Louisburg College had its beginning in the period that witnessed the emergence of the United States of America as an independent nation, the Methodist Church’s birth in America, and Franklin County and Louisburg Town’s establishment.
Settlers founded Franklin County in 1779 and named it in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Surveyors of Louisburg, a tribute to King Louis XVI of France, set a public commons on the highest ground point. This town commons, which became famous for its oak grove, is the Louisburg College campus’s location today.
Louisburg College evolved from three earlier institutions: Franklin Male Academy, Louisburg Female Academy, and Louisburg Female College. It is the oldest chartered two-year, church-related, co-educational college in the nation.
Franklin Male Academy
The Franklin Male Academy received its first charter in 1787 and officially opened on January 1, 1805, under Yale graduate Matthew Dickinson’s able direction. The curriculum available to students included English Grammar, geography, Latin, Greek, algebra, surveying, and astronomy. A large audience of trustees and parents performed the first students’ examinations on July 2, 1805. That two-story academy building still stands and serves as a reminder of the beginning of Louisburg’s educational opportunities. It now houses the Tar River Center for History and Culture.
Louisburg Female Academy
The second stage in Louisburg College’s evolution began on December 27, 1814, when the state legislature ratified the Louisburg Female Academy charter. 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 trustees renamed the female academy Louisburg Female Seminary. The seminary courses 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 Louisburg College’s evolution began in January 1855, when the state legislature authorized the transfer of property by Louisburg Female Academy’s trustees to Louisburg Female College Company’s directors. The directors moved the Female Academy building south of its original location and utilized it as a college annex until a fire destroyed it in 1927. The directors constructed a four-story, fifty-room brick Greek revival style building for the female college in 1857. It stands on the west campus, where the female academy building had formerly stood. This building, now called Old Main, is still in use today as the administrative building of Louisburg College.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, several significant changes took place at the college. The Duke family of Durham bought the establishment for $5,450 in 1891, and the institution became known as Louisburg College. The Duke family donated it to the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1907. Other changes in the early 1900s included expanding the campus by constructing the Davis Building, the west wing of Main Building, the Pattie Julia Wright Dormitory, and the Franklin Building. Most importantly, it was the reorganization of the college into an institution with a junior college rating.
Louisburg College became co-educational in 1931, and student enrollment immediately increased. In 1952, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited Louisburg College. In 1956, a planning committee of the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church recommended establishing two co-educational senior colleges and Louisburg College’s merger into one of the institutions. The college alumni and the citizens of Franklin County joined in opposing 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. The college significantly increased student enrollment and improved the faculty size, budget, and physical plant. In 1961, the college purchased the Mills High School property on the east side of Main Street and remodeled the building to serve as the college auditorium classroom. Over the next couple of decades and after a $4.2 million campaign was surpassed, the college constructed four dormitories, a library, a cafeteria, an auditorium/theatre complex, a student center, the Taft classroom building, and the Benson Chapel.
Over 235 Years of History
For over 235 years, Louisburg College has been a place where opportunity grows for students, faculty, and staff. We continue to celebrate the College's history and its legacy as the oldest private, two-year residential college in the nation.