Will Mayfield College
Marble Hill Missouri
Marble Hill, MO is in a section of the state foreign to my experience. We would just say, “Down toward the boot heel.” When a copy of Ozark Glory was offered on e-bay, the asking price was far out of my range, but it turned out that a copy appeared in the Western Manuscript Collection at Rolla, so I was able to access and use it during a 2010 visit. The Will Mayfield Heritage Foundation now has an Internet presence.
Will Mayfield College began as Mayfield-Smith Academy in Sedgeville, MO in 1878. It was founded by William Henderson Mayfield with support from Dr. H. J. Smith. Mayfield believed that the school was an answer to “the low grade of educational interests in Southeast Missouri and the great lack of moral and religious culture.” The new school received the support of the St. Francois Baptist Association. In 1880 the school moved to Marble Hill, a small country town in Bollinger County. The new campus was in a healthful location with “pure water” and “beneficial zephyrs.” In addition, it was free of the vice associated with larger towns. The first main building—Academic Hall—was completed in 1885. In 1903 the name of the school was changed to Will Mayfield College to honor the son of the founder.
The 1927 Ozark Glory shows a total enrollment of around 113. The college division had 71 enrolled—21 Sophomores and 50 Freshmen. The academy had 42 enrolled—18 Seniors, 10 Juniors, 11 Sophomores and 3 Freshmen. The list of faculty shows that the curriculum was traditional—English, mathematics, physics, zoology, languages and history. Will Mayfield College had two literary society chapters—Mark Twain and Wimicoli. It offered a glee club and both public speaking and debating opportunities. Students participated in academic organizations and two different organizations for religious activity.
Southeast Missouri State’s “Almost Yesterday” series notes, “Graduates of Will Mayfield College generally became teachers and administrators, and the college consistently claimed that there were more teachers in Missouri with Will Mayfield diplomas than from any other state college.”
A 1926 fire, which destroyed the women’s dormitory, and the Great Depression both cut into Will Mayfield’s funds and enrollment. After a temporary closure in 1930, the college closed for good in May 1934.
Bricks and Mortar
When the college closed, some campus buildings were sold as residences or removed to other locations. Two buildings remained—Academic Hall and the Arts and Science Building (completed in 1927). These sat empty until 1941 when they were sold to a woman who wanted to create a hospital. This plan failed. Finally Academic Hall was sold to El Nathan to house a retirement home. Arts and Science Building now is home to the Bollinger County Natural History Museum. Academic Hall now houses the Will Mayfield Heritage Foundation.
Team name: Bruins
Colors: Blue and Gold
Despite the low enrollment, Will Mayfield was able to play competitive football though they were on the short end of two historical beatings—110-0 to Missouri Normal (Southeast Missouri State) in 1916 and 119-6 to Murray State in 1928. Three 1926 opponents—Carbondale State Normal (University of Southern Illinois), Murray State Normal (Murray State University) and Hall Moody Junior College (University of Tennessee-Martin) now play NCAA Division I.
The Bruins were able to defeat Flat River Junior College 25-0 and later played that school to a scoreless draw. Losses were to Southwestern Presbyterian University from Memphis in addition to the three current Division I schools.
National Register Survey photo of Academic Hall (left) and Arts and Science Building (right). (http://dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/12001176.pdf) accessed 11-10-2017
Centurian, one of two health clubs organized to promote healthy lifestyles for Will Mayfield co-eds. (Ozark Glory, Courtesy of Western History Manuscript Collection-Rolla)