On December 17, 1819, only three days after the state of Alabama was admitted to the United States of America, an Act of the General Assembly of Alabama approved an Act to incorporate “a seminary of learning” to be known as the University of Alabama. (continued below)
In his message to the legislature, Gov. William Wyatt Bibb called special attention to the liberal donations which had been made by Congress to Alabama for educational purposes. The general assembly immediately appropriated money, and passed a resolution authorizing the governor to appoint land commissioners to manage the lands set apart by Congress.
Cadet Staff University of Alabama 1887
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During the third session of the legislature, in 1821, another Act was passed providing that “His Excellency the governor, ex-officio, together with twelve trustees, two from each judicial circuit, to be elected by joint ballot of both houses of the general assembly, to continue in office for the term of three years, should constitute a body politic and corporate in deed and in law, by the name of the trustees of the University of Alabama, and the governor should be ex-officio president of the board.”
View of Woods, one of the University of Alabama’s earliest buildings Dec. 30, 1871
The next session of the legislature enlarged the powers of the board, giving them authority to select a place or places which might be suitable for the location of the University, and to report so that “the legislature shall by joint ballot of both houses make choice for the site of the University.”
Woods Hall around 1901
In his message to the legislature Gov. W. W. Bibb called special attention to the liberal donations which had been made by Congress to Alabama for educational purposes. The general assembly immediately appropriated moneys, and passed a resolution authorizing the governor to appoint land commissioners to manage the lands set apart by Congress.
Clark Hall around 1900
It was stipulated in the Act of incorporation that, “all lands received by the State as a donation from Congress for a seminary of learning were vested in the trustees, who were authorized to dispose of the lands in such manner as should be best calculated to promote the object of the grant.” The lands which had been donated were to be sold at minimum price of seventeen dollars per acre, the agents collecting one-fourth in cash and taking notes for the rest which was to be paid in four annual installments.
University of Alabama bathhouse 1874
The first meeting of the board of trustees was held in the city of Tuscaloosa, on Thursday, April 4, 1822. The required oath of office was administered by Hume R. Field.
Astronomical Observatory, built 1844. University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, Alabama – around 1910
Committees were appointed, ordinances passed, a seal selected and other business transacted before the committee reported which had been appointed to determine the bond of the treasurer, and of the agents, with recommendations as to the lands to be sold and the method of disposing of them. The committee, consisting of Messrs. Carter, Phillips, Davis and Field, reported that the bond of the treasurer was to be two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and that of the agents one hundred thousand dollars. The districts consisted of Cahaba, Tuscaloosa, and the Big Spring, the latter place in Franklin County.
The duties of the commissioners, as set forth by the committee, were: to examine all lands vested in the trustees lying within the district for which they had been appointed agents, and to report whether or not in their opinion the land was worth seventeen dollars an acre; they were to report also the situation and quality of the lands, and the improvements that had been made on them.
University of Alabama, Residence of Mrs. Gorgas
Amelia Gorgas was the librarian from 1883 to 1907. The main campus library at the school is named after her.
University of Alabama
‘The little round house, A relic of the past’
The result of a viva voce election for the agents was John Hunter, for the Cahaba District; Thomas Owen, for the Tuscaloosa District; and Quin Morton, for the district of the Big Spring. Jack F. Ross was elected treasurer over his opponent Thomas W. Farrar. All the lands which had been sold and those which remained unsold were mentioned in the first annual report of the trustees, 1823, with the exception of those lands which had been reserved as eligible sites for the University; the amounts received, the amounts of bonds received, both principal and interest, and the total amount of the installments remaining unpaid accompanied this first annual report.
The Gorgas Home around 1900
Because the legislature had failed to select a site for the location of the University nothing could be done with the money in the hands of the trustees, except to convert it into United States Bank notes or specie. The money appropriated for the building also lay idle. From the sales of the University lands, rents and leases, etc., there came into the state treasury for 1823, $52,602.75%.
The Board of Trustees suspended the entries of University lands, in 1825, until the will of the general assembly became known. The legislature reclassified the lands, according to the wish of the Trustees, into three groups, the first to be sold for seventeen dollars; the second for twelve and the third -for eight.
The Gorgas Home in 1950’s
The Gorgas house was built in 1829 and served as a dining hall, post office and infirmary at the University of Alabama. It was one of only four buildings on campus to survive the burning of the college in the Civil War.
The University of Alabama first opened its doors to students on April 18, 1831, with the Reverend Alva Woods as President. The university emphasized the classics and the social and natural sciences. There were around 100 students per year at UA in the 1830s.
In 1879 it was given to the school’s president, Josiah Gorgas, and his family lived in the house 1953. Dr. William Crawford Gorgas, whose father occupied this home while President of the University, became world-renowned for his work in sanitation. He assisted in conquering yellow fever and made the Panama Canal possible. Dr.Gorgas was elected in 1950 to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
- The Alabama Department of Archives and History
- History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Thomas M. Owens, 1921