Louisburg College had its beginning in the period that witnessed the emergence of America as an independent nation, the birth of the Methodist Church in America, and the establishment of Franklin County and the town of Louisburg. Having evolved from three earlier institutions (Franklin Male Academy, Louisburg Female Academy, and Louisburg Female College), Louisburg College is the oldest chartered two-year, church-related, co-educational college in the nation.
Franklin County was founded in 1779 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Louisburg, named in honor of King Louis XVI of France, was surveyed and a public commons was set aside on the highest point of ground. This town commons, which became famous for its oak grove, is the location of the Louisburg College campus today.
Franklin Male Academy
The Franklin Male Academy received its first charter in 1787 and officially opened on January 1, 1805, under the able direction of Yale graduate Matthew Dickinson. The varied curriculum available to students included: English Grammar, Geography, Latin, Greek, Algebra, Surveying, and Astronomy. The first examinations were held on July 2, 1805, when students were examined before a large audience of trustees and parents. The two-story academy building still stands and serves as a reminder of the beginning of educational opportunities in the town of Louisburg. It now houses the Tar River Center for History and Culture.
Louisburg Female Academy
The second stage in the evolution of Louisburg College began on December 27, 1814, when the state legislature ratified an act chartering the Louisburg Female Academy. Subjects taught at the new female academy included: Reading, Writing, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, Painting, Drawing, Embroidery, Piano, and Dancing. In the 1850s, after much success, the female academy was called Louisburg Female Seminary. Among the courses offered by the seminary were: History, Botany, Algebra, Rhetoric, Chemistry, Geology, Logic, French, Latin, Greek, Guitar, and Calisthenics. The respectable reputation of the seminary contributed to a movement to establish a female college.
Louisburg Female College
The third stage of the evolution of Louisburg College began in January 1855, when the state legislature authorized the transfer of property by the trustees of Louisburg Female Academy to the directors of Louisburg Female College Company. The Female Academy building was moved south of its original location and was utilized as a college annex (until it was destroyed by fire in 1927). A four-story, fifty-room brick Greek revival building for the female college was constructed in 1857 on the west campus, where the female academy building had formerly stood. Old Main is still in use today as the administrative building of Louisburg College.
Although the female college continued to operate during the Civil War, General William Sherman’s troops commandeered the college to use as a military infirmary after his victory at the Battle of Bentonville in 1865. About 500 Union soldiers camped in the college and male academy groves for nearly three months.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a number of significant changes took place. The Duke family of Durham bought the college for $5,450 in 1891, and the institution became known as Louisburg College. It was then donated it to the N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1907. Other changes in the early 1900s included building expansion (Davis Building, the west wing of Main Building, the Pattie Julia Wright Dormitory, and the Franklin Building) and the reorganization of the college into an institution with junior college rating.
Louisburg College became co-educational in 1931, and student enrollment immediately increased. By the end of World War II, institutional debts had been paid and in 1952, Louisburg College was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1956, a planning committee of the NC Conference of the Methodist Church recommended the establishment of two co-educational senior colleges and the merger of Louisburg College into one of the institutions. The college alumni and the citizens of Franklin County joined to oppose the merger. A "Keep Louisburg at Home" campaign emphasized the depth of local support for the junior college. In response to this endeavor, the Conference decided to retain Louisburg College as an accredited junior college.
A period of revitalization and growth occurred during the 1950s - 1970s. Student enrollment, faculty size, budget, and the physical plant were significantly increased and improved. In 1961, the college purchased the Mills High School property (on the east side of Main Street) and the building was remodeled to serve as the college auditorium-classroom building. Over the next couple of decades (and after a $4.2 million campaign was surpassed), four dormitories, a library, a cafeteria, Taft classroom building, Benson Chapel, auditorium/theatre complex and a student center were also constructed.
Celebrating 233 Years of History
For 233 years, Louisburg College has been a place where opportunity grows for students, faculty, and staff. We continue to celebrating the College's history and its legacy as the oldest private, two-year residential college in the nation.