As another school year ends, we look back to the first Commencement ceremony held at Presbyterian College in 1883.
Clinton College was founded by Dr. William Plumer Jacobs in 1880. In the college’s early days, classes were held in the Academy Building, a white frame structure located in downtown Clinton on Academy Street near the current U. S. Post Office on Elizabeth Street. When the building was built in 1857, it served as the Clinton Female Academy. In 1872, the Clinton High School Association was formed and the building served as Clinton High School. Beginning in 1880, college classes were also offered in the building. The joint use of the building continued until the completion of Recitation Hall in 1886, a new college building located on the southern edge of the Thornwell Orphanage campus.
In the Archives, we actively seek programs from campus events in order to preserve the memory of the college. We have very few programs from the early days of the college, especially before the turn of the 19th century. We are fortunate to have in our Commencement program files an invitation for the very first commencement ceremony of Clinton College held on July 5-6, 1883. As is true today, the graduates were listed in the program, a very helpful resource in our archives work. The first three graduates of Presbyterian College were three young ladies, Miss Rebecca S. Boozer, Miss Jessie Lee Copeland, and Miss Florence Lee Jacobs. We know from the Presbyterian College Registrar’s Books held here in the Archives, that the three young ladies each received a B.S. degree. Later their married name and place of residence were added to the book.
Miss Florence Lee Jacobs was the first child and only daughter of William Plumer Jacobs, founder of Thornwell Orphanage and Presbyterian College. Florence was 12 years old when her mother, Mary Jane Dillard Jacobs, died in 1879. Florence’s youngest brother, Thornwell, was two years old at the time. At that point, Florence took over the duties of the household and the raising of her four brothers. She went on to become one of the first three graduates of Clinton College and the “honor member of her class” at the College’s first commencement ceremony. [Death of Beloved Woman, Clinton Chronicle, week of June 12, 1930]
Florence lived in Clinton her entire life, marrying Mr. William James Bailey, son of Mercer Silas Bailey, a pioneer citizen and businessman of post-Civil War Clinton. In 1886, M. S. Bailey established Bailey’s Bank of Clinton where Florence’s husband William, was cashier, later becoming a full partner when the Bank was renamed M. S. Bailey and Son, Bankers in 1901.
In the past year the Archives has received numerous materials from the Bailey and Vance families for addition to the Robert M. Vance Collection, originally established here in the Archives in July, 2006. Items include numerous photographs of the Bailey family and the home on South Broad Street built by Mr. W. J. and Florence Lee. In addition, a wealth of late 19th century Bailey Bank and Clinton Cotton Mill images, papers, scrapbooks, and periodicals now supplement the Vance Collection in the PC Archives. Materials such as these allow us to learn more about these families and their impact on the small town of Clinton in the upstate of South Carolina. As the PC community moves towards another commencement, we are proud to highlight the life of Florence Jacobs Bailey, class of 1883.