Morgantown Female Academy

History of Education in West Virginia
by B. S. Morgan and J. F. Cork.
Charleston: Moses W. Donnally, 1893.


During the forenoon of a bright sunshiny day in May, 1889, the alarm of fire was heard in Morgantown, and in a short time afterwards, in spite of the efforts of the citizens who had assembled, the Morgantown Female Seminary was a mass of ruins This was the end of an enterprise which had originated nearly sixty years before, which had numbered among its promoters many prominent men of both the past and present, and which had been an important factor in the educational development of the State. On the 23rd of March, 1831 the Virginia Legislature passed an act granting authority to the trustees of Monongalia Academy to establish a school for females, and in the following September a site was selected for the purpose An effort was made to interest the Baptist denomination in the enterprise, but this not being successful, early in 1832, a building was begun and in the following year it was completed. The work of instruction was then begun and the names of Misses Green, Thomas, Henderson and others appear on the records as teachers during the six years following. In 1839, the institution was incorporated as the Morgantown Female Academy, and the Board of Trustees was composed of the following members: William Lazier, Guy R. C. Allen, W. T. Willey, George Hill and Reuben Taylor.

During the next twelve years the school was managed with varying success, and the names of Miss E. Doggett, P. S. Ruter, Miss Farris, E. J. Measy, Rev. Thomas McCune, and Rev. Cephas Gregg appeared as principals. In 1852, the building having been erected about twenty years before, and being somewhat out of repair, the trustees concluded to change the location of the school and the initiatory steps toward the erection of a new buiding [sic] were taken. This building was erected at a cost of $3,500, and six years later an addition was constructed. About this time the Woodburn Female Seminary was incorporated by the Legislature, and soon there began a generous rivalry between the two institutions. The two schools were situated at different ends of the town, but neither depended entirely for support upon local patronage. In the new building the following persons acted as principals previous to the sale of the property in 1869, H. W. Emery, Peter Hayden, Rev. A. S. Hank, Dr. Thomas Daugherty, Rev. G. W. Arnold.

During the war, school was continued, the number of graduates in 1861 being four, in the following year ten, in 1863, four, and in 1864, eight. In the spring of 1869 the competition of Woodburn Seminary having been eliminated, in consequence of the property having been devoted to the State for the use of the West Virginia University, the Morgantown Female Seminary property was sold to Mrs. E. I. Moore for $5,000, who spent a considerable sum in addition in putting the property in good repair. The school having no endowment, the income came entirely from the pupils. Mrs. Moore was a graduate of the Wheeling Female Seminary, and had had seven years successful experience as a teacher. Devoting herself to the upbuilding of the school, and her labors being appreciated by the public, several years of successful work were now recorded.

The catalogue for 1872-3 showed an attendance of 81 pupils and a Faculty composed of a principal and eight assistants. It was announced at this time to the patrons of the institution that the enterprise had been altogether successful. It had realized the expectations of its friends in the extent of patronage, character and progress of its pupils.

From this time until the destruction of the building, about twenty-five young ladies were graduated, and instruction was given to several hundred more. The establishment of the normal schools in the State and the increased efficiency of the public school system had the effect of decreasing the attendance at the private schools, and during the later years of the Seminary's existence not many pupils were in attendance. The day of the private seminary and academy had passed, and the public school was henceforth to be the foundation from which learning was to be derived. The establishment of co-education at West Virginia Univeristy [sic] now began to be agitated in political and educational circles and the Seminary building was mentioned as a suitable place for the accommodation of the girls.

One month before co-education was established, the building was destroyed, and the history of the enterprise was ended.


West Virginia Archives and History