Descendants of F.R. Earle donate items to university

Release Date: 4/18/2013

Two descendants of one of the great early leaders of University of the Ozarks, The Rev. Fontaine Richard "F.R." Earle, visited the campus on April 18 to donate items from their family to the university.

F.R. Earle served as president of Cane Hill College from 1859 through 1891 and then was named president of Arkansas Cumberland College from 1900-1902 after the college had moved to Clarksville and been renamed.  University of the Ozarks' ancestry dates back to Cane Hill College, which was established in 1834 in Cane Hill, Ark.

Robert Richardson and Elizabeth Richardson of Little Rock, Ark., presented copies of an 1867 grammar book written by Earle as well as portraits of Earle and his wife, Amanda, to U of O President Dr. Rick Niece. Robert Richardson is a great grandson and Elizabeth Richardson is a great, great granddaughter of Earle.

"We felt like it was important that University of the Ozarks have some of these items from F.R. Earle," Robert Richardson said. "This university and our family have a history that dates back a long time and we're happy to keep that connection going."

F.R. Earle gifts.

Robert Richardson (second from right) and Elizabeth Richardson (right), descendants of former Cane Hill College President F.R. Earle, recently donated to Ozarks copies of a grammar book and paintings that belonged to Earle. Among those who met with the Richardsons were (from left) Randy Peterson, director of institutional research; Stuart Stelzer, director of Robson Library; and Dr. Rick Niece, university president.

The grammar book, Practical Grammar of the English Language, was written by Earle and published in 1867 in Nashville, Tenn.  The Richardsons donated several copies of the book to the university, including one to Robson Library. The Richardsons will also donate copies of paintings that were done by Earle's wife, Amanda (Buchanan) Earle, who served as an art teacher at the college for a time. The paintings include portraits of F.R. and Amanda Earle as well as early renderings of Cane Hill College.

According to Robert Richardson, there are 60 living direct descendants of F.R. and Amanda Earle, including six who are named Fontaine in honor of F.R. Earle.

Under Earle's leadership, Cane Hill College awarded its first college degrees in 1859. He also saw the college burned to the ground during the Civil War in the early 1860s and would later lead efforts to rebuild it. In addition, he was president when Cane Hill first awarded college degrees to women, becoming the first coeducational college in the state.

Earle was born in 1831 in Eastern Kentucky and would become an ordained Cumberland Presbyterian minister. He was named president of Cane Hill College in 1859 and, two years later, enlisted in the Army of the Confederate States, along with most of the college's other teachers and students, to serve in the Civil War.  Earle served four years in the Confederate Army, where he rose to the rank of captain and led Company B of the 34th Arkansas Infantry. He saw action in several battles and would later attain the rank of major.

Along with serving as college president, Earle was a key figure in Arkansas history in the areas of religion, military and politics. After retiring as president of Arkansas Cumberland College in 1902, he remained on the college's Board of Trustees until his death in 1908.

Following Earle's death, the college's Board recorded in the minutes of its annual meeting: "Dr. Earle was a stalwart, courageous yet unassuming and gentle character. As a solider he was brave and fearless. As a teacher he was eminently qualified and painstakingly sympathetic. As a minster of the Gospel, he was powerful and persuasive. His great work on this Board and for Arkansas Cumberland College is well-known to you all…"