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Kentucky Baptists and
Bethel Baptist College in 1933

By Frank M. Masters, 1953
      The year just closed, from a financial standpoint, was the most tryjng in the history of Kentucky Baptists. With rare exceptions, the Co-operative Program and mission remittances from the churches showed a serious and steady decline throughout the year. The total receipts that passed through the hands of the Treasurer this year were $250,591.45 and $80,912.05 was available for State Missions which was $7,897.38 less than the year previous. The tragic result of debt in this time of depression was illustrated in the closing of the old historic Bethel College, Russellville, which ended its eighty-five years of service on January 21, 1933. The report of the Baptist Education Society of Kentucky gives some facts concerning the closing of the College as follows:
"The School was about to lose its grade A standard. It had a bonded indebtedness of $100,000 secured by all the property and a general endowment of $63,927.09. On December 14, the College had to default on interest payment. There were already current bills and unpaid salaries amounting to $5,327.56. Under the circumstances it was deemed necessary to close January 21, 1933, that being the close of the first semester."
      The report continues:
"This course left the college in charge of the liquidating process for six months. President (F.M.) Masters, through wise and tactful management, with the fine cooperation of the Trustee for bondholders (a Trust Company in Bowling Green), has reduced the outstanding bonds to $72,000, secured now by all property and $42,000 of general endowment. . . . There was no source from which the president's salary could be paid, while he was carrying on the hard task of liquidating the school. Accordingly, the Board of Directors of this Society continued, until November 1 (1933), Bethel's quota of distributable funds. President Masters and his Board of Trustees deserve thanks and hearty appreciation of this society for the intelligent way they have managed this task and for the fine manner in which they have conserved Baptist interests and Baptist integrity."
      The report on Schools and Colleges read before the General Association by President H. E. Watters of Georgetown College, gave some additional facts concerning the closing of Bethel College as follows:
"We are pained to report that one of the schools, Bethel College, found it advisable to close, but through the efforts of the two Presidents, Bethel College was merged with Georgetown, so in a way it still lives. The alumni of the two schools were united and the records transferred to Georgetown, so that the old students of Bethel are not . . . . without College affiliation. The Enlow Ministerial aid fund, amounting to a little over $21,000, that has aided young preachers at Bethel since 1868 was transferred to Georgetown College, and it is continuing its great service there . . . . In the judgment of the Committee, Dr. F. M. Masters is greatly to be commended for the splendid ability and leadership manifested in the manner in which he was able to close out Bethel College so as to conserve the traditions of the College, the sympathy and the interests of the alumni, and especially the friends and creditors of the college."
      All the property of Bethel College was sold November 1, 1943 and outstanding bonds taken up and the bondholders satisfied.

[From Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 519-520. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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