Barbourville Baptist Institute
By Principle Henry L. Pitman, 1908
On the banks of the Cumberland, snugly nestled in among the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky, reposes the little city of Barbourville, rich in historic lore. Here in the gloom of the primitive forest of 1750 Dr. Thomas Walker built the first log cabin ever erected in Kentucky by the hand of the white man. Here passes the "Wilderness Road" blazed by Boone in 1775; here stands the southern gateway to Kentucky's fertile soil, and while the great torrent of westward migration swept by on the north and south, there settled in the eddy among these hills the sturdiest of the pioneers from North Carolina and Virginia. From the earliest days down to the present, no foreigners ever settled here, and today nowhere in all the world can there be found Anglo-Saxon blood more pure than that which courses through the veins of these highlanders.
This is the home of the Barbourville Institute, founded in 1900 by the Cumberland River Baptist church of Barbourville and a number of consecrated Christians from other churches. The public school building was rented and school opened the first of January, 1900, and a large number of the Barbourville boys and girls were enrolled.
A Story of Sacrifice
In 1902 a small building fund was secured and a two-story brick building erected upon a pretty four-acre lot. The building fund was inadequate and an indebtedness of $4,000 was incurred. This indebtedness, coupled with the necessary expenses of maintaining the school upon the broad basis planned, proved a grievous burden to the loyal friends of the school. They had a burning desire to see the great native powers of these highlanders polished and turned into proper channels by Christian education, but they had no money with which to carry on the work commenced. Some gave the school more money than they kept back for themselves. But all they could do was to raise enough money to pay the running expenses and interest of the $4,000. The trustees were discouraged, it seemed impossible to hold on any longer. The Methodist Episcopal church wanted to buy the school, and a number of the trustees, disheartened, wanted to sell. A meeting of the board was called. The matter was discussed at some length :and it was almost decided Ito let the school go, when one of the gentlemen present arose said:Gentlemen, I have a little home just out yonder and it is the only shelter I have for my wife and little ones, but I will sell it from over their heads before I will see the school go."Another said;"All I have is in this school and when it is gone, all I have worked for for the last four years is gone, and, gentlemen, I had rather on until it is torn from our grasp."
So they decided not to sell.
The Home Board to the Rescue
Then the Southern Baptist Convention, through their Dr. A. E. Brown, came to their assistance. Last May the people of Barbourville gave $2,000 and the Convention $2,000, and all indebtedness was paid off. Whereupon the Convention gave the Institute $3,000 for a building fund, and four rooms were added to the administration building, together with quite a number of other improvements.
Prof. Henry L. Pitman, who has been connected with the school for the last three years, was elected president. An able faculty was selected from the following institutions of learning: Wake Forest College, and Newman, Kentucky University, Knoxville Business College, Williamsburg Institute, and the Girls' High School of Louisville.
Four departments are maintained; Normal, academic, business and music, each of these is a district school in itself, well equipped, modern, progressive. Two hundred and six students are enrolled, and there is reason to be the enrollment would have reached three hundred but for the small-pox in town this winter.
Reaches the Counties Around.
Most of the students attending the institute came from the surrounding country and, of course have to board in town. Hence arises the pressing need of dormitories. In order to do its greatest good and wield its mightiest influence over the young men and women of the mountains, the school must a home for its students. This is the crying need at present – dormitories.
God is blessing the efforts of our great denomination here and we thank him Dr. Brown, Dr. Powell and others who have done so much for us, and we are praying that he may raise up other friends for the school who will see that this mighty influence for the higher is not handicapped by want of dormitories. Yes, God is blessing our work. Our people are aroused, here lies the greatest undeveloped field for Baptist workers that Kentucky has to offer.
A good beginning has been made. Seventy out of the eighty-six common schools in Knox county were taught last fall by students from the institute. Forty-five young men and women are now in the Normal Department preparing to teach. But there are still over seven thousand boys and girls between six and twenty years of age in Knox county alone who are not in any school today. The inherent ability of these boys and girls may well be illustrated by the fact that the highest honors ever made in the class work of the State College at Lexington were made by a Barbourville boy.
[From The Baptist Argus, April 9, 1908, p. 2; via Baylor U. digitized documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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