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PROFILE: Highland boasts first college in Crenshaw County

The following article was part of the Profile 2016 special section of The Luverne Journal. The section in its entirety can be found in the March 31 edition of The Luverne Journal.

Few may realize that at one point in history, Crenshaw County was home to a college; Highland Home College, to be precise. Originally called Highland Home Institute, the college was established in 1881 by Justus “Mack” Barnes, Col. M.L. Kirkpatrick and Samuel Jordan. The school’s original location was in Strata, but do to serious issues with the spread of typhoid fever and “yellow chills” in the area, it was decided that the school should be moved about a mile inside Crenshaw County. The Highland Home Institute operated through its eighth season, 1888-1889, and in February of 1889, the school was incorporated under the name Highland Home College.
The two-story frame school building consisted of classrooms on the first story and a large auditorium, which encompassed the entire second story. While the college was not specifically a “church school,” a Bible Department was enacted and it was said that many men who studied there later went into the ministry.
The name for the town, Highland Home, was reportedly chosen by the three school founders. Up until that time, the area was referred to as Rocky Mount; this was when the area was still part of Lowndes County.
Barnes built a large home, which originally contained 16 rooms but was later downsized to eight. After he moved to Montgomery, the home was used to house the principal of the school and his family. The structure was later torn down when an elementary building was constructed in 1959-60.
From the beginning, Highland Home College had one goal: to educate.
The three courses offered at Highland Home College were academic, scientific and classical. The school day started at 7:30 each morning and ended at 4:15, with the last 15 minutes dedicated to physical culture. Most of the classes lasted about 45 minutes, and the only break offered during the day was at lunch.
The school was co-educational from the beginning and primarily drew students in who resided in south Alabama.
Two literary societies were in affect during those days, the Wattsonian Society for the young women and the Zetalethians (Truth Seekers) for the young men. These societies held debates, musical programs open to the public and wrote essays. In May 1895 the Alumni Association of Highland Home College was established with 74 charter members enrolled.
Tragedy struck the campus on the morning of March 17, 1904, when the college building burned. The cause of the fire was never determined, but it was said that it began on the roof. The building was unsalvageable, and at that time the cost of the structure averaged $7,500 with only $1,500 as the insurance.
In the summer of 1904, a new building idea was brought to the table, which was valued between $15,000 and $20,000. The building included steam heating, would be well lit and ventilated and could accommodate 250 students. It also included a physical laboratory as well as a library with 400 volumes. The college received several donations of money and land to help offset the cost of the new building. Donations included 40 acres of land from Highland Home citizens, nine acres and two houses from other citizens and approximately $10,000 in cash and pledges.
In the 1905-06 session, enrollment had reached 225 with students coming from Crenshaw, Butler, Lowndes, Covington, Dallas, Montgomery, Conecuh, Pike, Jefferson, Baldwin, Coffee, Monroe, Autauga, Marengo and Escambia counties in Alabama. The school reached its highest record of enrollment in 1890-91 with 243 students from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Texas.
The property of the college was sold to the state of Alabama in June 1916, and then became a high school known as Crenshaw County High School. In 1936 a new brick building was erected for the high school in the space adjacent to the college building. At that time the elementary school moved into the old building and remained there for many years. Eventually a new elementary building was erected and the old college structure was demolished in 1959.
The Highland Home College remained open between the years of 1881-1915. Over the span of 34 years, it could be said that much was accomplished in the filed of education as well as culture.