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Central University Records


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

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Central University Records, 1873-1904 | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

By Kyle Beeler

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Collection Overview

Title: Central University Records, 1873-1904Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Primary Creator: Central University (Richmond, Ky.) (1874-1901)

Extent: 3.36 Cubic Feet

Date Acquired: 05/31/2002

Subjects: Central University (Richmond, Ky.)

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Although Central University consolidated with Centre College at Danville in 1901 and ceased to exist in Richmond, several of her influential graduates from Madison County desired to continue higher education activities at Richmond. They vigorously pushed for the Kentucky General Assembly's passage of the Normal School enabling legislation in 1906. These citizens also were directly instrumental in Richmond and the physical plant of Central University being selected as the site for one of the recently approved state normal schools. Therefore, Eastern Kentucky University's heritage can rightfully be traced back to 1873 and the establishment of Central University.

Eastern Professor of History Jonathan Truman Dorris devoted considerable time to locating any information he could secure on Central University while researching and writing the history of Eastern. In 1934 he published an article in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society on the history of old Central. Dorris collected numerous documents on Central University through the years and donated many of them to the Crabbe Library. He also had permission from Centre College officials to copy the minutes from the Board of Curators of Central University.

Interest in Central University's history was revived again in 1974 when Eastern celebrated the centennial year of higher education in Richmond. By 1977 the newly created University Archives began gathering documents on Central University. The Archives copied all existing Central University records in the Crabbe Library and received donations of several previously unknown University publications. In 1979 the Archivist contacted Centre College librarian, Mr. John May, and inspected their archives files for documents on Central University. Unfortunately, the archives was not organized, but the Archivist uncovered a number of documents that were not in Eastern's archives. Permission was granted to copy those records. Several years later Centre received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process and catalog all of its archival records. Mr. John Le Doux, project archivist, processed the archives and graciously permitted Eastern to photocopy or microfilm any newly uncovered Central University materials.

The information on the University's official history can be gleaned from a fine set of publications - the catalogs and yearbooks. However, the records from the office of the chief executive officer, the Chancellor, are very incomplete. Hardly any documents from Chancellor Breck's administration have survived, and only the latter years of Chancellor Blanton's tenure are adequately documented, especially the Robb cheating controversy case.

Note: This collection was reprocessed and combined with material from the Townsend Collection.

Biographical Note

Central University was founded as the result of a split of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky into Northern and Southern branches. While the Presbyterian Church had split into two branches in 1861, principally over the issue of slavery, the Church did not split in Kentucky until 1867. The branches both claimed control of Centre College in Danville, and it finally took a Federal court in 1871 to determine that the Northern branch controlled the institution. A group of concerned members of the Southern Synod met in 1872 and formed the Alumni Association of Central University. Members included Alumni of Centre College as well as other prominent leaders of the movement. The Alumni Association offered to cooperate with the Synod in establishing a university.

At a meeting of the Alumni Association in Louisville, in February 1873, an effort to provide synodical control of the University was defeated. Central University received a charter from the State Legislature on March 3, 1873. The charter placed the government of the University in the hands of those who had endowed it and who would later become its graduates and whom the Alumni Association might thereafter elect.

The Association called for an endowment of $150,000 but received pledges for $220,000. Anchorage, Kentucky was selected as the site for the University, but when the citizens of Richmond and Madison County pledged $101,000, the school opened there on September 22, 1874 with a total of 224 students and one newly built classroom building. The original college organization consisted of a College of Letters and Science, a College of Law, and a Preparatory Department in Richmond, and a College of Medicine, in Louisville.

In 1886 a College of Dentistry was opened in Louisville. And in the 1890s three associated institutions opened: Jackson (S. P. Lees) Collegiate Institute (1890) in Breathitt County, Hardin Collegiate Institute (1892) in Elizabethtown, and Middlesboro Collegiate Institute (1896).

The Alumni Association appointed the Board of Curators, which served as the trustees. Eventually, in 1884 the Southern Synod took over direct control of appointing the Board of Curators in exchange for the Church's financial support. The University itself was headed by a chancellor. Robert Levi Breck served in that capacity from 1874 to 1880. He was succeeded by Lindsay Hughes Blanton, who served until the consolidation with Centre College in 1901.

Almost from the outset, Central University had financial problems. The original endowment was in promissory notes and pledges, a large number of which went uncollected due to the Panic of 1873. Another important endowment drive was hampered by the Panic of 1893. Enrollment was also a problem. It dropped every year of Brecks chancellorship, and the school never graduated a class larger than 25. The University itself became co-educational in the 1890s, with women first graduating in 1896. However, the enrollment and financial problems led directly to the consolidation with Centre College. Prominent Madison Countians bitterly fought the consolidationists, but were outvoted. Finally on July 16, 1901 the merger between the schools took place. The new institution would be located in Danville and known as the Central University of Kentucky. An act of the State Legislature in 1918 changed the name back to the Centre College of Kentucky.

Subject/Index Terms

Central University (Richmond, Ky.)

Administrative Information

Repository: Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Acquisition Source: May, John (Centre College), Dorris, Jonathan T. (Eastern)

Box and Folder Listing

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[Box 1],
[Box 2],
[Box 3],
[Box 4],
[Box 5],
[Box 6],
[Box 7],
[Box 8],
[Folder 1: Oversize Materials],

Box 1Add to your cart.
Barcode: 31234014052532
Folder 1: General Correspondence/Speeches, 1878-1898Add to your cart.
Contains correspondence primarily to/from L.H. Blanton. There are numerous items that are related to an account held with the Presbyterian Church of the United States as well. Also included are items of correspondence to/from various people, and there are a lot of items regarding monetary payments.
Folder 2: General Correspondence/Speeches, 1899-1901Add to your cart.
Contains correspondence primarily to L.H. Blanton as well as others. Also included is account statements, letters from banks, letters from law offices, and letters from other universities/academies. There are also speeches/statements.
Folder 3: General Correspondence/Speeches, 1901-1939Add to your cart.
Includes an address, correspondence, and a telegram.
Folder 4: Railroad Regulation Address, 1884Add to your cart.
Small, printed booklet containing an address to the students of C.U.
Folder 5: "United We Stand, 1890Add to your cart.
Manuscript of an oration presented to the students of C.U.
Folder 6: "In Memoriam: Mrs. Elizabeth Irvine Blanton", 1902Add to your cart.
Book of remembrance for L.H. Blanton's wife, Elizabeth.
Folder 7: Epiphyllidian Constitution/By-Laws, 1890Add to your cart.
Constitution and by-laws for the Epiphyllidian literary society.
Folder 8: Misc. Literary Society Files, 1877-1888Add to your cart.
Invitations and programs for gatherings of the literary societies.
Folder 9: Theta Nu Epsilon Charter, 1898Add to your cart.
Charter for the Theta Nu Epsilon fraternity's new chapter at C.U.
Folder 10: Fraternity Information, 1883-1994Add to your cart.
Various articles of information to include correspondence, publications, and biographies of notable characters involved in C.U./EKU fraternities.
Folder 11: Dr. James Venable Logan, 1908-1965Add to your cart.
A memorial booklet for Dr. Logan as well as other pieces discussing the unveiling of his portrait in 1965.
Folder 12: List of Notable Characters, 1874-1901Add to your cart.
A listing of trustees, curators, etc. for the university.
Folder 13: Biographical Documents, 1903-1961Add to your cart.
Various publications and articles presenting biographical information over characters such as L.H. Blanton.

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[Box 1],
[Box 2],
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[Box 6],
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