Myra Cordelia McAlmont Warner (1832–1921)
Myra Cordelia McAlmont Warner was a pioneer and noted educator of Arkansas youth who was integral to the creation and operation of the Arkansas Female College in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
Myra McAlmont was born on July 4, 1832, at Hornell, New York, to Daniel McAlmont and Samantha Durham McAlmont. When she was about twenty, she came to Arkansas with her brother, Dr. John J. McAlmont, and his family. They settled first in Benton (Saline County), and she started a small private school. After about two years, her brother moved to Little Rock and opened a drugstore. She returned to New York.
While in New York, she attended Albert University and graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She married Truman Warner and had a daughter, Julia McAlmont Warner, born on September 1, 1860, at Hornell. Soon after, Myra Warner moved with her infant to her brother’s home in Little Rock. Her husband did not accompany her, and his status is unknown. During the Civil War, McAlmont’s family, including his sister and niece, moved to his plantation on the main road to Little Rock. Confederate soldiers were seen frequently on the road, and the plantation at times served as a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. All the family assisted with the hospital. After the war, the family moved back to Little Rock.
In September 1867, Warner started a school. She advertised that it was for young ladies and that it would meet at O’Hara’s on Holly Street. Fees were $4 per month for primary class, $5 per second class, and $6 per first class. French, Latin, Italian, embroidery, and drawing were offered for an extra charge.
By 1871, her brother and eleven other prominent Arkansas men had formed a corporation to establish the Arkansas Female College (AFC) in Little Rock. The Methodist Episcopal Church South agreed to assist with the formation of the college. Warner was very involved in 1872–1874 with plans for the college. The board was able to lease what is now known as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House on 7th Street in 1873, and the AFC opened in what is now called the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House on October 5, 1874. General Levin Lewis was president, and Warner was principal and taught some classes. She continued as principal and instructor and sometimes filled in as president for the duration of the AFC’s operations. Her daughter, Julia Warner, was a student of the AFC, graduating and becoming an instructor at the college by age seventeen.
Besides her duties with the AFC, Myra Warner was a member of the faculty of the Sabbath School of the Presbyterian Church, which had an enrollment of 199. In 1889, she announced that, after sixteen years of operation, the AFC would be opening in September in new quarters being built for the college at 1400 Rock Street, consisting of ten well-equipped rooms. At some time, she also established her residence at 1414 Rock Street.
Warner was active with the alumnae association of the AFC. At their annual meeting in June 1894, they voted to form a club to study literature and named it the Warner Literary Club. She was active with other community activities, and in October 1897 she was invited to present a report to the annual meeting of the National Household Economic Association in Nashville, Tennessee. Her paper on the six H’s of home life (home, hearth, health, harmony, happiness, and heaven) was read at the inaugural meeting of the Woman’s Club of Little Rock on October 6, 1897. Her paper also appeared in the April 1898 edition of American Kitchen Magazine.
After graduation in 1898, it was announced that further classes of AFC were being suspended due to the illness of Myra Warner. In July 1898, it was announced that the Reverend Rollin E. Blackman was going to resume the AFC at the Rock Street facility. Friends of Warner and graduates of the AFC were asked to support Blackman in resumption of the AFC. By July 19, it had been announced that Blackman was opening a new coeducational institute, the Arkansas Collegiate Institute. This school met in the building where the AFC had met at 1400–1414 Rock Street. The institute seemed to have lasted only the 1898–99 school year, as Myra and Julia Warner began to accept private students at the Rock Street address after that time.
On the occasion of Myra Warner’s eightieth birthday in 1912, a testimonial celebration was held for her featuring 150 of her former students, sometimes representing two generations. She also celebrated sixty years of teaching (not including the Civil War years). The former students wore badges with the inscription: “The Myra C. Warner Student Association.”
Warner died on May 15, 1921, at her home on Rock Street and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery. She had continued to accept some students for tutoring for up to three years before her death, her last students being some young men wanting commissions in the U.S. Army who needed knowledge of higher mathematics.
For additional information:
Arkansas Female College Collection. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Hold Services for Mrs. Warner.” Arkansas Democrat, May 16, 1921, p. 9.
“Local News Briefly Told.” Arkansas Democrat, July 4, 1898, p. 8.
“Mrs. Myra Warner Is Shown Honor.” Arkansas Gazette, July 4, 1912, p. 6.
“A New Institution.” Arkansas Democrat, July 19, 1898, p. 4.
“School” [advertisement]. Arkansas Gazette, August 15, 1867, p. 2.
“Will Be Re-Instated.” Arkansas Gazette, July 5, 1898, p. 7.
Carolyn Yancey Kent
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