PENNINGTON COLLEGE. Pennington College, in Pennington, Trinity County, was established in 1866. It was subsequently renamed Pennington Academy, Pennington Institute, Male and Female School of Pennington, and Steele High School. It operated as a private Christian school from 1866 until 1876 with no official ties to any denomination; however it was strongly endorsed by area Baptists. In 1870 Pennington College was formally chartered by the state. For many years local Baptists had examined the possibility of opening a school in the area. In 1874 or 1875 the educational committee of the Neches River Baptist Association conferred with the trustees of the Pennington school about engrafting a Baptist school upon it. On August 19, 1876, the school trustees voted to turn the institution over to the association. As part of the agreement, the association pledged to raise $3,000 to help support the school. The school may have ceased operations as a college at this time, for it is only referred to as Pennington Academy from 1876 to 1878.
Pennington College offered instruction in several departments, including primary, academic, and collegiate-during a school year consisting of two twenty-week sessions. The 1869 report to the Texas Baptist Association described the school as follows: "It has a large new building, it is in a healthful and refined neighborhood, has experienced teachers, teaches ancient and modern languages, natural and moral sciences, mathematics, music and elocution." That year the college opened a library and received a forty-volume donation from Sheldon Smith of New York. Pennington College, though well respected, was never a large school. Its highest enrollment was more than 100 students in 1873, after which ensued a steady decline. A Mr. Patton, of Alabama, served as the school's president for the two years after the Baptists assumed control. Then Rev. D. W. Steele, the school's first teacher, was president until 1872, when J. S. Woodward was elected. B. Beauchamp became president in 1879 and served until the school closed. Though the school enjoyed the support of many area Baptists, it continually experienced difficulty. Enrollment had dropped to around eighty by 1879 and continued to fall, probably because of the popularity of the public school system. By 1882 the college had closed. In 1882 the property, known as Steele High School, was transferred from the Neches River Association to the original trustees, and it was afterward used for the public school.
Flora G. Bowles, A History of Trinity County, Texas, 1827 to 1928 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1928; rpt., Groveton, Texas: Groveton Independent School District, 1966). William Franklin Ledlow, History of Protestant Education in Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1926). Carl Bassett Wilson, History of Baptist Educational Efforts in Texas, 1829–1900 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1934).