The Early Days: 1867-1899WVU opened in September of 1867 as an all-male, all-white institution with six faculty members, six college students, and 118 preparatory department students (high school-aged students who were preparing to do college work).
WVU used the former Woodburn Female Seminary building, where Woodburn Hall is now, as the first residence hall, and our first president, Alexander Martin, lived there with the students.
“Woodburn” means “streamlet in a shady glen” and comes from Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering; the “streamlet” was Falling Run, which then ran through a wooded valley where the Business and Economics Building is now. WVU built its own first building in 1870 and later named it Martin Hall, for Alexander Martin.
WVU offered programs primarily in the humanities and sciences disciplines. The Morrill Act required an agricultural program, so students planted a garden in Woodburn Circle, left for summer vacation, and returned to a garden full of weeds. The Morrill Act also required Cadet Corps, which became the ROTC Program during World War I. Some people argued that women could not attend WVU since women could not be in the Cadet Corps.
Today’s students would have enjoyed paying for their education in 1867, because the tuition for a 13-week term was just $8.00. Room and board was $3.50 per week. The average student would have paid between $187.50 and $249.00 for a full academic year.
During the 1880s, WVU began to be a more diverse institution. In September 1889, the first ten women entered WVU as degree candidates (a few women had taken occasional courses earlier). One of the ten was Harriet Lyon, who transferred here from Vassar College. Two Japanese students were admitted into the University that year also. In June 1891, Lyon became the first woman to receive a degree from WVU, graduating at the head of her class. In 1989 Tower II in the Evansdale Residential Complex was dedicated as Lyon Tower, and WVU’s Housing and Residence Life Office created a scholarship in her memory. Levi Holland, an African American who lived in Morgantown, tried to enter WVU’s Law School as early as 1883, but all of West Virginia’s public schools were racially segregated by state law, and he was not allowed to attend.
President Jerome Hall Raymond (1897-1901) hired the first female faculty member, added art, music, and domestic science (predecessor of family and consumer sciences today) to attract women students. President Raymond also started the first summer school and hired the first graduate students to assist faculty in teaching undergraduates.
There were many aspects of early WVU life that today’s students would find incredibly challenging. Until 1895, students were required to attend chapel exercises every morning and one church service on Sunday. While this requirement eased somewhat during the 1895-96 school year, students still had to appear each morning for roll call. By 1898, compulsory chapel attendance ended, much to the chagrin of the administration. Students participated in extracurricular activities then, as now. In 1887, WVU began publishing the Athenaeum, the predecessor of today’s DA. Many students belonged to literary societies that sponsored debates, and the men might belong to fraternities. The first sorority was a local group called Kappa Delta, founded in 1899 and not related to the current Kappa Delta sorority on campus. To provide further support for women on campus, Josephine Hall Raymond, President Raymond’s wife, organized the Women’s League, which united women faculty, staff, and students with women in the Morgantown community.
The Cadet Corps—In 1871, the U.S. War Department offered use of ordnance, small arms, and ammunition to the Cadet Corps at no cost to the University. (source)
Early view of campus and Morgantown