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Danville Theological Seminary

Collection Outline

The Presbyterians in Kentucky had long wished to establish a theological seminary, indeed for years there were two separate theological funds at Centre and the Synod of Kentucky. There had been one brief, unsuccessful attempt to establish such an institution at Centre in 1828, but the venture lasted only one year. The fact that Danville eventually won the competition for a seminary was due in large part to the effort of Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge. Breckinridge and supporters faced formidable competition for there was already a seminary in New Albany, Indiana, and bids had also been submitted from Peoria, Illinois, St. Louis, Nashville, and Cincinnati. Danville was aided in the cause by the fact that Centre President John C. Young was serving as moderator of the General Assembly, and Young proceeded to appoint Breckinridge to the committee assigned to determine a location. The Synod of Kentucky made Danville even more attractive by offering to raise $60,000 for the endowment of three chairs and to furnish ten acres of land.

Danville won the competition, and the seminary opened in October 1853 with a faculty of Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, Dr. Edward P. Humphrey, and Rev. Joseph G. Reasor. Rev. Stuart Robinson served from 1856 to 1858, while Rev. Stephen Yerkes, elected in 1857, served until his death in 1886. In all, 16 professors served the seminary, and 396 students matriculated at the institution.

For the first eight years the seminary prospered and showed great promise with suitable endowments and an average attendance for 40 students, but the Civil War and its aftermath dealt the young institution a blow from which it never really recovered. The Presbyterian Church in Kentucky split, with Southern students drifting of to other seminaries. Lane Seminary in Cincinnati provided direct competition, and the seminary's guiding light, Dr., Robert J. Breckinridge, resigned in 1869 due to failing health.

By 1883 the entire faculty had departed with the exception of Rev. Stephen Yerkes, and seminary work was virtually suspended. Extinction was averted only when members of the Centre faculty, including President Ormand Beatty and Vice-President John L. McKee, agreed to teach in the seminary. Several attempts had been made to reunite the Northern and Southern branches of the church in joint administration of the seminary, the most notable being in 1883, but it was not until 1901 that the Danville Theological Seminary merged with the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, founded in Louisville in 1883. The consolidated institution was known as the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Kentucky, and then later as the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Originally housed in Old Centre, the seminary moved into a large building in Constitution Square in 1854. As the seminary and the College solidified their ties, the College allowed many seminarians to use College facilities. In 1892 the seminary completed Breckinridge Hall as a dormitory for its students, but never used more than a fraction of its rooms. When the seminary left Danville, Centre occupied the hall.

Collection Description

This small collection contains few items of interest to those seriously researching the Danville Theological Seminary. The few items and volumes retained have been saved largely as supplemental records, or examples of materials generated by the seminary while in Danville. Researchers should consult the catalogs and publications of the Danville Theological Seminary as well as assorted publications of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in CC-22, Publications.

All relevant primary records of the Danville Theological Seminary may be located in the collections of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Collection Inventory
Series A Miscellaneous Papers/Financial Records
Folder 1Miscellaneous papers, 1854-1910. Includes the plans (1854 & 1873) of the seminary, announcements, agreements for consolidation of the Danville, and Louisville seminaries (1901), and an annual report of the directors, 1910
Folder 2Miscellaneous financial statements, 1854-1910. Includes statements of receipts and expenditures
Folder 3Miscellaneous sample invoices for Breckinridge Hall, 1891-1892
Folder 4Miscellaneous estimates submitted during the building of Breckinridge Hall, August 1890
Folder 5Specifications for a proposed "library and dormitory" for the seminary (Breckinridge Hall), August 1890
Series B Miscellaneous Volumes/Financial Records
Volume 1Cash book, 1854-1872. Also contains names of contributors to the seminary, amounts contributed, and other miscellaneous information
Volume 2Day book, 1864-1876. Also includes annual report of the financial agent to the trustees of the seminary, April 10, 1864, and other miscellaneous information
Series C Inaugural Addresses and Programs
Volume 1Addresses Delivered at the Inauguration of the Professors in the Danville Seminary. October 13, 1853
Volume 2Addresses Delivered at the Inauguration of Rev. Jonathan Edwards ... as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in Danville Theological Seminary. April 17, 1878
Volume 3Inaugural Services of John M. Worroll as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government. May 3, 1892
Volume 4Inauguration of the Rev. Claude B. H. Martin as Professor of Systematic Theology in the Danville Theological Seminary. October 12, 1893
Series D Annual Catalogs and Print Volumes
Volume 1Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1850-51
Volume 1Danville Theological Seminary annual catalogs, 1853-90
Volume 3Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1854-55
Volume 4Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1857-58
Volume 5Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1858-60
Volume 6Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1874-80
Volume 7Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1881-83
Volume 8Danville Theological Seminary annual catalogs, 1886-88
Volume 9Danville Theological Seminary annual catalogs, 1889-97
Volume 10Danville Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1898-99
Volume 11Louisville Theological Seminary annual catalogs 1893-1900
Volume 12Presbyterian Theological Seminary annual catalog, 1911-1918
Volume 13Agreements for Consolidation of the Presbyterian Theological Seminaries at Danville and Louisville, Under the Name of Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Kentucky, and of Centre College and Central University Under the Name of Central University of Kentucky. 1901.
Volume 14Sanders, Robert Stuart. History of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1853-1953. 1953.