The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 83, July 1979 - April, 1980

Notes and Documents
The Law Department at Old Austin College
JACK W. HUMPHRIES*
A LTHOUGH EDUCATION WAS RECEIVING A "GOOD DEGREE OF ATTEN-
tion" in frontier Texas in 1850, New England traveler Melinda
Rankin observed that the country was not "sufficiently supplied with
teachers or such as are regularly taught in their profession." During the
fifteen years which had elapsed since the Texas revolution, this "degree
of attention" to education was well reflected by the zealous efforts of
Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations and missionaries to
establish schools and colleges for the early settlers. President Mirabeau
B. Lamar, in his first message to the Congress of the Republic in 1838,
pointed to education as "a subject in which every citizen . . . feels a deep
and lively concern," but the struggling Republic was slow to respond.
Although the Congress did act early in 1839 to appropriate public lands
to endow a system of education, formidable opposition from General
Sam Houston and others delayed for two decades further consideration
of a public "university" as envisioned by Lamar. Thus the initiative for
education, both at the primary academy and college levels, resided prin-
cipally with the private sector and notably with the church groups.'
Although charters were issued by the early Congress of the Republic
for numerous institutions, Rutersville College, a Methodist institution
in Fayette County, in 1840 became the first denominational school to be
successfully established in Texas. Later that year, Galveston University
was opened on a nonsectarian basis, although its leading sponsor, Rev-
erend W. L. McCalla, had hoped to affiliate the school with the Presby-
* Jack W. Humphiies is vice president and professor of history at Sam Houston State
University, Huntsville.
iMelinda Rankin, Texas in 185o (Boston, 1850), 42 (first, second, and third quotations);
"The Message of Mirabeau Lamar to Congress," Texas (Republic), Congress, Journal of
the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas. Regular Session of Third Congress,
Nov. 5, 1838 (Houston, 1839), 168 (fourth quotation), 169-170; C[ecil] E[ugene] Evans, The
Story of Texas Schools (Austin, 1955), 40-71; John Jay Lane, History of Education in Texas
(Washington, D.C., 1903), 128-131.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 83, July 1979 - April, 1980. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101207/. Accessed December 28, 2014.