By June Rayfield Welch
In 1854 John Peter Smith, a graduate of Alexander Campbell’s Bethany College, opened Fort Worth’s first school, which he taught for three years. During Reconstruction Smith was again teaching in Fort Worth but wanted to return to his law practice. In early 1869 he got Addison Clark to take charge of the school which was held on the ground floor of the Masonic Hall. (Clark’s brother, Randolph, was in charge of a school at Birdville.) That fall the Clarks opened the Male and Female Seminary of Fort Worth using facilities of the First Christian Church. The Disciples of Christ had bought the block bounded by the 4th, 5th, Main, and Houston streets for $200 and were using the small frame building on the property for worship while a brick church was under construction. Addison, Randolph, and their father, Joseph Addison Clark, preached at the church.
Addison Clark, born in Morris County on December 11, 1842, and Randolph, born in Harrison County in 1844, were Confederate veterans who had studied at Carlton College in Bonham under Charles Carlton. A graduate of Bethany College, Carlton set out to emulate Alexander Campbell. Addison married Carlton’s niece. He and Randolph intended to be for others what “Uncle Charlie” Carlton had been to them. Ida Clark taught primary classes in her brothers’ school, which operated from 1869 to 1874.
In time parents became reluctant to send children to Fort Worth, a raw oasis for trail drivers and headquarters for “the tough vagabond and the professional gambler.” According to Randolph Clark, “in 1873, the little village became suddenly disturbed, really hysterically excited over the railroad and prospect of a city right at once. This made it not a desirable place to assemble young people for training” and caused the Clarks to accept Pleasant Thorp’s offer to sell a two-story stone schoolhouse he had erected forty miles west of Fort Worth in Hood County. Thorp Spring had daily stage service Weatherford, twenty miles away.
Randolph and his father opened the new school while Addison fulfilled his obligations to pupils in Fort Worth. As classes began at Thorp Spring in September of 1873 AddRan Male and Female College had thirteen pupils. By June the enrollment reached 123. Named for Addison’s deceased son, AddRan, the school was incorporated in December about the time it affiliated with the Christian Church. Addison was president, Randolph vice president, and their father was the treasurer. Thomas, their younger brother, taught languages and music. Primary department tuition was $2 a month, intermediate work cost about $3, and college students paid $5 a month. Board was $12. In the second year 164 students enrolled. The first two degrees were granted in 1876.
The catalog announced that AddRan wanted students who would “never dream of matrimony until their education is finished.” They would have “neither the time nor the desire for miscellaneous gallantry, or letter writing.” College rules prohibited liquor, tobacco, and profanity, and forbade possession of guns, bowie knives, and other deadly weapons.
Enrolment reached 201 in 1877, but because of the current depression, the Clarks defaulted on their notes and Thorp foreclosed. Other towns attempted to persuade Addison to move the school, but he refused because of assurances he had given students and parents that AddRan was located permanently in Thorp Spring. The burden of buying a new campus fell on Randolph, for Addison “gave no attention to the business side of our work.” Randolph sold his Fort Worth home and his wife’s property in order to finance the purchase. The Clarks invested everything they had in the school. Randolph wrote, “Addison worked for almost nothing. One session the janitor received more money than was paid the president.”
The students numbered 296 in 1879. Women were permitted to substitute fine arts and literature for the mathematics required of men, and they might study German and French instead of Latin and Greek. By 1883 enrollment reached 435. Uniforms were required; girls wore bonnets and grey woolen dresses with checked gingham aprons. (Black wool dresses, white aprons, and hats were specified Sunday wear.) Boys wore “Gray Janes, or Cassimere and black hats.”
With no endowment the school would fail eventually, so in 1889 the Clarks gave AddRan to the Disciples of Christ, for “This was thought to be the surest and quickest way to get the college endowed and firmly established.” A new charter changed the name to AddRan Christian University. The board of trustees included Addison, Randolph, and Charles Carlton; Colonel J.J. Jarvis was chairman. Addison Clark remained president.
An important episode occurred in February of 1894 concerning the delicate subject of instrumental music. Dr. Colby Hall quoted the account of Bertha Mason Fuller, the organist at a student revival meeting held in the chapel. (The organ had never been used in Sunday worship, when townspeople were present.) As the services began, Joseph A. Clark walked down to the pulpit and, according to Mrs. Fuller
Feeling in his pocket he took out a folded paper and reached up to Brother Addison who leaned down to take it. (I can see the scene now as clearly as then; the face of the aged saint appealing to his eldest son.)
Addison conferred with Randolph who was always close at hand. He then announced that although he was inclined to yield to the petition to forbid use of the organ, he had already given permission to the students and could not break his word.
His voice was soft and gentle…He bowed his head and stood silent for a few moments, then turning toward Bro. Douthitt, who was still standing by the organ, baton in hand, he lifted his right hand saying, ‘Play on Miss Bertha.’
About 140 people walked out, led by Joseph Addison Clark, with tears streaming down his cheeks and “his cane punctuating the hymn.” AddRan professor C.W. Howard told Hall that:
…some wanted to work over the organ with an axe and throw it in the creek…Next morning Mr. Randolph said to me, ‘It will ruin us. Those old brethren in the country won’t let us preach in their schoolhouses.’ And it did. They only lasted one more year and the school, having fallen off, moved to Waco, where it burned, then [the school was moved] to Fort Worth.
Hall did not agree that the organ incident caused the removal to Waco; but controversy in the brotherhood did result in formation of the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church and diminished support of the college.
In September of 1895 the board voted to relocate the college to Waco. Although he resisted the move, Addison was still president when classes began on the campus of the defunct Waco Female College on January 2, 1896. Randolph Clark wrote that his brother
preferred they would take the school and leave him, but he was the school and must go. Few ever knew what it cost him. He said to me, ‘I would rather work here the rest of my life, die and buried in these hills, than go anywhere, or have anything, any city can give.’
Baylor President Rufus Burleson was among those who welcomed AddRan to Waco.
After a year Randolph returned to the Thorp Spring campus where he operated Jarvis Institute, a preparatory school and junior college, until 1898. Addison resigned in 1899. Later, he and Randolph operated AddRan-Jarvis College at Thorp Spring. A Church of Christ college occupied the campus from 1910 to 1928.
His brother wrote of Addison’s last days, “We cleaned out this, his last workshop, a room in an apartment house; collected his tools, and he sought rest at the home of his daughter in Comanche. Here he thought to rest awhile, and again be at work.” He died May 13, 1911, as the school he had founded was finishing its first year in Fort Worth. Randolph died in 1935.
Waco citizens failed to discharge the indebtedness against the college building as they had promised. When foreclosure was imminent, trustee T.E. Shirley took a leave of absence from the Houston and Texas Central Railroad and raised enough money to liquidate the debt. In 1902 the name of the school became Texas Christian University. The new president, Dr. E.V. Zollars, a Bethany Master of Arts, commenced an ambitious building program. After four years Zollars was succeeded by Clinton Lockhart, a Yale Ph.D.
After the main building burned on March 23, 1910, the trustees agreed that T.C.U. should leave Waco. Dallas, Fort Worth, Gainesville, and McKinney wanted the school. The situation was complicated by competition for the new Methodist university which was finally won by Dallas. T.C.U. classes were held downtown across from the Tarrant County courthouse during the school year 1910-11 while the Administration Building and Jarvis and Goode halls were constructed.
Professor Charles Howard recalled that in the early days of the school
We had many fine young people, and many who should have been in jail, and were later. Mr. Addison whaled the life half out of some of those 18 and 20 year old fellows with a limb for stealing chickens, fighting, and shooting craps. He was a disciplinarian of the old school. He had no confidence in the bad ones but could be imposed on by the young preachers to any limit, if they made a long, sanctimonious face, even by those who secretly went to Fort Worth to gamble and roll ’em high, if they kept him deceived.
© 1981 The Colleges of Texas, Texas Christian University Fort Worth, June Rayfield Welch, Dallas: GLA Press