Extracted from "Spring Creek, Tennessee" in
By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1996


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            Through the enterprising efforts of several influential citizens, including James H. Otey, Episcopalian bishop; Leonidas Polk, William Stoddert, James J. Alston and Samuel Dickins, the Tennessee legislature passed a law chartering Madison College, December 20, 1837. It was to have been administered through a board of trustees and would offer academic degrees of bachelor of arts and master of arts; "said college" /to/ be established in Madison County, this State." (ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1838, Chapter 218, pages 315-317) Apparently this movement to establish a college in Madison County failed to get beyond the planning stages.


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            The Baptists established the Baptist Male Institute in Spring Creek, beginning in March 1852 with only three students but finished the school year with about fifty-five students. The school became a denominational institution of the West Tennessee Baptist Convention through the efforts of Alexander Askew and Reuben Day. Appointed to "manage the affairs of said school" were Jeremiah P. Haughton, Alexander Askew, John C. Rogers, John L. Moore, F. N. W. Barton /sic/, John R. Woolfolk, Walter Key, John Herring /Herron/, Shem Cook, Wyatt Mooring, Jesse Gray and Reuben Day. (PROCEEDINGS of the annual meeting of the West Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1852; hereafter cited as PROCEEDINGS) The denomination's girls' school was located in Brownsville, Tennessee. In 1854 the male institute's trustees purchased three acres in Spring Creek "upon which they intend erecting the College building so soon as practicable." At the trustees' meeting, July 11, that year, Duncan H. Selph was appointed president and Reverend John Bateman assistant teacher of the school. The academic year was scheduled to begin September 18. (IBID., 1854, page 18) Although the deed of purchase by the trustees of the school for the three acre tract they had bought went unrecorded, it is recorded that the land was purchased by them from John C. Rogers (as noted in a deed from John C. Rogers to John S. Hill, March 3, 1866; Madison County Deed Book 24, page 11)

            The D. G. Beers Map of Madison County and Jackson, Tennessee, 1877, that portion showing Spring Creek reveals the location of some of the older landmarks. The bounds of the Baptist school shown on this map are somewhat at variance with the legal description of the three acre lot given in the WEST TENNESSEE WHIG, Jackson, March 27, May 17, 1861, and dotted lines show the actual layout of the acreage, on the map reproduced in this book on page78, as drawn by James H. Hanna, civil engineer, retired, Jackson, Tennessee.

(map from page 78)



            In 1854 the school's name was amended to West Tennessee Baptist Male Institute with Elder Selph continuing as its president. The school was granted its charter of incorporation March 2, 1854(ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1853-


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1854, Chapter 194, pages 607-609):

        Sec. 58. Be it further enacted, That Frank Nash, W. Benton,* John C. Rogers. John R. Woolfolk, John L. Moore. Alexasdee Asken /Askew/, Duncan H. Selph, Jeremiah P. Houghton /Haughton/, Elisha Collins, Jacob Hill, Henry O. Smith, Henderson Owen, K. C. Crisp, E. H. Osburn, James A. McDerson, J. R. Rutlage and their successors, be, and they are hereby constituted a body politic and corporate, by the name and style of the 'Trustees of the West Tennessee Baptist Institute', and shall have perpetual succession and are invested with all the legal powers and capacities to buy, receive, possess, hold, dispose of and convey any property, either real or personal, for the use and benefit of said institution; may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered unto in any court in this State or elsewhere.
        Sec. 59. Be it enacted. That said board of trustees shall have power to care all by-laws necessary for the government of said institution, not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of this State or of the United States; and shall have full power to appoint such officers and agents as may to thee seem necessary for the prosperity and well-being of said institution; and shall have power to procure agents to travel to lecture and solicit subscriptions in such sums and upon such conditions as they in their by-laws, may designate and prescribe.
        Sec. 60. Be it enacted, That said board of trustees shall have power to endow said institution with whatsoever amount they say deem necessary the interest of which alone shall be appropriated to its support; Provided, that said endowment fund, as well as the interest, shall be under the control and direction of said board of trustees.
        Sec. 61. Be it enacted. That said board of trustees shall have power to elect a principal or president of said institute, which principal or president, when elected, shall be ex officio the president of the board of trustees, and such professors and tutors as they may deem necessary for the promotion of literature and morals in the institution.
        Sec. 62. Be it enacted, That said board of trustees shall have full power and authority to fill all vacancies that may occur in their body from death, resignation or otherwise and in connection with the faculty to use a cosmos seal which shall always be deposited with the president and confer all such literary honors and degrees upon any student of the institution or other persons as are usually confered by any institution of learning in this State or in the United States.
        Sec. 63. Be it enacted. That any five of said board of trustees called together by the president shall constitute a quorum to transact the business of the institution and shall have full power to elect annually, without /outside/ their body, five directors, whose duty, when elected, shall be to cooperate with the board in promoting the interest of the institution. The board shall have its annual meeting on the second Wednesday in July, at which time they shall elect the directors for the ensuing year. The names of the first directors shall be Wyatt Mooring, Jesse Grey, John Herron, John H. Lanier, Lem'l Day and Walter Kay /Key/. The president shall have power to call a meeting of the board of trustees at any time when he may deem it necessary by giving ten days notice.
        Sec. 64. Be it enacted. That said institution shall be located in Spring Creek in the county of Madison, State of Tenneseee; Provided that the citizens thereof, or of said county, shall raise a fund sufficient to procure a suitable site and erect the necessary buildings, but in case they fail to raise a sum sufficient for these purposes, said institution shall be located in that town or vicinity where the citizens thereof shall donate to the board of trustees for the benefit of said institution the sum of ten thousand dollars.
        Sec. 65. Be it enacted. That said board of trustees shall have full power at any time hereafterto give to said institute a more particular name in honor of the most distinguished and liberal benefactor or otherwise as they may think proper, which name so given shall in all acts. instruments and doings of said body politic, be superadded to their corporate name aforesaid and become a part of their legal appelation by which it shall be forever known and distinguished.
        Sec. 66. Be it enacted, That no misnomer or erroneous description of the corporation hereby created, in any will, deed, gift, grant, devise or other instrument of contract or conveyance, shall vitiate or defeat the same but the same shall take effect in like manner as if said corporation were correctly named and properly designated; Provided, always, that the description in such case or cases be sufficient to ascertain the intention of the parties.
        Sec. 67. Be it enacted, That the land on which said institution shall be situated, together with the buildings, school fixtures and apparatus of said corporation, shall be exempt from taxation, both for state and county purposes.


*The first two names in this list, Frank Nash and W. Benton are garbled for actually one name Frank Nash W. Burton.


            So prosperous was the school becoming that with the influence of the well-to-do planter, Jeremiah P. Haughton the name of the school was changed in 1857 to MADISON COLLEGE and an ambitious building program was begun. Elder Selph continued as president (who with W. T. Bennett handled the collegiate program and Charles Watson headed the preparatory department). For younger students and for those who entered the college with academic deficiencies the preparatory department was a necessity. There had been ninety-six students in attendance for the academic year ending June 1857; fifty in the collegiate course, forty-six in the preparatory course. (PROCEEDINGS, 1857)

            The building begun in 1857 resulted the next year in a new brick $15,000 structure which stood on the northeast corner of the Jackson-Huntingdon road at their juncture with Lexington Street. The building was described as "a spacious building, three stories high, with library rooms, society rooms, rooms for /scientific/ apparatus, recitation rooms, a large chapel with ten large and airy dormitories." (PROCEEDINGS, 1858, page 10; "Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Central Baptist Association, September 26, 1858")


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            The location of the college building was on the site of the present King residence in Spring Creek, the second house east of U.S. Highway 70-East and north of the junction of the Spring Creek Law Road (Highway 152) with U.S. Highway 70-East. The building faced Main Street or what is now U. S. Highway 70-East. The college catalogues carried pictures of the college and president's house, a rather glorified depiction insofar as the landscape was concerned.

            Owing on the building, however, was a large debt of $6000, the other expense having been met by subscription and the generous loan of Jeremiah P. Haughton. The board of trustees appointed the Reverend Joseph R. Hamilton as president of the college and Elder J. B. White as professor of mathematics and natural science. Scientific chemical apparatus was acquired for use of the students. (PROCEEDINGS, 1858) Hamilton was an Englishman; middle-aged.

            At the request of the Convention and the college's board of trustees the membership of the latter was increased by legislative action, February 17, 1858 (PRIVATE ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1857-1858, Chapter 66, page 140), so as to consist of Alexander Askew, Spring Creek; Jeremiah P. Haughton, Spring Creek; Samuel P. Clark, Shady Grove, Carroll County; Jeremiah Crook, Jacks Creek, Henderson County; Reverend Reuben Day, Jackson; Jacob Hill, Jackson; A. K. Jones, Mifflin; Reverend Aaron Jones, Jr., Jackson; W. T. Key, Spring Creek; John L. Moore, Jackson; Reverend Meredith H. Neal, Lavinia, Carroll County; Robert Nesbet, Bluff Springs; Reverend William Noland, Danceyville; Henderson Owen, Memphis; Colonel John Blackwell, Shelby County; John K. Pearce, Trenton; John C. Rogers, Spring Creek; Joseph R. Rutledge, Brownsville; William Rhodes, Championville; Reverend William Shelton, Brownsville; Reverend A. A. Sanders, Purdy; R. S. Thomas, Brownsville; John West, Lexington; John R. Woolfolk, Cotton Grove; Reverend George W. Young, Durhamville. (Also, LIFE OF EGBERT HAYWOOD OSBORNE, by Ancil W. Stovall, St. Louis, 1898, page 29)

            Students examinations began on June 11, 1858 and lasted through June 17. The board of trustees were to have met in the college chapel for its annual meeting, June 16. (PROCEEDINGS, 1858)

            In the 1858-1859 school year the faculty consisted of the Reverend Hamilton, Reverend White (formerly president of a school in Wake Forest, North Carolina), William T. Bennett as professor of ancient languages; Charles Watson served as principal of the preparatory department. Alexander Askew was college bursar. He also kept a boarding house for some of the students. (He bought 3 acres on Main Street, nearly opposite and slightly north of the college, from John C. Rogers, May 1858, where his large residence was built to "board" students. See, Madison County Deed Book 20, page 559.) A liberal arts program was heralded. Board could be had (inclusive of everything except "lights") for $8 a month. (TENNESSEE BAPTIST, September 13, 1859)

            From "Madison College at Spring Creek" by Emma Inman Williams, THE JACKSON SUN, December 3, 1944, page 16; based on information in the college catalog of 1858-1859:

Sixty-five students enrolled for the forty-week session in 1859-1860. Thirteen of these were expelled during the year. These had probably either been 'indisposed to study' or had 'indulged in practices forbidden by regulations.' This church institution boasted that it would not tolerate idleness, intemperance or any vice by which injury is committed upon all who are in any way connected with the institution; that 'no student will be retained in the institution who is guilty of intemperance, profanity or any species of immorality or any conduct which renders him an unfit associate for young gentlemen of correct habits.' Students at Spring Creek were required to attend some divine service on Sunday, could not cut classes, could not change their boarding house without the consent of the President, could not be absent from their rooms after seven in the evening except on Wednesday prayer meeting nights and the Sabbath, could not frequent any bar-room or place where liquors were sold, should not associate with idle or vicious com any, should not take part in a duel or carry a pistol, should respect the members of the faculty.


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            At the West Tennessee Baptist Convention's annual meeting, in 1859, the college board of trustees submitted a report indicating that they had been "laboring under an accumulating debt, chiefly for building. The entire indebtedness of the institution, inclusive of interest, is about $14,000, $8000 of which are now due and the balance falling due in the space of three years. The local board has paid about $8000. The local board feels very sensibly the weight resting upon them and by reason of the death of our Brother J. P. Haughton, to whom is due the chief indebtedness, some immediate arrangements have to be made by which it shall be liquidated." (PROCEEDINGS, 1859) Other than the Reverend Hamilton as a teaching president, 1859-1860, Lysander Houk, Giddings Buck and Isaac Day were engaged as teachers. There were only two graduates by this time, I. B. Day and T. M. Hutchison. (IBID.)

            On March 28, 1861, through its chairman, Dr. V. B. Woolfolk, the college board of trustees conveyed to Edward Willis as trustee the college grounds, to have the debts paid by March 25, 1863. The outstanding debts were a note due executors of Jeremiah P. Haughton, $5702.77 (due Jan. 1, 1863) and another one to the same executors, $750 (due April 21, year not given); a note due John C. Rogers, $805.08 (due April 25, 1859) and one due him, $49.52 (due January 25, 1860); a note due John L. Moore, $500 (due April 20, 1859); a note to Warlick and Gilliken for the use of John L. Moore, $463 (due June 16, 1858); a note due J. C. Rogers, John L. Moore, Alexander Askew and D. H. /Selph?/ for $600 (due May 1, 1858); a note due J. C. Rogers, $225 (due July 17, 1860). (Document recorded March 30, 1861 in Deed Book 23, page 14)

            The Reverend J. R. Hamilton sued the college board, perhaps for back-salary and other debts, in the circuit court of Madison County late in 1860. Sheriff John R. Woolfolk was authorized by the court to sell the school and land on which it was located, April 22, 1861; the date of sale was extended to May 6, 1861. (WEST TENNESSEE WHIG, Jackson, March 29, May 27, 1861) The circuit court records for this period are missing but from deeds of a later date it is known that the Haughtons acquired title to the college and land and it was divided among the Haughton heirs. L. B. Haughton sold his interest to Alexander Askew. (Madison County Deed Book 29, pages 636-638; a 1/6 interest in the three acre lot "upon which Madison College is situated") The 1 acre on which the college actually stood and the grounds immediately around it were later owned by G. W. Haughton's son-in-law, Joseph D. Askew, who sold this acreage to W. B. Rains, February 1896 (Madison County Deed Book 68, page 192; 1 acre "known as the college lot"). Rains sold this lot to Charles Fly, February 1906. (IBID. Book 69, page 536)

            College operations were suspended during the Civil War which began in 1861 as well as the legal proceedings regarding its sale and future operation. The Baptists at this point would not aggressively finance schools, especially those with debts. Tuition fees and generosity from benefactors of the college alone could not meet its obligations due principally to the initial large debt incurred with the construction of the imposing college building. The Reverend William T. Bennett began operation of the college, somewhat after the war, in 1866, and the West Tennessee Baptist Convention took it back under its supervision for a time. In the 1866-1867 school year eighty-eight students had been enrolled. Creditors compromised with the board of trustees, extending the time for the debts to be paid but the college failed with the closing of the session in May 1869. The West Tennessee Baptist Convention then "backed" Union University then located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee but which institution later merged with the West Tennessee College in Jackson to form the Southwestern Baptist University, in that city, which school eventually became known as Union University.

            Madison College continued as a private institution, governed by a board of trustees. It continued to attract youth but it is likely the school's preparatory department was the most successful aspect of its operation. For


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several years the Reverend John Owen Robinson served as president of the reconstituted college. On December 25, 1875 William A. Hughes, a native Virginian, who had taught school in the eleventh civil district of Madison county, was appointed president of the college, to begin his duties January 10, 1876. (THE JACKSON SUN, Jackson, January 7, 1876) Unfortunately, the college building was burned, a complete ruin, on Thursday, February 24, 1876. THE JACKSON SUN announced the tragic destruction in its February 25, 1876 issue:

A College Burned

Thursday evening the large college building at Spring Creek, knovn as Madison College, was destroyed by fire. The flames originated on the roof by sparks falling from the chimney, and when discovered were too far advanced to be overcome. The furniture of the building was pretty well saved. The building itself was valued at $15,000. It was one of the oldest college buildings in West Tennessee, and as a school enjoyed considerable reputation. The loss is a very serious one to the community in which it so long flourished and we extend them our sincerest sympathies.


            In conversation with Mr. William Wadford Donnell (born 1907) and wife, Lanier Exum Donnell, of Spring Creek, June 19, 1996, the former recalled that his father, John Baxter Donnell (1865-1951) was a boy, attending the preparatory course of the Madison College when the building burned, who told this son about the fire and the fact that he had run home at the time to tell home folks about the burning of the college.

          Joseph (Joe) D. Askew used some of the brick salvaged from the old college building to build his residence .3 mile north of the village crossroads (west side of the Jackson-Huntingdon Road). Construction on this house was finished in the spring of 1879. (TRIBUNE-SUN, Jackson, May 22, 1879) Askew and his second wife, Eula Utley Askew (1872-1951) continued to live there, she into her widowhood. This brick house was a local landmark until it burned in the 1980s.

            Advertisement in the WEST TENNESSEE DIRECTORY (Louisville, Ky., 1872)


From LIFE OF EGBERT HAYWOOD OSBORNE, by Ancil W. Stovall, St. Louis, 1898, page 31

            From WEST TENNESSEE DIRECTORY, published in Louisville, Kentucky in 1872, pages 135, 137:


SPRING CREEK is beautifully located on an elevation of land in the extreme northeastern portion of Madison county. It is distant thirteen miles from Jackson, the road being rather uneven and sandy. This, of course, is conducive to the trade of the village, causing many a purchase there that might otherwise go to Jackson. The town was far more fortunate than many of lie compeers during the days of the late disastrous war, suffering only the usual detriment to trade consequent upon a civil strife. An unusual spirit of enterprise characterizes its inhabitants. They look hopefully forward to the day when they shall occupy a move conspicuous sphere among West Tennessee towns. A pet theme of conversation is the proposed railroad from Huntington, distant twenty-four miles, passing through Spring Creek to Jackson. It will be a branch of the Nashville and Northwestern road. Though the proposition has been only a proposition for so long a time, due to the Nashville and Northwestern railroad being in litigation, still it will eventually be built. Another feature marking the enterprise of this little town and its vicinity, is its schools.


Founded in 1857, by Jerry Haughton, Esq., is a large, substantial three-story brick building. It occupies a commanding position, overlooking a narrow and fertile valley. The adjoining grounds are well shaded by forest trees, and could easily be made very beautiful. The building was built by subscription, the wealthier citizens fully appreciating the fact that good schools are absolutely indispensable to the progress of any community. The President, Rev. J. O. Sullivan, is a gentleman equal to the many responsibilities of his office.


Under the management of Major Jessie Taylor, is yet in its youth. This fall it enters upon its third term. It was founded by its present principal in 1879. Though just now laboring under many inconveniences, it bids fair to heroine a school worthy an appreciative people. The shady and extensive play-grounds are delightful concomitants of the many other features that insure the health and enjoyment of the Institute's large school.

          There are three different religious congregations that regularly worship at the two humble, but comfortable, churches of the town one Baptist, one Cumberland Presbyterian, and one Old School Presbyterian.
          The business houses, though yet few in number, are owned by enterprising men, who make no little effort to secure their share of trade. In point of advertising, they set an example worthy the imitation of all non-progressives. Out of six stores, four readily embraced the opportunity to advertise in this work. The following are a list of our advertisers:
          W. P. O'Neal, dealer in groceries, dry goods, boots, shoes, hats, etc.
          Coats & Hall, dealers in dry goods, groceries, clothing, hoots, shoes, hat., etc. Medicine a specialty.
          W. A. Fussell, dealer in groceries, liquors, tobacco and cigars. Fine liquors a specialty.
          J. W. Fox, exclusive druggist; deals also in cigars and tobacco.
          Those business men represent the commercial interests of their town. To them we refer all seeking knowledge of the facilities of Spring Creek as a trading point. The town contains about five hundred inhabitants, and was incorporated in 1858.


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            Those students in attendance at Madison College, 1858-1859, from its catalog, Cited in LIFE OF EGBERT HAYWOOD OSBORNE, by Ancil W. Stovall, St. Louis, 1898, pages 29-30: Johfl Askew, Joseph D. Askew, John O. Askew, W. J. F. Allen, S. M. Allen, John D. Cocke, C. C. Conner, Joseph D. Castellav, John P. Clark, J. B. Cullen, M. L. Day, A. J. Dawson, J. B. Day, Thomas C. Day, Thomas J. Dowling, Rufus, Donnell, George W. Fly, Hezekiah Gray, W. Curry Gray, William P. Godwin, F. B. Godwin, T. H. Godwin, J. G. Gilliken, D. H. Grant, S. P. Gillmore, N Holland, J. K. Holland, A. G. Haughton, T. M. Hutchinson, James Herron, George W. Hill, J. M. Harrell, H. C. Irby, P. S. Irby, W. D. Irby, L. R. Irby, H. H. Jones, Demetrius Lacy, Wyatt Mooring, J. R. Mooring, Chris T. Mooring, W. W. Mills, James W. Mills, Thomas B. Mills, H. H. Mills, J. F. March, W. W. Manly, J. W. Nowell, T. E. Prewitt, B. F. Prewitt, W. H Prewitt, Robert Paine, William Peacock, W. H. Parker, J. F. Richardson, H. H. Rhymes, T. R. Short, W. N. Shinault, G. T. Sells, T. C. Skinner, Sion Skipper, Thomas H. Simpson, E. L. Sanders, Lindsay Sanders, R. L. Smith, R. S. Thomas, Clinton Trottman, G. W. Tatum, Charles T. Watson, L. D. Walton, J. V. Woods, Chris C. Woods, T. H. Winfield, B. W. Wilkerson, R. A. Williford, Ferdinand Wood, John Woolfolk.

            Those students in attendance at Madison college, 1859-1860, from its catalog, cited by Emma Inman Williams in an article, "Madison College at Spring Creek", THE JACKSON SUN, December 3, 1944: S. M. Allen, J. O. Askew, T. H. Askew, Joseph Askew, J. Bradbury, G. T. Barksdale, G. Burrow, Eugene Brooks, E. H. Crook, G. H. Camp, W. S. Clampit, F. M. Dill, F. S. Deener, W. L. Eddins, D.H. Grant, Lafayette Grant, Hezekiah Gray, J. A. Gooch, W. P. Godwin, T. H. Godwin, C. Gray, J. C. Holloway, M. W. Harris, John S. Harris, S. C. Hear, J. N. Harrell, A. G. Haighton, L. R. Irby, P. S. Irby, H. H. Jones, Matthew Jones, H. F. Jones, J. W. Key, D. Lacy, A. J. Miller, T. N. Maxwell, J. T. McNeeS, T. B. Mills, M. H. Owen, B. F. Prewett, W. H. Prewett, John Porter, S. W. Puckett, John Richardson, J. P. Ragan, Thomas V. Rhodes, Butler Rogers, J. B. Staley, T. C. Skinner, T. R. Short, B. C. Simmons, G. S. Strayhorn, Alphonson Strayhorn, Leroy Strayhorn, R . L. Smith, T. H. Smith, G. W. Tatum, William E. Trahern, J. V. Woods, J. G. Woolfolk, F. Wood, R. A. Williford, W. M. Whitelaw, J. M. Withers. (The 1860 U.S. Census, Madison County, Civil District 12, also lists J. J. Miller, as a student, age 21, native of Kentucky.)

            Efforts to locate original copies of the Madison College catalogs of which at least three separate issues, 1857-1860, were published, by the writer, have been unsuccessful. Mrs. Mattie B. McDaniel, a former teacher and native of the Spring Creek community, told the writer, June 25, 1996 that Mrs. Eula Utley Askew, wife of Joseph D. Askew, had one such catalog which she gave to William Boulton but his heirs know nothing of its fate.


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