Documents and clippings concerning the history of Bethel College are found on the Internet Archive. An extended history of the college is found in The History of Higher Education in Kentucky by Alvin F. Lewis. The Logan County Public Library provided information about Bethel College buildings as well as photos from the Blue and Gold, the Bethel Yearbook.
Sponsored by the Green River Baptist Education Society, Bethel College began as Bethel High School in 1852, replacing an earlier Russellville Male Academy. It began to offer college courses in 1854 and received a state charter to offer the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Letters degrees in 1856. Since one of the goals was to train Baptist ministers, the school developed a department of biblical and pastoral theology, which operated until 1877. Opening with 156 students, it was described as “a college without endowment, library, apparatus, or any other appliance except a good building, a good number of students and a good working faculty.” Bethel College closed during the Civil War, but the San Diego Union noted that after the war, “most of the faculty were former Confederate Soldiers.”
The Philomathian Literary Society was chartered in 1856 and the Washington Literary Society in 1858. In addition to the yearbook, Bethel students published a newspaper, also called the Blue and Gold. The school had chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Sigma social fraternities.
The chronicle of 1896 shows seven teachers and 138 students. Enrollment peaked at 213 students. Baptist History Homepage reports that the school became co-educational in 1928. In 1933 newspapers note that Bethel was caught in a bind. On the one hand, high school curricula were expanding, requiring a greater commitment to the high school division. On the other hand, larger colleges and universities were attracting students that had formerly attended Bethel. Facing an indebtedness of $15,000, the school closed at the end of the fall semester in January 1933. In June of that year, Bethel was formally merged with Georgetown University.
Bricks and Mortar
Main Hall was begun in 1852 and completed in 1854. Nimrod Long Hall, begun in 1849, was added in 1877 as a dormitory housing 100 students. Long Hall was converted into an apartment building around the end of World War II. The four-story brick building burned in 1947, leaving 50 people homeless. Main Hall was razed in 1968. The Logan County Public library reports that no campus buildings remain. However some married student housing units provided by Nimrod Long are still standing outside the campus.
Bethel College campus. Long Hall is to the left and Main Hall to the right. The inset photo is the President’s House (History of Higher Education In Kentucky by Alvin F. Lewis. HathiTrust, <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044024328155;view=2up;seq=218> accessed 11-3-2017
Colors: Gold and Blue
Team Name: Golden Bears
College Football Data Warehouse shows that Bethel played football from 1894 through 1931—for the most part with little success. Baptist History Homepage notes that they were state champions in 1899. Early on, opponents were close neighbors such as Cumberland and the Western Normal College. Later the schedule opened to include Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois and even West Virginia opponents. Early Bethel teams absorbed some terrible beatings—110-0 by Cumberland and 103-0 by Union. However the 1929 team went 8-2 with wins over Morgan Prep, Evansville, Lindsey Wilson, Weymouth JV, Hanover, Tennessee Tech, Oakland City and Will Mayfield. The team lost to Transylvania and Union.
As with many southern schools, the signature sport was baseball, but the 1926-27 basketball team won 26 games according to the Baptist History Homepage.
1930 Bethel College team (Blue and Gold, Courtesy of the Logan County Public Library).