The Hopkinsville Baptist Church has been marked for its devotion to the cause of education. Under its fostering care various private schools were conducted for years prior to the existence of the institution whose history I am requested to prepare. Many now living remember Dr. Ring, Elder W. C. Vanmeter, and Miss Leach as Baptist teachers.
This desire upon the part of the Baptists to educate culminated in 1851 by securing a charter for the Baptist Female Institute, and in 1854 steps were taken to erect the present buildings. Donations were made by the brethren and friends about Hopkinsville and throughout the Bethel Association. The amount of money expended in the grounds and buildings was about $30,000. John P. Campbell, Thomas M. Buck, John Buckner, Hiram A. Phelps, Joseph M. Cheany, Dr. A. Webber, A. G. Slaughter, R. Dillard and E. B. Richardson were the Trustees under the first charter. In 1858 the institution was re-chartered as Bethel Female High School or College, with all the privileges usual in the best colleges in the State. This charter, at the instance of the Bethel Association, placed the management of the college in the hands of the Green River
The building commenced in 1854 was not ready for occupancy till 1856. The line of its Presidents, in the order of their service, is as follows: Dr. W. F. Hill was elected in 1856 and resigned in 1857; Prof. J. W. Rust was elected in 1857 and retired in 1864; next came Rev. T. G. Keen, who served until 1866, and was followed by Rev. M. G. Alexander, who retired in 1867, when Rev. John F. Dagg was elected, and presided over the institution until 1874. Prof. J. W. Rust was then for the second time called to the Presidency, and has occupied the position ever since.
Bethel Female College is located in the western suburbs of the city. The main building is of brick, three stories high, with basement. The chapel is 30×60 feet, the recitation rooms and family apartments well ventilated, the grounds beautifully shaded, and the whole place is home-like and attractive. The lot contains about six acres. The patronage of the college has been exclusively young ladies, representing the best families in the State and surrounding country of the Southwest. The annual attendance has perhaps averaged 100 pupils, about thirty-five of whom have been boarders. The entire boarding capacity, with the President’s family, is about sixty. Since 1874 sixty-eight young ladies have graduated, and many have taken certificates of proficiency.
The course of instruction, the discipline and the thoroughness of the teaching done in this institution have been the subject of frequent commendation, and something of its extent may be inferred from the following outline of its curriculum: 1, School of Languages, Ancient and Modern; 2, School of Mathematics, pure and mixed; 3, School of English, embracing Mental and Moral Science and belles-lettres; 4, School of Natural Science; 5, School of Fine Arts.
Faculty-In 1884 the faculty consists of the following: J. W. Rust, LL. D., President; Miss Cynta Wesfall, Presiding Teacher; Mrs. Rust, J. O. Rust, Miss Cora Anderson, Teachers; Mrs. John F. Dagg, Music and Art; Miss Carrie Breathitt and Miss Nannie Rust, Assistants; Trustees-Rev. J. M. Peay, Chairman; Judge R. T. Petree, W. W. Ware, J. N. Mills, S. G. Buckner, Hon. J. P. Campbell, Dr. James Rodman, S. E. Trice, J. C. Latham, H. A. Phelps; the latter gentleman is Secretary.
Written by J. W. Bust, LL. D., President of the College.