Bryson College yearbooks, The Bridge, are housed at Erskine College and Seminary. The library there kindly provided a microfilm of the yearbooks through interlibrary loan, also sending the 1976 alumni association publication Bryson College 1919-1929: A History, source of the seal at right.
After the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church had founded Erskine College at Due West, South Carolina in 1839, congregations that had moved west into Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama began planning a college for youth in their region. The result was the selection of Fayetteville, a small town in south central Tennessee, as the location for a college. Classes began there in the fall of 1919.
During the 1919-20 academic year, the school offered two years of college and two years of preparatory work; during the second year, the ratio was 3-1; thereafter, the school offered four years of college instruction. Enrollment peaked at 149 students in 1926. The 1929 Bridge showed 89 students (10 seniors, 21 juniors, 33 sophomores and 25 freshmen), taught by a faculty of 11. The History reported that negotiations to make Bryson a state-supported school had hurt enrollment.
Between 30 to 40 per cent of students were A.R. Presbyterians.
The aim of Bryson College was “to discipline the mind, to build strong Christian character, and to develop symmetrical men and women.” As a result, students had strong chapters of the YMCA and YWCA that sent delegates to a regional volunteer conference. Additionally, there were two literary societies—Wilsonian and Victorian—each with male and female components. The glee club and orchestra performed comic operettas in 1922 and 1928 and an Easter cantata in 1927. Bryson students engaged in debates both between the literary societies and against David Lipscomb College and Middle Tennessee Normal.
Bricks and Mortar
What had made Fayetteville an attractive spot for a college was the presence of “a college plant” there. As early as 1853 Melton College had operated in Fayetteville, replaced in 1890 by Dick White College, replaced in turn by Morgan School. When the Morgan School determined to move from Fayetteville, the buildings became available—a recitation hall, a boys’ dormitory and the Morgan residence for a girls’ dormitory.
After Bryson College students and records were transferred to Erskine College, the buildings sat empty until 1934 when the recitation hall and the boys’ dormitory were acquired by Lincoln County for hospital buildings. These buildings were razed in 1970. The boys' dormitory—called Spratt Home—still had the score of the 1927 Sewanee game painted on the wall when it was razed.
Team name: Tigers
Colors: Blue and White
Men’s sports were football, basketball and baseball. Bryson fielded a football team each year of its existence. Despite small numbers, Bryson scheduled Southern Conference powers Alabama, Sewanee and Vanderbilt. The 1923 team suffered mightily at the hands of Sewanee (102-0 ) and Alabama (95-0). Yearly rivals included Chattanooga and Jacksonville (Alabama) State, in addition to Sewanee. A 7-0 victory over Sewanee in 1927 was the highlight of Bryson’s football history.
The history noted that baseball was a stronger sport than football for Bryson, with the team posting winning records in five of seven seasons.
For the first few years Bryson fielded a women’s basketball team. The 1923 team had a 4-4 record with two games each against Peabody College, Columbia Institute, Jacksonville State, and Howard College.
The 35-acre campus also included the old Dick White College building (above), donated by the Gleghorn family and now called Gleghorn Hall (1928 Bridge, "Erskine College, McCain Library Department of Archives and Special Collections.").
1927-28 Fresh Flowers organization. Image from the 1928 Bridge "Erskine College, McCain Library Department of Archives and Special Collections."