Centre College Board of Trustees Records,1819-1977

Abstract

The Centre College Board of Trustees Records comprises broad categories of correspondence, minutes, reports, and miscellaneous records. The school, although chartered in 1819, could well trace its ancestry back to 1780. Strongly supported by Kentucky Presbyterians, but founded as a public, state-supported institution, the collection highlights periods of sectarian controversies and reorganization throughout Centre's establishment.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Centre College Board of Trustees Records,1819-1977
Creator
Centre College
Extent
3.75 linear feet, 5 boxes, 14 volumes
Subjects
Centre College. Board of Trustees
Kentucky College for Women (Danville, Ky.)
Central University (Richmond, Ky.)
Kentucky School for the Deaf
College trustees--Kentucky--Danville
Women's colleges--Kentucky--Danville
Deaf--Education--Kentucky--Danville
Finding Aid Author
Processed by: John LeDoux; machine-readable finding aid created by:Robert Glass
Repository
Centre College

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Although chartered in 1819, the Centre College Board of Trustees could well trace its ancestry back to 1780. Presbyterians, eager for an educated clergy and educated people to teach their children, were laying the groundwork for the establishment of a college in what was then the Kentucky County of Virginia. In 1780 an act of the Virginia General Assembly granted 8,000 acres of land for the establishment of a "public school or Seminary of Learning." Three years later another act added an additional 12,000 acres, and named the school Transylvania Seminary. The first meeting of the board of trustees met in Danville on November 10, 1783. Rev. David Rice was elected chair; others in attendence included Samuel McDowell, Willis Green, and Walker Daniel. The Revolutionary War, Indian conflicts, and unstable frontier conditions made the establishment of the new school difficult, but nevertheless, the trustees resolved to open a grammar school in the cabin of Rev. David Rice near Danville. The first classes began in February 1795, but the seminary lasted barely a year. The trustees decided in 1788 to move the school to the rapidly growing community of Lexington.
Strongly supported by Kentucky Presbyterians, but founded as a public, state-supported institution, the seminary's early years were racked by sectarian controversies. By 1794 Presbyterians felt they had lost control of the board of trustees, and founded the Kentucky Academy near Pisgah. In 1798 an act of the Kentucky General Assembly united the two rival institutions under conditions favorable to the Presbyterians. The new school opened as Transylvania University in January 1799. The turmoil continued, however. By 1818, the Presbyterians again felt their control slipping. The election of Rev. Horace Holly, a Unitarian, as president of Transylvania University deepened the Presbyterians resolve to establish their own school. Once more they petitioned the General Assembly for a charter.
The legislature, however, was far from eager to set up a rival for Transylvania, and refused to charter a college under the control of the Presbyterian Synod. The charter granted by the legislature, dated January 21, 1819, placed control in the hands of a self-perpetuating board of nineteen trustees. The first board included some of the most prominent figures in early Kentucky history: ex-Governor Isaac Shelby, Chief Justice John Boyle, William Owsley, Judge Samuel McKee, Rev. Thomas Cleland, Rev. Samuel Nelson, Rev. Nathan Hall, James Barbour and Danville medical pioneer Dr. Ephraim McDowell. The charter granted by the legislature established Centre as a non-sectarian institution, and the Presbyterians refused to endow the college on those grounds. The funds of another attempt by local citizens to found a school in Danville - the Danville Academy - were merged with those of Centre College, and in 1821 the legislature turned over $6,000 in profits from the branch Bank of the Commonwealth at Harrodsburg. But the college was in dire financial straits - a semi-public, state-supported institution in a state that had little money itself.
In 1824 the General Assembly approved an amendment to the original charter that gave control of Centre to the Presbyterian Church. An agreement was reached whereby the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky would give $20,000 to the trustees of Centre in return for the number of trustees being reduced to eleven and elected by the Synod. The number of trustees reverted to nineteen by an act approved in 1839.
In 1822 the legislature charged the Board of Trustees with the operation of the newly established Kentucky School for the Deaf, and gave it the power to oversee the finances, hire and fire personnel, and perform other administrative duties. The trustees remained in control of the school until 1870, when an act of the legislature vested governing powers in a board of twelve Commissioners appointed by the Governor.
Throughout the nineteenth century, control of the Board of Trustees remained in the hands of the Presbyterian Church. Following the 1866 split of the Synod of Kentucky into two groups, one affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (Northern Synod), the other with the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern Synod), several court cases culminated in a 1873 decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that the Northern Synod retained the right to elect the trustees. Members of the Southern Synod responded by founding Central University in Richmond, Kentucky.
As the twentieth century progressed, the relationship between Centre College and the Presbyterian Church waxed and waned. In 1901 Centre and Central University consolidated under an agreement that half the trustees would be selected by the Northern Synod and half by the Southern Synod. In 1907 the Board severed its ties with Presbyterian Church, and became a self-perpetuating body. In 1921 Centre reaffiliated with the Presbyterian Church, again under an agreement that the selection of trustees would be divided between the two Synods. In 1958, an amendment to the charter severed all ties with the Synods.
Today Centre College is governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees, divided into six annual classes of not more than five persons. The presiding officer of the Board of Trustees is the chair of the Board, elected annually. The president of the College is the excutive officer of the Board and the chief administrative officer of the College.
Note: For additional information on the history of the Board of Trustees, consult the Legal History of Centre College by Charles J. Turck, and pertinent materials in Centre College Early Official Documents and Legal Papers.
Scope and Content
In the early 1980's, Centre College received a matching grant from the National Publications and Records Commission to organize its archival collection. This two year project involved hiring a professional archivist to consolidate, organize, describe, and store material. The Centre College Board of Trustees Records was compiled from a mass of papers found in various locations on campus as the first phase of this project. Since no clearly defined subdivisions existed, this record group is not delineated by sub-groups. Instead, all the early papers are simple divided by type of document.

Contents of the Collection

A. Correspondence, 1820-1937

Consists of correspondence to, or from, members of the Board and thesecretary and financial agent/treasurer, who served as agents of the college's governing body. A significant percentage of the collection deals with fund raising efforts by Centre College and efforts by the financial agents to collecton subscriptions made to the college. Other prominent subjects include: Kentucky School for the Deaf (then known as the Deaf and Dumb Asylum), efforts to select presidents, faculty relations, consolidation (and aftermath) of Centre College and Central University (Richmond, Ky.), consolidation of Centre College and Kentucky College for Women, Carnegie foundation grants, and erection of college buildings, particularly Old Main, the "new" Boyle-Humphrey Gymnasium (Sutcliffe Hall) and the first Sayre Library. This collection of correspondence is largely a "patchwork" collection and by no means covers all the vital issues tackled by the Board since its inception. The correspondence, for example, from the 1820's to the 1850's is quite diverse, while the correspondence from the 1860's deals almost exclusively with efforts by the financial agent to collect on delinquent subscriptions. A central figure in much of the later correspondence is John Adison Cheek who served as treasurer of Centre College from approximately 1889 to 1933 69 folders

Correspondence - n.d.

  • Box 1, folder 1
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Correspondence - 1820-1825

  • Box 1, folder 2
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Correspondence - 1826-1830

  • Box 1, folder 3
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Correspondence - 1831

  • Box 1, folder 4
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Correspondence - 1832

  • Box 1, folder 5
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Correspondence - 1833

  • Box 1, folder 6
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Correspondence - 1834-1836

  • Box 1, folder 7
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Correspondence - 1844-1854

  • Box 1, folder 8
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Correspondence - 1855-1859

  • Box 1, folder 9
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Correspondence - January-September, 1860

  • Box 1, folder 10
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Correspondence - October-December, 1860

  • Box 1, folder 11
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Correspondence - January-August, 1861

  • Box 1, folder 12
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Correspondence - September-December, 1861

  • Box 1, folder 13
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Correspondence - January-May, 1862

  • Box 1, folder 14
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Correspondence - June-December, 1862

  • Box 1, folder 15
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Correspondence - January-July, 1863

  • Box 2, folder 16
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Correspondence - August-December, 1863

  • Box 2, folder 17
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Correspondence - January-March, 1864

  • Box 2, folder 18
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Correspondence - April-December, 1864

  • Box 2, folder 19
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Correspondence - 1865

  • Box 2, folder 20
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Correspondence - 1866-1868

  • Box 2, folder 21
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Correspondence - 1869

  • Box 2, folder 22
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Correspondence - April-June, 1870

  • Box 2, folder 23
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Correspondence - July-December, 1870

  • Box 2, folder 24
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Correspondence - 1871-1872

  • Box 2, folder 25
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Correspondence - 1873-1875

  • Box 2, folder 26
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Correspondence - 1876-1879

  • Box 2, folder 27
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Correspondence - 1880-1883

  • Box 2, folder 28
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Correspondence - 1884-1887

  • Box 2, folder 29
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Correspondence - 1888-1890

  • Box 2, folder 30
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Correspondence - 1891-1893

  • Box 2, folder 31
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Correspondence - 1896-1898

  • Box 2, folder 32
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Correspondence - April-August, 1901

  • Box 3, folder 33
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Correspondence - September, 1901-December 1902

  • Box 3, folder 34
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Correspondence - March-June, 1903

  • Box 3, folder 35
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Correspondence - July-December, 1903

  • Box 3, folder 36
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Correspondence - January-April, 1904

  • Box 3, folder 37
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Correspondence - May-August, 1904

  • Box 3, folder 38
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Correspondence - September-December, 1904

  • Box 3, folder 39
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Correspondence - January-April, 1905

  • Box 3, folder 40
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Correspondence - May-August, 1905

  • Box 3, folder 41
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Correspondence - September-December, 1905

  • Box 3, folder 42
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Correspondence - February-June, 1906

  • Box 3, folder 43
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Correspondence - July-December, 1906

  • Box 3, folder 44
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Correspondence - 1907

  • Box 3, folder 45
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Correspondence - January-May, 1908

  • Box 3, folder 46
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Correspondence - June, 1908

  • Box 3, folder 47
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Correspondence - July-December, 1908

  • Box 3, folder 48
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Correspondence - January-August, 1909

  • Box 4, folder 49
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Correspondence - September-November, 1909

  • Box 4, folder 50
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Correspondence - January-July, 1910

  • Box 4, folder 51
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Correspondence - August-November, 1910

  • Box 4, folder 52
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Correspondence - January, 1911-June 1912

  • Box 4, folder 53
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Correspondence - August, 1912-May 1914

  • Box 4, folder 54
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Correspondence - June, 1914-June 1915

  • Box 4, folder 55
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Correspondence - February, 1916-July 1917

  • Box 4, folder 57
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Correspondence - February, 1918-December 1919

  • Box 4, folder 58
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Correspondence - January-December, 1920

  • Box 4, folder 59
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Correspondence - 1921-1922

  • Box 4, folder 60
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Correspondence - January-September, 1925; May, 1926

  • Box 4, folder 62
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Correspondence (Search for a President); includes a list of candidates and their references - March…

  • Box 4, folder 63
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Correspondence (Search for a President) - June, 1926

  • Box 4, folder 64
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Correspondence (Search for a President) - July, 1926

  • Box 4, folder 65
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Correspondence (Search for a President) - August-December, 1926

  • Box 4, folder 66
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Correspondence (Search for a President) - January-February, 1927

  • Box 4, folder 67
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Correspondence - 1928-1929

  • Box 4, folder 68
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Correspondence - 1937

  • Box 4, folder 69
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B. Minutes, 1819-1928

The first sub-series consists of loose-leaf minutes of miscellaneous meetings of the Board spanning the period 1863-1928. The second sub-series consists of perhaps the most important chronicle of Centre's history - the volumes containing the minutes of the Centre College Board of Trustees, 1819-1853, 1863-1968. Interesting circumstances surround volume 2 of the minutes. The volume had been missing for at least forty years when it was discovered by Dr. Miller Hillhouse in a shed between his Danville home on North Fourth Street and the home of Mary Ashby Cheek on North Third Street. The minutes were believed to have been placed in the shed along with other old books and papers in the mid-1930's after the death of Ms Cheek's father, J. A. Cheek. The fate of the volume containing the minutes from 1853-1863 (one of the most interesting decades inCentre's history) remains a mystery. Bound volumes of Board minutes after 1968 are located in the President's Office. The third sub-series is the minute book of the Building Committee and Financial Committee of the Board from 1858 to 1879. Much of it has to do with the planning and construction of Old Main, and the delays caused by the Civil War. The various minutes contained in this series exist in several formats: original, typescript of manuscript minutes (volumes 1-3 of the bound volumes), microfilm (volumes 1-11 of the bound volumes), and digital (volumes 1-3 of the bound volumes and minute book of Building Committee and Financial Committee) 6 folders, 14 volumes

B-1. Minutes, Resolutions (loose-leaf), 1863-1928

Minutes, Resolutions - n.d.

  • Box 5, folder 1
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Minutes, Resolutions - 1863-1888

  • Box 5, folder 2
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Minutes, Resolutions - 1901-1904

  • Box 5, folder 3
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Minutes, Resolutions - 1905-1908

  • Box 5, folder 4
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Minutes, Resolutions - 1909-1918

  • Box 5, folder 5
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Minutes, Resolutions - 1921-1928

  • Box 5, folder 6
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B-2. Minutes (bound volumes), 1819-1968

Minutes - 1819-1826

  • Volume 1
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Minutes - 1827-1853

  • Volume 2
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Minutes - 1863-1876

  • Volume 3
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Minutes - 1876-1901

  • Volume 4
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Minutes - 1901-1916

  • Volume 5
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Minutes - 1916-1933

  • Volume 6
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Minutes - 1933-1943

  • Volume 7
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Minutes - 1943-1950

  • Volume 8
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Minutes - 1950-1955

  • Volume 9
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Minutes - 1955-1960

  • Volume 10
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Minutes - 1960-1963

  • Volume 11
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Minutes - 1963-1966

  • Volume 12
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Minutes - 1966-1968

  • Volume 13
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B-3. Committee Minutes, 1819-1968

Minutes of the Financial Committee and Building Committee - 1858-1879

  • Volume 1
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C. Reports, 1820-1905

Contains miscellaneous reports written by the Board, or committees of the Board 3 folders

Reports - n.d.

  • Box 5, folder 1
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Reports - 1820-1867

  • Box 5, folder 2
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Reports - 1903-1905

  • Box 5, folder 3
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D. Miscellaneous Records, 1819-1977

Contains miscellaneous papers concerning the Board, including certificates or pledges for members taking the oath of office and texts of speeches and essays by members of the Board 3 folders

Certificates-Oaths of Office - 1819-1918

  • Box 5, folder 1
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Miscellaneous papers, including notices of meetings; memorial booklet for Rev. Joshua Barbee and…

  • Box 5, folder 2
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Miscellaneous speeches, addresses, and essays by J. R. Cowan (1944); E. P. Humphrey (1850); Stuart…

  • Box 5, folder 3
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