Rutersville College

and The Texas Monument and Military Institute

Rutersville College stood on a site that is one mile east of Rutersville on Old College Road. All that remains at the site is the cemetery.

Historical Markers

1841 Annual Catalogue

Historical Markers

The text of the gray granite centennial marker across the road from the cemetery:

First institution of higher education in Texas recommended in 1837 by Martin Ruter, D.D. Chartered as a Methodist school in 1840. Granted four leagues of land by the Republic of Texas. After educating more than 800 students it merged in 1856 into the Texas Monument and Military Institute.

From the historical marker across the road from the cemetery:

The Rev. Martin Ruter (1785-1838) came to Texas as a missionary for the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1837. A town called Rutersville and Rutersville College, both located here, were named in his honor. Bishop Beverly Waugh arrived in Galveston in early December 1840. His mission was to visit Texas Methodists and to assemble and organize the first annual conference. Accompanied by Thomas O. Summers, Waugh traveled to Austin, where on December 20 he preached in the Capitol. Bishop Waugh arrived in Rutersville on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day he called the conference into session at Rutersville College. During the four day meeting the delegates elected Thomas O. Summers secretary of the conference, heard reports of the nine preachers present, admitted four new preachers, and ordained two deacons. The Texas Missionary Society also met, and plans were made for the second annual conference to be held in San Augustine in 1841. Following its humble beginnings here in 1840, the Texas conference of the Methodist Church grew steadily, eventually to include additional annual conferences within the state.

The pictured marker at the cemetery reads

RUTERSVILLE COLLEGE, the First Methodist and Protestant College in Texas founded 1840. On this site Rutersville College was founded. Its first President was Reverend Chauncy Richardson whose body lies buried near here. Born in Vermont 1802. Died in Fort Bend County, Texas April 11, 1852. The marker and cemetery inclosure [sic.] erected by the Southwest Conference of the Methodist Church in 1949.
Rutersville College marker photos
by John Reed
Grave marker photos for Rev. Chauncy Richardson by John Reed

Rutersville College 1841 Annual Catalogue

Rutersville, Fayette County, Texas


Rev. Chauncey Richardson, A.M., Pres't of Board

Hon. Andrew Rabb

Rev Dr. Wm. P. Smith

Rev. A. P. Manley, M.D.

Mr. Jonas Randall

Mr. John A. King

Mr. Franklin Lewis

Mr. Wager S. Smith

Mr. Horatio Chrisman

Mr. John Rabb, Treasurer of the Board

Mr. Thos. D. Fisher, Sec'y of the Board


Hon. James Webb

Hon. G. W. Barnett

Hon. Francis Moore

Rev. R. Alexander

Hon. Wm. Menefee

Col. R. B. Jarman


Rev. C. Richardson, A.M., President, and acting Professor of Moral Science and Belle Letters

Rev. C. W. Thomas, A.B., Professor of Ancient Languages and Mathematics

_____________,Natural Sciences

_____________,Modern Languages

Mr. Thomas Bell, Tutor

Mrs. Martha G. Richardson, Preceptress.

_____________, Music


Names, Residence

Alfred Alway, Rutersville

Frederic Alway, Rutersville

Frances H. Ayers, Centre Hill

David T. Ayers, Centre Hill

George Barrier, Rutersville

Lionel Browne, Washington Co.

John H. Browne, Washington Co.

Rector H. Chrisman, Washington Co.

Eliphalet W. Crawford, Rutersville

John B. Crawford, Washington Co.

Charles L Cleveland, Brazoria

James B. Cox, Rutersville

James H. Dennis, Washington Co.

Richard Davis, Fayette Co.

Gallant W. Davis, Fayette Co.

Robert M. Eastland, La Grange

Rufus L. Fisher, Rutersville

Thomas B. Fisher, Rutersville

Nathaniel M. Gilliland, Travis Co.

Stephen S. Grey, Rutersville

Patrict Grey, Rutersville

S. B. Hendricks, Mount Vernon

Gerard Heyden, Rutersville

Asa C. Hill, Rutersville

John C. Hill, Rutersville

Dennis Hurley, Rutersville

Constantine Killough, Rutersville

Wm. B. Lockhart, Gonzales

George Lawrence, Groce's Retreat

Wm. B. Munson, Brazoria

S. Mordella Munson, Brazoria

Gerard B. Munson, Brazoria

Alexander W. Morrow, Rutersville

James L. Morrow, Rutersville

Alfred Moore, Rutersville

John C. C. Moore, Rutersville

Lumberd Mims, Brazoria

James J. Norton, Rutersville

Thomas K. Nelson, Rutersville

Lewis M. Nail, Rutersville

Quincy S. Nail, Rutersville

Clark B. Nail, Rutersville

Pleasant M. Nail, Rutersville

Charles Randall, Rutersville

Oliver P. Randall, Rutersville

Nathaniel Rudder, Brazoria

Calvin R. Rankin, Fayette Co.

B. M. P. Rabb, Rutersville

G. W. Rabb, Rutersville

John W. Rabb, Rutersville

James A. J. Smith, Pleasant Grove

Robert H. M. C. Smith, Pleasant Grove

Jordon W. Sweeny, Brazoria

David K Sutherland, Ward Co.

Thomas Sutherland, Ward Co.

John Shearne, Houston

George C. Tennille, Rutersville

Edward Toney, Rutersville

J. N. McD. Thomson, Milam Co.


Martha Ann Alway, Rutersville

Celia Alway, Rutersville

Caroline M. K. D. Ayers, Centre Hill

Emily A. Cox, Rutersville

Julia A. A. Cox, Rutersville

Melissa Crownover, Fayette Co.

Martha Davis, Fayette Co.

O. A. M. Edwards, Rutersville

Isabella H. Fisher , Rutersville

Rebecca Gilliland, Travis Co.

Martha Hodge, Fayette co.

Elizabeth E. A. Hunt, Bastrop Co.

Sarah A. A. Hill, Bastrop Co.

Elizabeth L. Hill, Rutersville

Sarah Ann Hill, Rutersville

M. A. R. Hill, Rutersville

Martha Ann Hill, Rutersville

Amanda C. Jarman, Fayette Co.

Jane H. Kerr, Washington Co.

Elizabeth A Killough, Rutersville

Penesy Jane Killough, Rutersville

N. Caroline T. King, Rutersville

Nancy W. Kirk, Fort Bend Co.

Harriet C. Kirk, Fort Bend Co.

Margaret J. Lockhart, Gonzales

Mary Lawrence, Groce's Retreat

Emeline Lawrence, Groce's Retreat

Amanda M. F. Moore, Rutersville

Caroline E. Manley, Rutersville

Elvira Nail, Rutersville

Melissa C. Rabb, Rutersville

Martha C. Rich, Rutersville

Ann Sophia Richardson, Rutersville

R. Frances Smith, Austin

Elizabeth M. Sutherland, Jackson Co.

George Ann Sutherland, Jackson Co.

Maria C. Tennille, Rutersville

Sarah Ann Tennille, Rutersville

Susannah C. Thomson, Milam Co.

Mary Jane Williams, Rutersville

Catalogue information provided by Robert Sage

A Footprints of Fayette article by Gary McKee:

Military Life in Rutersville 

The Texas Monument and Military Institute opened in Rutersville in 1856. Under their guidelines, a college year was forty weeks, divided into two sessions. Vacation was from July 1st to August 31st and a holiday of one week or ten days at Christmas. An overview of the school follows:

Discipline: military; the drill of company and battalion, and guard-duty, taught practically.

Class Work: French was substituted for Greek as a foreign language and a strong emphasis on the sciences, including engineering and astronomy.

Dress: uniform, summer: linen jackets and pants. Winter: gray cloth jackets and pants.

Punishment: demerit-marks, confinement to limits, to quarters, to guardroom, arrest, demission, expulsion.

Cadetship: attained by parents or guardians signing with applicant’s pledge of obedience to laws. The applicant must pass examinations in reading, writing and arithmetic, using tables and simple rules. Applicants must be twelve years old and fifty-two inches in height, and must have been honorably discharged from their former schools.

Charges: Tuition in the Academic Department: $30 per sessions; College Department: $50 per session; Board, washing, lighting, and fuel: $12 per month; Library Fund: $5 per year. Tuition will be refunded only in cases of protracted illness or death. All payable fees are payable one session in advance. No cadet will be allowed to owe the Institute. Spending money will be furnished by the Superintendant. Cadets will pay for all their own furniture, make their own beds, and attend some church on Sunday. They are not permitted to keep horses or arms.

Discipline: The utmost precisions in discharging the duties prescribed; unremitting devotion to study and absolute obedience to those in authority will be exacted from every Cadet.

Order of the Day: Reveille at daylight, at which the cadets parade, and answer to their names at roll-call; they then retire to their rooms and put them in proper police for inspection, in fifteen minutes after breaking ranks. Study hours till breakfast. Recreation to 8 ½ A.M. (Roll Call). Study and recreation till half past 12. Recreation (including dinner) to 2 P.M. Study and recitation till 4 P.M. (Roll Call). Drill till 5 P.M. Evening parade at 5 P.M. Recreation (including supper and prayers) till 7 ½ P.M. (Roll Call). Study hours till tattoo (Roll Call). Tattoo at 9 P.M. (Roll Call) [tattoo is the drum call to return to barracks]. Taps at 9 P.M., when lights must be extinguished and cadets all in bed. Inspection by officers immediately after taps and during nights. Summer hours are pushed back one hour.

The Institute closed its doors with the outbreak of the Civil War and the young men marched off to practice what they had learned. But no school could prepare the students for the horrors of the upcoming conflict.

A Footprints of Fayette article by Charles Hebert:

Texas’ First College in Rutersville, Texas

Rutersville College“Rutersville College represents educational advantages of superior character - a highly competent and enterprising board of education - commodious buildings - excellent society, and pure atmosphere”, thus stated the writer of a column in The Texas Presbyterian newspaper on November 13, 1847.

The Methodists were the first to establish a school in the realm of the infant Republic of Texas. Dr. Martin Ruter, born in 1785, was ordained a Methodist minister at the age of 45.  An influential man with a pleasing personality and scholarly achievements, Ruter resigned the presidency of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania to accept a placement in the missionary field. He was sent to Texas, where he made his way to Fayette County. He believed that Texas should have a college, and with his influence, a plan would be developed to realize that cherished ambition.  When the new Texas Congress convened in Harrisburg (Houston) in 1838, Ruter laid out his plans for establishing a school before this distinguished body of officials and was met with encouragement.       

He soon returned to Fayette County and began his recruiting efforts as he rode on horseback throughout The Austin Colony, soliciting donations and land.  Unfortunately, Ruter’s life and work in Texas were short-lived as he died on May 18, 1838. He was buried at Washington-on-the-Brazos, only to be re-interred with full Masonic rites in the Navasota Cemetery, where a fitting monument was erected to his memory.  The town of Rutersville, along with the college, was named in his honor.

A new group of missionaries assembled, nine Methodists and one Cumberland Presbyterian, in 1838 to further develop Ruter’s plan and help make the college a reality.  A league of land was purchased and therein a township was platted. The location for the college was fixed at the site that Ruter himself had selected. The charter for the college was granted on January 26, 1840 and approved on February 5, 1840. The First Methodist Texas Conference was organized and met at Rutersville College on Christmas Day 1840.

The college opened its doors that same year, and at the close of the first term it had an enrollment of 80 students. The Republic of Texas further donated four leagues of land in 1840, because at that time it had more land than money, so financed things by awarding land grants that could be sold immediately. The money from the land sales were used for the college buildings and endowments.  Additional land donations by 1846 amounted to 75,000 acres, many of which were obtained by the college president, Rev. Chauncey Richardson, another Methodist minister.

Fortunately, documentation about the college, the courses that were offered, some of the activities, and the daily lives of the resident students can still be found in several publications. The Daily Bulletin, Austin, Texas, December 2, 1841 published an advertisement for the Rutersville College:

           “Expenses per term, in advance in ‘pure money’:                             
                        Elementary Studies                                                                    $13.00
                        Higher Studies                                                                           $20.00
                        Higher Studies including languages                                           $25.00
                        Board per month                                                                        $12.50

           Tuition will be charged from the time of entrance to the close of the term.”

The ad further touted the local advantages of Rutersville, “as a seat of education that occupies a central position in the Republic and is as remarkable for the purity of its atmosphere, the healthfulness of its climate and its picturesque scenery, as for virtue, intelligence and enterprise of its society.” 

Rev. Richardson continued serving as the president of the college until his death on April 11, 1852; he was buried on the hill in the shadow of the old college site.  Dr. William Halsey assumed the duties as president and was assisted by his wife, Professor Ulysses Chapman and the Rev. H.S. Thrall, who was the college historian.  Rev. Charles W. Thomas served as the professor of languages and mathematics, Mr. Thomas W. Bell was the tutor, and Mrs. Martha G. Richardson was the Preceptress. 

Rigid discipline was practiced with careful diligent work on the part of the students as evidenced in the 1858 course catalog.  Classes embraced the ancient languages, English, higher mathematical studies and sciences. 

The main building at Rutersville College was situated on a hill that overlooked the little town and afforded a “view of beauty from all sides.”  The two-story building was constructed of timber obtained from Rabb’s Pinery, a forest of pine trees.  The finished lumber was a product of John Rabb’s sawmill, one of the earliest in Texas.  

Many of the stories about Rutersville College were reminiscences of students from 60 or more years after the time of their attendance, all of which were collected from interviews for a newspaper article in the Houston Post-Dispatch in 1926.

The upper story was one large room in which students took their exams; it also served as an auditorium for commencement exercises and other entertainment. One of the biggest crowds ever assembled in Fayette County took place in 1856 when Sam Houston made one of his famous addresses. The auditorium could not accommodate the immense crowd, so they adjourned to the open air.  Unfortunately, the old building was destroyed by fire in the late 1880s.

A peach orchard was in the draw of the valley between the main building and the female academy. On occasion when “everything was quiet”, the boys would steal down to the orchard on the north side, with the girls going to the south side.  The orchard was an unfrequented “no man’s land”, where neither sex dared to approach nearer to one another than the pasture land that bordered the orchard.  Appointments were made, and in some “mysterious way” they contented themselves with conversations through the orchard that were carried by air waves on clear nights.

It was the custom in the early days of the college, as is now, to allow two weeks for the Christmas holidays, which permitted students to spend time with their families.  A certain young man lived in Nacogdoches.  It was raining, and the roads were fearful to say the least.  He was going home and “going home he went.”  He reached home after a week of travel, remained six hours and started his return to the college, which required another week of travel.  He reached Rutersville in time for breakfast and the first recitation period after the holidays.    

In an interview conducted in 1926, Mrs. Frances Vogt, 91 years old, remembered an interesting story involving the tomb on Monument Hill, where in1848 the remains of the Mier Men were interred on the bluff overlooking La Grange.  Although never a student at the college, she recalled that the student body of Rutersville College marched in procession at the event.  The girls were dressed in white and carried white parasols.   A blue ribbon or streamer that was fastened to the right shoulder of each girl by means of a gold star extended diagonally across the breast and fastened to the waistline on the left side. The cadets marched in the rear.

Mrs. Scottie Williams, also interviewed in 1926, remembered her days at the college with her favorite subject being History.  As was the custom of the time, Dr. Thrall, a devoted Christian and teacher, led evening prayers in the sanctuary which commenced with long prayers.  On occasion, the girls, contrary to the power of the spirit, assembled later in the evening near the rear entry doorway and appointed one of their members to snatch the wig from Dr. Thrall’s head when he got so deep in prayer for such a long time that he eventually would “pray himself out” and become inattentive to his surroundings.

The male students at the college were also not beyond playing practical jokes.  One Halloween evening, the boys decided to take the wheels off the president’s buggy and hide them under his house.  The next morning the students awoke to find the buggy perched high on the comb of the main building, thanks to some other pranksters.

Professor William Fowler was the owner of a beautiful chestnut sorrel horse of which he was very fond.  One night, some of the college boys removed the horse from its stable and with the help of an artist’s brush painted the animal black. The next morning, Professor Fowler went horse hunting and found grazing on the range a “stray” which he unsuccessfully tried to drive away. Finally, he left the horse to graze, not realizing it was his chestnut sorrel.  

Life at the college was not all fun, however, as studies had to be attended to with exams focusing on Biology, Philosophy, English, Rhetoric, Mathematics and the ancient languages. The two-day annual exams were comprehensive and difficult. In addition, courses in music were also offered.  One account stated, “The performances in instrumental and vocal music were ‘admirable, and added greatly to the interest of the occasion’.”

Rutersville College Centennial MarkerRomance appears to have flourished at the Rutersville College.  A young German Count had arrived in Galveston and decided to attend the commencement exercises.  Among the numbers on the program that evening was a solo by a beautiful and attractive young lady who chose a guitar as her accompaniment. Her voice was soft and sweetly attuned to the melody of the guitar and soon the count lost his heart to the fair maid.   He quickly proceeded to the president of the college to intercede for him on his behalf to ask the young maiden for her hand in marriage. The president summoned the young lady to meet with himself, his wife and a minister in the parlor. She went wondering for what purpose she was called. The message and the proposal were delivered. She meditated for a moment, voiced her appreciation of the Count’s compliment, but her final answer was, “No”, with the additional reply, “I had rather remain in Texas than to become a Countess in a foreign land.”

The Texas Legislature met on August 5, 1856, and Rutersville College with all its property was consolidated with The Texas Monumental Committee of La Grange and the Galveston Military Institute.  The Methodists, with the passing of this act, surrendered their rights and privileges to the committee.  The combined school was to be a monument to the ill-fated members of the Mier Expedition, a tenth of whom were killed after their capture. The Texas Monument and Military Institute closed for good at the time of the Civil War.    
Photo Captions:
Top: Rutersville College; courtesy of Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives
Bottom: 1936 Texas Centennial Marker at site of Rutersville College; courtesy of Carolyn Heinsohn
Fayette County Heritage Museum and Archives
Jenkins, Allie B. “Reminiscences of Texas’ First College”, Houston Post-Dispatch;
     Houston, Texas. May 23, 1926
Telegraph and Texas Register. Houston; January 20, 1841; January 11, 1843; February
     12, 1845
Texas Presbyterian. November 13, 1847
Texas State Times. August 9, 1856               
The Brazos Courier. Brazoria; March 10, 1840; April 21, 1840; August 4, 1840;
     September 15, 1840
The Daily Bulletin. Austin; December 2, 1841
Weekly Telegraph. Houston; October 6, 1858
Weimar Mercury, 27 Jan 1961

Texas's Oldest University Traveled a Rocky Road

by Mary Elizabeth Fox

Southwestern University at Georgetown will observe the 121st birthday Feb. 5.

Special events marking the anniversary of Texas' oldest university will be the morning church service at First Methodist church at 10:50 and a "birthday party" at 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon in the Bishop's Memorial Union building on the campus.

Attending the one-day celebration will be alumni and friends of the university.

From about 50 students and an endowment of $25,000 in 1840, Southwestern university has grown to more than 650 students and an endowment of almost $5,500,000.

Stunned, Not Killed

During its early days, the university met almost every conceivable obstacle . . . . war, pestilence, rivalry, failure, success, all became a part of the history of the school. War, yellow fever, indebtedness, etc., did not kill the university; only stunned it at times.

Today the grounds of the university comprise altogether more than 500 acres within and adjoining the corporate limits of Georgetown.

All Went to War

Approximately 3300 students from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indian Territory, and Missouri attended the college from 1841-1869. The Civil War dealt a blow to the college. There was a time when the president, Dr. G. W. Carter, and all of the students went off to war and classes were suspended for the duration of the war.

It was in 1836, when the cause of Texas freedom hung in the balance and when reports from Texas told of a dire need for religion and education, that Martin Ruter, then 52 and president of Allegheny college in Meadville, Pennsylvania, asked to be sent to Texas. He traveled by water from Pennsylvania to Texas and oftern remarked, "The way to Heaven is a short from Texas as from any other spot!"

Called Rutersville College

In seven short months this one man laid the foundation for higher education in Texas, for it was through his efforts that Rutersville College, which eventually became Southwestern University, was established. At ther end of his first 60 days in Texas, he had traveled by horseback 1200 miles. He made one trip to Bastrop with an armed escort of three men to protect him from marauding Indians.

When a group of laymen pledged themselves to establish a university despite the difficulties which loomed ahead, it was decided that the university should be placed in a town away from the temptations of drinking and gambling. There the men met a setback, for, in their estimation, no Texas town could qualify from a moral standpoint. Undaunted they decided to form a corporation, purchase a league of land and develop a new townsite. They named the town Rutersville, which was also the name of the college.

Rutersville was granted a charter by the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas, Feb. 5, 1840. The charter was dated 1840, but the school was in operation in 1839.

Fled Yellow Fever

The alumni of Rutersville College, Wesleyan College (established at San Augustine in 1844), McKenzie College (established in Clarksville in 1848), and Soule University (established at Chappel Hill in 1856) are alumni of Southwestern University located in Georgetown in 1870 in answer to the search of a place free from yellow fever.

By action of the firve Texas conferences of the Methodist Church, a central university was planned with the location in Georgetown. This institution opened its first session on Oct. 6, 1873, under the name of Texas University. In 1875 the name was changed to its present form, Southwestern University, when the desire for a state university was manifested. . . .

Related Links

Rutersville College
Article by Julia Lee Sinks in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, published in October 1898.
Online at the Texas State Historical Association website


Caleb Forshey
Footprints of Fayette article