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Dixie College

Cookeville, Tennessee



The Putnam County Herald carried news from and ads for Dixie College.  “Dixie College” at is a compilation of sources of information about the college.




An initial enrollment of 60 became 100 in the second year, but neither the regional students nor the regional support materialized.  Dixie College “never developed a college curriculum,” but it provided students with a rich academic and social life.  Students had two literary societies for men—Appollonian and Philomathian—and the Halcyon Literary Society for women, leading to contests in speech and debate.  In 1912 students began to publish a monthly Dixie Derrick magazine.  Departments of Art, Expression, Music and Physical Culture provided regular opportunities for students to exhibit talents to the public.  In 1914 the Herald reported that Dixie College students had engaged in a formal debate with students from Baxter Seminary.


August 27, 1914 Putnam County High School, the first public high school in the county, consolidated with Dixie College, sharing the facilities.  Total enrollment was listed as 200.


In 1915 Dixie College interests were able to convince the Tennessee legislature to create a technical college in Cookeville.  The Dixie College building was transferred to the new school, which became Tennessee Polytechnic Institute.  Since 1965 it is officially Tennessee Technological University.

The editors of the Dixie Derrick.  Image is taken from Tennessee Technological University and used by permission of TTU Archives & Special Collections.


Members of the Broad Street Church of Christ, headed by Jere Whitson, put up $15,000 in 1909 to begin a college in the Upper Cumberland. Whitson also donated 12 acres of land for a building site.  A failed attempt to obtain a state normal school for Cookeville and a financial crisis in Putnam County delayed work on the school until September 1911.  President Willis B. Boyd was able to open classes in rented quarters in January 1912.  The original plan was for a three-level structure of an academy, a junior college and a senior college.  The name University of Dixie was chosen in hopes of attracting financial support and students from across the South. 

Bricks and Mortar

President Boyd described Cookeville as a town “with an enviable reputation for morality and substantial Christian culture.”  The school was located in an area known for “Healthfulness and Scenic Beauty.”  Boyd believed that even students “in delicate health elsewhere” would likely became “robust and vigorous” while studying at Dixie College.


The cornerstone for the main building was laid in September 1911, and  it was actually completed after the start of school in September 1912.  A three-story brick building measuring 100 feet by 60 feet, it was home to all campus classes and activities.  Since female students were to be under “constant care of the faculty,” the building may have contained dormitory space as well as offices, the library, and an auditorium.  Wings were added to the building in 1921, and it was rebuilt in 1960.  As Derryberry Hall, it is the central building of the Tennessee Tech University campus today.




Dixie College marker in front of a renovated Derryberry Hall. Image by Tom Gillard


            Colors:  New baseball uniforms were “cadet grey.”


President Boyd emphasized the importance of sports for “diverting the minds of men and boys from arduous duties and hard study.” He noted that the President of the United States regularly attended major league baseball games.  Dixie College fielded baseball, football and basketball teams.  Boyd believed, “Our sturdy mountain boys will make good when properly trained.”  


This belief surely found reality in baseball.  Dixie College won ten of twelve games in the spring semester of 1912. Among opponents were top prep teams of the region: Castle Heights School, Branham and Hughes School, Montgomery Bell Academy, the Carthage Training School, and even the Vanderbilt University Reserves.


Most football games were against high school opponents, but College Football Data Warehouse shows losses to Castle Heights (79-6 in 1912 and 40-0 in 1913) and also a 7-0 loss to Cumberland University in 1913. 


A Dixie College basketball team lost to the Owlet Athletic Club by “an undesputble margin.”  A women’s team lost to Vanderbilt in 1914.




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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