College Helped Foster Education When Options Were Limited - TribPapers

College Helped Foster Education When Options Were Limited

A state historical marker stands on the side of Merrimon Ave in Weaverville telling about the long forgotten college. Photo by Clint Parker

Weaverville – In the mid-1800s, when options for further education were limited for students who had graduated high school, religious groups stepped in to bridge the gap by establishing institutions dedicated to providing secondary education. Religious denominations like the Baptist and Methodist communities initiated the movement for additional educational opportunities.

One such institution was Weaver College, which emerged two years before the Town of Weaverville received its official charter. This college played a significant role in the movement initiated by religious denominations like the Baptist and Methodist communities, striving to offer educational opportunities to the youth residing in the mountainous regions.

While not originally started by a denomination, it was started by the Sons of Temperance – a group of men who encouraged the temperance movement (temperance or complete abstinence from consumption of alcoholic beverages*) and mutual support, it later became a Methodist educational institute. At its height of popularity, the Sons of Temperance had more than 5,000 chapters in the US.

A testament to Weaver College’s historical significance can still be found along Merrimon Avenue in Weaverville—a historical marker that catches the attention of passing motorists. The marker proudly declares: “Weaver College – Founded as Weaverville College, 1873; Methodist, coeducational. In 1934 merged with Rutherford to form Brevard College. Campus was 1 block W.” This enduring marker serves as a tangible reminder of the college’s legacy and its impact on the local community.

Established initially as Weaverville College in 1873, the institution aimed to provide a comprehensive four-year college curriculum. However, prior to its establishment, the site was home to an academy run by the local Sons of Temperance from 1851 onwards. Montreville Weaver generously donated the land on which the first college buildings were erected. Through a combination of donations and strategic purchases, the campus expanded to encompass an impressive fifty-five acres. Initially, the college operated under the governance of “a local board of trustees independent of any” specific denomination, signifying its commitment to providing education to a diverse range of students.

Dr. James A. Regan served as the school’s first president, and it wasn’t until 1883 that the property was officially deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Subsequently, the school came under the supervision of the Western North Carolina Conference.

In 1912, the institution underwent a transformation, becoming known as Weaver College and transitioning to junior college status. While the college adjusted its educational offerings to cater to this new focus, it continued to provide preparatory classes for aspiring students. Right from its inception, Weaver College embraced coeducation, reflecting its commitment to providing equal educational opportunities to both men and women. The vibrant student life at the college revolved around participation in literary societies and engaging in various sports programs.

Notable alums who have emerged from the halls of Weaver College include distinguished individuals such as North Carolina Chief Justice Walter H. Stacy, Congressman Zeb Weaver, and Professor Hugh T. Lefler of the University of North Carolina. Their achievements further solidify the college’s reputation for fostering intellectual growth and producing successful graduates who made significant contributions in various fields.

In 1933, the Western North Carolina Conference made a historic decision to merge Weaver College with Rutherford College. This merger resulted in the creation of a single coeducational Methodist junior college situated on the grounds of the old Brevard Institute. Subsequently, in the fall of 1934, thirty students and five faculty members from Weaver College relocated to Brevard College, marking a new chapter in the institution’s history. Today, Brevard College continues to honor the earlier institutions by preserving their legacy through the Weaver Room in the library and plans for a Weaver College Bell Tower. In Weaverville, the original campus left behind three notable structures—the 1874 Administration Building, now utilized as a Masonic Temple, and two dormitories that still serve as residential buildings, serving as a tangible link to the rich history of Weaver College.


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