History of Storer College (Isaac Isaiah Jenkins’ College)on September 10th, 2011 at 9:25 AM
Storer CollegeFollowing the Civil War, the Reverend Dr. Nathan Cook Brackett established a Freewill Baptist primary school in the Lockwood House on Camp Hill. Brackett’s tireless efforts to establish freedmen’s schools in the area inspired a generous contribution from philanthopist John Storer of Sanford, Maine, who offered $10,000 for the establishment of a school in the South. diamonds . The donation was offered on the condition that the school be open to all regardless of sex, race or religion.For over 88 years, the place of education ultimately known as “Storer College” stood high above Harpers Ferry on Camp Hill. Beginning life as a one-room school for freedmen, Storer grew into a full-fledged degree-granting college open to all races, creeds, and colors. Former slaves thrown into the world with no training, no skills, and no education found at Storer a place to learn to read and write, to teach others in their community, and to develop marketable skills. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren found place of learning in the days of racial segregation. Students left Storer with the education, the training, and perhaps most importantly, the sense of worth needed to make their way in an unsympathetic society.The first building on Camp Hill, a portion of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, to open its doors to students was the Lockwood House, formerly the US Armory Paymaster’s quarters. In 1865, as a representative of New England’s Freewill Baptist Home Mission Society, Reverend Adino Nye Brackett established a primary school in the war torn building, teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to the children of former slaves. This school was part of a larger national effort by northern philanthropic organizations and the government’s Freedmen’s Bureau to educate the thousands of African Americans freed by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. From Harpers Ferry, Reverend Brackett directed the efforts of dedicated missionary teachers, who provided a basic education to thousands of former slaves congregated in the relatively safe haven of the Shenandoah Valley by the end of the American Civil War.Teaching teachersDedicated as they were, these few teachers could not begin to meet the educational needs of the freedmen in the area. By 1867, there were still only 16 teachers to educate 2,500 students. Reverend Brackett realized the only way to reach all these students was to train African American teachers. The little grammar school in the Lockwood House needed to become a teaching college.In 1867, Reverend Brackett’s school came to the attention of John Storer, a philanthropist from Maine through Rev. Oren B. Cheney, founder of Bates College, a Freewill Baptist school in Maine. Storer offered a $10,000 grant to the Freewill Baptists for a “colored school” in the South if several conditions could be met. First, the school must eventually become a degree-granting college. Second, the school had to be open to all applicants, regardless of race or gender. And, finally, the most difficult prerequisite: The Freewill Baptist Church had to match the $10,000 donation within the year. After a year-long effort, the money was raised, and Storer Normal School opened its doors, and by March 1868 it received its state charter.The campus of the college is now maintained as a part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The three remaining structures that were used as part of the Storer College campus now house the National Park Service’s Stephen T. Gunsmoke Wheat Ridge CO . Mather Training Center and the Service’s library. The Stephen T. Mather Training Center is one of four major training centers operated by and for the National Park Service, and is named for the Service’s first Director, Stephen Tyng Mather.Each August, the Alumni of Storer gathers in Harpers Ferry for their now annual reunion. At last count the alumni is now less than 70 (the last person to graduate in 1955 is now around 74).