Lauderdale County, Alabama
Colleges and Universities
BAILEY SPRINGS UNIVERSITY
Bailey Springs University for the higher education of women was established in 1893 and was organized by William P. Ellis, Dr. Henry A. Moody, Ella B. Ellis, and Charles H. Tatum. Dr. Moody served as its first president. The university was incorporated by the legislature on December 13, 1894. The panic of 1893 and 1894 caused financial difficulties for the school and it closed about 1900. At least one diploma was given.
BAPTIST UNIVERSITY (also known as Florence University)
The Baptist University was known locally as Florence University and was built during the boom of the 1880's. Land for the school was donated by the Florence Land, Mining, and Manufacturing Company. The location was across the street from the waterpipe on Seymour Street in North Florence. Leon Jolly cut the stone used in the foundation and steps of the building.
It was originally designed to be a men's school, but before the college was ready to begin operation, the Florence boom had subsided and the building was not occupied for a number of years. Later it was opened as a girl's school under corporation leadership and not under Baptist auspices. Local young ladies were transported to the school campus in a horse-drawn four-in-hand pleasure coach, which the boarding students used on Sunday to go to church.
The college burned in 1911 at night and longtime residents who rushed to the scene remembered the young girls jumping out of the windows in the excitement of the fire. The debris and rubble remained as it was for many years. Some of the bricks were used by residents in the vicinity for garden walks, courtyards, patios, and the like. This school is the origin for the name University Heights which was given to this section.
FLORENCE SYNODICAL FEMALE COLLEGE
On the earliest maps of Florence, Ferdinand Sannoner reserved a square for the location of a male academy on Tuscaloosa Street. The Florence Female Academy was later built on this site. The main college building stood in the center of the block now occupied by the Federal Building, or the Florence Post Office. The adjoining Elks Club is the original structure erected in 1847 by Zebulon Pike Morrison and used as the dormitory for the young ladies. In 1847 the old Locust Dell Academy was absorbed by the Synodical Female Academy under the Nashville Synod. In 1855 the school became the Synodical Female College over the vote of Governor Winston.
The president of the new college was Robert M. Patton and the secretary was William P. Campbell. Among the early presidents were Dr. William H. Mitchell, J. D. Anderson, and H. E. Stone. Certain property was deeded to the Synod on November 25, 1854, in trust for the maintenance of the school. This act was amended on February 13, 1895, to use this land to liquidate the school debts.
LOCUST DELL ACADEMY
In 1833 N. M. Hentz and his wife Caroline Lee came to Florence and founded Locust Dell
Academy the following year. This school grew until it had an attendance of 70 and the faculty
increased accordingly. Mr. & Mrs. Hentz, who lived in Florence for nine years, were cultural
leaders in Florence society. After they left, Locust Dell Academy was absorbed in 1847 by
the Florence Synodical Female College.
Above Right: Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz
Left: This picture is located in the scrapbooks compiled by the late Oscar D. Lewis. These books, which contain many interesting articles about this area, are in the local history and genealogy room of the Florence Lauderdale Public Library. The date of publication and name of newspaper are not given. The caption reads, "...Young girls were carefully schooled to become Southern
young ladies at the Old Locust Dell Academy in Florence
more than a hundred years ago. Accounts of the Academy
which flourished for nine years are preserved today in
Florence State University's Collier Library." Florence State University is now known as the University of North Alabama, which features a historical marker dedicated to Locust Dell Academy.