Storer College

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

1865-1955

E-Travel

Researchers are fortunate that so much remains of this historic black college.  While no yearbooks exist, a number of photos of faculty, students and activities remain in the collection of the West Virginia and Regional Studies Center.  Additionally, some key buildings have been repurposed as part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  Missions: A Monthly Baptist Magazine also has a multi-page sketch of the history of the school to 1920.

History

Storer College began as a school to provide primary-level education to the children of freed men at the end of the Civil War.  Under the leadership of the Reverend Nathan Cook Brackett, the Home Mission Society of the Freewill Baptist Church and the Freedman’s Bureau operated the school in the Lockwood House. 

 

In response to a need for teachers, John Storer of Maine offered $10,000 to the school with three conditions—that it become a degree-granting college, that it be open to all applicants regardless of race or sex, and that the Freewill Baptists would match his gift.  The Storer Normal school opened in March 1868.  Even then, the school offered only basic high school and normal classes. But by the turn of the century it added college preparatory classes and industrial programs for skilled craftsmen, resulting in the building of dormitories. 

 

 

Enrollment peaked before World War II, as the school offered Bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education, English, Social Science, Home Economics and Physical and Biological Sciences. In the early years the Jubilee Singers from Storer toured the Northeast giving concerts to raise funds for a girls' dormitory.  The music program also featured a band, an orchestra, and a glee club.  Famed jazz arranger Don Redman was a graduate of Storer.  The two literary societies were the Lincoln Debating Society and the Women’s League.  Students also published a newspaper.

 

World War II and the creation of other colleges for blacks cut into the student pool.  Storer received some financial support from the state but was primarily funded by the Free Will Baptists.  The Baptists became increasingly penurious in their support, and following the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the state cut off funding entirely.  Therefore, Storer College was forced to close in 1955.  At the time of closure, Storer had only 88 students.

Bricks and Mortar

The Normal School opened on Camp Hill overlooking the Potomac River.  The state provided the farm and buildings.  The central building was Anthony Memorial Hall, built in 1850, predating the college.  A severe fire on October 24, 1928 burned the Hall down to the walls.  It was later rebuilt.  Cook Hall, a women’s dormitory, was added later.  One of the original campus features was John Brown’s Fort, scene of the last stand of the ill-timed abolitionist and his followers.

After the college closed, the buildings stood empty until 1962 when the Park Service took over the campus as an  information center for the national park.  Some older buildings were razed, but others were renovated.  Anthony Hall and the library, Cook Hall and the John Brown’s Fort are all part of the Park.  Even Lockwood Hall has been renovated. 

Anthony Memorial Hall (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/wv0368.photos.172551p/) accessed 10-31-2017

 

Sports

      Team name:  Golden Tornado

 

College Football Data Warehouse list games from 1898 to 1938.  But the first newspaper report was of a 1908 game with Armstrong Manual Training School.  In the early years most opponents in football, track and baseball tended to be Washington/Baltimore area high schools—Armstrong, M-Street High School, Dunbar and Morgan.  In 1931 the Middle Atlantic Athletic Association was formed, so Storer’s opponents became Cheyney and Downingstown Industrial from Pennsylvania, Deleware State, Bordentown Industrial of New Jersey, and Princess Anne Academy (now Maryland-Eastern Shore) and Maryland State Normal (now Towson State) of Maryland.  A 1949 schedule lists seven opponents.

Isabelle Stewart, Raymond McNeal, and Odetta Johnson sit on the lawn at school holding a school pennant in 1916.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storer_College#/media/File:Storer_College_Students_with_School_Banner,_Harpers_Ferry,_W._Va.tif

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