Mary Allen Seminary
CROCKETT- Atop a hill in Crockett, on HWY 19 sits a fading historical treasure. The Mary Allen Seminary, which was once a bustling school for African American girls and later a co-ed junior college, is now a crumbling structure. However, plans are in the works to not only restore the magnificent old building but to transform it into a museum.
The Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History, Inc. (Mary Allen Museum) consists of a seven-Member Board. The corporation was established in 2000 and currently owns the Mary Allen College building. Members are diligently working to advance its restoration. The group’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the historical experiences of African Americans by:
- Restoring the Mary Allen College building and grounds to use as a museum.
- Providing permanent and traveling exhibits consisting of the art and history of African Americans.
- Serving as an educational resource for schools and other community organizations.
- Serving as a state-wide tourist attraction to educate the public about the history and culture of African Americans.
The first step in this process is working with the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University and Vision Bridge Consulting, LLC to:
The establishment of the Mary Allen Museum will benefit the community and region as a whole socially, economically, and educationally.
MYETX was contacted by Expedition Texas recently to help show host Bob Mauldin locate little-known and forgotten historical gems in East Texas and be his guide for a day. MYETX Editor Dana Goolsby took Mauldin to several locations but their first stop was in Crockett, Texas at the Mary Allen Seminary.
Goolsby contacted the Mary Allen Museum Board of Directors and they were happy to assist MYETX and Expedition Texas in honoring an East Texas historical treasure.
Expedition Texas will air the episodes MYETX assisted with in March. Stay tuned for dates to watch our adventures in East Texas!
Mary Allen Seminary Timeline
Initially, the school was named Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School from 1871 to 1875, then Moffatt Parochial School from 1875 to 1885, and finally Mary Allen Seminary from 1886 to 1933 before it was named a junior college- Mary Allen Junior College.
- In 1871, during the first year of Crockett, Rev. Samuel Fisher Tenney’s pastorate, he established a Sabbath school for black children in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. Church members provided construction funds and solicitations were made by Tenney. This effort led to the establishment of a parochial day school known as Moffatt Academy. The program developed slowly, in part because of indifference and opposition, as well as in part due to the depressed economic circumstances of the times.
Secretary to the denomination’s Board of Missions for Freedmen, Richard H. Allen, was invited to Crockett where prominent businessmen joined Tenney in receiving him. The community then offered a grant of ten acres on a hilltop plot north of the city.
Allen’s wife, Mary Esther, actively promoted “Our Texas Boarding School for Colored Girls” through the Women’s Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedmen. Upon Mrs. Allen’s sudden death in, the board agreed that the official name of the school should become Mary Allen Seminary.
- Rev. J. B. Smith was commissioned to take charge of the new seminary, which opened on January 15, 1886. The school began as a day and boarding school offering courses at the primary, elementary, high school, and teacher-training levels for girls only. Citizens of Crockett added twelve additional acres to the original campus.
- By 1889, the school had acquired 300 acres of land adjacent to the campus, and Grace McMillan Hall was completed. These advances were made possible by gifts from northern donors. In 1890 the school listed eight teachers in addition to Reverend and Mrs. Smith and 211 students. Smith resigned in 1910.
- The years 1910 to 1924 were dark and discouraging due to fire, and difficulty for Mary Allen Seminary.
- In 1924, the Mary Allen Seminary board took steps to revitalize the program of the institution. The board commissioned the first black administrator, Burt Randall Smith. He developed an all-black faculty, upgraded the library and science laboratory, repaired the plant, and enriched the curriculum.
- 1925-1926- Mary Allen Seminary’s high school department was accredited by the State Department of Education
- 1927 the first junior-college class graduated.
- 1932 the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools certified the junior college.
- 1933 the school became coeducational and changed its name to Mary Allen Junior College.
- 1936 the last high school class graduated.
- 1938 gym and farm shop were completed.
- The second President Smith died in 1940, a year in which 210 students were enrolled.
- In 1942 the Crockett Chamber of Commerce proposed that the property of Mary Allen Junior college be donated toward a four-year state college for black students. The Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., approved the proposal.
- In 1943, when World War II prevented the Texas legislature from acting on the proposal, Mary Allen Junior College was closed, and the property was sold. Student records were eventually transferred to Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina.
- The Texas school reopened in 1944 under the control of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas and was closed in September 1972.
In 1886 the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, under the leadership of the group’s secretary the Rev. Richard Allen, began planning for the establishment of a black girls’ school in Texas. After a statewide survey, they chose Crockett as the school site because of the area’s large black population and because of a local black parochial school operated by the Rev. Samuel Fisher Tenny, pastor of the city’s First Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Allen’s wife Mary, for whom the school was named, was instrumental in raising the organizational funds for the new seminary. Dr. Byrd R. Smith became the school’s first black president in 1924 and initiated a period of growth which included the adoption of new programs and the admission of male students. Transferred to the Missionary General Baptist Convention of Texas in 1944, Mary Allen College became a 4-year liberal arts institution. In 1972, plagued by a series of legal and financial setbacks, the school closed. Once the site of a 12-building campus and the home of a noted academic program of quality education and religion, this site serves as a reminder of the proud heritage of Texas’ black population.