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Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama, oldest college in Alabama and oldest Catholic College in Southeast [film & pics]


Mobile, Alabama

Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama is the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast is also the third oldest Jesuit College and the fifth oldest Catholic college in the United States. It is also Alabama’s oldest institution of higher learning. Spring Hill was founded in 1830 by Michael Portier, Mobile’s first Catholic bishop. Today it is ranked among the top 15 Southern colleges and universities according to the U. S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges,” Being ranked one of the best is a tradition that dates far back in history with many distinguished graduates. 

The following was written in 1904 by Joel Campbell Dubose about Spring Hill College:Spring-Hill-Collegemobile

“The College of Spring Hill, or St. Joseph’s college, is one of the oldest and best-known institutions of learning in the South. In Louisiana, Mexico, the island of Cuba, and in Central and South America it is probably better known than any other college in the United States.” Mr. Willis G. Clarke thus describes Spring Hill college in his report to the Bureau of Education at Washington, D. C. Spring Hill college is situated on a rising ground, five miles distant from Mobile, and is elevated one hundred and fifty feet above the sea level.

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It enjoys a constant and refreshing breeze. Woods of lofty pines, fragrant magnolias, and sturdy oaks surround it on all sides, while a never failing spring at the foot of the hill furnishes an abundant and lasting supply of water.

Health of location is proverbial

The hygienic conditions of Spring Hill are unsurpassed. Dr. William H. Anderson thus writes about Spring Hill: “The health of this location is proverbial. During forty years I have never known a case of malarial fever to originate at Spring Hill. Indeed, there is nothing there to produce it. The water is of the purest quality; the growth is exclusively pine, and the subsoil is white sand for one hundred feet beneath the surface. The gulf breeze reaches it in summer and winter, and there is no location on the continent better adapted to the health of persons suffering of lung diseases.”

The United States Health Bulletin published in New York contains the following encomium: “The United States Health Bulletin has had occasion to examine into this subject (hygiene in schools) quite extensively during the past few months.

These investigations have been made without the instigation of the proprietors and generally without their knowledge, consequently they are absolutely unbiased and unprejudiced.

Among the schools that met with the general approval of the experts investigating these matters for us and which we have no hesitation in recommending to our readers is the Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

We know nothing about the course of study at this school, for it is of no interest to us, but if the same care is taken with the mental welfare of the pupil as is shown, and plainly shown, to be taken with the physical, we feel that it deserves the support of parents and the encouragement of the public.”

Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama – ca. 1900- Detroit Publishing CompanySpring Hill College - Mobile, Alabama - ca. 1900 - Detroit Publishing Company

Avenue to grotto, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama -ca. 1900 – Detroit Publishing Company

Avenue to grotto, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama -ca. 1900 - Detroit Publishing Company


Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama – ca. 1900- Detroit Publishing Company

Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama3 - ca. 1900- Detroit Publishing Company


Interior of St. Joseph’s Chapel, Spring Hill College

St. Joseph's Chapel (interior), Spring Hill College

Founded in 1830

Spring Hill College was founded in 1830 by the Rt. Rev. Michael Portier D. D., first bishop of Mobile.  The bishop himself taught theology to the ecclesiastical students, who numbered six the first year. Upon his return he rented a hotel next to the college grounds and started the first semester on May 1, 1830, with an enrollment of thirty students, making Spring Hill the oldest institution of higher education in Alabama. On July 4 of the same year, the bishop laid the cornerstone of the first permanent building. It stood on the site of the present Administration Building and opened for classes in November 1831.

The college was incorporated in 1836 by the legislature of Alabama, with all the rights and privileges of a university. In 1840 Pope Gregory XVI. empowered it to grant degrees in philosophy and theology.

Bishop Portier remained in charge of the college until 1847, when he entrusted it to the care of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, who have been in charge ever since. Spring Hill has sent into the world graduates now famous among the clergy, the judiciary and the other learned professions.spring hill college

Among the most illustrious we mention the following: Rr. Rev. A. Pelliecer D. D., bishop of San Antonio, Tex.; Rt. Rev. D. Manucey D. D., vicar apostolic of Brownsville, Tex.; Very Rev. C. O’Callaghan, D. D., vicar general of the diocese of Mobile, Ala.; Hon. E. Bermudez chief justice of the Supreme court of Louisiana; John G. A. Gallaghar, justice of the Supreme court of Arkansas; Hon. Samuel  D. McEnery, United States senator for Louisiana; Hon. H. C. Knobblock lieutenant-governor of Louisiana: Hon. Davidson Penn, lieutenant-governor of Louisiana; Hon. Barrett Giobbs, lieutenant-governor of Texas: Hon. N. H. R. Dawson United States commissioner of education; Hon. F. E. Corbett speaker State senate, Montana; Hon. T. J. Duggan, State senator, . Louisiana; Hon. John St. Paul State senator, Louisiana; Hon. Leslie Brooks, State senator, Alabama; Hon. C. L. Lavretta-mayor of Mobile, Ala.

Byrne Memorial Hall, Spring Hill College

spring hill college, byrne memorial Hall The number of lawyers goes beyond two hundred. Of these well-known are the names of Hon. George Theard, New Orleans; Hon. R. B. Otero, New Orleans; Hon. D. J. Fogarty, Augusta, Ga.; Charles Theard, New Orleans; D. Semple and L. Semple, New York; R. S. Semmes, Arkansas; W. Callahan, Alabama; H. Rives, Mississippi ; A. Celaya, Brownsville, Tex.; F. Voorhies, A. VIillere, Gibbs Morgan, Duncan Campbell, L. Claiborne, of Louisiana. The list of doctors numbers over a hundred names. Of these well-known are C. Curell, , Greenville, Miss.; Rhett Goode, Mobile; W. Ross, Alabama; N. Luckett, Mississippi; W. Mulherin Augusta, Ga.; A. Festorazzie, J. Hirshfield, Mobile, Ala.; J. D’Aquin, M. Souchon, S. Theard, P. E. Achinard, W. Harnan, T. A. Duggan, of Louisiana.

Spring Hill College 1907 Jesuit Community in Mobile, Alabama, celebrated the establishment of their new province with a special program and a dinner.

springhillcommunity 1907 Jesuit community Other distinguished alumni were Gen. D. H. Higley, Mobile, Ala.; Col. R. M. Sands, Mobile, Ala.; Lt. William Kelly, instructor at West Point academy; Manuel Lombillo, superintendent engineer of railroads, Cuba; Salvador D. Gomez engineer and inventor, Mexico; Paul Morphy, king of chess players; Prof. R. A. Hardaway, University of Alabama; Prof. John  McAuley, University of Louisiana; Prof. Thomas Della Torre, Charleston, etc.

The oldest graduate of Spring Hill college is R. Spencer Semmes, of Osceola, Ark., being graduated in 1855.i After purchasing a site for the College in Mobile, Bishop Portier went to France to find teachers and fund for the new college. He recruited two priests and four seminarians from France to staff the school.

The bishop himself taught theology to the ecclesiastical students, who numbered six the first year. On July 4, 1830, the bishop laid the cornerstone for the first permanent building which stood on the site of the present Administration Building.

Azalea Trail Maids in front of Byrne Memorial

Spring-Hill-College-99BFCB2D During the Civil War, the college rolls swelled. Boys sent to Spring Hill were often separated from their families for the war’s duration. In 1869 a fire destroyed the main building and students and faculty were moved to St. Charles College, Grand Coteau, Louisiana until the College was rebuilt by the year’s end.


Notable men of Alabama: personal and genealogical, Volume 1

 By Joel Campbell DuBose

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ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) is a collection of lost and forgotten stories about the people who discovered and initially settled in Alabama.

Some stories include:

  • The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
  • The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  • Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  • Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
  • Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement

Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past (Paperback)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

List Price: $12.77
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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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  1. Pretties campus ever is Samford, but would like to see Spring Hill.

  2. Beautiful building interior. Conducive to creating a wonderful atmosphere.

  3. Oldest Catholic College in Alabama

    1. It’s the oldest college in Alabama, and the South, period. Also, it is the third oldest Jesuit college in the country and the fifth oldest Catholic college in the United States.

      1. Oops, that should be oldest Catholic college in the South.

  4. When I was in law school at U of A there were more people from Spring Hill undergrad than any other university.

  5. Spring Hill College is not the oldest college in AL that distinction belongs to Athens State University (Athens Female Academy) founded in 1822.

  6. Athens Female Academy now Athens State University is and has always been a 2 year program which only has the right to confer an associates degree on its students. Athens has never been and is not a 4 year baccalaureate institution as is Spring Hill College, which has been a fully accredited school that confers Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Arts.

  7. Athens State University was founded in 1822 as an all women’s college! So this isn’t the oldest university in Alabama!

  8. I’m proud to say that Spring Hill College is ask or part of my childhood memories. My family’s home was located next to the ADG frat house on Old She’ll Road. My mama lived there her entire life home. Springhill held a special place in my mother’s heart. A bench in the Chapel is dedicated to her Janet Young Mosteller. I’m proud of Springhill.

  9. Much interesting information, or MIS – information, about Athens State. It certainly IS the oldest institution of higher education in Alabama. Yes, it was opened in 1822 as a female COLLEGE; so I would suppose the word COLLEGE denotes a place of higher education, even then. Even then it was begun and owned by the Methodist Church, prior to the Civil War. Founders Hall, the school’s oldest building, was saved from Federal troop’s burning because the President of the institution had a letter from Pres. Abe Lincoln instructing that the campus be NOT touched! . . . And, I am sorry Ms Redmond, Athens College was MOST CERTAINLY A FOUR YEAR COLLEGE. I graduated from Athens in 1968 with a degree in Philosophy and Religion, and a minor in English, before going to graduate school at Emory University. And you can’t go to graduate school if you don’ have a degree from an accredited institution. I was a student at Athens from 1964 until 1968 – when I graduated. I believe that’s four years! None-the-less, our historic institutions of higher learning are a boon to the citizens of our good State. Long live Spring Hill, Athens State, Samford Univ. and our state universities and junior colleges.

  10. Reminds me of the original St. Catherine’s Church in Mobile.

  11. I have not. Should have when I lived in that area.

  12. Madison RaeJurgensmeyer Christopher Jurgensmeyer

    1. Ray Lockhart gorgeous church!!! We should stop next time we go to Florida!

  13. My Grandpa Moore went to Spring Hill College after he retired from the Coast Guard. He always wanted to be a writer. He was on the newspaper staff at college. I have some of his stories and one article from the college paper titled ” Grandpa Goes to College”.

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