Sunday, April 27, 2014


© Kathy Duncan, 2014

Information continues to present itself through the digitalization of America's newspapers. Through them, we can continue to flesh out our ancestors. Such is the case with Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph's election as President of the Baptist Female College at Lexington, Lafayette Co., Missouri.

In 1870 he was the president of Union University in Murfreeboro, Tennessee. With his health in decline, he evidently thought it prudent to seek out a position at a smaller educational instituion, so he accepted the appointment at the Baptist Female College in Lexington, Missouri and relocated his family.

The following announcement in the Lexington newspaper heralded his new appointment:

"The Rev. Duncan H. Selph, A.M., professor of moral philosophy and theology of Union University, at Murfreesboro', Tenn., was yesterday chosen as president of the Baptist Female College, and will be here at once to assume the duties of his place. His faculty is not yet, fully chosen but will be, and announced, in a few days. It is proper to say, however, that Miss Mary Frank Hawkins, and Miss Gabriella Hawkins, both of this city, and for years identified with that school, it is expected, will each have a place in it. President D.H. Selph for many years conducted one of the most successful female colleges at Danville, Ky."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co., MO., 30 July 1870]

The follow up article was rich in biographical detail:

The Baptist Female College  
Its New President 

"We have already announced that Rev Duncan H. Selph, A.M., has been elected President of the Baptist Female College in this place. We have now the pleasure to announce that Mr. Selph has definitely accepted the position, and is actively at work in preparations for the ensuing session. The Board of Trustees have not been hasty in their selection, and we consider that they have both acted fortunately and wisely in refusing to fill the vacancy until it was found possible to secure the services of such a teacher as they have.

"Mr. Selph is a native of North Carolina but in early life emigrated to Tennessee, and graduated with distinction at the institution of which he subsequently became President - Union University at Murfreesboro. His first active labor was with Madison College, Tennessee, which has built up under his labors and acquired much celebrity. Since that time, and indeed before that, in humbler positions, he has been energetically engaged in fostering and maturing educational interests, the most prominent of which was the Baptist Female College at Danville, Ky., which he carried through the whole extent of the war, with honor and profit. From this institution he went to the Presidency of his Alma Mater, in Tennessee; succeeded in saving the property from passing out of the hands of the original owners, and securing it for time to come. Ill-health, consequent to unusual labor, and desire to enter a field in which the better to superintend the education of his children, induced him to resign that position, against the protests of the friends of the University, and in the face of an enlarged salary.

"We hope our people will extend to President Selph a cordial welcome, and express their gratification at his accession to our society, by granting him a liberal share of their patronage. He is still young, and capable of great effort in building up the institution over which he presides, to a higher standard than it has ever attained.

"We understand that the new President will shortly return to the East in order to secure a full outfit for the College. The furniture and pianos will be entirely new, and of the most modern patterns. We have not heard the names of the corps of teachers selected, but we expect to be enabled to publish full particulars in our next issue. We congratulate the friends of the Baptist College upon the favorable prospect before them."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co., MO; 13 Aug 1870]

Fortunately, the Lexington papers reprinted the article that was published in Mufreesboro, Tennessee newspaper, announcing Rev Duncan H. Selph's departure: 

"President D. H. Selph - The gentleman who has been President of Union University has accepted the Presidency of the Baptist Female College at Lexington, Mo.

"President Selph has labored long in our midst for the advancement of our schools, and while he may have felt it his duty to leave us, it is to be regretted that one so gifted and energetic could not be retained in our midst. He is a zealous and working friend of schools, and possesses superior talents as a teacher. A true christian and upright gentleman, his counsel and teachings cannot fail of being beneficial to students, and we commend him to the people of Lexington as an instructor worthy of any position that the may be placed, and one in whom every trust may be reposed. [Murfreesboro (Tenn.,) Paper."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co. MO.; 10 Sept 1870]

Regrettably, the poor health that forced Rev. Duncan H. Selph to preside over a smaller school continued to plague him, and he died a few years later.

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