Mary Allen Junior College

By: John R. "Pete" Hendrick

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: May 1, 1995

Mary Allen Junior College was in Crockett, Houston County, Texas. The school was named Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School from 1871 to 1875, Moffatt Parochial School from 1875 to 1885, and Mary Allen Seminary from 1886 to 1933. In 1871, the first year of his pastorate in Crockett, Rev. Samuel Fisher Tenney established a Sabbath school for black children in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. By 1875 a separate church with an educational wing had been provided. Construction costs came from church members and solicitations of Dr. Tenney in the cities of the North and East. This led to the establishment of a parochial day school known as Moffatt Academy. Extension education in the county was also conducted by young black students themselves. The program developed slowly, in part because of indifference and opposition and in part because of the depressed economic circumstances of the times. When Tenney saw an advertisement expressing the interest of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (Northern), in having a school in Texas, he immediately responded. Richard H. Allen, secretary to the denomination's Board of Missions for Freedmen, was invited to Crockett. Prominent businessmen joined Tenney in receiving him, and the community offered a grant of ten acres on a hilltop plot north of the city. Allen's wife, Mary Esther, actively promoted "our Texas boarding school for colored girls" through the Women's Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedmen. When Mrs. Allen died suddenly, the board agreed that the official name of the school should be Mary Allen Seminary.

Rev. J. B. Smith was commissioned to take charge of the new seminary, which opened on January 15, 1886. Mary Allen Hall was completed on October 1, 1887, at a cost of $20,000, including furnishings. The school began as a day and boarding school offering courses at the primary, elementary, high school, and teacher-training levels for girls only. The seminary published its first catalogue in 1887; Mary Allen Hall, a four-story brick structure with basement, still stood in 1990. Citizens of Crockett added twelve additional acres to the original campus. In 1889, the school acquired 300 acres of land adjacent to the campus, and Grace McMillan Hall was completed. These advances were made possible by gifts from northern donors. In 1890 the school listed eight teachers in addition to Reverend and Mrs. Smith and 211 students. Smith resigned in 1910.

The years 1910 to 1924 were years of discouragement, fire, and difficulty for Mary Allen Seminary. However, in 1924 the board commissioned Rev. Burt Randall Smith, the first black administrator, to revitalize the program of the institution. He developed an all-black faculty, upgraded the library and science laboratory, repaired the plant, and enriched the curriculum; in 1925–26 the high school department was accredited by the State Department of Education. In 1927 the first junior-college class graduated. The lower grades were gradually eliminated, and in 1932 the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools certified the junior college. In 1933 the school became coeducational and changed its name to Mary Allen Junior College. In 1936 the last high school class graduated. A gym and farm shop were completed in 1938. The second President Smith died in 1940, a year in which 210 students were enrolled. In 1942 the Crockett Chamber of Commerce proposed that the property of Mary Allen Junior college be donated toward a four-year state college for black students. The Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., approved the proposal. In 1943, when World War II prevented the Texas legislature from acting on the proposal, Mary Allen Junior College was closed, and the property was sold. Student records were eventually transferred to Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina. The Texas school reopened in 1944 under the control of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas and was closed in September 1972.

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Inez Moore Parker, The Rise and Decline of the Program of Education for Black Presbyterians of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 1865–1970 (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Donald W. Whisenhunt, The Encyclopedia of Texas Colleges and Universities (Austin: Eakin, 1986).


  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian
  • Women

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

John R. "Pete" Hendrick, “Mary Allen Junior College,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 25, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

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