Early History of High Point College

Founder’s Day is September 14th. In observance of this important day in High Point history, we have assembled some images and information from the archives about the early history of High Point College:

We were founded by the Methodist Church.

The commonly quoted version of the College’s history can be found on the University’s website and states: “[the Annual Conference] accepted an offer from the thriving city of High Point to contribute 60 acres of land and $100,000 to the project. Classes began in September 1924, even as the finishing touches were still being added to the original buildings.” The truth is a little more involved! In the early 1900s Joseph Flavius McCulloch, one of the early founders of High Point College, felt so strongly about this endeavor that he moved to Greensboro NC where he purchased a printing operation and started publishing what would become the Methodist Protestant Herald. Within its pages he advocated for a new college within the state. Just prior to the opening of High Point College, Joseph McCulloch noted in a Methodist Protestant Herald special edition entitled “Devoted to High Point Methodist Protestant College” that he felt the “call of God” and as early as 1894 devoted himself to advocating, planning and fundraising for a new Methodist Protestant College. If it were not for the passion of Joseph Flavius McCulloch, High Point College might never have opened.

 

We are older than you thought!

There was another school supported by the Methodist Protestant Church that predates the founding of High Point College. In 1856, students of Yadkin College found themselves attending school on the banks of the Yadkin River in remote Davie County at Yadkin College, classes in the liberal arts were at the forefront with courses in languages, religion, philosophy, and the sciences. This pre-Civil War institution was similar to others across the country at a time when private higher education in the United States was in its infancy. For example, Davidson College and Guilford College were both founded in 1837 and Trinity College, which would later become Duke University, traces its origins to 1838. These small colleges were unique institutions at the time. So unique that in the 1850s only 200 or so of these private liberal arts colleges existed in the United States. Unfortunately, Yadkin College would not endure and closed its doors as the first students walked to class at High Point College. Alumni of Yadkin College made High Point College their new home. The Yadkin College bell (see picture) was installed at High Point College as the victory bell. Today the same bell has an honored spot on the High Point University campus next to Finch Dorm.

 

High Point City was excited about having a college!

High Point was a fast growing town at the time of the founding of High Point College. The great depression was still years away and the town was heavily invested in the manufacture of furniture and textiles. City leaders felt that a major college was a good addition and Methodist leaders looking to place the new college looked in other communities as well, Winston Salem and Greensboro were both lobbying to land the school. High Point wanted it more and as city leaders waited to meet with Methodist leaders, school children lined the road as they came to town via Greensboro Rd. and onto what is now Montlieu Ave. After the decision was made, the High Point Enterprise declared a victory!

 

Early student life was not about Greek organizations!

Early social and intellectual life of colleges centered not on Greek life but on the literary society. Literary societies were the norm on college campuses beginning in the nineteenth century. These literary and debate societies provided students an outlet to discuss current topics and hone their debating skills. They were well subscribed and on many campuses of the time all students belonged to one of these organizations. At some colleges, students even received course credit for being a member!

At High Point College their pictures, colors, and philosophies adorn the college yearbooks from the 1920s to the 1930s (see pictures from the Zenith, left), and they debated topics such as “colleges do promote a feeling toward world peace” and “that jazz is more enjoyable than classical music.” For example, the Artemesian Society with 37 female members and the male Akrothinian Society with 32 members represented just two of the 20 student organizations at High Point College in 1934.

For more on the early history of HPU, browse the collections on our archives page.

-Blog post by David Bryden, Director of Library Services