Relationship: The children of my great grand aunts, Maggie Wilkinson Lumpkin and Flora Wilkinson Browning attended this school. Maggie’s husband, Dan, was instrumental in founding it.
By Bonner Frizzell
In the fall of 1852 a school opened up at Mound Prairie, eight miles northeast of Palestine, in Anderson County, which was destined to become one of the most famous institutions of learning of its time in Texas. It began in a small one-room house with one teacher; but it grew rapidly, and in two or there years the faculty numbered five teachers, and students attended from all parts of the state.
The school lasted only nine years, (1852-61), falling a victim to the war, like so many other institutions of the day. At first, only boys were admitted, but in 1857 the doors of the institution were opened to girls, and during the remaining four years of its existence,
the school was co-educational. (W. H. Gaston and C. H. Bussey; Personal Interviews)
The founder of the school was Rev. J. R. Malone, a Baptist minister, and a gentleman of high scholastic attainments. Mr. Malone was not only the founder of the school but he continued as President of the Institution throughout the entire nine years of its existence. The school was
chartered, the charter bearing the date of January 9, 1854. A board of nine trustees provided for in the charter, the following gentlemen being named as members: J. A. Lawrence, J. S. Hanks, R. K. Gaston, J. S. Morrow, L. W. Dalton, R. E. Cox, A. McCane, P. O. Lumpkin, and John Billups.
The charter provided that the school should be a “college Proper,” and that the board of
trustees should have power to confer degrees, grant diplomas, establish professorships, make and enforce rules and regulations, and establish a system of scholarships. The charter also contained the provision that nothing should be so construed as to militate against the rights and powers of James R. Malone, A.M., founder of the institute. (Gammel: Op. Cit., v.
3, P. 435)
That the school was to some extent under the care of the Baptist Church is evidenced by the following report of a committee on education to an Association of that Church:
“We have no male college, but we are proud to say that we have within our bound Mound Prairie Institute, which, in point of health, morals, and through instruction is behind none. The President, our beloved Brother J. R. Malone, has long since proved his ability and untiring application to all duties of his station; and having the assistance of those who are able,
pious, and loved by all, success is the result. The school is now in a prosperous condition and has a regular attendance of seventy-five students, and others are coming in.”
The institution seems to have reached its zenith about 1860. An announcement preceding the opening of the session of 1860-61 states that the school has a college charter with University powers; that the “usual degrees” are conferred; that number of male students for the preceding year was one hundred nine; that the course of study is full, the instruction thorough, and the discipline strict; that the health, morals, and religious privileges of Mound Prairie are unsurpassed; that only two boys will be allowed in the same room; that there will be no extra charge for Spanish in the future; and that tuition, fuel, furnished room, and washing cost
seventy-five dollars per session of twenty weeks.” (ibid, 1860)
No description of the building in which the Institute opened is available; but there is evidence that it was a very modest structure. A year or two after the school began, however, a commodious two-story frame building was erected at a cost of some five or six thousand dollars, the funds being raised by private subscription. In this building the school was carried on
until 1856, when a second building resembling the first was erected. The new building became the home of the Female Department, which was established in 1857, while the older building continued to serve the home of the Male Department. About the same time that this second building was erected, six dormitories were also built to accommodate the rapidly increasing boarding patronage. (W. H. Gaston and C. H. Bussey; Personal Interviews)
The following newspaper announcement, which appeared about the middle of the year 1860, throws a further light on the work of the Institute for that year:
MOUND PRAIRIE INSTITUTE
J. R. Malone, M.A., President and Professor of Latin, Greek, Spanish, Pure
Mathematics, and belles-lettres. Elder M. V. Smith, Professor of English
branches, natural sciences, and Mixed Mathematics. George W. Awalt, tutor.
Miss M. A. E. Dickson, Principal and Instructor in the literary and
ornamental subjects and French.
Rates of Tuition
Music with use of instrument $15.00
Ornamental and Needle-work $15.00
Drawing and Painting $10.00
Declamations and Compositions four Fridays in every month
The President is prepared to take forty boarders in dormitories on his own land at the low price of fifty dollars a term of five months.
The present session closes January 10, and the next opens on the second Monday in August.
(Signed) J. R. Malone
(Texas Enquirer, January 7, 1860)
Teachers other than the above-mentioned that are remembered by old students are Wilson H. Lamb, Pickens Teague, Miss V. E. Bussey, Mrs. J. R. Malone, and Professor Myre and wife. The last two taught music for some time and are remembered as very skillful musicians. Among the students who afterwards wrought efficiently in the communities in which they lived were
W. H. Gaston, now of Dallas; C. H. Bussey, now of Hutchins, Texas; Lieutenant R. H. Gaston, W. L. Griggs, Martin V. Smith, A. C. Camp, Dr. J. B. Bussey, and Dr. J. R. Oldham. (W. H. Gaston and C. H. Bussey: Personal Interviews)
The success of the institution was due more to the ability and zeal of the President, Rev. J. R. Malone, than to any other one factor. He was born in Coffeyville, Alabama, January 10, 1824. He received a liberal education as a young man and then studied law; but after a short time he gave up his studies in this field and turned his attention to the ministry and to teaching. He came to Texas in 1852, at the age of twenty-eight, and began the work of building up the school with which his name was to be ever after inseparably linked. Besides being a great teacher, he was also a great preacher and a man among men. Almost every Sunday found him with a congregation in some church of the surrounding country. As a teacher, he was especially fond of English, Latin, and Greek. He was a great friend to the needy young man, and no one was ever turned away from Mound Prairie Institute for want of funds. He was a poor financier, and through his bad management his family was sometimes in want. He considered his life a failure; but those who knew him, especially his students, thought otherwise.
On leaving Mound Prairie, he went to Mexia and later to Dallas. He died in the latter city December 3, 1891. (Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine, v. II, p. 118)
The story of how Mound Prairie Institute came to the end of its way is an old one. The bugle blasts of war called the young men from books to battlefields, and thus the institution was left deserted. The commencement held in June 1861, marks the end. If there were any efforts made to continue the work of the institution after that, they were so feeble that their results have been erased from the memory of those best in a position to know them. Dilapidation and decay soon began their work, and what remained of the buildings were sold to the farmers of the community. (W. H. Gaston and C. H. Bussey: Personal Interview)
NAMES OF PESONS WHO ATTENDED THE MOUND PRAIRIE INSTITUTE
Post office Plenitude, Anderson County, Texas
Incorporated and Founded in 1854 by Prof. J. R. Malone
P. O. Lumpkin
Miss Martha Browning
Miss Mary Browning
Miss Flora Browning
Miss Emily Hanks
Miss Mary Pinson
Miss Minnie Derden
Miss Melinda Cox
Miss Mary Cox
Martin V. Smith
Mr. Bell from Denton
C. A. Rush
Miss M. Reed
Miss Dickson Teacher
Dr. John Bussey
Miss Fannie Bussey
Miss Madie Bussey
Geo. H. Gaston
W. H. Gaston
Robert H. Gaston
J. R. Jones
Miss Martha Herrington
John N. Parks
Rube C. Miller
(Individuals in red are my cousins).
Copyright. All rights reserved.
Transcribed by Nancy Crain
Submitted by Scott Fitzgerald – firstname.lastname@example.org
East Texas Genealogical Society, Vice-President 26 May 2006
Originally published in The Tracings, Volume 3, No. 1, Winter 1984, Pages
37-40 by the Anderson County Genealogical Society, copyright assigned to
the East Texas Genealogical Society.