1806-1924: Before the Move to Memphis

1785     Clarksville becomes Tennessee’s first incorporated city; named for General George Rogers Clark, frontier fighter, Revolutionary War hero and brother of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; it is founded on the Cumberland River on the Tennessee-Kentucky border in Montgomery County.  

1806    By 1806, the town realized a need for an educational institution and the Rural Academy was established as one of 27 Land Grant Academies.  It was possibly log buildings on Lot Number five in the original Town of Clarksville and a two-story brick building which could accommodate about 100 students.

1811    A charter issued in the Public Acts of Tennessee replaces the Rural Academy with Mount Pleasant Academy.

1825    Property is chartered to Clarksville Academy.

1832    Property is deeded to Clarksville Male Academy.

1848    February 4:  Masonic University of Tennessee, financed by the Tennessee Grand Lodge is established in conjunction with the Clarksville Male Academy.

December 5: The Board of Directors holds its first meeting.

Rev. W. F. Hopkins is appointed as the first president of the College.

1849    February 19:  First faculty meeting takes place. 

February 22:  The corner stone ceremony for the College’s first permanent building, “The Castle”. 

May 28:  First examinations are given to students by class year.

1850    The Castle Building is completed.

J. E. Wilcox is the first graduate of the College.

1851    November 11: Control of the College transfers from the Tennessee state Masonic organization to the local Masons. The Tennessee Legislature passes an Act establishing Montgomery Masonic College.

1852    The college has 46 male students enrolled and a faculty of 7.

1853    May 13:  The ownership of the property is returned to the Clarksville Male Academy who first had the property in 1832.

June 20: William M. Stewart becomes the College’s fourth president.

June 28:  The Academy trustees deed the property to Montgomery Masonic College. Many of the men involved sit on both boards.

1855     The financially strapped College is saved when President William M. Stewart negotiates its purchase by the Presbyterian Synod of Nashville.  The College is renamed Stewart College in honor of Pres. Stewart.  

1860     Robb Hall is the first residence hall to be constructed.  Funds for construction were donated by Colonal Robb.

1861   February 21:   The College closes when all of the students except two leave to serve in the Confederate Army. 

1865   January 19:  The Board meets for the first time since the closing of the College and is determined to reopen when possible.

1869    Stewart College reopens with Dr. John Bunyan Shearer as President.

1874    The Plan of Union was initially adopted by the Presbyterian Synods of Nashville, Memphis, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas as a basis of cooperation in the reorganization of Stewart College after the Reconstruction Era as the single Presbyterian College for these synods. The Synods of Arkansas and Texas withdrew to support colleges in their own boundaries. 

1875     May 31:  The charter for Southwestern Presbyterian University (SPU) is registered with the State of Tennessee.  Enrollment was 131 students. 

Charles Edward Diehl is born in West Virginia and would move the College to Memphis in 1925.

1877    Former president and benefactor William M. Stewart dies, and construction begins on the Stewart Cabinet Building as a memorial.

1878    The  Stewart Cabinet Building is completed and houses the valuable Vanuxem Mineral Collection. 

1879     The Stewart Chair of the Natural Sciences is the first endowed chair.

The title of “president” is replaced by “Chancellor”.

1880     The Chancellor’s residence is built on campus.

The College’s library of mostly scientific works is combined with the collections of the Stewart and the Washington Irving Literary Societies to form a library of nearly 4000 books.

1882    The first chapters of national fraternities are established: Kappa Sigma, Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

1884    The Journal becomes the first student publication.

1885    The School of Theology headed by Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, father of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, holds its first classes.

1887   The SPU Athletic Association is founded and the first Track and Field meet is held.

Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter is established.

1888    Football first played recreationally on campus.

1889    The Chemistry Medal for the highest average is established by B. H. Owen.       

1891    First known mention of an intercollegiate football game.

1892    The Catalog mentions baseball and tennis being played on campus.

1893    June: Students are organized by graduation year, or Classes, and these seniors are the first class to wear caps and gowns at Commencement.

1896  November:  A telephone for student use is placed in Robb Residence Hall.

First football season starts with games against University of Nashville, Bethel College and Vanderbilt University.

1898    A three-year Doctor of Philosophy degree is started.

A new gymnasium opens with two regulation size bowling alleys and hot water. Indoor basketball is played. 

1899    The first student annual, the Sou’wester, is published.

The first football homecoming game is played against Sewanee.

1900    A Bicycle Club is on campus. 

1901    Waddel Hall, Stewart Hall, the president’s residence and Robb and Calvin residence Halls are connected to the City of Clarksville sewer system.

Waddel Hall is damage by a tornado. 

1905    The Board allows women to attend classes, but they cannot earn credit.

1906    The Board authorized $500 for improvements to the baseball field.

1912    A brass band is organized by Robert M. McGee.

1913    A drama club called “Bats” is started.

1914    The faculty minutes indicated that women can earn credit for classes.

1915    In March, a vault is constructed to protect the College’s valuable papers.

September:  Spanish is taught for the first time.

1916    The Board acts to admit women on the same terms as men.

New Commons building is constructed  to house a dining hall and space for recreational activities.

1917    The First World War is affecting the College with half the students either leaving for service or home.

The School of Theology is abolished.

The Pals Drama Club is organized by Professor L. L. MacQueen.

Dr. Charles E. Diehl accepts the presidency of the College as “a venture of faith”.  

1918    The Honor Code is well established. 

Alpha Phi Epsilon Literary Society and the Students’ Army Training Corps are established. 

1919    The first proposal to move the College out of Clarksville is voiced.

An orchestra is organized, and a carnival is held.

The first issue of the student newspaper, the Sou’wester is published.

1920    Two honor societies, Alpha Theta Phi and the Torch Society, as well as the Stylus Literary Club are founded.

suit is brought by the College against Clarksville to get approval to move the College. 

The Board approves a name for the new college as Southwestern, The College of the Mississippi Valley.

1921     The Sociology Club is founded.

The Dewey Decimal System is first used to cataloging library books.

Honors courses begin.

Dr. R. B. Macon is appointed SPU physician.

Margaret Trahern is the first women to graduate.

Even though the courts have not yet ruled that the College can move to Memphis, Dr. Diehl selects Henry C. Hibbs as the architect of the new campus. 

A quarter mile cinder track is built on Shearer Field in Clarksville.

1922    The first women’s sorority, Chi Omega, is founded.

1923    The master’s degree is discontinued.

The Building Board for the Memphis campus holds its first meeting at the Hotel Chisca in Memphis.

A contract is awarded to Foster and Creighton Construction Co. to begin work on the administration building for the new campus.  This building was dedicated in 1925 as a memorial to Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer of New Orleans.

1924    A decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court allows the College to move to Memphis and the corporate name becomes, Southwestern, The College of the Mississippi Valley. The seal is amended to reflect the name change.

Fargason Athletic Field is named to recognize some of the Memphis land donors

The Lynx becomes the official mascot.

Belle Kinney (1890-1959), sculptor who recreated the Parthenon in Nashville is commissioned to design the lynx statues for the Ashner Gate post tops.