Cumberland Female College

McMinnville, Tennessee


Cumberland Female College


Cumberland Female College, organized in 1850, was located at McMinnville, Tennessee, and was under the control of the Middle Tennessee Synod.(29) It opened its first session in 1851, with good buildings and attractive grounds, all free from debt. With strong support from McMinnville, and neighboring Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, the school became highly prosperous, and in 1855 reported five teachers, 100 students, buildings worth $10,000, and an endowment of $7,500.(30) Four years later one teacher had been added, the buildings were valued at $15,000, and a library of 600 volumes had been acquired, together with a complete set of superior philosophical, chemical and astronomical instruments.(31) The war forced the school to close and reduced all its buildings to bare walls, but despite the discouraging prospects the institution reopened, and in 1867 reported a good patronage. An unusual feature of the report for that year was the fact that seven Choctaw girls were being educated there.(32) In 1870 the property was valued at $30,000, and in 1878 it was advertised as:

First class Female Colleg and Boarding School. McMinnville is esy of access, daily mail, telegraph and railroad communications, is proverbial for health, high morality, good and cheap living - no extravagance in dress, nor in bills for Board and Tuition. . . . Board $13.50 per month, regular ministers charged only half tuition. Any person bringing three pupils will be charged for only two in tuition.(33)

A very prosperous year in 1885 found the school with ten teachers and 146 students(34) and 1886 gave them eleven teachers and 150 students.(35) But in 1888, for some unassigned reason, "the Board of Trustees leased the property and transferred the financial management to the Cumberland Female College Association for a term of years, retaining for themselves only such duties as the charter renders obligatory."(36) Its greatest era of prosperity came under the administration of N. J. Finney, who was president at the time this transfer was made. The school's report for 1891 showed twelve teacheres, 117 pupils, value of grounds, buildings and apparatus, $56,500.(37)

Cumberland Female College had five presidents: A. M. Stone, 1851-1855; J. M. Gill, 1855-1857; D. M. Donnell, A.M., 1857-1871; A. M. Burney, A.M., 1871-1880; N. J. Finney, A.M., 1880-1896.(38) After that time we find no records of the college.

29. L. S. Merriam, Higher Education in Tennessee (U.S. Bureau of Education Circular of Information No. 5, Washington, 1893), p. 250.

30. General Assembly Minutes, 1849-75, p. 54.

31. Ibid., 1859, p. 102.

32. Ibid., 1867, p. 81.

33. Advertisement in The Ladies' Pearl, June, 1878. On file at Historical Foundation, Montreat, N.C.

34. General Assembly Minutes, 1885, p. 28.

35. Ibid., 1886, p. 34.

36. Merriam, loc. cit.

37. General assembly Minutes, 1891.

38. Merriam, loc. cit.

[Source: Evans, Henry Bascom. "History of the Organization and Administration of Cumberland Presbyterian Colleges". Ph.D. Dissertation. Nashville, TN: George Peabody College for Teachers, August 1938, pages 276-278.]


Nunley, Joe Edwin. "A History of the Cumberland Female College, McMinnville, Tennessee. Ed.D. diss., The University of Tennessee, 1965. [1 copy in archives]


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Updated Octboer 14, 2004