“On a rainy day in January, 1882, eleven students from the village of
Littleton enrolled in a newly-organized private school known as Central Institute,”
wrote Ralph Hardee Rives, retired East Carolina University English professor
and North Carolina scholar, in 1962. This was the beginning of Littleton College.
Photograph of Littleton College.
To see more Littleton College ephemera preserved at the North Carolina Collection, click on the picture.
It is hard to speak of Littleton College without also speaking of James Manly
Rhodes. Rhodes was a Methodist minister and the principal of the College from
its inception until 1919, with the exception
of the years 1887-1889 when S.
D. Bagley was principal. Rhodes was a popular and dedicated leader. Under his
administration, the enrollment soon bloomed to over 200, and Littleton College
became one of the most popular women’s schools in North Carolina.
Littleton students could expect rigorous academic coursework. The curriculum
was progressive relative to similar institutions at the time. Physical and natural
science classes, such as chemistry, physics, and psychology, were taught. Littleton
also offered coursework in algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. The humanities
were not overlooked, either. Astronomy, Latin, Greek, history, and English were
among the classes offered to students. Special emphasis was placed on the arts,
as well, and students could expect to take courses in penmanship, drawing, and
some sort of musical instrument including voice.
Like many women’s schools in the late nineteenth century, Littleton operated
under a strong religious influence. A Littleton graduate was expected to be
“a lady as well as a scholar.” Because of Rhodes’s ministry,
the College was unofficially under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Religious training and Bible classes were required of each student, and many
students engaged in mission work after graduation.
Enrollment peaked at 285 students in 1908, in part because of the College’s
generous and extensive financial aid and scholarship program. The original residence
building soon became inadequate, and over the course of time many additions
were built. A new science building was erected in 1905 and included space not
only for laboratories, but for two literary society halls as well. A two story
hospital building graced the campus, and numerous music rooms lined the passageway
between the residence and science buildings.
On January 22, 1919, the Littleton College buildings were destroyed by fire.
The College had never been endowed and therefore there was little money for
rebuilding. At this time Rhodes’s health was poor, and he retired with
his wife to Florida. The College was never rebuilt.
A Littleton College Memorial book collection was established in 1960 at North
Carolina Wesleyan College.
Source for image on this page: Rives, Ralph Hardee. “Littleton Female College.” The
North Carolina Historical Review. July 1962. Vol. 39, no. 3. pp. 363-377.
Carroll, Grady L.E., Sr. “Littleton College.” In Encyclopedia
of North Carolina, ed. by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University
of North Carolina Press, 2006. 685-686 pp.
Hill, Michael, ed. Guide to North Carolina Highway Historical Markers.
Raleigh, N.C.: Division of Archives and History, 2001. 102 p.
Rives, Ralph Hardee. “Littleton Female College.” The North Carolina
Historical Review. July 1962. Vol. 39, no. 3. 363-377 pp.
Winston, George T. “Education in North Carolina.” The Southern
States. May, 1893. 144-148 pp.
For further information:
Items available in the North
Carolina State Archives
Photograph of an illustration of the Littleton Female College in Littleton
circa 1890's in the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History
Photograph Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received in 1999. Folder: Photographs
Received in November, 1999. Call number: N.99.11.5.
Photograph of Student Body at Littleton Female College, Littleton, N. C. in
the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph
Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received in 1998. Folder: Photographs Received
in July, 1998. Call number: N.98.7.206.
1897 flyer about Littleton College in the Mrs. Holt Snell Collection at the
North Carolina State Archives. Call number: PC.1332.
Items available in the North
Annual Announcement of Central Institute for Young Ladies. Weldon,
N.C.: Printed at Harrell's Cheap Printing House, 1882, 1885/1886. Call number
Catalogue of Littleton Female College. Henderson, N.C.: D.E. Aycock, book and
job printer. 1897/98-1899/00, 1901/02-1903/04, 1905/06-1909/10, 1911/12, 1913/14,
1915/16, 1917/18. Call number C378 L77H.
The Chatterbox. Raleigh, N.C. Edwards and Broughton Printing Co. Oct. 1907-May
1908, Oct. 1908-Feb, 1910. Call number C78 L77Q.
The Pansy of Littleton College. Littleton, N.C.: The Senior Class, 1905. Call
number C378 L77p.