Galveston University

By: Kathleen Doherty

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: January 1, 1995

W. L. McCalla, a Philadelphia Presbyterian minister, influenced the Texas Congress to charter Galveston University on January 30, 1841. Congress required that the institution avoid all religious and political influence but granted no lands for its support. Galveston University was to be a college of liberal arts with primary schools and academies for both sexes. The school opened in December 1840 with five students and increased to 100 students before the year's end. The citizens of Galveston published a broadside petition to incorporate the university and authorized McCalla to solicit and receive lands, money, books, and equipment for it. The petition stated that Galveston University should have the power to confer bachelor's, master's, medical, and law degrees. McCalla was the first president, but he soon went to England, then returned to Philadelphia to promote Texas. Ellbridge Wallbridge also served Galveston University as president. The university was still in operation as late as 1844, but it never gained more than local patronage. Ten years later a committee convened to discuss the subject of land and money formerly collected by the Texas Presbytery for Galveston University.

Dan Ferguson, "The Antecedents of Austin College," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 53 (January 1950). Richard F. Hughes, "Old School Presbyterians: Eastern Invaders of Texas, 1830–1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (January 1971). William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1936).


  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kathleen Doherty, “Galveston University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995