North Carolina Education - Catawba County

Year County Established

County Webpage Herein

County Seat Webpage Herein

1842

Catawba County

Newton

Catawba College, the sixth oldest college in North Carolina was founded in Newton by Matthew L. McCorkle in 1851. Prior to its establishment, there was no institution of higher education in Catawba County. In 1834, the German Reformed Church in the area had created the Education Society in order to send young men to northern schools to be educated for the ministry. At an 1848 meeting, the Education Society was called upon to establish a college in their midst to train ministers. Members of the German Reformed Church and Newton merchants provided the land and capital for the school, leading to its opening in 1851.

As the first college west of the Catawba River, it attracted students from the western parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The initial enrollment was thirty-eight (38) young men who, at first, met in an old academy building and the Grace Reformed Church. For the first few years, the school was unstable and there was some question if it would continue to operate. The 1858 arrival of Jacob C. Clapp, professor of modern languages, ensured its survival. He served as president from 1862 to 1900 and kept the college going through its hardest times. The American Civil War meant a lack of funds and students to attend the college, and for a time it became an academy, Catawba High School. To rebuild the reputation of the college, beginning in the summer of 1880, the school hosted the Newton Normal School. It was designed to enhance the knowledge of teachers living in the piedmont region, and it became the best-attended teaching institute in the area. Catawba High School regained its collegiate status in 1885 and became a co-educational institute in 1890.

Just after the turn of the century, Charles Mebane succeeded Clapp as the college president and under his direction the school began a series of expansion and remodeling. World War I and the 1921 recession, however, crippled its growth. Unable to recover, the college closed in 1923. Much to the displeasure of Newton citizens, the Reformed Church relocated the college to Salisbury, which had promised $50,000 to help with its establishment. Catawba College re-opened in Rowan County in 1925.

In 1957, the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches to form the United Church of Christ, with whom the college is still affiliated. The campus has grown to twenty-eight (28) buildings on 276 acres. It also hosts a 189-acre ecological preserve, and is well known for its 300-acre wildlife refuge.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

On December 17, 1852, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Catawba College in the town of Newton in Catawba County. Eighteen (18) trustees were named in the Act.
On February 17, 1859, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act for the qualified voters of Newton to decide if they want spirituous liquors prohibited within two (2) miles of Catawba College.
On March 9, 1870, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Newton Female Academy in the town of Newton in Catawba County. Four (4) trustees were named in the Act.
On February 8, 1872, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Catawba Valley Academy, a school that was already functioning near the town of Catawba Station (soon renamed to simply Catawba) in Catawba County. Seven (7) trustees were named in the Act.
On March 1, 1873, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the North Carolina Classis. Three (3) officers were named.
On February 26, 1875, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Hickory High School in the town of Hickory in Catawba County. Seven (7) directors were named in the Act, and the school was authorized assets up to $20,000.

On April 24, 1880, at a meeting of the Consistory of the Corinth Evangelical and Reformed Church, Abel A. Shuford made the motion to convert an old church building into a female school. That July, the Consistory met with Albert S. Vaughn, the president of Catawba College who helped organize the school and attract several female teachers. Vaughn suggested the academy be patterned after Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

The State of North Carolina chartered Claremont Female College on August 25, 1880. Classes began that fall, and work was completed on a series of college buildings by the fall of 1883. In 1884, Vaughn resigned, and the school suffered financially for four years until the trustees leased the college to William H. Sanborn, president of Davenport College. Sanborn resigned four years later.

From 1892 to 1907, Claremont Female College continued to operate with moderate success, attracting students from across the Southeast. The trustees, tired of leasing the college to individual presidents, offered the college to the North Carolina Classis of the Reformed Church. Under the Classis, the school was renamed Claremont College.

Claremont College operated until the fall of 1917, when financial difficulties led the Classis to close the school indefinitely. The trustees simply felt that they could not operate both Claremont and Catawba Colleges. In March of 1918, representatives from Horner Military School in Charlotte considered buying the property to start an academy called Hickory Military School, but the deal fell through.

The City of Hickory took charge of the collapsing school in 1924. In 1937, Claremont’s trustees officially dissolved the school charter and incorporation. Today, Catawba Valley High School sits on the former site of Claremont College.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

On February 11, 1881, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Concordia College, which was already under construction in the town of Conover in Catawba County. Eight (8) trustees were named in the Act, and the school was authorized assets up to $150,000.

Concordia College was the first Lutheran school established in western North Carolina, an area populated by people of German descent who worshipped in the Lutheran Church. The first indication that a school would be in Catawba County appears in records of the Tennessee Synod in 1852. The school, it was announced, would offer ministerial training but also provide a basic education for local students. In 1877, members of local Lutheran churches met at St. John’s Lutheran Church and decided to construct a high school. Members from the towns of Conover, Hickory, and Newton pledged funds to establish the school.

Classes opened with R. A. Yoder as the first professor teaching nineteen (19) students in a private home. In 1878, classes moved into a new administration building on four (4) acres of land donated by J. P. Spencer. In 1881, the school converted into a college and was incorporated as Concordia College. By 1883, the school had an enrollment of one hundred and twenty-five (125) students and was officially taken over by the Tennessee Synod. The school’s founders realized that they needed to expand to meet their needs. At the same time, philanthropist Col. Walter W. Lenoir offered thirty-six (36) acres in Hickory to any Protestant school willing to establish a college there. The decision was made to move the college to Hickory and the school was re-named Lenoir-Rhyne College (see below).

Some members of the Board, however, preferred to remain in Conover and they sought to retain their school. They appealed to the synod which maintained the school until a fire in 1935 destroyed the main building. Since enrollment was down and funding was scarce, the synod voted to close the school and the property was sold to Concordia Lutheran Church for the site of its new church building.

The school served around six hundred (600) students from the surrounding area, often providing the only education alternative above elementary level for many, offering a two year preparatory school and a four year degree. Many of the students, such as educator Charles Lee Coon, moved on to become leaders both locally and statewide.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources. 

On February 19, 1881, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to amend the charter of Catawba College in the town of Newton in Catawba County to allow one druggist in said town to sell liquor for medicinal purposes with a physician's prescription.
On March 8, 1883, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Mt. St. Joseph Academy in the town of Hickory in Catawba County. Four (4) trustees were named in the Act, and the school was authorized assets up to $150,000.
On January 30, 1885, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the sale of Newton Male and Female Academy in the town of Newton in Catawba County. Proceeds to benefit said town.
On February 28, 1887, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Newton Female Seminary in the town of Newton in Catawba County. Seven (7) trustees were named in the Act.

In 1803, Lutherans living in what later became Catawba County initiated efforts to establish a school. Years later, in June of 1877, John M. Smith, Conover’s Lutheran pastor, began teaching classes in a private home. Smith’s school became Concordia College (see above) and by 1890 the school enrolled one hundred-thirty (130) students. Its president, Robert A. Yoder, left in 1891 to become president of a school in Hickory. The school opened that year as Highland College with eight (8) faculty members and sixty-three (63) students (male and female) enrolled. By the end of the year, the enrollment number had reached one hundred and forty-nine (149). In January of 1892, Highland College’s name was changed to Lenoir College in memory of Walter W. Lenoir, the donor of the property on which the school was built.

Although the Lutherans in Catawba County lived in North Carolina, they were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod. Lenoir College became affiliated with the Tennessee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1895. In 1920, the two Lutheran synods in North Carolina that had been separated for one hundred years re-united. The United Evangelical Lutheran Synod of North Carolina assumed sponsorship of Lenoir College.

During the fall of 1922, construction of a new gymnasium was delayed because of lack of funding. The college was in need not only of a new gymnasium, but also a dormitory, library, and a home for the president. At that point, Daniel Rhyne offered a minimum gift of $200,000 dollars if the college could raise a similar amount and change the name of the college to Daniel Rhyne College. Rhyne’s proposal led the college to begin a campaign to raise $850,000. The name of the school 1924 was changed to Lenoir-Rhyne College.

Lenoir-Rhyne underwent significant expansions from 1955 to 1960 and again in the 1970s. Today, Lenoir-Rhyne enrolls approximately fifteen hundred (1,500) students. It continues to be affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

On March 13, 1895, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to prohibit the sale of spirituous liquors within two (2) miles of Lenoir College in the town of Hickory in Catawba County.
On March 1, 1897, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize qualified voters in the town of Hickory in Catawba County to decide whether to levy a special tax to fund graded public schools in the town of Hickory. Three (3) trustees were named in the Act.
 
 
 
 
 


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