Ninth Oldest Educational Institution in the Nation
The history and tradition page on the college’s web site is very thorough about the various changes which have come in the time the educational school has been in existence. Our readers know it as Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. The latter part of its name was added in 1870 when General Robert E. Lee, late of the Confederacy, died as its president in that year. Before that from 1813 and 1796, it was simply known as Washington College and Washington Academy. The father of our country had come in a time of financial struggle to give a grant of 20,000 shares of James River Canal stock. And so in honor of him, they gave his name to the school. Before that still, it was named on May 13, 1776, as Liberty Hall Academy in that same location. Ruins from that school are still to be found on a hill looking over the area. Originally, it was called from 1749, Augusta Academy, so named after the county in which it found itself in Virginia.
Yet missing from this whole description of the founding and re-naming of the educational institution is that the Presbyterians of Virginia had begun this school. As early as 1771, the Hanover Presbytery expressed its intention to begin a seminary of learning within the boundary of the Presbytery. Its early leaders, supporters, and faculty were all Presbyterians from the Shenandoah Valley. And its purpose was to give a religious and moral education to the students who would come to study under its oversight. It is true that they did not desire to make Presbyterians of all who came there, but the denominational basis of the school was clearly known by all who were to attend. Its board members were all Presbyterian ministers and members of the Presbyterian churches in the valley. Its first president was the celebrated Presbyterian minister William Graham, who studied under John Witherspoon at the College of New Jersey.
It was said that Liberty Hall Academy owed its foundation, first, to the pious zeal of Presbyterian clergy, second, to the contributions of the Presbyterian people of the valley, third, to the energy and talents of Presbyterian minister and leader, Rev. William Graham, and last, to the attention by the Presbyterian trustees and gratuitous aid of members of the Presbyterian churches of said valley. Yet it is all this which is missing on the present history and traditions page of the University on-line.
Words to Live By: A Christian man and woman this writer knows has taken remarkable incidents out of their lives when God has been powerfully present and accounted for in those lives, and remembered them by marked stones in a dish. It is a reminder that we are too apt to forget what God has accomplished in the past. That is why a key word in Scripture is the word “remember.” Let us remember God’s dealings in our lives, and in the lives of our institutions.