Hopkinsville, Kentucky (population more than 5,000 in 1900) had a daily newspaper which contained advertisements and school news from South Kentucky College and its 1908 name change to McLean College. Charles Meacham's 1930 History of Christian County Kentucky has information about the buildings. The 1896-97 College Year-Book profiles the school. The
postcard image (right)is courtesy of CardCow.com
McLean College/South Kentucky College
South Kentucky Institute was founded in 1849 as a finishing school for young ladies. Associated with the Christian Church, it was nondenominational but distinctly Christian. By 1881 it was reorganized as a co-educational institution. A notice in the South Kentuckian states that that the sexes met only in the lecture room or recitation hall, and then under the eye of the faculty.
South Kentucky College offered Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Letters degrees. The six departments were ancient and modern languages, English and history, mathematics, science, Bible and philosophy, and preparatory. In 1881 normal and commercial classes were added; in 1887 engineering was also added. SKC strongly emphasized music, voice culture, expression, and art. Students were able to gain certificates in piano.
Not surprisingly, students had access to two literary societies—Cordon Bleu and Attic Ants. These provided regular entertainments involving drama and music. The school had a 10-piece orchestra that performed at graduations. 1897 newspapers show a championship in the intercollegiate declamation contest. For a time SKU had a chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Male students were under military discipline. All students were required to wear uniforms. Drill teams from the school were featured in area celebrations.
College Year-Book lists enrollment as 184, but it reached 291 in 1902. Faculty numbered 12. A 1913 advertisement claimed every teacher was acquainted with every student. A 1907 ad noted that the faculty was able to give “special attention . . . to backward students.”
In 1908 the school underwent a name change to McLean College to honor missionary Archibald McLean. One reason given was that “Kentucky” was part of the name of a number of schools.
Following the disastrous fires of 1912, the school rebuilt, but the financial difficulties that followed, together with falling enrollment, caused the school to close in 1914.
Bricks and Mortar
In 1902 the South Kentuckian noted that “no more charming spot could be found in this portion of the South than the grounds of South Kentucky College.” Meachem describes the campus as being on a hilltop, the highest point in Hopkinsville. The campus was 12 acres, containing more than 100 trees, which provided “sylvan shade.” Even in 1907 the rural campus had signs “Keep Cows Off.”
Major fires in 1884, 1905 and 1912 destroyed most of the campus each time. The new building in 1884 was three-story brick with two wings and a 120 foot tower. The 1901 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows that the girls’ dormitory occupied the top two floors of the building. As advertised, the boys’ dormitory was off campus. The 1913 Sanborn Map—a fire later—shows a separate girls’ dormitory in a three-building campus.
The Transylvania University website says that after purchasing the McLean campus, it was divided into building lots and sold. Meachem says that the main building was still serving as Belmont Graded School in 1930.
School colors: Oxford Blue and White
Team name: One newspaper refers to the team as the Cadets
Newspapers report a baseball victory over Princeton Collegiate Institute in 1898 and a 6-6 tie in football against Hopkinsville High School that same year. The 1905 building featured a gymnasium, so basketball history begins in 1905. Typical opponents in all sports included high schools (Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Mooney), colleges (Nashville Dental, Cumberland, Bethel, Southern Normal, Ogden, Southwestern Presbyterian) and some club sides—Henry Rudy’s and Roy L. Culley’s of Paducah, Klub Kentucky, Company D)
Despite Miss Schooler’s assertion that “Southern girls are not much given to vigorous exercise,” SKC girls enjoyed "basket-ball" and played a match against the high school in 1907.
The 1884 building which burned in 1905. The inset is Miss Sophia Schooler, the physical culture instructor, cited below. Image from a 1900 Werner's Magazine. (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015023346623;view=1up;seq=395) accessed 12-18-2017
An 1897 newspaper image of female students at SKC doing barbell exercises. Note the uniforms. Image from the Hopkinsville Kentuckian (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069395/1897-08-06/ed-1/seq-7/) accessed 12-18-2017