From Jay Moore: Snapshots of Abilene Universities
Jay Moore’s newest book, “Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home,” can be purchased at Texas Star Trading Co., 174 Cypress St. www.texasstartrading.com or call 325-672-9696. Books are $27.50. The book contains one or more vignettes from Abilene’s history for each day of the year. Periodically, stories with some connection–however loose–to Abilene’s religious life will be featured on Spirit of Abilene.
Following are a few excerpts from Jay Moore’s book, Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home, that are tied to dates in September. All the entries are related to Abilene’s three church-affiliated universities. To read about the latest enrollment data for each school, see Of Note.
September 11, 1906
ACC Takes Baby Steps
Childer’s Classical Institute opened with 25 students and more than 200 guests present. The school’s aim was to “teach the Bible and build character.” W.H. Free led the new school in singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” a tradition observed at the opening of Abilene Christian University every year since.
September 3, 1929
ACC Reaches Higher Ground
After 23 years of operating their school along North First Street, the faculty and students of Abilene Christian College moved to a loftier location. The old five-acre campus moved to a 60-acre site in northeast Abilene dotted with eight buildings constructed over the previous twelve months—two dorms, an auditorium, dining hall, academy building, president’s home, administration building and a gym. In 1927, the college purchased three tracts comprising a square mile of land, platting much of it as the Abilene Heights addition. The school then sold residential lots to help offset the half million dollars spent on the new buildings. Lot sales opened in December of 1927, and by the end of the first week the cost of the entire property was recouped.
September 13, 1892
Opening of Simmons College
The start of Simmons College came a year later than the original plan; nevertheless, the school got off to a rousing start on a bright, cool Tuesday morning in September of 1892. It was a resolution by the Sweetwater Baptist Association (covering West Texas from Eastland to El Paso) that awarded the school to Abilene following the donation of land by hardware merchant George Phillips and two Fort Worth real estate investors, Emory Ambler and Theodore Vogel. To honor their donation, the southern and northern streets bordering the campus took on their names. Neither Ambler nor Vogel were Baptist; both were Episcopalian.
The fulfillment of the Abilene dream opened with a song by school president William Friley accompanied by two of his daughters and two other female students. The overflow crowd then rose in the auditorium and sang “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” followed by a prayer offered by Dr. Blair of Merkel. Reverend R.T. Hanks, the school’s residential pastor, then brought the opening address. The dedicatory service closed with the singing of “Nearer my God to Thee.”
September 20, 1923
The McMurry auditorium filled to capacity and then some as extra chairs were brought in to handle the crowd assembled to witness McMurry College set sail. In a chivalrous show of support for all Abilene college students, prior to the start of the program, the inaugural McMurry student body gave a yell for McMurry, Simmons College and Abilene Christian. The audience stood to sing “America” before Methodist elder W. M. Lane offered the invocation followed by a reading of Proverbs 3:13-26 beginning, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” Abilene mayor Charles Coombes welcomed the college, followed by the president of Simmons College. The McMurry Bulletin, a student newspaper, was available and carried an anonymous poem titled, “I’m Goin’ To McMurry,” the opening verses being;
I have washed my overalls and patched my old brogans,
And trimmed my fingernails and soaped and scrubbed my hands.
I’m freckle-faced and Roman-nosed and I’ll admit I’m green,
But I’m goin’ to that college they have built in Abilene.