Stuart Seminary

By: Judith N. McArthur

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: April 27, 2019

Stuart Seminary (originally Stuart Female Seminary) officially opened in Austin in January 1876 on the northwest corner of Ninth and Navasota streets. A small class had met at this private girls' school in September 1875, before the school was formally launched. The new seminary was housed in a three-story stone building built in 1875 at a cost of $12,000 by physician George Clark Red and was operated by his wife, Rebecca K. (Stuart) Red. The Reds had come to Austin in 1875 after having taught at Live Oak Female Seminary in Washington County. Stuart Female Seminary was extremely successful despite increased competition among schools in Austin. The school accepted both boarding and day pupils and could accommodate twenty resident students. It was divided into a primary department, which accepted boys as day pupils, and a collegiate department. Rebecca managed the boarding department and served as principal and teacher. In its four-year collegiate course of study, Stuart Female Seminary offered a B.A. degree to those who completed the standard classical course and a B.S. degree to those who completed the scientific course, which included all classical studies except Latin, with additional work in English and natural science. The music department expanded as the school grew, and art, modern languages, and physical education were later added to the curriculum. Although not formally affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, the seminary reflected the religious convictions of its founder, and the school included "the formation and development of Christian character" in its statement of mission. A course in Bible history and weekly church attendance were required of each student, and Sunday-afternoon scripture lessons supplemented daily devotional exercises. To compensate for the lack of a Sunday school in Austin, the First Southern Presbyterian Church authorized Rebecca Red to open one in the seminary. It served both seminary pupils and neighborhood children, who met in the building until 1886.

Stuart Seminary was managed entirely by the Red family, and George Red and his four children (William Stuart and Samuel Clark Red and their sisters, Harriet and Lel) all served at various times on the faculty. Red's health declined, and when he died in 1881, a board of trustees was appointed to manage the school. Ashbel Smith was the first president of the board of trustees. Upon Rebecca Red's death in 1886, her daughter Lel became principal, and she continued to operate the school with the cooperation of other Red heirs and the aid of her husband, Rev. John McLeod Purcell, D.D., whom she married in 1889. In 1893 an addition to the building doubled the school's capacity. That same year the Red heirs deeded the property, valued at $40,000, to the board of trustees, which included Rebecca Red's brother, David F. Stuart, and her sons, Samuel and William. After the school was closed in 1899, the Red heirs joined with the trustees of the defunct Austin School of Theology to give the property, debt-free, to the Presbyterian Synod of Texas for use as the site of a school of theology, the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which opened in 1902. In 1907 the property was sold, in the first of several transfers, and in 1926 it was acquired by the Catholic Diocese of Galveston. In 1951 it became Our Lady of Guadalupe School. The number of students who either attended or graduated from the seminary is unknown. Former students of the Live Oak and Stuart seminaries held their first reunion in 1943 at the University of Texas and sponsored a centennial reunion in 1953. A state historical marker is posted at the Stuart Seminary building.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Mabelle Umland Purcell Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Mabelle Purcell, Two Texas Female Seminaries (Wichita Falls, Texas: University Press, 1951). William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1936).

  • Education
  • Defunct Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian
  • Women

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

Judith N. McArthur, “Stuart Seminary,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 27, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: