Oak Lawn School Waxahachie High School
(This is a condensed and partial version of a longer research work written by Billy R. Hancock, Junior Historian sponsor, during 1974-75 with research aid by his local history students. The original full-length article is on file in Sims Library and was done as a prelude to obtaining a Texas State Historical Marker for the historic site, which now stands in front of Marvin Elementary School).Introduction
Marvin College, starting as a private Methodist school, would resemble public schools of today, but with a curriculum designed for ten years. It contained primary, preparatory and collegiate departments. In the 1870's the curriculum was a classical one, but in the 1880's the trend moved toward a more practical curriculum. In the 1870's Marvin College granted the Bachelor of Arts, Mistress of Arts, Master of Arts, Mistress of English Literature and honorary degrees. During the 1880's only the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts and Mistress of English Literature were granted. During its time, the college had a band, literary societies, a college newspaper, alumni association, an outstanding music department, and it implemented newer curriculum developments. In its most successful days, the college enrolled more than 350 students.
Though it started out on a sound financial footing, the college soon experienced serious money problems, causing its loss to the Methodist Church. The Northwest Texas Conference of the Methodist Church worked for several years to regain the property and did so in 1877, only to lose control finally in 1879.
Reverend S.D. Akin and Professor Smith Ragsdale operated preparatory departments for the Waxahachie District Methodists before Marvin College began operation in its new building in 1871.
Reverend J .W .P .McKenzie became the president of the college in 1871 and served one year. With his departure, Reverend J .M. Pugh served as president until the end of the 1873-74 school year. The church lost ownership of the college in December of 1874. Leadership of the college has not been determined for the year 1874-75.
Dr. M. B. Franklin administered a non-sectarian school under the name of Marvin College during the 1875-76 session. During the next year, Mrs. E. H. Horner operated a school for young ladies at the college site.
During the school year of 1877-78 under the leadership of a committee composed of Charles E. Brown, W. G. Veal and J.D. Shaw, acting for the Northwest Texas Conference of the Methodist Church, Marvin College experienced a "prosperous year" with an enrollment of 160 students. This committee had repurchased the property for the church.
Reverend John R. Allen served as the president of the college for the 1878-79 session but the mortgage on the property was foreclosed and the church lost the property again. Allen moved his educational effort to the site of Waxahachie Academy (site of Sims Library) and operated a school called Marvin College. This school was not associated with the Methodist Conference.
Marvin College, circa 1880
J. H. Combs started a Female Academy on the Marvin College property in 1879 but by March of 1880, Brown and James A. Walkup purchased the college with their own funds and opened Marvin College with General L. M. Lewis as president. With this purchase, the church connection with the college was severed for the last time. Lewis remained as president of the college until the spring of 1884. The college held its last commencement in June of that year.
Marvin College, located at Waxahachie, Texas, began operation under that name in November of 1869. This was the only name used by this institution, while under Methodist supervision, until it ceased operation as Marvin College in June of 1884. The college was named to honor Bishop Enoch M. Marvin, the presiding bishop of the Trans-Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Bishop Marvin presided at the establishment of the Northwest Texas Conference of the church in Waxahachie on Sept. 26, 1866. He also presided at the fifth session which was held at Waxahachie in 1870.
By 1868, the Waxahachie District Conference of the Methodist Church had formed a district school at Waxahachie. This school was located in a large building on the corner of Jefferson and Monroe Streets on the site of the present Davis Hall. This district school was in operation in November of 1868.
At the third session of the Northwest Texas Conference, meeting at Springfield, Texas, in November of 1868, Rev. W. G. Veal presented a communication from the Waxahachie District Conference concerning education. Since the Waxahachie District had already located the district school, it was interested in a college, or high school, for Waxahachie. The Waxahachie Conference petitioned the Northwest Conference to accept this school under conference supervision. The Waxahachie group recommended appointment of an agent to solicit donations should the offer be accepted.
The conference decided against making a location at that time.
At the fourth session of the Northwest Texas Conference, meeting at Weatherford in November of 1869, the education committee reported favorably on college location at Waxahachie. A board of trustees was chosen and Veal was reappointed financial agent. A proposed charter was drawn up. Veal reported college assets in cash and land to be $39,723.50. Principal S.D. Akin's preparatory department was operating successfully.
Citizens of the Waxahachie area had subscribed approximately $15,000 in cash, land and services in July of 1869 for the "purpose of erecting suitable school buildings and endowing a first class school, college or university, to be under the control of trustees for the M. E. Church, South, said school to be located at the town of Waxahachie, in Ellis County, Texas..."
Emory W. Rogers, in August of 1870, for the consideration of $750, deeded to the college trustees forty acres of land with his expressed "desire to promote educational interest of M. E. Church, South, Texas Conf." Ten acres of this plot were a donation to the trustees. This tract was located 950 varas from Rogers' home in block number one of the town plat of Waxahachie. The southwest ten acres of this tract became the college campus. This property is located at the north end of College Street in Waxahachie today.
The establishment of Marvin College must be credited to the leadership of the Waxahachie District of the Methodist Church, to the interested citizenry of the area surrounding Waxahachie, and to those pioneer teachers of the institution.
Rev. W. G. Veal was among the most influential of the workers. He became the first Presiding Elder of the Waxahachie District in 1866. Veal and S. E. Hale presented the 1868 conference statement requesting the establishment of the school. Veal served as the financial agent for the college in 1869 and later, and was appointed to the first board of trustees.
Other local church leaders playing active roles in the formation of the school were John S. McCarver and Andrew Davis, who were presiding elders when the school was being formed. McCarver was also on the first board of trustees. B.F. Hawkins, James E. Smith, and Board President Rev. F. P. Ray were the executive committee of that board.
Pledges ranging from $50 to $1,000 came from interested citizens in the small town of 1,500 residents of Waxahachie, showing the interest in establishment and endowment for the school. In addition to cash pledges, acreage and services were offered. This support no doubt influenced the location of the conference college in the city.
Rev. S.D. Akin was assisted by Miss Sallie A. Kincheloe in having the preparatory department of the school in operation in November of 1869. In the 1870 session, Smith Ragsdale assisted by Rev. J. D. Shaw, Mrs. Ragsdale and Mrs. Adkisson took over these duties for the 114 students then.
The State of Texas had granted 640 acres of land on the north fork of Waxahachie Creek to Emory W. Rogers on Oct. 5, 1849. From this, he deeded a forty acre tract to the trustees of the college for $750 on Aug. 29, 1870, with ten of those acres donated by him.
The executive committee of the Marvin Trustees executed a deed of trust to Mrs. A. Meek on Aug. 28,1871 for $5,000 in gold, pledging the forty acres with the building to her in order to pay the building contractor. When the trustees did not meet the payment on time, the mortgage was foreclosed and Mrs. Meek sold the forty acres and building at public sale to Stephen A. Clift, the highest bidder, for $5,875 in gold on Dec. 1, 1874. On Jan. 26, Clift sold the forty acres and building back to her for $6,000. In January, 1875, heirs of Rogers released any claim which they had on Marvin College to Mrs. Meek.
The property, or parts of it, changed hands several other times, until the board consisting of Charles E. Brown, James E. Walkup, J. Fred Cox and L. M. Lewis paid $22,000 for the building and ten acres surrounding it on Aug.12, 1882. The college continued in these hands until it closed.
Considerable local controversy was created when city aldermen refused to enact an ordinance for issuance of bonds to buy the property through the newly set up public school trustees in 1884. The owners went to court to test the validity of the original contract negotiated by the public school trustees and refused by the city, and won a judgment in their favor. The city then appealed to the State Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court opinion in March of 1887. After that the property was sold for $16,000 to John Collier of Tarrant County on June 29, 1887 with notes to Brown, Cox and Walkup and an assumed debt to J. B. Watkins and Company.
Collier lost the property later and it was sold at public auction conducted by Sheriff W. P. Watt of Ellis County in October, 1889 to Henry G. Coke for $4,000. The City of Waxahachie, acting through Mayor H. M. Rhodus, purchased the property for $6,433 from Coke on Nov. 5, 1889, putting it in the hands of the mayor and "his successors in office in trust for the sole use of Public free Schools in said city forever."
The first home of Marvin College was located in a large building at the corner of the present streets of Jefferson and Monroe in Waxahachie. Thoughts of the building which it eventually occupied were started when the 1868 Northwest Conference recommended the collection of funds for a building should the school be located in Waxahachie. Construction started in 1870 and was completed by fall of 1871, with the commencement that year held in the unfinished building in June.
Built at a cost of $22,000, the structure was a two-story brick of 70 by 50 feet. It rested on a four-foot thick rock foundation, in turn resting on white rock, with 18-inch thick walls. At the front of the building was a tower with a 13-foot projection. It was in Gothic style brick supplies by "Rogers and Snyder" from sands of Waxahachie Creek. Hoffman Brothers contracted the construction. The total height was 28 feet with the upper floor 18 feet high and the first floor, 10 feet.
On the first floor were six recitation rooms and a 40-foot square study hall for the preparatory department. This hall could seat 300 students. On the second floor was a large chapel, the full size of the building, which could seat 800 persons. A Mansard roof was added to the building between 1880 and 1882. A former student recalls its interior was plastered in something resembling marble.
In the tower structure was the most prized article about the building - a huge bell, given to the school by the merchants of New York City. The tones of this bell could be heard for more than five miles, it is reported. This bell continued to be used until the 1940's. It is now stored in the Ellis County Museum.
The building was used by Waxahachie students until 1919, when it was judges to be unsafe. The public school board directed that it be demolished in December of 1920.
Observatory - One of the most interesting portions of the campus was a curious-shaped building on the front west side with a rounded globe-like top. This was the two-story observatory, which was under construction in October of 1881. The lower part was a laboratory and the upper story contained a nine-foot equatorial telescope received in early November of 1881 at a cost of $1,200 from Pike and Sons of New York.
Marvin College was considered by many to be outstanding among schools of its type. Some considered it second to none in the state. The editor of the Waxahachie Enterprise reported it was "soon to be the Cambridge of Texas." One of the college's specialties was its music course, boasted of by school officials to be the finest in Texas.
In the early 1870's Marvin College was considered by the Methodists as a possible location for Southwestern University, which was eventually located in Georgetown. In the early 1880s local leaders even made a futile bid at locating Texas University at the site of Marvin College.
Prominent Individuals Associated with the College-In the full length version of this historical research piece at Sims Library , brief biographies and explanations of their associations with Marvin College are available on the following persons: William G. Veal, Smith Ragsdale, John W. P. McKenzie, James D. Shaw, Moses H. and Artemessia Meek, Dr. M. B. Franklin, C. E. Brown, James A. Walkup, J. Fred Cox, Gen. L. M. Lewis, Clarence N. Ousley, George W. Armstrong, James Andrew Beall and Frank Lee Hawkins.
The last year of Marvin College ended in June of 1884. A combination of factors led to its death. Charles E. Brown left close relationship with the college when he became associated with H. W. Graber and Company. The college also lost the direction and influence of General Lewis when he resigned in March of 1884.
Mounting debts and unpaid tuition bills placed Marvin in financial difficulties. The winter fuel bill of 1883-84, when thirty tons of coal was used in the wood-burning facilities, enlarged the indebtedness. The managers received no salaries.
J .B. Watkins and Company held a $6,000 mortgage against the property.
Combined with these factors, there arose the movement in 1884 for the city to take over control of Waxahachie schools. City voters petitioned for an election establishing public schools and in April of 1884 the election was approved overwhelmingly. This presented the opportunity for the college owners to sell the property to the City of Waxahachie for use in the new public schools. After legal actions previously mentioned, the city gained control in 1889.
For over a century , children of Waxahachie, Ellis County, neighboring counties, out of state, and foreign countries have attended school at the location at the north end of College Street. It has been called Marvin College, City Public School, Waxahachie College, Park School, Waxahachie High School, Central Ward School, and Marvin Elementary School. Most of the local children have studied here. Few know of the story this ten acres of land holds for our city and state. The site deserves the recognition and commemoration it received with designation of a Texas State Historical Marker.
The college was point of pride and hope for this community while it existed, even though during its existence city residents were called on at numerous times to help the college out of its financial difficulties. They responded with donations, enrolling their children, and with the purchases of college-owned lands.
The college stood as a tribute to the Methodists of the Waxahachie District of the Northwest Texas Conference who conceived the idea of such a college and supported it throughout its existence.