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Western Theological Institute At Covington, Kentucky
From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, 1843

      It gives us sincere gratification this month to place before our readers an account of the new and flourishing institution established by our denomination at Covington, and we are happy to accompany the article with a fine copper-plate engraving of the edifice belonging to the Seminary.

      It will be recollected by many of our brethren that a General Convention of Western Baptists was organized at Cincinnati, in the month of November, 1833. At that meeting a constitution was adopted, among the provisions of which, it was stipulated that at each annual meeting, committees should be appointed to prepare reports on such subjects as might be deemed expedient; among the most prominent of which was Ministerial Education. In accordance with this provision of the constitution, a committee of five brethren was appointed, to prepare a report on this subject, including an inquiry respecting A central Theological Institution. - This committee consisted of S. M. Noel, J. M. Peck, S. W. Lynd, E. Fisher and E. Robins, who, the following year, presented an able report, prepared by J. M. Peck, several extracts from which we have appended to the present report, as illustrative of the views of the founders of the Institution, which views are in entire harmony with those which this Institution is designed to perpetuate. At the close of the report of that Committee, the adoption of the two following resolutions was recommended, viz:

      1. Resolved, That a Baptist Theological Institution of the character contemplated in the above report, ought to be established at some eligible point in the Western country.

      2. Resolved, That this committee be discharged, and that the subject of location, with any further measures it may be thought proper to adopt in relation to such an establishment, be referred to a select committee, consisting of the following brethren: J. L. Holman, E. Robins, J. M. Peck, J. Pratt, J. S. Willson, Cave Johnson, H. Malcom, George Matthews, G. C. Sedwick, J. E. Welch, S. W. Lynd, P. S. Gayle, Thos. P. Green, Thomas P. Jones, C. Vanbuskirk, J. Going, R. E. Pattison, E. Dodson, and U. B. Chambers. This committee, after mature deliberation, reported in favor of a central Theological Institution for the great Western Valley, and likewise recommended the immediate formation of a Western Baptist Education Society. Whereupon the following resolutions were adopted by the Convention.

      1. Resolved, That in the opinion of this Convention, the wants of the valley of the Mississippi require that there should be established an institution intended solely for the education of those whom the churches shall approve as called of God to preach the gospel.

      2. Resolved, That it is expedient that a Western Baptist Education Society be now formed. The same day, (November 10th,) during a recess of the Convention, “The WESTERN BAPTIST EDUCATION SOCIETY” was organized, and a constitution adopted, which provided for the appointment, by the Society, of a Board of Directors, consisting of two members from each Western State, and one from each Territory, whose duty it was made, “immediately after their election annually,” “to make choice of an Executive Committee of twelve members,” who should “have the entire management of the pecuniary affairs of the Society,” and who should “judge of the qualifications of applicants for patronage.” They were, moreover, authorized to “take measures for the establishment of the Theological Institution” contemplated in the resolution, as described above, and “if such measures proved successful,” they had power to determine the location, character, and general principles of the Institution, to appoint its first Trustees and Instructors, and to fix the tenure of their offices.”

      Of the original members selected by the directors as the Executive Committee, six only resided in Cincinnati and its immediate vicinity, viz: S. W. Lynd, E. Robins, N. S. Johnson, J. Stevens, J. Colby, and J. B. Cook; the others were located at a distance, in the different Western States. The six resident members, after spending five or six months in the examination, (both personally, and through their agent, Ezra Going,) of various sites in the vicinity of Cincinnati, fixed at length upon a tract of land in the rear of the city of Covington, Ky., as the most desirable location, and in the spring of 1835 they purchased, on their own responsibility, three several tracts of land adjoining each other, delightfully situated about three-fourths of a mile from the Ohio river, on elevated ground, overlooking the city of Cincinnati; the whole containing about 370 acres, for the sum of $33,250. An interesting reference to the existing and new population of the Mississippi Valley, and to the importance of a central Theological institution for the Baptist denomination, and the advantages of Covington as a centre of influence, was furnished in the First Annual Report of the Western Baptist Education Society, shortly after the purchases were made. The Executive Committee having completed these purchases, in order to provide for the payments, which early fell due, succeeded in the summer of 1835 in effecting a sale of 90 acres of the land, (less three acres, reserved for a church and a high school,) for the sum of $22,500, of which amount they received within twelve months $10,000 in cash: and the remaining sum of $12,500 has since, with the exception of a few hundred dollars, been realized.

      From the date of these purchases, in 1835, until the spring of 1838, embracing a period of nearly three years, although the Committee held regular monthly meetings, yet, from a variety of causes, which it is not now necessary to detail, but little was attempted beyond renting the land from year to year for farming purposes.

      During the year 1838, the Executive Committee, perceiving that the undertaking would prove disastrous, unless immediate measures were taken to extricate it from the embarrassments which threatened it, committed the enterprise to the management of an energetic superintendent, who proceeded forthwith to the adoption of preliminary measures: and early in the following year presented a plan, which was unanimously adopted, for laying out the whole property in town lots, reserving an oblong square of 12 acres, beautifully situated upon the highest ground in the tract, as the site for the public buildings.

      Immediately after the property was thus laid out, a regular system of public improvements was commenced, by neatly enclosing and grading the public square, grading the streets, commencing the erection of the of the public buildings, and enclosing and laying out an extensive Rural Cemetery, with other improvements.

      The activity thus manifested, gave an earnest of the determination of the Executive Committee to prosecute the enterprise with energy and perseverance, and the purchasers of lots were thereby encouraged to commence building and improving their property; and thus, from that period, the public and private improvements have been steadily advancing, so that within three years, extending up to the present time, about one hundred and fifty buildings have been erected within two squares of the public grounds.

      In the autumn of 1839, the Executive Committee, having already, in conformity with the power granted by the constitution of the Western Baptist Education Society, “taken measures,” as we have seen, “for the establishment of a Theological Institution,” and having witnessed the “success of such measures,” and “determined the location, character and general principles of the institution,” proceeded to appoint its first trustees, and to fix the tenure of their offices, in accordance with the constitution of the Society, and in the winter of 1839-40, the trustees applied for and obtained, a liberal charter from the Legislature of Kentucky, under the style of the “Western Baptist Theological Institute of Covington, Kentucky,” under which charter the trustees forthwith organized themselves into a Board, and immediately afterwards, the entire property held in trust by the Western Baptist Education Society, together with all its liabilities and obligations, were legally conveyed and transferred to the trustees of the Western Baptist Theological Institute.

      "The public square has been laid out with symmetry and taste, and embellished with a great variety of forest trees, evergreens, and shrubbery. One of the principal theological buildings, has been erected, an elegant brick structure, four stories high, exclusive of the basement, surmounted by a balustrade or observatory, commanding one of the most extensive and beautiful panoramas which can be presented in this or any other country, embracing in its circuit the cities of Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport, with the beautiful Ohio gliding majestically between them, and bursting upon the sight at either extreme of the landscape - the whole scene relieved in the back ground by lofty hills and dark woodlands. This edifice is 120 feet long, and 46 in width. Its internal arrangements are exceedingly neat and convenient, and will accommodate about one hundred students. Its aspect is very commanding and beautiful, as seen from any point, but especially from the opposite city of Cincinnati. Neatness, strength and durability have been consulted in its construction. The Pavilion, or Mansion House, at the west end of the public square, presents a beautiful front of 82 feet, including wings, embosomed in a grove o forest trees, and from the colonade in its rear, overlooks the entire public grounds.

      A very interesting and valuable appendage to the property of the Institute, is the Linden Grove Cemetery, located one-fourth of a mile from the public square, at the extreme southwestern limit of the whole tract, and in the midst of the richest and most romantic scenery. It was laid out and enclosed in 1841.

      The gardener's lodge, a neat brick edifice, commands the entrance to the Cemetery, and near the centre of the grounds stands the public or receiving vault, for the temporary deposite of bodies. The tract now appropriated to this use, contains about 22 acres, and presents sufficient variety of surface to furnish appropriate sites for private vaults and tombs, as well as numerous lots for families. The whole area has been tastefully laid out, and embellished with forest trees, evergreens and shrubbery, skirting its various paths and avenues. It is intended to continue these improvements from year to year, and, when necessary, to add to the ground a beautiful tract adjoining, of about 30 acres, principally of woodland, owned by the Institute; so that for extent, beauty of location, and general attractiveness, it shall be unrivalled by any cemetery in the Western country.

It has already been stated, that in the summer of 1835, a sale was effected of 90 acres of the land of the Institute, at $22,500, since which there has been realized, from public and private sales made from year to year, $39,500, making an aggregate of $62,000, which has been appropriated as follows, viz: In payment of original purchase money and interest $23,000; in the erection of the theological edifice about $25,000; of the Pavilion $7,500; in enclosing and grading the public square and the Cemetery; in the erection of the gardener’s lodge, the public vault, and improvement of the ground, and in opening and grading two miles of the streets, intersecting the property in various directions, $6,500.

      The present indebtedness on the property is: $126,000. [Achart of expenses is given in the article. Page 196.

      From the foregoing statement, the inquiry may very naturally be suggested, why has the opening of the Institution been delayed, and any part of its indebtedness suffered to remain, while such an amount has been expended in laying out, grading and embellishing the grounds, opening streets, and other improvements. To this it may be replied, that it early became the fixed determination of the Trustees, (and all their measures have been shaped to conform thereto,) to adopt such a policy as should apply the proceeds of the cash sales of lots, to the reduction of the debt to the greatest possible extent; and thus extinguish, at the earliest period, every claim against the Institute. They clearly foresaw, however, that this could not be effected, but by adopting simultaneously, and strenuously pursuing, a prudent, but at the same time an active and resolute system of public improvements. Hence the opening of the several streets - the enclosing of the Theological Square - the erection, first, of the Pavilion or Mansion house, and subsequently of one of the main theological buildings - the enclosing and laying out of the Rural Cemetery - he erection therein of the public vault, and the gardener's lodge - the opening of public avenues and walks, both in the "Theological Square and in the Cemetery, and adorning each with ornamental trees and shrubbery, all these have been clearly indispensable to the success of the whole operation; for without the full demonstration furnished by these important and permanent improvements, steadily pursued from year to year, the sales of town lots could never have been made, and the numerous buildings thereon would not have been erected, and the whole enterprise would have proved ultimately, like too many others, a splendid and disastrous failure.

      To meet the pressing responsibilities of the Trustees, there will be required immediately, the sum of $5,000, and during the year 1844, the further sum of $5,000, to be applied as follows, viz: To extinguish the balance of the debt to the United States Bank, $3,200.

      To extinguish one-half of the balance of the debt to the heirs of the late Robert Kyle, deceased, 2,500.

      To pay the balance of the interest now due to Jonathan Batcheller, Esq. 1,500 To pay money borrowed of sundry individuals, and for outstanding debts due for materials and labor, 2,800 = total of $10,000.

      The amount of aid thus timely afforded, will effectually relieve the property of the Institute from all embarrassment. The remaining balance of debt ($7,000) can, without difficulty be deferred, and paid from the proceeds of sales of property at good prices; but unless aid is soon afforded through the liberality of our brethren and friends, to meet the claims as above stated, the Trustees will be compelled to make sales at very heavy sacrifices, of an important part of the valuable property still held by them, and thus essentially diminish the means which they have hitherto relied upon for carrying out their original plan ; and thereby, in a great degree, the design of the Institution will be, at least, retarded, if not defeated. But if the aid now asked is afforded, the Trustees will be able to retain this property still in possession, until sales can be advantageously made, from time to time, and thus the ardent anticipations of all its friends will be fully realized.

      In addition to the amount required for this purpose, the Trustees present the claims of this Institution, for the endowment of professorships and for a theological library. It is proposed to commence the Institute upon a foundation of three professorships of $15,000 each. The number may be hereafter increased to five, or more. It is intended that the library shall be an extensive one, and it o require a separate fund of from five to ten thousand dollars at the commencement. For both these objects the Trustees appeal on the present occasion to their brethren, and to the friends of theological education generally throughout the country.

      The trustees have delayed, from year to year, this first appeal to the liberality of the churches, and to the friends of education at large, in behalf of this enterprise, in the hope that they might be able themselves, from the proceeds of current sales of property, to prosecute the enterprise to its successful close, without extraneous aid; and this would unquestionably have been accomplished, had not the well known, unexpected and unprecedented pecuniary embarrassments of the country interposed. During these embarrassments, however, they have by no means been disheartened, but have continued steadily to prosecute the work by making contracts for labor and materials, payable in building lots at fair market prices; and in this manner the necessity of money contracts has been, to a great extent, avoided.

      The inquiry has frequently been made, “How soon will the Institution go into operation?” The trustees deeply regret that there should be any further delay in making a commencement, but depending entirely, as such an institution must, upon its endowments for its income, (since tuition is in all cases to be gratuitous,) it will be readily seen that a commencement cannot be made with any prospect of permanency, until such an income shall have been secured.

      The Trustees have, from the first, determined to avoid the reproach into which so many similar efforts have fallen, of commencing the institute with feeble and contingent resources, and after an inefficient and spasmodic existence of a few months or years, being subjected to the mortifying necessity of a partial suspension of the object, or of its entire abandonment.

      The details in the foregoing pages will furnish data from which to judge of the probable period when a favorable commencement can be made. On this point it will be sufficient to say that it will greatly depend,

      First, upon the liberal dispositions with which the churches and our more wealthy brethren respond to this appeal. Or should the benefactions of our brethren, in addition to furnishing the relief from existing indebtedness, which we ask, fail of making permanent endowments necessary for a favorable commencement, then it will depend,

      Secondly, upon the improvement of the financial affairs of the country, so far as to enable the trustees to dispose of or lease building lots at a fair value, and thus furnish the requisite endowments. It will at once be seen that if the trustees are compelled to rely upon the latter alternative, several years longer must inevitably elapse before the seminary can go into operation. The trustees, however, indulge the ardent hope that the liberality of the friends of ministerial education will interpose, and that means will be thus afforded for the early and successful commencement of the theological school.

      It may be proper here to state, that in the prosecution of this enterprise thus far, the Trustees have never sought assistance, nor have they received any pecuniary aid whatever, by contributions or donations from their brethren; but have made all their payments, and carried forward all the improvements thus far, entirely from resources drawn from the sales of the property originally purchased. The Trustees, however, acknowledge their obligations to several individuals, who nobly came forward at the commencement of the undertaking to sustain it by loans of money at simple interest. They have, however, obtained no money on loans from any banking or monied institution whatever.

      They will also add, that from the commencement of the undertaking to the present time, not a dollar has been received by any individual of the trustees for any services they have rendered ; nor has any loan or payment of money been made to them or either of them, notwithstanding their labors have occupied no ordinary portion of their time, and have been connected with a very heavy amount of pecuniary responsibility.

      The Trustees have thus presented a plain statement of facts for the consideration of the churches and of their brethren generally. They have indeed greatly mistaken the importance of this cause if the interests which cluster around it, and the claims which it urges, are second to any other of the various benevolent enterprises, which have enlisted the prayers, and appealed to the sympathies, and solicited the benefactions of the denomination.

      The ultimate destiny of the United States is inevitably associated with the future condition of the Western Valley. The interests of the north and south are centered here; and the exertions which these portions of our country have, for several years past, been making, through moral and religious influence, sufficiently indicate our sense of the immense importance of the West, to the country and to the world. Our brethren east and south, have more at stake in the institutions of the Valley, than they have in their own institutions. It must be apparent to all persons of ordinary foresight, that the pastors and evangelists of the western churches must, to a very great extent, originate among themselves, and receive their education in the West; and that even those in the East who desire to pursue a course of instruction, with a view to settlement in the Valley, will find it essential to their highest success to acquire their theological knowledge and their general training in this field.

      We ask the solemn and prayerful attention of our brethren in all parts of the United States to these points, and earnestly hope that their reflections will lead to corresponding action in aiding to mould the infant but giant-like growth of the western valley. Especially would we appeal to our brethren to whom the Lord has committed property, to take this enterprize into serious consideration, and before they depart hence to their high and eternal reward, to dispose of that property so as to make it, through the gospel which it may be the means of dispensing, a sweet savor of life unto life to descending generations.

      Finally, the trustees desire to record, with sentiments of devout gratitude, the manifestations of Divine goodness which have been so apparent throughout this undertaking, and they entertain the firm persuasion that to this interposition, they are indebted for the signal success which has hitherto crowned their labors.

      They commenced the arduous undertaking, and have prosecuted it steadily from year to year, in the full confidence of its ultimate success. - They have exulted in the bright anticipation that by persevering exertions, this institution, situated in the centre of the Mississippi Valley, sustained by the whole weight of the denomination, and so accessible from the East, from the West, from the North, and from the South, would hereafter prove an invaluable legacy to the churches, that when their toils on earth shall have ceased, others would enter with their hearts into their labors, and cherish with more intense solicitude than they have done, these sacred interests, and that under their auspices this institution will become “a radiator point of grace and truth,” whose increasing splendors, ascending up on high will shed its glories afar over the western churches from age to age, penetrating, enlightening, and cheering the moral wastes of this great valley, and extending its holy influence to other and distant lands.


[From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, 1843, 193-200. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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