Huntsville’s Andrew Female College was founded in 1852 and chartered by the Texas Conference of Methodist Churches on February 7, 1853. Its creation mirrored that of Austin College, a men’s institution in Huntsville that had admitted its first class in the fall of 1850. The women’s college was named after the controversial Methodist bishop, James Osgood Andrew, whose ownership of African American slaves had caused a split in the Methodist Episcopal Church and helped to birth a new Southern branch of that denomination. Despite Andrew’s divisive reputation with abolitionists in the North, he was popular in Texas, and the residents of Huntsville were proud to name a school after him.
Andrew Female College held its first five-month session in May 1853 at Huntsville’s old “Brick Academy” under the leadership of its first president, James M. Follansbee. At a time when there were few educational opportunities for women, enrollment was high and the college soon outgrew the cramped quarters at its initial site. Local residents supported the school, however, and contributed funds for a larger, two-story building that was completed in 1855. Eighty students, primarily from Walker County and surrounding areas, were enrolled at the college in 1856-1857.
The college offered young women what was considered an appropriate education for the mid-nineteenth century. Courses focused on classical literature, languages, art, music, and domestic life. The school also hosted annual concerts and exhibitions, sponsored by the Music and Art departments. These events garnered widespread attention in Walker County, and brought guests from miles around to see the work that the young women of Texas were producing.
Led by a bevy of prominent Huntsvillians -- including Charles Keenan, Daniel Baker, Henderson Yoakum, and Thomas Ball -- the board of trustees at Andrew Female College ensured that the school operated without interruption throughout the Civil War. Despite this success, Huntsville’s disastrous 1867 yellow fever epidemic claimed the lives of the college president, several members of the faculty, and a number of the students. Although the school limped on for another twelve years after the epidemic, it never fully recovered. The opening of Sam Houston Normal Institute in Huntsville in 1879 finally caused Andrew Female College to close in 1880. The school’s property was conveyed to the city of Huntsville and reopened later that year as the community's first public school. The structure eventually was relocated and became a public school for African American children.