PLAY ON MISS BERTHA!
Immortal words help bring down college
by Kathy Smith, Staff Writer
January 19, 1999
“Play on Miss Bertha!”
These four words, spoken Feb. 14, 1894 in Thorp Spring, became part of a two-fold catalyst that brought down Add-Ran Male and Female College, forerunner of Texas Christian University.
The college was founded by the Clark family–father Joseph and his two sons, Addison and Randolph–on Sept. 1, 1873.
There were several subjects being addressed and argued in 1894 at Add-Ran and, in actuality, across the nation. Among those was the subject of instrumental music during worship services.
“For lack of better terminology, you had your liberals and your conservatives,” stated John Bohon, retired TCU history professor who will speak tomorrow night to the Sons of the American Revolution. “And at Add-Ran, the liberals were the students and the conservatives were the older members of the church, including Joseph Clark.”
Sitting on the front row of the Thorp Spring prayer meeting this February morning was Joseph Clark and his wife. In his hand, a petition which he handed to his son Randolph who would be preaching the day’s sermon.
The petition called for the suspension of instrumental music during the worship service–specifically that the organ would not be played from that moment on.
Bohon continued, “Randolph read the petition, then calmly turned to the organist and uttered the words, ‘Play on Miss Bertha.'”
Upon hearing those words, and the subsequent melodious tones wafting from Miss Bertha’s playing, Joseph and 140 other church members, rose and quietly left the building.
This split over bible interpretation had a great bearing on the initiation of the Church of Christ who do not have instrumental music and the Disciples of Christ, who do.
Randolph’s decision to allow Bertha to play music during the prayer meeting also wreaked havoc on enrollment of the college.
“By the following year,” Bohon says, “enrollment had dropped from 445 to 294.” This developed into the second part of Add-Ran’s downfall–that of finances.
Add-Ran College moved to Waco and ultimately found its final home in Fort Worth as Texas Christian University. The campus in Thorp Spring became Thorp Spring Christian College and in its final days served as a camp for the Churches of Christ.
Enrollment had climbed with each passing year at the four-year-curriculum college. In 1876, there were 201 students enrolled. That number swelled to 445 in 1894.
Some of those registered students were no doubt in the congregation of 400 on that February morning in 1894, including approximately 100 people from the community, who were there to worship.
Add-Ran College was affiliated with the Christian Church of Texas which had its beginnings in 1832 in Lexington, Kentucky, when founders Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell began a movement toward New Testament teaching.
The new church had no creeds or doctrines, but relied solely on teachings and instructions set forth in the New Testament.
Bohon will lecture to the SAR at Southside Baptist Church, 910 Paluxy Rd. at 7 p.m. For more information, call 326-4779 or 326-5408.