Shepherd University originally opened in 1871 in the wake of the reconstruction era. Shepherdstown was nearly in collapse in the wake of the Civil War and had seen the Jefferson County Seat move to Charles Town. With the impressive building still at the center of town a body of town leaders drafted plans to convert it into a college which would open in September of that year. In 1872 the West Virginia legislature approved the school as a State Normal School to be called Shepherd College. By the time war broke out in Europe in 1914 the college had grown to approximately 1,080 students from its original 42.
By 1914 the campus had very much grown from the one building school it was founded as. The original building known now as McMurran Hall (in honor of the first college president) was known as the “Old College Building.” McMurran had been expanded to include what is now known as Reynolds Hall, at the time it was known as “Shepherd College Hall.” The central building on the campus was
what is now known as Knutti Hall. At the time this building was call the “Administration Building” and served a variety of uses. This building housed a library, gymnasium, auditorium, labs, and classrooms. Furthermore in the site of what is now a school parking lot was a social sciences building. In May of 1916 the campus made history in opening its first women’s dormitory, Miller Hall (named after Thomas Miller, president at this time). The men’s dormitory was located in a historical building in town. At the time it was known as “Rumsey Hall” it is now the location of the Shepherdstown Historical Society and has returned to its historical name “The Entler Hotel.”
Having originally been founded as a teachers college it is no surprise that Shepherd College had a strong focus on education curriculum at this time. The social sciences building often found itself filled with young children being taught by the college students hoping to pursue a career as a teacher. Agricultural labs were were in heavy use as
Shepherd College was in a rural area and many of its students were farmers. Every year there was an agricultural fair with competitions. Starting in 1915 this fair had a parade that went with it, this parade was described by some residents as being “the biggest thing to happen to the town since the war.” English was another main focus of the college. There were so many literary societies on campus that one could be ostracized for not studying the subject.
Shepherd College at this time had several organizations in an attempt to get students involved. The largest involvement was seen in the literary societies in which there were three, the Parthenian Literary Society, the Ciceronian Literary Society, and the English Club. Further literary involvement could be seen in the staffs of The Picket (the school newspaper) and The Chatonderoga (the school yearbook). Another large presence on campus was both the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A. In addition there was the Cadet Corps which served as an earlier version of R.O.T.C. and it could often times be seen doing drill on the school grounds now gone due to construction of more campus buildings. Athletic involvement was rather small at this time with only three official teams, men’s baseball and men’s and women’s basketball.
Attitudes Towards the War
With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 the United States found itself attempting to be neutral. With this neutrality there seemed for a while to be a large amount of non-attitudes at Shepherd College. The first mention of the war did not even appear in The Pickett until December of that year, and even then it was mentioned in passing simply hoping that peace would be found soon and that it was a good thing that the United States was out of it. It should be no surprise that the residents and students were not ready to jump on one side or the other as the town once known as “Mecklenburg” had a strong German heritage. Attitudes started to change in 1916 as the U.S. embarked in the Pancho Villa expedition. The Pickett was suddenly filled with essays and poems on the necessity of military preparedness, stories of German spies, and clubs hosting debates on the issue of the European war.
Shepherd College in Wartime Activities
When the United States entered the war in 1917 Shepherd College became one of many schools strongly impacted by the international event. Soon after the declaration of war Shepherd College allowed those student who were farmers to leave school early in order to help grow crops to feed the state in the coming rationing. In addition the 1918 baseball season would be cut short due to the conversion of the baseball field into a small area to grow crops. Over 200 shepherd alumni and students would serve in the war, 13 of which would never return. Many students did help from the college, as the domestic classes began work on creating and sending out many comfort kits for the soldiers. Furthermore the Shepherd Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. pledged to raise $500 for the war effort. Students also contributed $52 to the Belgian Relief Funds and $27 to the Armenian Relief Work.
The Spanish Influenza
When the Spanish Flu hit the United States in late 1918 into 1919 Shepherd College was greatly impacted. The school found so many becoming ill that it would close its doors for two weeks from December 1918 into January 1919. The largest impact that the epidemic had on the school was the death of Professor Walter McGarry Duke who was a teacher of modern languages and assistant to the college president. Duke was generally well liked on the campus and was greatly mourned after his death. The influenza also the took the lives of nine students and alumni.