Abbeville in Abbeville County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Harbison College President's Home
of Historic Places:
Erected 1982 by Upper Savannah Council of Governments.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Education.
Location. 34° 11.6′ N, 82° 23.033′ W. Marker is in Abbeville, South Carolina, in Abbeville County. Marker can be reached from Greenville Street (State Highway 20) north of College Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Abbeville SC 29620, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within one mile of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Long Cane Cemetery (approx. 0.8 miles away); First Burial in Long Cane Cemetery (approx. 0.8 miles away); Thomas Chiles Perrin House (approx. 0.9 miles away); Abbeville's Confederate Colonels (approx. 0.9 miles away); Burt-Stark House / Jefferson Davis’s Flight (approx. 0.9 miles away); Colonial Block House/Fort Pickens (approx. 0.9 miles away); The Last Meeting of the Confederate States CabinetFort Pickens (approx. 0.9 miles away); McGowan-Barksdale-Bundy House (approx. 0.9 miles away); Maj. Thomas D. Howie (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Abbeville.
Also see . . . Harbison College President's Home. The President’s Home of Harbison College is located in a residential area on the outskirts of Abbeville, South Carolina. (Submitted on November 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
1. Harbison College
Founded by Northern Presbyterians in 1885, the school was originally called Ferguson-Williams Academy, in honor of key supporters, the Reverend and Mrs. Emory A. Williams and the Reverend James A. Ferguson. In 1892, the Presbyterian Board of Education appointed Dr. Thomas H. Amos in charge of day-to-day operations. Amos, a distinguished minister and teacher, was born in Africa in Monrovia, Liberia in 1866. His parents were the first black missionaries from the United States sent to Africa by the Presbyterian church. When his father died, Amos and his mother returned to the United States where he completed his education at
When Amos took charge of Ferguson-Williams Academy, the school was foundering and in debt by some $2,000. He restored the school to financial stability by appealing to philanthropists such as Samuel Harbison, for whom the school was eventually renamed. Harbison, who was white, donated 20 acres of land on the outskirts of Abbeville where the school was moved from town sometime around the turn of the century. Before long, the school was prospering. "Negroes from everywhere were going there," remembered Edward Brownlee.
During his tenure, Amos was able to raise more than $45,000 for the school. He lectured around the country, using these appearances as a platform for soliciting funds and for attracting new students and faculty. So successful were his efforts that students had to pay only a little more than three dollars a month for instruction and boarding, according to one report of the time. Still, for many, even three dollars was an enormous sum. As Ursula Mae Haddon, a former student, recalled, the school accommodated those unable to pay the full amount. For those who didn't board at the school, "...say you chipped in a dollar...it was in your reach...We all who attended the school liked it. We were proud of it; we were glad to get to school. Maybe our parents didn't have the opportunity. I'm sure mine didn't. I had the opportunity.
Many students paid their tuition through laboring on the school grounds, instead of with money. Minnie Clark remembered classmates working on the school's farm. "If you wanted to pick cotton in the afternoon, pick some cane or something, you could do that," she said. Clark, who played the organ at school performances, remembered the nickname the older students used for her and her fellow students when she first attended the school in the fifth grade. "They call us 'prep' for preparatory. We were preps, so low down under them."
Despite the fond reminiscences of Clark, Haddon, and others, an ugly undertow was pulling at the school's tranquility. Under Amos, the school apparently operated fairly smoothly for about ten years. Then, for reasons not altogether clear, Amos and his African-American faculty, which included his wife, became caught up in the fears and hatreds some whites harbored towards blacks.
Rumors in Abbeville cited Amos as the instigator of black labor resistance. Another whispered charge was that his students were armed. In an article in The Abbeville Press and Banner, Amos strongly denied the accusations and added, "I have positively done nothing to merit the ill will of the white people and I would not be able today to name a single white man in the town or in the country to whom I could feel justified
Nonetheless, Amos was eventually forced to resign. In a 1980 letter to the Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, one of Amos' children, Fannie Amos Stewart, provided additional details of what her parents had told her about the coerced departure.
"Dr. and Mrs. Amos worked diligently and conscientiously at the school until the fall of 1906," according to Stewart. "They loved their work, students, and faculty...My mother used to speak of how pretty she thought the campus was and how beautiful the students looked strolling on the campus. Their [her parents] reason for leaving was due to racial prejudice. The white people in town were jealous of the school, its progress, etc."
Stewart added that her parents had also told her that her three older brothers and her father were graphically threatened with lynching, and that the family had to flee Abbeville for their own safety. A local physician, a white man, had overheard Ku Klux Klan plans to murder Amos and helped the principal and his family escape town just before the intended assault. The doctor drove the Amos family by wagon to Greenville, South Carolina, and saw them safely on a train bound for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wrote Stewart: "I don't think Dr. Amos ever got over the tragic ending to his
The school closed for several months after Amos' resignation. The local newspaper trumpeted the appointment of the next school leader, C.M. Young: "The agitation of the race question has awakened and intensified the race prejudice which seemed dormant or which had not until recently come to the surface in a pronounced form. The president of the Harbison College is a native born negro, and one who seems to be acceptable to a majority of our people...His predecessor was a Northern negro, who was objectionable to some of our people."
The controversy surrounding the school, however, persisted. In January 1907, fire destroyed one of the school buildings, prompting rumors about the blaze's origin, speculation that the fire was deliberately set. The atmosphere in the community became so highly charged on the topic that Young felt compelled to write an article for the local newspaper to calm the situation. He wrote that the fire was caused by a defective flue and wood stove.
But another fire on March 17, 1910, was indisputably arson. Three boys died in the blaze and several other students and a teacher were injured. Minnie Clark witnessed the tragedy: "I was there when the building caught fire...it's a good thing I had my pack on...I like to got burned up."
The day after the fire, Abbeville citizens staged a mass rally
— Submitted November 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
2. Harbison College
Harbison College, located at Abbeville, is an institution designed to promote the industrial, literary and religious progress of colored youth of both sexes.
The literary course is adopted with the view of securing sound elementary training that will make those graduating from the College proficient for the active duties of life.
The training afforded by the various departments of the school are steps by which the students can attain to a higher plane of industrial life and Christian character.
The College is located about one mile and a half from the public square on the road leading from Abbeville to Due West near the old Long Cane Presbyterian Church.
The site upon which the following four brick-buildings are erected consists of 67 acres of land: Ferguson Hall, for girls; the Henry
The College owns a farm of 210 acres of fine farming land, which is to provide the boys with means whereby they can support themselves in school, and which is also to furnish them with an opportunity of learning practical farming. The main object of the farm is to teach the boys to be skilled agriculturists.
Harbison College is the outgrowth of Ferguson Academy, which was established in the town of Abbeville a quarter-of-a-century ago. Its development into a college is due to gifts received from the friends of Christian education — notably the gifts received from Mr. Henry Phipps, of New York, and Mr. Samuel P. Harbison, of Allegheny, Pa. The wife and sons of the latter have also made substantial gifts to the work, making possible at the present time accommodations for about one hundred and twenty-five boarding students and a hundred day students.
The College is under the auspices of the Board of Missions for Freedmen, whose headquarters are at Pittsburgh, Pa.
At a meeting of the
— Submitted November 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
3. Harbison College President's Home
The President's Home of Harbison College is a two-story brick residence located in a residential neighborhood near the City of Abbeville, South Carolina. A gift from Mrs. Samuel P. Harbison of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, provided funds to construct this house, which originally served as the residence of the Harbison College President and his family. Construction of the nearly-completed house was suspended late in the summer of 1906 when the college closed for a short time because of racial tensions; by May 1907 the house was being finished for use. extensive alterations to the interior were made during a ca. 1952 remodeling of the house but most walls and decorative features were retained. The exterior has had only minor changes,
The President's Home of Harbison College is a square two-story brick residence with a one-story attached brick kitchen to the rear. The walls, which are two bricks thick on the second story and three bricks thick on the first story, rest on a foundation that is four bricks thick. The bricks are laid in a variation of a pattern known as American Flemish Bond, which is composed of several courses of stretchers and a bonding course of alternating headers and stretchers. A brick belt course encircles the house between the first and second stories. Centrally located in the front slope of the hipped roof is a dormer with a Palladian-style louvered attic vent. Two interior chimneys also pierce the roof. Composition roofing has been laid over the original metal roof.
The central bay of the facade (southwest elevation) has a single door entrance with transom on the first story and a cameo window with keystones on the second story. One-over-one windows with louvered shutters flank the central bay on each story. A hipped roof porch extends
The northwest elevation has two windows on each story. The westernmost first story window is located in a polygonal bay which corresponds to the parlor in the interior. It and each of the second story windows are surmounted by rowlock courses, the other first story window has a flat brick arch. The northeast elevation (rear) is dominated by the original one story brick kitchen wing. This wing has a single window on its northwest and southeast elevations and a single door in the northeast elevation. A modern car shed with a gabled roof has been connected to the rear.
Exterior alterations include the rebuilding of the front porch which matches the original in shape and size, replacement of the original double doors with a single front door, and the addition of a double window on the rear to correspond to the present kitchen.
The interior of the President's Home of Harbison College has four major rooms on each story, with the original kitchen attached to the rear. A central hall on each story bisects the house. The stairhall, which is perpendicular to the main hall, bisects the southeast
The first story consists of the original parlor, dining room, kitchen, study, and quest room. The wall between the central hall and guest room was removed in the ca. 1952 remodeling to create a large living room. In addition, the door from the hall to the parlor (present dining room) was removed and a larger entry cut. A carved mantel and overmantel with beveled glass mirror and a polygonal alcove framed by a semi-circular arch are dominant features of this room. Crown molding and picture molding have been removed and reused in cornices which are placed above the windows.
The guest room (present living room) mantel was damaged by fire and has been replaced by the original dining room mantel, which is similar to the parlor mantel, as well as to the one which it replaced. A wide segmental arch provides access to the rear of the house and defines the location of the original central hall. A single run open-string staircase with a square carved newel and turned
The second story consists of four bedrooms with roughly the same dimensions as the four rooms below. The fireplace in the east bedroom has been closed, ans the front hall has been partitioned to form a bath and two small closets. The two newel posts are simple, each terminating in a large hall. Original mantels in the west and south bedrooms feature egg and dart molding, colonettes, and overmantels with beveled glass mirrors.
The President's Home of Harbison College is situated on the crest of a ridge on a three-acre tract of land which was part of the original 65-acre Harbison College campus. A large front yard separates the house from South Carolina Highway 20. A frame garage and a frame barn of more recent construction are located in the back yard, as is the site of the brick privy which was contemporary to the house.
The President's Home of Harbison College, located in a residential area on the outskirts of the City of Abbeville, South Carolina, is significance to black history and to education for its association with Harbison College, an institution of higher education for
Harbison College was an outgrowth of Ferguson Academy, located in Abbeville, South Carolina, a black school which was established in the 1880s by the Reverend and Mrs. Emory W. Williams. Ferguson Academy had no formal association with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, although its teachers received some financial assistance from the church's Board of Missions for Freedman. When the school encountered financial difficulty in 1891, the Board assumed the debt and became owner of the property in Abbeville. The Reverend and Mrs. Williams resigned at the end of the school year, ad the Reverend Thomas H. Amos was appointed principal.
In 1898, Samuel P. Harbison, a wealthy member of the Board from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, provided funds for the purchase of an eighteen-acre tract of land on the outskirts of the city. Ferguson Academy subsequently moved to this site, and on 29 October 1901 a Certificate of Incorporation was granted which changed the name of the school to "Harbison College for Colored Youth." The certificate states that the institution was to be co-educational and that "special attention will be given to the cultivation of good character, of Industrial habits, and mental proficiency to teach, and the preparation of colored youth for future usefulness." The trustees were required to establish "a religious supervision over the pupils and provide for daily instruction in the English Bible," an industrial department, and a full literary course. Thomas H. Amos continued to head the institution as president.
A three-story brick dormitory known as Ferguson Hall was the first building to be constructed at the new site. During the summer of 1901, Henry Hipps Hall, a three-story brick dormitory for boys was erected. An adjoining forty-seven acres were added to the original eighteen-acre tract in January of 1902, again as the result of a gift from Samuel P. Harbison. Harbison Hall, a two-story brick building containing a chapel, classrooms, President's office, library, and Y.M.C.A. meeting room was completed ca. 1904-05. (Source: National Register Nomination Form.)
— Submitted November 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
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