St. Alban’s West Virginia
Newspaper and journal coverage of Shelton College was very sketchy--particularly as regards students. Perhaps the most complete account is the 1893 History of Education in West Virginia--source of the building image (right). Megan Kennedy’s article “Former Shelton College Has Many Stories” is a good history of the building.
Coalsmouth High School was created by the Guyandotte Association of the West Virginia Baptist Church. Classes opened on October 1, 1872 in the St. Albans City Hall with Powell B. Reynolds as the first principal. Attempts in 1875-76 to raise $50,000 as endowment and operating funds were largely unsuccessful. The school name was changed to Sheldon College in 1878 to honor T.M. Sheldon, who provided funds to complete the building. Before closing in 1882 for reorganization, the school offered a “practical Bible course” to train theology students. In 1883 a joint stock company was formed to buy the college and pay off its debts. But by 1884 it was reported to be in a “languishing condition.” The Commissioner of Education report of 1885 lists Shelton as closed.
Professor W.G. Miller, a former student, was “given use of the property" in 1887, opening his preparatory school with 52 pupils. Formerly a boys’ school, Shelton was now co-educational. In 1889 enrollment reached 70 with a higher enrollment expected in 1890. Now free from debt, the school added music and normal departments to its classical academy curriculum.
In 1897 The Baptist Home Mission Monthly reported that the school had again “ceased.” Shelton College apparently operated for a few years in the twentieth century before closing for good—perhaps in 1906. However, Miller received a charter for Shelton College and Conservatory of Music in 1911. I can find no evidence that the school ever opened.
Bricks and Mortar
The location chosen for the school was the highest point in St. Albans, overlooking the town and the Kanawha River Valley. The present property is just over an acre. Work began on the new building in 1873. However the financial crisis that year halted work on the $10,400 structure. After receiving the Shelton funds, the building was completed in 1875. Images show a three-story brick structure containing both lecture rooms and dormitory rooms. Planned wings were never added (see image above)
Reports from 1885 show that the state had an early interest in acquiring the Shelton campus as a “colored academy.” In 1889 the state legislature passed a bill creating a commission to investigate purchasing the campus for that purpose. In 1890 the Wheeling Register reported that the purchase had been rejected because of opposition from three groups: the “owners of the college,” the “people of St. Albans” and the “colored people.”
Megan Kennedy reports, “From about 1906 to the early 1940s the building remained empty, growing dilapidated over the years.” In 1940 a family named Hamrick converted the building into a private residence. They removed the damaged third floor, using the flat roof as an area for watching parades and other events in the town. In 2000 Joseph Delaney purchased the building as a residence. In 2019, it was back on the market.
Like many former college building, Shelton has attracted the attention of paranormal groups—it being supposedly haunted by the “Pink Lady.” Allegedly she was a former mistress of the house, whose baby is buried in the nearby cemetery.
Members of the Quillen family, who occupied the building from 1958 to 1997, reported seeing the ghost numerous times.
Given the low numbers and spotty history of the school, it is somewhat surprising to find a sports history at all. But College Football Data Warehouse shows three football games—all losses. In 1903 Shelton lost to Marshall College 15-0. A year later the team lost twice to Morris Harvey College 27-0 and 5-0.
(left) Before becoming Professor of philosophy at West Virginia University in 1884, Powell B. Reynolds was principal at Sheldon College. Image from Baptist Home Mission Monthly https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112001784542;view=1up;seq=240
Google image of the former Shelton College building. https://www.google.com/maps/place/1025+College+Cir,+St+Albans,+WVemail@example.com