1892-1901 (As Emerson College 1903-06)
The Northeast Texas Digital Collection contains Jackson Massey's 1928 dissertation entitled “History of College Education in Hunt County.” This has a chapter on Henry College and another on Emerson College, the continuation of Henry.
Henry College, named for its founders Henry T. Bridges and Henry Eastman, was an outgrowth of Campbell High School. Bridges, who served as the president of the college, put up $15,000 of his own money for the construction of the original building. According to Massey, the aim of Henry College was to “provide a first class college education for poor boys and girls in Hunt and the nearby counties.” By 1897 enrollment had reached 220 but continued low. Massey notes that Henry did not have a preparatory program—though it had a small sub-Freshman program.
In addition to the Bachelor of Arts program, Henry College had programs in music, elocution, bookkeeping and stenography. Graduation classes in all programs averaged around four students—29 in seven years through 1900.
Massey noted that the life of the school centered on the literary societies—of which there were five: Europa focused on American literature; Augustan focused on science; Sidney Lanier focused on Bible; Clionian (for young women) focused on great writers; Alpha focused on individual development of members.
Massey states that Bridges was a “stern ruler” in dealing with students. Students were not allowed to “loiter in the street,” to miss classes, to drink intoxicating beverages, or to communicate with the opposite sex except at “the pleasure of the faculty.” Students reported that Bridges “used his fist and foot frequently” to maintain discipline.
The faculty of Henry College was considered to be the best among private colleges in Texas. Massey says that six of the 11 faculty members had college degrees.
A Handbook of Texas, reported that in 1896 a rivalry developed between Bridges and William L. Mayo, head of East Texas Normal College in Commerce. “Mayo objected to Henry College's advertising in East Texas Normal's newspaper and enticing students from Commerce. His public condemnation angered Bridges, who rode to Mayo's home and demanded that his competitor sign a public statement of apology. Mayo refused, whereupon Bridges fired two shots at him. Both shots missed. Bridges then threw his gun to the ground, jumped from his carriage, and began to horsewhip Mayo. Both men were arrested and released on bond.”
Following a 1897 fire, enrollment fell off, and funds dried up. The college closed in 1901. Two years later it reopened as Emerson College.
Bricks and Mortar
The original Henry College building burned in 1897. However, it was quickly replaced by a new building on a six-acre lot on the south side of town, near the burn site.
The new building was three stories. The ground floor contained nine large rooms. The second floor contained eight rooms. The top floor contained one room, which served as a chapel and auditorium.
A historical marker seems to be all that remains of the college.
Massey notes that Henry College students participated in football, baseball, tennis and track—in addition to leap frog.
The first mention of football involved a cancelled game with Austin College because of a dispute over players. One of the professors at Austin was a regular lineman on the team; Henry insisted that all players be students. Some of the results from 1898 and 1899 suggest that opponents were generally independent teams—Eastmans of Sulphur Springs, Denison, and the Dallas Heavyweights. Henry also seems to have had a Lightweight team with players weighing no more than 125 pounds.
College football Data Warehouse shows a game against Texas A&M in 1900—a 44-0 loss for Henry.