Alice Gray Upchurch

WEST TEXAS NORMAL AND BUSINESS COLLEGE. West Texas Normal and Business College, in the town of Cherokee in San Saba County, was the last name of several successive schools first organized by Francis Marion Behrns in 1889. The son of an area ranching family, Behrns studied in Boston and at the Chicago School of Oratory. Returning home, he established a school near Tow, in northeastern Llano County, in 1889. By 1894 the school had been moved to Cherokee, sixteen miles to the northwest, and was known as Cherokee Academy. Behrns and a faculty of four offered eight courses of study: primary, preparatory, normal, scientific, classical, commercial, elocution, and music. In 1895 or 1896 the name of the school was changed to West Texas Normal and Business College. The college was organized in January 1895 with Behrns as president. On April 8, 1895, a cornerstone was laid for a three-story native-stone building, just to the southeast of the small frame building that had served the academy. The new structure opened the following year, offering fifteen recitation rooms and an auditorium with a capacity for 800 people. The school, described in 1899 as Christian but nondenominational, was chartered on May 10, 1898, with authorized capital stock of $10,000. According to a former student, enrollment in the school never exceeded 100 and had dropped to about fifty during the school's last year "because many parents `thought the professor had gotten too cranky.'" An association of former students was organized in 1939. The college closed in 1903 because of Behrns's ill health, and on March 17, 1905, the property was sold to the Church of Christ for $15,000. The Church of Christ used the building for a junior college. It was unable to keep up with the payments, however, and after a few years the property reverted to Behrns. On April 4, 1911, Behrns again sold the school, this time for $20,000 to the Llano district conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The conference used the building for a time to house the Cherokee Junior College. A Texas historical marker for West Texas Normal and Business College was erected at the site in 1966.

Alma Ward Hamrick, The Call of the San Saba: A History of San Saba County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1941; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1969). San Angelo Standard Times, December 24, 1978. Alice Gray Upchurch, "A Sketch History of San Saba County," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 50 (July 1946). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Donald W. Whisenhunt, The Encyclopedia of Texas Colleges and Universities (Austin: Eakin, 1986).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Alice Gray Upchurch, "WEST TEXAS NORMAL AND BUSINESS COLLEGE," accessed July 18, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kbw11.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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