Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
mountains mists a
light in the mountains, part 2
Truett McConnell College,
Holding Forth The Flame of Knowledge For
We continue the exciting story
of how Truett
McConnell College, Cleveland, Ga.,
grew from the foundations of the Hiawassee Academy
the Blairsville Collegiate Institute (1904-1930). In this 60th year of
college’s founding, we celebrate the fanning of the flame of knowledge
sprang up and kept growing because people nourished the vision.
Truett Junior College, Inc.
From 1930 through 1944, the
flame of an
institution of higher learning lay dormant. But many people remembered
Academy and the
Institute. The flame was there, awaiting another ignition.
Another Mountain Preachers’
School was held
at Blairsville in July 1944.
Who preached the sermon that
ignited the flame
as Rev. Ferdinand C. McConnell had done in 1886? The person’s name is
to this writer, but several factors were present to remind the gathered
preachers that the time was right to propose a new Christian college in
Dr. George Washington Truett
died July 7, 1944.
He had become
a model for visionary ministers who set aggressive goals and worked to
them. The ministers talked about establishing a college in his memory.
The Great Depression was past. America’s
involvement in World War II, although taking a toll on young lives, had
a raise in economic levels through work associated with the war effort.
the young men who would be returning from war when it ended would
The vision was born in the
several men. Among them were the Rev. Claud C. Boynton, Rev. L. Clinton
Dr. W. A. Taliaferro, John B. Payne (layman), Dr. Leslie S. Williams,
M. Nicholson, Mr. Frank Shuler (Union County Superintendent of Schools
layman), and Rev. Clarence Voyles. Mountain preachers and mountain
seized the vision, fanned the flame.
After the Preachers’ School had
above-named men met for prayer and discussion in the basement of First Baptist Church,
where Rev. Claud C. Boynton was pastor. The dream was turned into a
flame of knowledge was again ignited.
After several meetings, a
committee drew up
a charter and the men approved it.
The charter named the new school
Truett Junior College, Inc. It was legally filed in Superior Court of Union County,
on September 15,
Foundation and Founding
Desiring that the college have a
foundation and adequate sponsorship, the next step was to present the
the Georgia Baptist Convention. Dr. Leslie S. Williams, professor at Tift College,
Forsyth, gave the resolution at the Georgia Convention on November 13, 1944.
was referred to the Convention’s Executive Committee for study. Rev.
Boynton and others spoke in favor of the resolution.
At the 1945 Georgia Baptist
resolution to establish Truett
an appropriation of $25,000 was designated from the convention’s
funds. A committee was appointed to “recommend…the best location and
securing additional financial support.” (from Georgia Baptist
Minutes, 1945, pages 80-81).
A “Committee of Ten” was
appointed by the
Convention’s Executive Committee to do preliminary work relative to
fundraising. From November, 1945, through March, 1946, various north Georgia
vied for the college’s location and pledged land, money and endowment.
Blairsville was among the towns vying for the location.
At the March 12, 1946 meeting of the
Convention’s Executive Committee, the announcement was made that Cleveland, Georgia
would be the site.
Several factors entered in. The
was still within a mountain county. The college would draw students
broad area of Georgia
and elsewhere, and having the college south of high mountains such as
Gap and Neel Gap would facilitate access at a time when the state and
were still recovering from effects of World War II, scarcities in tires
transportation. Citizens of Cleveland
had pledged more in acreage, building materials, money and utility
The Christian Index,
the Georgia Baptist Convention, announced in its July 11, 1947 issue that the
new college to
honor the late Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando C. McConnell would
located at Cleveland,
A massive area-wide rally was
held in Cleveland,
on July 23, 1946,
the official founding date of Truett-McConnell Junior
College. Rev. L.
Clinton Cutts, then pastor of First Baptist
McCaysville, Ga., temporary chairman of the
of Trustees, presided. A large crowd of Convention officers, ministers,
citizens of a broad area attended the rally. Five persons who had
attended the Hiawassee
Academy when the
Rev. George W. Truett
taught there were present. They were Mrs. J. Miles (Maggie) Berrong of
Hiawassee; Mr. B. R. Dillard of Dillard; Mr. and Mrs. Andrew P. Ritchie
Clayton; and Mr. John A. Earl of Lakemont.
Sixty years had passed since the
Rev. F. C.
McConnell had ignited the spark for education on the courthouse steps
Hiawassee. From Cleveland,
Ga., the flame was kindled
and the vision
was stirring toward reality.
Opens Its Doors
Much work ensued from the July 23, 1946
until the college opened doors to students on September 15, 1947. Facilities
for classes and
administrative offices had to be arranged. A curriculum and faculty had
assembled. Plans for accreditation had to be drawn up. Arrangements for
boarding students to live with citizens in the town were made.
Fifty-four charter students and
faculty and staff met in convocation with the first president, the Rev.
Loomis Clinton Cutts leading the processional. In a little more than a
Dr. Cutts and others had formulated plans and the word was “Go!” Much
cooperation had brought about a miracle in little more than a year.
I was in that first group of
meeting on September
15, 1947. We had a vision. I had a distinct sense of mission
calling to be in that place at that time in a brand new college. It was
exhilarating and motivating. And so has it been in the sixty years
remain closely associated with the “light in the mountains.” In this
anniversary year, the vision continues. The flame still glows brightly,
taken on a new aura. “Veritas liberat” is the motto, “Truth liberates.”
Jones; published Mar. 2, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated August 4,
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