Makemie College, a Presbyterian institution chartered by the Arkansas General Assembly on January 7, 1853, was named for the Reverend Francis Makemie, considered by many to be the father of American Presbyterianism. The “Act to Incorporate Makemic [sic] College” is remarkably vague. It notes that the institution will be under the control of the Synod of Arkansas and allows trustees Samuel J. Baird, Thomas W. Newton, Joshua F. Green, Edwin R. McGuire, D. C. Montgomery, and William L. McGuire to locate the college “at such point within this State as they may select,” and to “establish in it departments for instruction in the arts and sciences, and any of the learned professions.” The trustees, who had yet to hold their first meeting, were also authorized to procure grounds, erect buildings, and provide a library and “apparatus” providing that the annual income of the property did not exceed $12,000.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church made due note of this at their meeting in 1853, declaring that “the effort of the Synod of Arkansas to establish ‘Makemie College’ within its wide and destitute bounds, upon the frontiers of population, is entitled to the special support of the friends of Christian education.” According to the Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1854), the board had already submitted a building plan to the church and hoped soon to have the building under contract. The members of the Synod of Arkansas were urged to raise at least $10,000 to underwrite an endowment for the new college.
By 1857, the effort had apparently faltered. According to that year’s minutes of the General Assembly, $12,000 had been raised, but nothing further had been done. Despite the efforts of the denomination’s Board of Education to contact Arkansas Presbyterians to spur on their efforts, apparently no further progress was made, and the name of Makemie College ceased to appear in the assembly’s minutes.
Presbyterians were forced to wait for higher education until 1861, when the state legislature approved an act of incorporation for the Arkansas Synodical College in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The Civil War intervened, and this institution also died before it was born. It was not until Arkansas College (now Lyon College) was founded in Batesville (Independence County) in 1872 that the Presbyterians of Arkansas would finally have their institution of higher learning.
For additional information:
Acts Passed at the Ninth Session of the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas. Arkadelphia, AR: R. L. Pegues, State Printer, 1853.
Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. New York: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1853–1857.
Nancy Snell Griffith
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