Monday, August 29, 2016

The Selphs at the Baptist Female College

© Kathy Duncan, 2016

In 1871, this account of the commencement at the Baptist Female College in Lexington, Missouri appeared in the local newspaper. Of note is the description of Lily E. (Burton) Selph’s role at the school, the piano playing of the Selph daughters, and a description of the girls’ exams and the school grounds. 

Baptist Female College

   The stranger, who saunters admiringly, along South Street, the Fifth Avenue of Lexington, can’t fail to notice, just opposite to where the Southern Methodist Church rears its tall and graceful spire heavenward, a spacious and stately edifice reposing, in calm and placid dignity, and embowering trees and vines. In front and around it, cedars and pines, apple, peach and cherry trees, wave their leafy arms, and the rose and lilac swing their perfumed censers. With its substantial, stone-colored walls and dark-green blinds, the building looks like a noble mansion of the “olden time;” but a neat new chapel, at the western side, proclaims it a public institution. That is the Baptist College; and it is worthy of the large and increasing patronage it receives; worthy of the good old city, in which it stands; and worthy of the numerous, wealthy and intelligent denomination, to which it belongs. In spite of some drawbacks, with which it has had to contend, during the session just past, a reference to its admirably gotten up catalogue, shows an enrollment of a hundred and two students—a larger number than either of its competitors. Its board of trustees comprises many of our most prominent citizens.
   Its Faculty consists of Rev. Duncan H. Selph, D.D., formerly President of the famous Seminary at Danville Kentucky, and more recently of the almost equally celebrated institution, at Murfreesboro, Tennessee; President and Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy. –
   Mrs. L.E. Selph, a veritable mother to all her girls, watchful, careful and sympathizing to all her girls, watchful, careful and sympathizing; Matron and Assistant Principal.
    …the examination which we witnessed, last week of their classes in grammar, logic, rhetoric and physiology, would alone have been sufficient to wreath them with well-earned laurels. The little ladies showed a readiness and accuracy, a familiarity with the philosophy as well as the facts of literature and science, that was positively amazing. The classes in mathematics were pronounced by Prof. C.O. smith, of this place, who witnessed their examination, the most astonishingly proficient, quick and thorough, he ever saw. He declares that young girls of fourteen or fifteen years triumphantly passed an ordeal, which would have been severe for the masculine graduates of our most noted colleges.
   The Musical Department is intrusted [sic] to the skill and care of Miss Sade Summers. The performance of many of her pupils is admirable evidence of her fitness for the position. Misses Fannie, Alice and Susie Wadell, Miss Susie Chapman, Miss Belle Graves, and the little Misses Selph, are worthy of especial mention several of these little ladies bid fair to become brilliant pianists.
    …The examinations and exhibitions, last week were attended throughout, by crowds of our best citizens and many stranger [sic]. The chapel was far too small to accommodate the throng on Commencement evening. And praises of the school, its management, teachers and pupils have been on many tongues. We understand that everything seems fair for a larger commencement than ever, next session. The Baptists of Western and Southwestern Missouri certainly can find no better place to send their daughters.
[Source: The Weekly Caucasion; Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri; 24 June 1871]

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