Mary Allen Seminary | Houston County Texas | c. 1886
What is left of this old school crumbles away more each day and without a drastic intervention soon, this important piece of history will be lost.
Founded in 1886, by the Presbyterian Freedmen Mission, this school was the first in the state of Texas to offer education to African American girls. In January of that year, the school’s first 3 teachers arrived and lived together in a rented farmhouse nearby. At the end of the first year, the school had 46 students enrolled and one brick building had been erected to house students and faculty.
The school was initially a parochial school championed by Reverend Richard Allen and his wife Mary E. Allen, but when she passed away in 1887 just after the school had opened, the institution was named in her memory.
Over the years, enrollment grew and many donations were made to the school to help expand the facility, and by 1891, the campus included 290 acres and another brick hall had been erected.
Although the students were all African-American, the faculty were all white women who were paid $44/month for an 8-month contract (1921). But in 1924, the school was restructured and the Texas School Board appointed its first African American administrator, Reverend Burt Randall Smith.
For the next 6 years, Smith overhauled the curriculum, expanding the library and science facilities. The curriculum, which was initially liberal arts-focused, was adapted to include more vocational training like cooking, dressmaking, shoe making, and millinery.
Thanks to his efforts, the school earned accreditation as a junior college in 1932 with an all-black faculty. The following year, the name of the school became coeducational and changed its name to Mary Allen Junior College.
The school ran successfully over the following decade but closed for the 1943 school year before reopening in 1944. The National Missionary Baptist Convention took over management and ownership of the college, which continued to educate African American students until 1972 when it closed.
The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, but it would never reopen. The years of disuse have not been kind and today, the building is almost completely exposed to the elements from a collapsed section of the roof. The building and its legacy have generated a lot of interest over the years- but no one has proposed a plan that could be brought to fruition (yet) and time is running out.