Harbison Agricultural College Photograph Collection


Harbison Agricultural College began in 1885 when the Rev. Emory W. Williams of Washington, D.C. founded a school to educate young African Americans in Abbeville, S.C. It was named Ferguson Academy in honor of one of its benefactors, Rev. James H. Ferguson of the Presbyterian Church in Hanover, N.J. The Academy drew the attention of the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the United Presbyterian Church, an organization whose purpose was to “equip and maintain training schools and to train leaders most efficiently for the Negro community.” The Board assumed the debt and acquired legal title to the Academy in 1891 after one of the buildings burned before it could be completed. Rev. Williams left his position as president of the Academy in 1893, and in his place, the Board appointed Rev. Thomas A. Amos. When the school building was deemed unsafe in 1899, Samuel Harbison of Pennsylvania and a Board member, donated 20 acres of land outside of town. The school relocated to the expanded 87 acres in 1901 and was renamed Harbison College in his honor. Among the donors to the new school were Henry Phipps of Abbeville who donated money for a boys dormitory, the Women’s Missionary Societies of New Jersey who furnished the dormitory, and Mrs. Ira Condit who donated 500 books for the library. Mr. Harbison continued his financial support by purchasing an additional 200 acres of land for the college in 1903 and financed the building of Harbison Hall which would serve as the chapel and classroom building.