The first school in Concrete, DeWitt County, was conducted by James Norman Smith, who had taught President James K. Polk in his native state of Tennessee. What developed after legislative charters in 1856 and 1873 was a typical nineteenth-century rural college. Dr. Robert Peebles and other pioneer Concrete settlers sponsored and lobbied for the school, the administration of which was entrusted under the charter of 1856 to J. M. Baker, F. M. Taylor, Josh Stevens, J. R. North, and Francis J. Lynch. Rev. John Van Epps Covey began teaching in the community about 1864, and by the mid-1870s a ten-acre campus had taken shape along Coon Hollow. The main building measured 150 by fifty feet, with a kitchen and dining room attached. Coeds shared the stone house of the Covey family, and the male students were assigned to more primitive, two-room frame buildings.
Covey's curriculum favored the classics and business. Music and penmanship were offered, and farming techniques were taught in a cultivated area adjacent to the college. More than a dozen instructors taught an annual average of perhaps 100 students during the twenty-year existence of the college. Rev. Woodlief Thomas, vice president of the institution, and Professor J. D. Bradfors saw to it that Hebrew, Greek, and Latin fundamentals were covered; Professor Grothus taught German; professors Hueber, Woolsey, and Bonney conducted classes in business and commerce; Misses Anna Stell and Adlia Debery taught the students of the primary school (some pupils were admitted before the age of twelve), and Mrs. Eisenmeyer and Miss Tunn molded the social amenities in the "ladies department." Mrs. Covey taught sewing, and musical talents were developed by professors Young and Fuchs.
Covey was a New Yorker who earned the doctor of divinity degree from Madison College and later taught in Tennessee. After 1854 he served as teacher and Baptist preacher in Palestine, Marshall, Trinity, and Hallettsville, before he took up duties at Concrete. Although he required no particular religious confession of prospective students, Concrete College was Baptist-oriented; the school's financial status was a concern of the Texas Baptist Convention.
The census officer who visited the campus in 1870 recorded the names of students who resided on the campus. Most of the boarders that year were males ranging in age from twelve to twenty, and most were Texans. But Indiana, Germany, and England also contributed to the student body. During the peak enrollment year of 1873–74, 250 students attended classes, and the 100 boarders came from twenty Texas counties scattered from the Brazos to the Rio Grande. A fee of $100 covered tuition, room, and board for a five-month semester. For a time the institution was the largest boarding school in the state.
The student's day at Concrete was well regulated, and his attire was carefully scrutinized. Firearms, profane language, alcohol, gambling, and smoking were all strictly forbidden. Public oral examinations were held on Fridays, and graduation was a social event lasting three days, with concerts each evening. Notable graduates of Concrete included Rudolph Kleberg, William Henry Crain, and George W. Saunders. Measles and influenza ravaged the student population in 1871 and 1872, and in 1873 the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in Cuero, thus shifting emphasis away from Concrete. The development of public schools within the county also probably contributed to the school's decline. The year 1881 marked the last class at Concrete College. Covey went on to McMullen College at Tilden and later returned to the ministry. He died in Cotulla in 1898.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Robert W. Shook, "Covey's College at Concrete," East Texas Historical Journal 6 (March 1968). Dorothy House Young, The History of Education in DeWitt County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1943).
Defunct Colleges and Universities
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert W. Shook,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 11, 2020