College History

Louisburg Roots

Louisburg College had its beginning in the period that witnessed the emergence of the United States of America as an independent nation, the birth of the Methodist Church in America, and the establishment of both Franklin County and the town of Louisburg.

Settlers founded Franklin County in 1779 and named it in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Surveyors of the town 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 location of the Louisburg College campus 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 the able direction of Yale graduate Matthew Dickinson. The curriculum available to students included English Grammar, geography, Latin, Greek, algebra, surveying, and astronomy. A large audience of trustees and parents performed the examinations for the first students on July 2, 1805. That 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 trustees renamed the female academy 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 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.

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 the expansion of the campus by constructing the Davis Building, the west wing of Main Building, the Pattie Julia Wright Dormitory, and the Franklin Building but most important 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 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. The student enrollment, faculty size, budget, and 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 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, Taft classroom building, and the Benson Chapel.

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 celebrate the College's history and its legacy as the oldest private, two-year residential college in the nation.