The American Cyclopædia (1879)/William and Mary, College of
WILLIAM AND MARY, College of, the oldest seat of learning, except Harvard college, in the United States, near the city of Williamsburg, Va. An effort had been made as early as 1619 to establish a college at Henrico, near the present city of Richmond. An endowment of £1,500 and 15,000 acres of land was procured, but George Thorpe, who came from England to take the preliminary steps, and the settlers who accompanied him, were massacred in 1622, and the project was relinquished. In 1660-'61 the general assembly passed an act providing for the establishment and endowment of a college. In 1693 a charter for a college was obtained from England, through the efforts of the Rev. James Blair and of Nicholson, lieutenant governor of the colony. It took its name from the reigning king and queen, who appropriated lands, funds, a duty on tobacco, and the office of surveyor general of the colony, for its support. Buildings designed by Sir Christopher Wren were soon erected, and Blair was appointed the first president.
The first college edifice was destroyed by fire in 1705, and rebuilt shortly after. In 1691 Robert Boyle, the English philosopher, left his personal estate to trustees with the recommendation that it should be expended for “charitable and pious uses.” The trustees directed that the annual proceeds, excepting £90 to be given to Harvard college, should be paid to the college of William and Mary for the maintenance and education of Indian students. Prior to the revolution the college received liberal gifts from the general assembly and from individuals for the foundation of scholarships and other purposes. In 1770 it was the wealthiest college in America. The revolution deprived it of its richest chartered and other endowments, including the Boyle benefaction, and reduced its resources to $2,500 in money and the then unproductive land granted by the crown. In 1781 the college was closed, and the buildings were alternately occupied before and during the siege of Yorktown by the French and the American troops. While so held the president's house and a wing of the main building were burned. After the revolution the general assembly gave certain lands to the college, and its organization was changed. The grammar school and the two professorships of divinity and oriental languages were abolished, the Indian school having been previously abandoned. A professorship of law and police, one of anatomy, medicine, and chemistry, and one of modern languages were created. Until 1776 the chancellors of the college were the bishops of London, excepting in 1764, when the office was held by the earl of Hardwicke. George Washington was chancellor from 1788 to 1799, and ex-President John Tyler from 1859 to 1862. During the intervening period the office was not filled. The present chancellor (1876), Hugh Blair Grigsby, was elected in 1871. In 1859 the college building with the old and valuable library was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt and restored before the end of 1860. In May, 1861, the college exercises were suspended in consequence of the war, and the building was soon after occupied as a barrack and subsequently as a hospital. In September, 1862, it was again burned during the occupation of Williamsburg by the Union forces. Its losses from 1861 to 1865 in buildings and endowment were about $125,000. The college buildings not destroyed and grounds were used by federal troops from May, 1862, till September, 1865, for depots and quarters. In 1869 the main building was substantially restored, the faculty was reorganized, and the college opened to students. Besides a preparatory department, known as the grammar and “Matty” school, founded by Mrs. Mary Whaley in 1742, the college has the following departments: 1, Latin; 2, Greek; 3, mathematics; 4, French; 6, German; 6, natural philosophy and mixed mathematics; 7, chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and physiology; 8, moral and intellectual science and belles-lettres. The course of instruction occupies three to five years. The usual academic degrees are conferred. There have been founded in the college 15 scholarships, which entitle the holders to free tuition. In 1875-'6 the college had 7 instructors and 86 students, of whom 71 were in the collegiate department, and a library of 5,000 volumes. The institution was formerly under Episcopal control, but is now connected with no denomination. Benjamin S. Ewell, LL. D., has been president of the college since 1854; he was also president in 1848. Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, Chief Justice Marshall, Peyton Randolph, president of the first American congress, John Randolph of Roanoke, and Winfield Scott were graduates of this college. Until 1819 the college by virtue of its charter exercised the duties of the office of surveyor general of Virginia; among the surveyors appointed by it were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The parent Phi Beta Kappa society was organized in the college of William and Mary, Dec. 5, 1776. The society was suspended here in 1781, but was revived about 1850.