Arkansas Synodical College

The Arkansas Synodical College, chartered shortly before the Civil War, was one of several abortive attempts by Arkansas Presbyterians to establish an institution of higher learning. At a meeting of the Synod of Arkansas in October 1859, those attending decided to locate the proposed Arkansas Synodical College in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Trustees had already been appointed, and some funds had been raised to support the effort. A committee was named to procure a charter from the state. This charter was granted by the state legislature on December 31, 1860.

The college was to be under the care of the Old School Presbyterian Church of the United States and was to be under the direct supervision of the Synod of Arkansas. Its board of trustees was made up of S. Williamson, Thomas R. Welch, B. N. Sawtelle, A. R. Banks, W. Baird, J. J. Boozer, A. Beattie, J. W. Moore, Thomas G. McFadden, A. W. Lyon, Joseph Hart, J. A. Patillo, J. W. Miller, R. L. Dodge, E. W. Wright, P. K. Rounsaville, E. L. Bullock, J. R. Hampton, H. Flanagin, J. L. Witherspoon, and E. Cross.

The Civil War and the 1861 split of the Presbyterian Church into Northern and Southern branches apparently doomed this effort, as the college was never opened. There was some renewed interest in the school during and after the war, however. New trustees were appointed by the synod in 1862 and 1863, and again in 1866 and 1868. The Arkansas General Assembly addressed the issue again in February 1867, providing for the words “under the care of the General Assembly of the O. S. Presbyterian Church of the United States” to be stricken from the charter. By this time, after the split in the church, the Old School church was the Northern church, and the Synod of Arkansas was part of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). By 1869, however, the synod had indefinitely postponed the appointment of further trustees.

The Arkansas Synodical College never opened its doors, and Arkansas Presbyterians would have to wait until 1872, when Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville (Independence County) was founded, to have their institution of higher learning. Two members of the Arkansas Synodical College’s board, Welch and Lyon, would appear on Arkansas College’s board.

For additional information:
Acts of Arkansas of the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas. Little Rock: General Assembly of the State of Arkansas, 1860

Minutes of the Synod of Arkansas. Bennie Jean Bledsoe Collection, Huie Library, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Presbyterian College


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