May 2008

The Early Days of Presbyterian College

So, where to begin? Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning, with PC’s early history. The college, founded in 1880 as Clinton College, was a result of the work of Rev. William Plumer Jacobs, then the pastor of the Clinton Presbyterian Church.

The first classes were held in a white frame building located near the center of town. The only existing photograph shows it in later years, when a porch had been added.

The first college catalogue includes an interesting description of the town:

Both men and women students were accepted, although the female students were not permitted to live on campus, and were either local or made arrangements to board with local families. Although the college was largely governed by the session of the Presbyterian church, it was non-sectarian. According to the catalogue, “its teachings shall be such as to build up pure religion, and to attract students of all denominations. Hence while avoiding the so-called ‘Liberalism’ of Modern Philosophy, yet this Institution shall not be exclusive or illiberal in its Christianity .”

Tuition was much less in 1880 than it is today, but it must have seemed high at the time, since the catalogue takes great pains to justify it:

Like many schools of the period, Clinton College also had a Preparatory Department for the education of younger students:

The Preparatory Department existed until the 1920s, and many students received their entire education from Clinton College.

The college’s first class graduated in 1883. Among the three members of the class was Florence Lee Jacobs, who was the eldest of William Plumer Jacobs’ five children.