Fairfield Female College

By: Douglas R. Shields

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Fairfield Female College was located in Fairfield, Freestone County. On February 13, 1858, a group of town leaders incorporated as the Freestone County School Association "to put in operation and perpetuate a first class female institution of learning." The college was endorsed by the Baptist State Convention, but it was not an official Baptist institution. It may have opened in the bottom floor of the Masonic lodge in Fairfield. In November 1854 the Leon Pioneer reported, "The Masonic hall, quite imposing, is nearly complete. The lower room of the hall is occupied by Dr. Moore, who has under his charge a flourishing school composed of young ladies." W. B. Moore and principal (in 1856) H. V. Philpott were members of Fairfield Masonic Lodge No. 103.

Construction of a two-story building, located a mile southeast of the county courthouse, was completed in early 1859, and classes began in February 1859. About seventy girls were in attendance for the first session. The school was chartered on February 8, 1860, along with a male academy that failed. Henry L. Graves was selected president of the new college. Graves had previously served as president of Baylor University at Independence and of the Baptist State Convention. He taught ancient languages and moral and intellectual philosophy. Other courses offered included mathematics, English literature, music, and ornamental art. In addition to the college curriculum, a graded preparatory department was offered. The length of each session was twenty weeks, and tuition was fifteen to twenty dollars for prep school and twenty-five dollars for college classes. The students, faculty, and Graves and his family lived in the school building and were attended by nine slaves, who did maintenance, housework, cooking, and serving.

In February 1861, the same week that the Secession Convention in Austin passed the Ordinance of Secession, the college property was put on sale at public auction. Graves bought all the property, including ten acres of land on which the buildings were situated, for $5,000. Assisted by three women teachers, he operated the school until it closed. Attendance was good in 1861, and during the war a number of refugees descended on the area, bringing enrollment to its highest levels at about 200, but also causing a housing shortage. The war continued and attendance dropped. In December 1869 Graves and the other owners of the college and property sold their interest to Alice M. Adams for $1,500 and the assumption of $5,000 indebtedness against the school. In the following years the Fairfield Masons annually appointed a school committee to provide education for the children of deceased master Masons living in the jurisdiction of the lodge. The college was closed in 1889. In 1936 the state of Texas erected a marker at the site.

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James David Carter, Education and Masonry in Texas, 1846 to 1861 (Waco Grand Lodge of Texas, 1964). Freestone County Historical Commission, History of Freestone County, Texas (Fairfield, Texas, 1978). Donald W. Whisenhunt, The Encyclopedia of Texas Colleges and Universities (Austin: Eakin, 1986).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Douglas R. Shields, “Fairfield Female College,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fairfield-female-college.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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