL became too great.

SOULE COLLEGE closed in February 1917. Classes were held for the rest of the year in a house at 442 North Church Street.

Boarding students lived at the Church of Christ minister’s house on East Main Street.

Final Commencement was on May 27, 1917 in the Grand Theatre building. Graduates were Josephine Ramsey, valedictorian; Jean Faircioth McArthur, salutatorian; Ollie Mae Harrell, class historian; Mary Lytle Kelton, class will; and Sue Gill Riggs, class poem. Mrs. Hyde closed with these words: “Here’s to the daughters of Soule. May your lamps shine bright as you shed your light.” Miss Hopkins entreated, “I bid you be strong.
I would not wish you all sunshine and brightness for that would lessen your appreciation for the fullness of joy. Shun not the struggle, take it. Tis God’s gift.

Confusion arose over the closing date of the school because the 1916-1917 catalog of Morris Harvey College in West Virginia listed both Mrs. Hyde and Miss Hopkins as teachers. Both did teach there until 1920.

The property was bought by the City of Murfreesboro for $4,000 and the assumption of debts from Martha A. Hopkins, Ada B. Hyde, and Trustees J. T. Rather, P. A. Lyon, W. A. Ransom, and W. H. Woods, treasurer. The deed was signed February 9, 1917. The building was torn down and CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL was built on the site.

SOURCES: Deed Book S, p. 574; Book 2, p. 202; Book 5, pp. 507, 530; Book 22, p. 333; Book 23, p. 425; Book 30, p. 621; Book 59, p. 204. *Gene Sloan, “Soule College” RCHS, Pub. 11, Summer 1978, pp. 58-103. *Homer Pittard, “Famous Institutions Once Taught Local Students 100 Years Ago,” The Daily News Journal, Nov. 13, 1963, p. 12. Interview, Mar. 21, 1983, with May Love Smotherman Miller, student. *Catherine Clark, daughter of Mary Witherspoon Clark, a student b. Dec. 19, 1872.

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