SPRING HILL COLLEGE
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 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.
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.”
Avenue to grotto, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama -ca. 1900 – Detroit Publishing Company
Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama – ca. 1900- Detroit Publishing Company
Interior of St. Joseph’s Chapel, 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.
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
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.
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
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
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