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Jefferson College

Washington, Mississippi



The 1840 "Charter and Statutes” of Jefferson College is available from HathiTrust (See image right).  Two good short histories are by Cheryl Munyer Waldrep for Mississippi History Now and by Julia Huston Nguyen for Mississippi Encyclopedia.  The Library of Congress has a series of building images. 


Jefferson College was chartered in 1802 by the Mississippi Territorial Assembly.  However, since the Assembly made no provisions for financing the school, it did not actually open until January 1811—as a privately financed academy with an enrollment of 15.  It was not until 1829 that Jefferson College became a state school operating on the West Point model.  The course of study led to a B.A. degree, but Nguyen asserts that no student ever received that degree.  “Charter and Statutes” shows that the curriculum was rigorous, the daily schedule tight, and the discipline very strict.  As the Civil War loomed, one goal of the school was to keep Southern youth “at home.” With the outbreak of the Civil War, the college closed as most students were in the Confederate Army.  Union troops occupied the buildings 1863-65, and a Freedman’s Bureau school used the campus after the war.  When Jefferson College reopened in 1866, it became strictly a preparatory school, later adding “military” to its name.



Enrollment remained low throughout the school history.  It had 103 students in 1901 but only 50 in 1949.  There were 15 high school graduates in both 1917 and 1918 but only six in 1932.


Jefferson College became the cultural center for the region.  Newspapers show two literary societies.  Each graduation featured an oratorical contest.  The school had a band, an orchestra and several quartets.   Cadet companies regularly marched in area festivals.  The Washington Lyceum and Jefferson College collaborated on The South-Western Journal.


J.M.C. made national news in 1949.  The cash strapped school rejected an endowment offer of  $50,000,000 from Texas financier George Armstrong, Jr. in exchange for adopting a white supremacy curriculum and accept only white students. 


J.M.C. was forced to close in 1964.

Bricks and Mortar

The first permanent campus building was East Hall, completed in 1820.  A large three-story red brick structure, it had school rooms, the library, and a science lab on the ground floor, with dorm rooms on the second and third floors and attic.  Partially burned in 1841, it then acquired a slate roof.  The matching West Hall was added in 1839 to house the faculty, administrative offices, and the mess hall.  A gymnasium was built connecting the two halls in 1894, and three new dorms were added in the 20th century as enrollment reached 100.


After the school closed in 1964, the buildings sat empty until 1971 when they were acquired by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.  East and West Halls have been renovated as has the President’s House.    The newer dorm buildings still await renovation.  The campus, now a designated Mississippi Landmark, is on the National Register.

Jefferson Military College after 1933.  East Hall is to the right.  The gymnasium (arched door) was razed after 1971.  Image from the Library of Congress.


            Team name: Cadets


"Charter and Statutes"  notes, “For exercise, in place of gymnastics, the military drill will be substituted, and practiced daily by all students.”  So it is not until 1900 that I was able to find a newspaper reference to sports.  That year the school baseball team played both the University of Texas and the University of Mississippi, and the football team was listed as being on the Millsaps College schedule. 


Sports teams played largely a high school schedule with Chamberlain-Hunt Academy as a regular opponent.  The Times-Picayune has photos of both the 1906 and 1907 football teams as preparatory champions of Mississippi.  Ditto for the J.M.C. baseball team of 1909 and the basketball team of 1915.


But Jefferson Military College also stepped up to play college-level football opponents including Louisiana College, St. Aloysius, and Jefferson College of Louisiana (a 146-0 defeat in 1916).  J.M.C. defeated the Louisiana State JV’s twice. 

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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