Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Showalter Family & Milligan College, part 2

            After his graduation from Milligan in 1891, C. D. M. Showalter took a job for a year running a school at Greendale, Virginia, a short distance northwest of Abingdon. His wife Lou Ella and his sister Kate accompanied him, and assisted in operating the school. Walter Lee Dudley continued courting Kate by mail, and tells in his memoirs of attending a religious meeting near Greendale and staying with the Showalters. The next year, 1892-93, C. D. M. Showalter was living at Tazewell, Virginia, where he was principal of another school. According to Dudley, “his sister, Miss Kate, was boarding with him and going to Tazewell Female Seminary” from which she graduated in June 1893. The building housing the seminary burned later in 1893, and the women’s college became part of Tazewell College.

Tazewell school, 1893
Lou Ella (English) and C. D. M. Showalter,
in the back row, the woman second from left and the man next to her, in the center

Tazewell Female Seminary, class of 1893
Sarah Katherine Showalter on the left

            The following year, C. D. M. left Tazewell to become principal of a school in Rockwood, Tennessee, which was the home address he gave in January 1894, when he re-entered the history of Milligan College. His alma mater had never been on a very solid financial footing. In 1893, the United States suffered one of its periodic economic panics, this one generally regarded as the worst before the Great Depression. The proximate cause was a speculative bubble based on railroad companies, which had expanded furiously over the previous two decades. The bubble burst in 1893, with the usual accompaniment of banks closing, high unemployment, and a widespread collapse in the economy.
            Milligan College was caught in the crunch. The trustees of the college were the legal owners of the property, and they had borrowed money to finance new buildings on the campus. Tuition revenue fell as students and their families were pinched. Josephus Hopwood, who was an inspiring teacher and spiritual leader, was a rather soft-nosed businessman, and at this point he was focussed on running for governor of Tennessee on a Prohibition platform.
            So on January 27, 1894, C. D. M. Showalter of Rockwood, Tenn. and J. L. English of Rocky Mount, Virginia, signed an contract with the trustees of Milligan College to assume responsibility for a debt of $3700, including principal, interest, insurance and other charges, which the trustees agreed to repay by June 1, 1900. The co-signer of the contract, and probably the source of most of the money involved, was James Lewis English, C. D. M.’s father-in-law, a prosperous farmer who lived in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Besides his daughter Lou Ella, he had sent a son to Milligan, Reverdy Johnson English, who graduated in 1895.

First paragraph of the contract
between C. D. M. Showalter and James Lewis English,
and the trustees of Milligan College

Signatures of C. D. M. Showalter and James Lewis English to the contract

            A transcription of the contract document can be read online, but see the note on sources at the end of this blog posting. Most of the contract deals with details of the loan and its repayment, but it includes one unusual and significant provision: “The possession of Milligan College is subject to a private agreement between J. Hopwood Leasor and C. D. M. Showalter.”

Opening lines of the private agreement between
C. D. M. Showalter and Josephus Hopwood

Closing lines and signatures to the private agreement between
C. D. M. Showalter and Josephus Hopwood

            Here is a full transcription of that private agreement, signed two days before the contract:

Milligan College, Tennessee
Jan. 25, 1894
            In consideration that the Board of Trustees of Milligan College have this day given a first lien mortgage deed to C. D. M. Showalter and J. L. English on all the college property and the Young Ladies Home.
            J. Hopwood and C. D. M. Showalter enter into the following articles of agreement.
1.         That J. Hopwood continue as president of the college for the term of six years from June 1894.
            That he shall have full power to select or discharge teachers and have entire control of the literary departments of the school and have the discipline of the institution under his management, and have the direction of such other duties, as belong to these department.
2.         That C. D. M. Showalter shall have the full business management of the college and Young Ladie’s Home.
            He shall collect all tuitions and fees and collect all board from those boarding at the Young Ladie’s Home. He shall pay all teachers and bear all other running expenses of both the Home and the College, and shall keep both buildings and grounds in as good repair as when he receives them and shall have control of all other business pertaining to these departments.
            2.         C. D. M. Showalter agrees on the request of J. Hopwood to make a statement in detail of the finances of the college and the home as often as three times each year.
3.         At any time that J. Hopwood desires to discharge said Showalter, he can do so on payment of all money which said Showalter and English have paid into institution with 6 per cent interest, to be paid semi-annually.
4.         J. Hopwood surrenders to the use of college and Ladies Home his pianos and all other furniture without other rent than the considerations here-after named.
5.         Said Showalter is to teach not more than five classes a day unless he so chooses, and Mrs. Showalter is to teach not more than four classes each day.
6.         Anything that said Showalter and Hopwood may not agree upon as to what department a question belongs, the department shall be determined by arbitration.
7.         J. Hopwood and Mrs. S. E. L. Hopwood shall continue the care of the girls in the home.
8.         It is mutually agreed that all stock shall be kept off of the campus.
9.         After all current expenses are paid in both home and college, J. Hopwood is to have one half of the profits and C. D. M. Showalter one half.
10.       Mrs. LaRue is to be boarded for $6.00 and the child Jessamine is not to be charged for.
11.                                                                               J. Hopwood
                                                                         C. D. M. Showalter

            In a nutshell, Josephus Hopwood was the academic administrator, C. D. M. Showalter was the financial administrator, and they were to split any profits. C. D. M. and his wife joined the faculty; Mr. and Mrs. Hopwood lived in the Ladies’ Home, in effect a girls’ dormitory, where they served as resident advisors. Mrs. LaRue was Mrs. Hopwood’s mother, who apparently also lived in the Ladies’ Home. The child Jessamine was the first of C. D. M. and Lou Ella (English) Showalter’s children, born August 15, 1892. Their second, Ernestine, was born at Milligan College, February 3, 1895.
            The terms of the contract make it clear that Showalter and English intended to rescue the college, not take it over. The trustees retained the right to terminate the arrangement at any time by repaying the money, as did President Hopwood. In the event, just a year later, a group of three faculty members obtained a loan and bought back the rights. They ran the school for a short time, while Hopwood pursued his unsuccessful campaign to become governor, but after the election Hopwood took over full responsibility in late 1896.
            It is hard to believe that much profit was being made from the deal while it lasted, and C. D. M. may have been eager to move on for another reason. In 1896 he was a awarded a scholarship to study mathematics in the graduate school of Johns HopkinsUniversity.  My father told me that graduate school had been an unhappy experience for his father; the required level of proficiency was higher than anticipated, and he decided not to continue to a degree. Even so, in the Milligan College Yearbook “New Horizon” for 1911-12, he included it in his list of accomplishments:

Principal at Greendale, Va., and Rockwood, Tenn. Teacher of Mathematics at Milligan. Post-graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. Principal and Superintendent Harriman city schools. Principal Tazewell College and Business School. Fire insurance adjuster and special agent for Southern Underwriters for Virginia and West Virginia. At present President and Treasurer of the Savings Investment Corporation, Roanoke, Va.

Harriman is a surprise in the list; it is a town in Tennessee, not far from Rockwood and also in Roane County. The list appears to be in chronological order, suggesting that after leaving Johns Hopkins, C. D. M. and his family returned to Tennessee for a time. In the last years of the 1890s, however, he was at Tazewell College. In the 1900 census he was recorded living in Tazewell, profession teacher, with his wife and three children, the newest arrival being my father, English Showalter, born October 15, 1897 at Snowville, Virginia, the home of C. D. M.’s parents.

            Also in 1900 C. D. M.’s name appears in a news item from the “Clinch Valley News” reporting the annual meeting of the trustees of Tazewell College.

            At a meeting of the incorporators of Tazewell College held at the office of J. N. Harman, in the town of Tazewell, Va., June 29th, 1900, there were present J. N. Harman, George W. Gillespie and Hon. J. H. Stuart, who were appointed incorporators of said college by a act of the Legislature of Virginia passed on February 5th, 1892, and also the following incorporators who have been associated with them under said act, to wit: J. A. Leslie, Prof. C. D. M. Showalter and W.C. Pendleton.
      On motion, the following Board of Trustees was elected to serve one year and thereafter until their successor shell be chosen, viz: Hon. W. B. Spratt, L. C. Shelburn, Prof. P. H. Williams, J. N. Harman, G. W. Gillespie, W. C. Pendleton, J. A. Leslie, W. J. Shelburne, Judge J. H. Stuart and Prof. C. D. M. Showalter

Tazewell College, late 1890s

According to his newspaper obituary, C. D. M. was president of Tazewell College for several years. My father’s recollection was that C. D. M., in partnership with John Newton Harman, a Virginia state senator from the Tazewell area, editor of the local newspaper and author of Annals of Tazewell County, had bought Tazewell College, and that C. D. M. sold his interest on moving to Roanoke in 1903. From that date on, he was a businessman, assisted by his wife in the early years. And Tazewell College was destroyed in a fire a few years later, just as the women’s seminary had been in 1893.

Obituary of C. D. M. Showalter from the Roanoke Times

            Milligan College did not advertise itself as a teachers’ college; it offered several courses of study, including business. It nonetheless inspired all the Showalters who went there to become teachers themselves. Following C. D. M. Showalter, Josiah Wesley Showalter returned to Pulaski County, Virginia, and according to an obituary by his brother G. H. P. Showalter, he was a farmer and school teacher his entire life; in the 1909-11 yearbooks for Milligan, he gives his occupation as principal of a high school near Snowville, Virginia. G. H. P. himself went immediately after graduation to become president of Lockney Christian College in Lockney, Texas, from 1895 to 1905, and then of Sabinal Christian College in Sabinal, Texas, from 1906 to 1907. Both had missions similar to Milligan’s, but neither school survived very long; Lockney opened in 1894 and closed in 1918, Sabinal opened in 1907 and closed in 1917. Edward Thomas Showalter, according to Ralph Stewart, attended Milligan but graduated from Peabody College in 1900. After graduating he taught in Nashville and in Woodville, Mississippi, before returning to his native region where for the rest of his life he pursued a triple career as farmer, preacher, and teacher in the Pulaski County public schools. Julia Rowlett (Showalter) Massie taught Latin in high school in Clifton Forge, Virginia, until her retirement. Edward Rodney Massie eventually became an insurance broker, but in the first few years after graduation he, like Julia, reported his occupation as teacher.

Sarah Katherine Showalter, c. 1891

            Sarah Katherine (Showalter) Dudley may perhaps not have attended Milligan, but she was certainly part of the college community in 1890 and 1891, when she met Walter Lee Dudley. After their marriage, they settled in Oranda, Virginia, near Strasburg, where he founded the Oranda Institute at which they both taught from 1895 to 1907, when he accepted a full-time position as a preacher in Pennsylvania. Lou Ella English, who graduated with her future husband C. D. M. Showalter in 1891, taught alongside him in several places in the 1890s, including Milligan itself. Teaching is a family tradition, which I look back on with pride, and I admire Milligan College for inspiring and preparing so many of the Showalters to become teachers.

The manuscript documents quoted and transcribed, and partially reproduced in this post, are used by permission of Milligan College. They can be found in Milligan College Archives, Hopwood Correspondence, 1868-1936. All rights belong to Milligan College without restriction. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Meredith Sommers, archivist at Milligan College, for her generous help in finding and sending materials for this post.
The text of the contract can be found online at; this version does not contain the notarized signatures and county clerk’s certificate of registration, which are included in the Milligan manuscript copy.
Census records can be found online at
Cornwell, Cynthia Ann. Beside the Waters of the Buffalo: A History of Milligan College to 1941 (Milligan College, Tennessee: Milligan College History Project, 1989).
Dudley, Walter Lee. Footprints on the Sands of Time: An Autobiography (Winchester, Virginia, 1943).
Hopwood, Josephus. A Journey Through the Years: An Autobiography (St Louis: The Bethany Press, 1932).

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