Search billions of records on


Columbia Athenaeum was one of the old and well-established schools of Tennessee and consequently enjoyed the advantages which the traditions of the years always give to an institution of learning. In 1837 Rev. Franklin Gillette Smith, A. M., who had begun teaching as early as 1812, left Virginia and came to Columbia Female Institute. From 1838 to 1852 he was the principal of the Columbia Female Institute. In 1852 he founded the Athenaeum which was located across the fence from the Columbia Institute and in 1858, he secured its incorporation by the legislature with a self-perpetuating board of trustees, independent of any external control. The Athenaeum was thus free from all the ecclesiastical restraint. Mr. Smith, assisted by his able and accomplished wife, Sarah Ann Smith, administered the affairs of the school until his death in 1866. Mrs. Smith succeeded her husband. When she died in 1871, her eldest son, Robert D. Smith, A.M., took charge.  The college grounds, 22 acres of extent, at the western edge of Columbia and buildings were beautiful and substantial. They were of Doric Architectural structure. According to published reports of the US Commissioner of Education for 1887-1888. The buildings were on an high elevation partly covered by a grove of forest trees, thus affording a wide view of the town and surrounding country. The main building was 115 x 75 feet. The buildings were the Davis Hall, the Boarding Department, the Rotunda and Pavilion, the Rectory, the Gymnasium and various outhouses. The Library contained nearly 10,000 volumes. There was substantial scientific equipment for the times, a large museum of natural history specimens, and a fine art collection. In 1892 the Athenaeum employed, including the president 23 officers and preparatory instructors. The annual enrollment during the 39 years of the Athenaeum's history ranged from 125 to 350. The books show that more than 10,000 young ladies, including the wife of U. S. Vice President John N. Garner, received instructions in this school. In 1842 Ex. President Martin Van Buren visited the school. The changing conditions of the family and country in general made it desirable to close the school. About 1905 a large part of the grounds and buildings was sold to Columbia for use in the Public School System. The city tore away the old buildings and erected a magnificently modern Columbia Central High School in 1915 for the use of Columbia & Maury County. Subsequently Whitthorne Junior High School was also added to the grounds.     Much of this material was from the book MAURY COUNTY HISTORY by William Turner.   [WA 11/24/2001}]

  Columbia Athenaeum Rectory Building of the all Girls School 1852-1905

Four of the quarterly Antheum Newspapers "The Gaurdian" of 1861 are posted on Mark Alan Murphy's webpage at. Go to the Images Section: