Isaac Jasper Long (1834–1891)

Isaac Jasper Long was a Presbyterian minister from South Carolina who helped found Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville (Independence County) and served as its first president.

Isaac Long was on born February 23, 1834, in Anderson District, South Carolina, the son of Isaac and Lettie Hamilton Long. Orphaned at fourteen, he supported himself as a laborer and tutor. He obtained his education at Reverend James Leland Kennedy’s Thalian Academy in South Carolina. Under the sponsorship of Reverend David Humphreys, he was able to attend Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he graduated in 1858. He remained at Danville to pursue his theological studies at Danville Seminary and also attended Columbia Seminary in South Carolina. On August 30, 1859, he married Kennedy’s daughter, Callie. He was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1861 and became the pastor of Concord Church in Sumter District, South Carolina.

In 1866, he was sent by the Committee on Domestic Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States to collect information on the condition and needs of Presbyterian churches in Arkansas. Batesville was among the towns he visited, and the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church there called him as its minister in 1867. He was at the time the only Presbyterian minister in a fifteen-county area and served the Batesville church, as well as several others in the region. He also taught school, eventually becoming principal of the Batesville Male and Female Academy.

In 1872, he was instrumental in the founding of Arkansas College, the oldest independent college in Arkansas still operating under its original charter. In the nineteenth century, the Presbyterians were at the forefront of higher education on the American frontier. They had established their first college in America with the founding of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1746. By 1860, almost one-fourth of the colleges that had been founded in the United States had been founded by Presbyterians, the most of any denomination. When Long arrived in Batesville, however, there was no Presbyterian institution of higher education in Arkansas. In 1872, with the support of Batesville citizens and on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church, Long offered the Presbytery of Arkansas the opportunity to develop the Batesville Male and Female Academy into a Presbyterial High School. He also headed the building committee for the proposed school. By the time it opened, the Presbyterial High School had been transformed into a college, to be called Arkansas College. Long became its first president, also serving as professor of moral sciences and ancient languages. In an article written for The Arkansas Presbyterian in 1891, he described his early days at the college: “It would have been, from a human standpoint, a more hopeful undertaking at the time… to have started to build a railroad from White River to the Pacific Ocean with a pick and shovel and fifty dollars to start on….”

Long remained both college president and pastor until 1883, when he left the pulpit to devote his full energies to the college. His classroom preparation resulted in the publication of his Outline of Ecclesiastical History, for the Use of Colleges, High Schools, and Theological Classes in 1888.

Long died at the age of fifty-seven on December 10, 1891, after an illness of several months. He is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Batesville. Among the four of his seven children who survived infancy were Eugene R. Long, who followed his father as president of Arkansas College, and Mack H. Long, who later became a prominent banker in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.

Blevins, Brooks. Lyon College 18722002: The Perseverance and Promise of an Arkansas College. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.

Coffin, James P. “Biographical Sketch of Rev. Isaac Jasper Long, D.D.” In The History of Presbyterianism in Arkansas, 1828-1902. Presbyterian Church in America, 1903.

McGinnis, A. C. “Arkansas College.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 31 (Autumn 1972): 234–245.

Nevin, Alfred, and David Nevin, eds. Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Encyclopaedia Publishing Company,1884.

 Nancy Snell Griffith
Lyon College

This entry, originally published in Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives, appears in the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas in an altered form. Arkansas Biography is available from the University of Arkansas Press.


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