Ozarks' History: Arkansas Cumberland College, 1891-1920
Although the College at Cane Hill was fading physically, the spirit of Cane Hill College had caught the imagination of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the late 1880s. The Cumberland Presbyterians longed for a "state" college reflective of their beliefs and values and in 1887, appointed a committee to examine Cane Hill College as a possible starting point in their endeavors.
In view of the nearby competition from Arkansas Industrial University, the decline of Cane Hill as a population center and its remote location within the Synod, the Synod determined that a rejuvenated, Church-related institution in a more centralized locale would better serve them in the pursuit of their educational goals. After four years and numerous negotiations, Arkansas Cumberland College was incorporated and in 1891 opened its doors in Clarksville, Arkansas.
In the opening ceremonies held in Cumberland Hall on September 8 of that year, the Reverend J.H. Wofford, president of the College's Board of Trustees, glowingly re-counted the College's heritage back to its establishment in October of 1834 and reemphasized the institution's educational and spiritual purposes and aims.
Arkansas Cumberland College, was a denominational college, but just as had been the case at Cane Hill College, no student was ever turned away because of religious beliefs. The College remained coeducational because Church leaders felt the pressure of the changing times and thought it beneficial for their daughters to receive a quality education. Concerning coeducation, the 1891-92 catalog noted, "This method of coeducation we hold to be the natural method since both sexes are usually born in the same family.... But under this system prudent and wholesome restrictions are necessary and will be carefully and persistently maintained."
Expenses at the College were kept at a minimum (consistent with the Presbyterian institution's belief that it served as a mission of the Church). Board could be obtained for ten or twelve dollars per month, and tuition ranged from two to four dollars per month. Musical instruction was only five dollars each month and there was a generally enforced incidental fee of two dollars each term.
Arkansas Cumberland College opened in 1891 with one building, the impressive three-story Cumberland Hall, which had originally been the site for the first school for the deaf in Arkansas. The campus soon saw the addition of a library and two dormitories. Substantial improvement and progress in the affairs of the College, including a fairly strong endowment, were evident by 1906. In that year the majority of Cumberland Presbyterians elected to reunite with the main body of the Presbyterian Church USA. This reunion would lead to a change to the institution's name more than a decade later.
By 1917 a new women's dormitory, Grove Hall, had been constructed and student organizations were flourishing on the small campus. Athletic contests were held in baseball, football and basketball with various colleges and high schools throughout the state.