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Central University (Richmond, Ky.)

Collection Outline
Digital Archives

See Centre College Digital Archives - Financial for digitized versions of selected items from the following inventory


Central University was founded as a result of the split of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky into Northern and Southern branches. While the Presbyterian Church had divided into two branches in 1861, principally over the issue of slavery, the Church did not split in Kentucky until 1867. The branches both claimed control of Centre College in Danville, and it took a Federal court to determine that the Northern branch retained control of the institution. A group of concerned members of the Southern Synod met and formed the Alumni Association of Central University. The University was chartered on March 3, 1873, and the Association began raising funds.

The Association called for an endowment of $150,000, but received pledges for $220,000. Anchorage, Kentucky, was the location selected, but when the citizens of Richmond and Madison County pledged $101,000, the school opened there on September 22, 1874 with at total of 224 students.

The Alumni Association appointed the Board of Curators, which served as the trustees. Eventually, the Southern Synod took over direct control of appointing the Board of Curators in exchange for the Church's financial support. The school itself was headed by a chancellor. Robert L. Breck served in that capacity from 1874-1880. He was succeeded by Lindsay H. Blanton, who served until the merger with Centre College.

Almost from the beginning, Central faced financial problems. The original endowment was in promissory notes and pledges, a large number of which went uncollected due to the Panic of 1873. Another important endowment drive was hampered by the Panic of 1893. Enrollment was also a problem. It dropped every year of Breck's chancellorship, and the school never graduated a class larger than 25 students. These problems eventually meant consolidation with Centre.

During its existence Central ran several associated institutions. These included a law school, a medical school (located in Louisville), a dental school (also located in Louisville), and a preparatory department. In addition, Central ran three other prep schools in the state. These were the S.P. Lees Collegiate Institute (in Jackson), the Hardin Collegiate Institute (Elizabethtown), and the Middlesborough University School (Middlesborough). The University itself became co-educational in the 1890's with women first graduating in 1896.

In 1901, beset with financial difficulties and small enrollment, Central University agreed to consolidation with Centre College. The new institution would be located in Danville, and known as the Central University of Kentucky. An act of the State Legislature in 1918 changed the name back to the Centre College of Kentucky.

Collection Description

The collection is not particularly rich and is very small, especially when one considers that Central University existed for 28 years. Happily, there are some exceptions to this statement. The minutes of the Alumni Association and the Board of Curators exist in their entirety from 1873 to 1901. It is here that one will find the official history of Central University, since these were the bodies responsible for founding and administering the institution.

The University's publications are also well represented. There are catalogues from every academic year except two, 1879-80 and 1900-1901. Yearbooks remain from three of the last six years of the University. In addition, there are 19 issues of the Atlantis, the student literary magazine.

The papers dealing with the Tilman Robb controversy provide an interesting sidelight. Robb was dismissed from the University by the faculty for cheating on an examination. His father, an acquaintance of Chancellor Blanton, protested. Blanton sided with the Robbs, arguing the penalty was too stiff and that Robb had not had a fair hearing. The lines were drawn and the ill feelings generated between Chancellor and faculty continued beyond the incident. Tilman Robb went on to become a physician.

A major weakness of the collection is the lack of records before 1880. No records remain from the chancellor's office during the tenure of Robert L. Breck. The records from L.H. Blanton's tenure are few in number, considering Blanton served for 21 years. (See also CC-63 L.H. Blanton Papers for material on Blanton after 1901)

There is also little about student life. What does exist is almost entirely programs for commencements or presentations of the literary societies. Fortunately, a complete list of graduates exists, often adding a sentence or two on what the person did upon leaving the University.

Overall, the collection is very small and not likely to give on a good history of Central University. The minutes of the Alumni Association and the Board of Curators will give an official history, but, as a rule, there are not supporting documents in the collection. An exception would be the Tilman Robb incident.

Copies of much of the material in this collection is available at the Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives.

Collection Inventory
CC-131 Histories
Series A Miscellaneous Volumes
Folder 1Contains a picture of the Central University Building, printed on a letterhead dated March 18, 1875. Also contains two copies of Central University by Jonathan Truman Doris, reprinted from the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 32, April 1934, pp. 91-124. Guide to the Collection of Central University Records, 1873-1901 (at EKU Archives)
CC-132 Alumni Association
Series A Minutes
Volume 1Minutes of Alumni Association meetings, 1873-1901
Series B Donation Books
Volumes 1-3Contain lists of original subscribers to Central University, 1872-1873
Series C Subscription Sheets
Folder 1Contains 3 sheets listing subscriptions to Central University, undated, ca. 1872-1873
Series D Speeches and Programs
Folder 1Contains an article "The University Days", by Joel T. Wade (undated); an advertisement for the original subscription drive; copy of address given by J.A. Sullivan, June 12, 1888; copy of address given by Congressman Harvey Helm of Kentucky, December 16, 1911; and a program of a meeting of the Madison County Alumni Association on June 6, 1892
CC-133 Board of Curators
Series A Minutes
Volumes 1-2Minutes of Board of Curators Meetings, ca. 1873-1901
Series B Correspondence and Reports
Folder 1Four letters from 1898-1899; announcement of a new class in theology; excerpts from the charter defining roles and powers of officers of the University; notes from May 3, July 3, and July 8, 1901 meetings. Executive Committee meeting reports from May 10, July 2, and July 3, 1901; two reports from Synod of Kentucky concerning consolidation (undated); "Resolution re Dr. Barbour", July 3, 1901; and April 5, 1901 report on Hospital College.
CC-134 Chancellor's Office
Series 134.1 Robert L. Breck (ca. 1874-1880)
Folder 1Currently empty
Series 134.2 Lindsay H. Blanton (ca. 1880-1904)
Series A
Folders 1-3Contain official correspondence of L.H. Blanton
Folder 4Contains personal correspondence arranged chronologically; included is a partially completed application to the Sons of the American Revolution
Series B Relations with Board of Curators
Folder 1Contains 13 letters from E.M. Green, Chairman of the Board of Curators; extracts of minutes; copies of petitions; statements submitted by Blanton and other items. Undated items at the beginning, ca. 1896-1901
Series C Tilman Robb Controversey
Folders 1-4Contains all material related to Tilman Robb's dismissal. Includes reports, summaries, statements and correspondence, ca.1898-1900
Series D Speeches and Reports
Folder 1Contains speech given December 13, 1900 opening the Louisville College of Dentistry; an address given April 10, 1901 concerning consolidation with Centre; an undated (probably 1900) sketch of the University. ca. 1900-1901
CC-135 Registrar's Office
Volume 1Contains class records from 1874-1901
Volume 2Contains lists of non-graduate students from 1874-1901
Folder 1Contains miscellaneous class lists; lists of Board of Trustees, Board of Curators, Treasurers, Chancellors, Presidents of the faculty, Professors, Instructors, Librarians, and Honorary Degree winners
Folder 2Contains student lists by classes from 1875-1892
Folder 3Contains student lists by classes from 1893-1901
Folder 4Contains handwritten student lists to 1900
Folder 5Contains typed list "Alumni not correctly recorded in the files of Centre College." ca. 1875-1901
CC-136 Legal Documents
Folder 1Contains agreements, contracts, county clerk reports, mortgages, court petitions, and the agreement for consolidation of Central and Centre. Undated material at the beginning, ca. 1886-1901
CC-137 Financial
Volume 1Account book, Balances Due ca. 1874-1884
Folder 1Contains lists of subscriptions paid, expenses, debts, notes received, financial reports, correspondence with lawyers on collecting notes due, and lists of assets. Undated material at the beginning, ca. 187?-1901
CC-138 Associated Institutions
Series A General
Volume 1/Folder 1Contain all documents including correspondence, calendars, announcements, and agreements related to the institutions associated with Central University
Series B Caldwell High School
Folder 1Contains calendar for the school year 1896-97
Series C Hardin Collegiate Institute
Folder 1Contains 8 letters between J.E. Austin, Principal and Chancellor L.H. Blanton
Series D College of Law
Folder 1Contains announcement for the year 1900-1901
Series E S. P. Lees Collegiate Institute
Folder 1Contains notes on the school by J.M. Moore (undated); three letters and a program of dedication exercises, ca. 1892-1899
Series F College of Medicine and College of Dentistry
Folder 1Contains 5 letters and 1 set of minutes of committee appointed to consider and take action on faculty recommendations, ca. 1900-1901
Series G Middlesborough University School
Folder 1Contains petitions, specifications for construction, bids, and correspondence. Undated material at the beginning, ca. 1896-1898
CC-139 Library
Volume 1Catalogue of Landis Library donated by Rev. Robert N. Landis on September 15, 1877
Volume 2Contains library accession numbers, beginning in 1877 and showing books taken out of circulation in 1948 when a part of Centre
CC-140 Faculty
Volume 1Contains faculty records from 1883-1900
CC-141 Student Life
Series A General
Folder 1Contains lyrics to college song (1892); an edition of University Hot Times (1900); and commencement programs from 1881-1899. Oversize documents. Diplomas of Katherine Blanton (1895, Zoology & Botany); Katherine Blanton (1895, Physiology); Graves Griffith (1891, Bachelor of Arts); and Everett Wade Bedinger, Jr. (1879, Bachelor of Arts)
Series B Literary Societies
Folder 1Contains programs of joint celebrations of the Philalethean Literary Society and the Epiphyllidian Literary Society. Undated materials at the beginning, ca. 1887-1888
Series C Fraternities
Folder 1Contains third annual letter (1890) of Kentucky Delta; Charter of the SAE fraternity is located in CC-30 Fraternities
CC-142 Publications
Series A Catalogs
Volumes 1-25Catalogues for every year except 1879-89 and 1900-01, ca. 1874-1900
Series B Yearbooks
Volumes 1-6One copy of 1896 edition, one copy of 1898 edition, and two copies each for 1900 and 1901 editions
Series C Atlantis
Folders 1-6Contain copies of 19 issues of the student literary magazine. The run is incomplete. ca. 1887-1898
CC-143 Newspaper Clippings
Folder 1Contains miscellaneous newspaper clippings, located in the newspaper clipping file
Folder 2Devoted to the Central-Centre consolidation
CC-144 Photographs
Folder 1Contains photos of alumni include Everett Wade Bedinger, Jr.; Graves Griffith; and group shot of several Central Alumni who were commissioners to the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, U.S. Located in photograph collection
CC-145 Microfilm
Reel 1Board of Curators meeting minutes 1873-1901. Located in audio-visual collection in archives