Chappell Hill Female College, in Chapell Hill, Texas, in Washington County, began as Chappell Hill Institute, founded on land donated by Jacob and Mary Haller in 1850. It received a charter from the legislature on February 9, 1852, as a nondenominational school called Chappell Hill Male and Female Institute. Several Masons were members of the board of trustees. In 1852 a second building was constructed to keep the boys and girls apart. In 1853 Professor P. S. Ruter, former instructor at Transylvania University, Kentucky, became president. The school, now known as Chappelle Hill College, offered a variety of courses, including geology, chemistry, art, and music, and continued to board students. Elizabeth Knox from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, supervised the female department, and Ruter's sister, Charlotte, was head of the music department.
Methodists who desired to replace the dying Rutersville College acquired Chappell Hill Male and Female Institute in 1854. Its enrollment had increased to 100. The Methodist Texas Conference decided to form Soule University from the institute's male department, and Chappell Hill Female College obtained a separate charter on August 29, 1856. The institution's objective was to educate girls in a Christian environment and to assure their acquisition of culture, discipline, and oratorical skills. Music and art received special emphasis. Despite the Civil War, two fires, and yellow fever epidemics in 1867 and 1869, Chappell Hill Female College continued, and even constructed a new building in 1872. The college was debt-free by 1873. It added a dormitory and music hall in the 1880s and served as a cultural center for the area, especially after Soule University closed in 1887. By 1885 students numbered 112, the school's real estate was worth $15,000, and the college was only $1,200 in debt.
By 1895, however, student enrollment had declined by half. In 1896 the college obtained additional income by enrolling seventy public school pupils, including fifty boys. During the 1890s the Texas Conference gave this institution more aid than it gave Southwestern University. In 1900 the trustees redesigned the curriculum in accord with the Methodist Church General Board of Education. Although the college received the property of Soule University to liquidate its debts, Chappell Hill Female College closed in 1912. Economic decline in the area, continuing fear of yellow fever, the rise of Texas public schools, and decreasing public support for girls' schools all probably contributed to the demise. The school's final enrollment was 112. The college building served as a public school until 1926, but only the school bell survived in the 1980s.
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W. O. Dietrich, The Blazing Story of Washington County (Brenham, Texas: Banner Press, 1950; rev. ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1973). Arthur A. Grusendorf, The Social and Philosophical Determinants of Education in Washington County, Texas, from 1835 to 1937 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1938). Ardita Berry Morgan, A Short History of Chappell Hill Female College (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1953). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Chapel Hill; Washington County). Washington County Scrapbook, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Mr. and Mrs. Nate Winfield, All Our Yesterdays: A Brief History of Chappell Hill (Waco: Texian Press, 1969).
Defunct Colleges and Universities
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Carole E. Christian,
“Chappell Hill Female College,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 15, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994
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