Wesleyan College

By: John C. English

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: February 1, 1996

Wesleyan College, named for John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church in America, was a short-lived institution in San Augustine. A Methodist minister, Rev. Daniel Poe, took the lead in organizing the school. A citizen Committee of Direction was formed in 1842. Having purchased a house for the college principal, it proceeded to raise funds for a permanent classroom building. After construction had gotten under way, Poe approached the Texas Annual Conference of the Church, which agreed in 1843 to take the new institution "under its fostering care." The organizers also obtained a charter from the Republic of Texas, which was signed by President Sam Houston on January 16, 1844. Two months later the college occupied its new building and began to offer classes. It reported a faculty of seven and a student body of 155 during its first session. Thereafter enrollment dwindled, due in part to competition from other colleges. Rev. Lester Janes was the first principal or president, serving from 1844 to 1846, and Rev. Foster H. Blades was the second, serving from 1846 to 1847. Rev. Francis A. Wilson was the college's financial agent. Wilson traveled in East Texas and to the United States, seeking gifts of land and money. He secured 20,000 acres of land from donors in East Texas and raised $20,000 for the college. Both Wilson and Poe were named in the charter as members of the board of trustees. Among other members of the board were Henry W. Augustine, Travis G. Broocks, Rev. Littleton Fowler, James Pinckney Henderson, and John G. Love.

Wesleyan offered instruction on three levels: primary, secondary, and collegiate. In addition there was a separate Female Department. Students in the degree course were expected to study the classical languages and to pursue mathematics. They also studied natural science, English literature, philosophy, and ethics. The English literature curriculum included a considerable amount of work in history. During the 1840s the study of history in college was somewhat unusual; thus Wesleyan was somewhat in advance of its time. The college granted only two degrees during its short history, both in February 1846. One of the graduates, Franklin B. Sexton, was admitted to the bar in 1848 and later became prominent in political and Masonic circles. Acting in the spirit of John Wesley, the leaders of the college intended to foster not only the intellectual but also the moral and spiritual development of the students. While little formal instruction in religion was offered, apart from the Greek New Testament, students were expected to hear the sermons delivered at camp meetings and revival services nearby. In 1847 the enrollment stood at eighty-five, and the trustees decided to close the school. The following year its property was transferred to the University of Eastern Texas. The college building was destroyed by fire in 1870.

George L. Crocket, Two Centuries in East Texas (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; facsimile reprod. 1962). John C. English, "Wesleyan College of San Augustine," East Texas Historical Journal 3 (October 1965). John H. McLean, "Our Early Schools," Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly 2 (July 1910). Macum Phelan, History of Early Methodism in Texas, 1817–1866 (Nashville: Cokesbury, 1924); A History of the Expansion of Methodism in Texas, 1867–1902 (Dallas: Mathis, Van Nort, 1937).
  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities

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

John C. English, “Wesleyan College,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wesleyan-college.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996