Days Gone By - stories from the past

This school was devastated when 25 boys and the principal left in one day

[I have been unable to find any photographs for this school. Please share with AP if you have one by emailing a copy to [email protected]]






Bragg’s Gymnasium was a former private school for boys and girls, located at Central, then in Coosa, later in Elmore County, 26 miles from Montgomery and 12 from Wetumpka.wetumpka_al

It was originally founded as Central Southern Mechanical and Literary Institute and was chartered January 30, 1852. J. Bankston, W. C. Barnes, A. H. Hendricks, R. Edwards J. A. Pylant, I. W. Suttle, L. Marberry, S. J. Thomas, W. T. Hatchett, and J. W. Jeter were named as trustees.

The trustees were given authority to “receive subscriptions for capital stock to create a fund for the support of schools and for the purchase of land and material necessary for mechanical and manufacturing purposes to such extent as they decide to establish in the county of Coosa,” stock subscriptions to be in shares of $50. They were given authority to make rules for their government and the government of the institution, and power to create offices, employ teachers and “superintendents of mechanical department.” Its property was exempted from taxation. It was made unlawful to sell intoxicating liquor within 1 mile of the buildings erected either for school or labor.

Incorporated by the Central Baptist Association

This incorporation was the outgrowth of steps taken at the seventh session of the Central Baptist Association, October 4, 1851, at which time it was decided to found a literary institution, the main purpose being to better prepare ministers for their work.

At the meeting of the association in 1852, it was reported that the charter had been secured and that plans had been made for a literary institution, combined with instruction in the mechanic arts.

The school was located on the old plank road, a little below Union Church. A brick building, three stories in height, 80 feet long and 40 feet wide, was erected. The first general agent of the Institute, appointed by the association, was J. A. Pylant.

The school opened in 1853. It appears to have been very well attended, with a good teaching force, but it was never very prosperous and every year witnessed an increase in indebtedness, with which the trustees struggled, and which was regularly reported to the association.

Failing to clear the indebtedness, and unwilling to continue the struggle longer, the trustees sold the property on the first Monday in February 1860, to at Captain Thomas C. Bragg for $4.025, his being the highest bid. One of the presidents during this period was Rev. A. T. Holmes, who served during 1856 and 1857. Another agent of the institution was W. B. W. Weston.

Became a high school

On acquiring the property, Capt. Bragg announced in his first catalog that the school would open October 1, 1860. He stated that it was no longer a college, but a high school, preparing its pupils for college or for business life, and that it was best characterized by a name in use in continental Europe, known as Gymnasium. “It’s classical and mechanical courses of study will be as extensive as those of an ordinary college, and its scientific course as full as requisite for those who do not intend to enter the university.”

Twenty-five boys and the principal left in one day

The war coming on, the principal and twenty-five of his older boys left in one day. Others followed until the school was reduced to the very young boys and young women. Capt. Bragg commanded Company D, 17th Alabama Infantry Regiment. The school was closed during the session of 1861-62.

Locals called it Central Institute

Capt. Bragg’s health failing, he was discharged, returned home and opened up his school in the fall of 1862. It was continued until the end of the session in 1867 when its doors were permanently closed on account of the ill-health of Mrs. Bragg. The locality was later known as Central Institute. The influence of the institution and the methods of its principal were far-reaching.


  1. Acts, 1851-52, pp. 370-371; catalogs 1860-67; and Brewer, History of Central Association (1895), pp. 19-40.
  2. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume I.


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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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