Belle Plain College, an institution in Belle Plain, Callahan County, noted for its music department, was established in 1881 by the Northwest Conference of the Methodist Church. John Day gave the new school ten acres of land, and local citizens donated generously in the beginning. During its first year (1881–82) the college operated in conjunction with the public school. F. W. Chatfield served as its first president. After a state charter was granted to the institution in the spring of 1882, Rev. J. T. L. Annis took over as president for two years. During his administration enrollment reached 122. Other presidents at Belle Plain College were John W. McIllhenny (1884–85), C. M. Virdel (1885–87), and I. M. Onins (1887–92).
From the beginning the college advertised a department of music. By the end of the decade the school had fifteen pianos, a brass band, and an orchestra. By 1885 the institution had two buildings on its land, but the entire plant had been mortgaged to pay for classroom furnishings and musical instruments. Operating funds came only from the local school district, a fact that hastened the institution's demise. The railroad skipped Belle Plain, Baird became the Callahan county seat in 1883, and the population declined. Two years of bad weather further eroded the college's financial base. By 1887 the trustees of Belle Plain College were unable to make mortgage payments. Judge I. M. Onins took over the school with its debts in 1887 after a successful school year, but the mortgage company foreclosed on the property in 1889. The company allowed the school to continue to operate until the president's death in 1892. A Texas Historical Marker was erected at the site of Belle Plain Colege in 1969.
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Brutus Clay Chrisman, Early Days in Callahan County (Abilene, Texas: Abilene Printing and Stationery, 1966). Thomas Robert Havins, Belle Plain, Texas: Ghost Town in Callahan (Brownwood, Texas: Brown Press, 1972). Russell F. Webb, History of Early Colleges of Callahan County, Texas (M.A. thesis, Hardin-Simmons University, 1949).
Defunct Colleges and Universities
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Belle Plain College,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: