~ Saint Johns’ College of Arkansas

Saint Johns’ College of Arkansas
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas


Proposed College Building


(Johns’ – – – John’s)

WHY name Saint Johns’?

“In the United States, Masonic Lodges are dedicated to St. John the
Baptist and St. John the Evangelist (the two Holy St. Johns). Therefore,
it would have only been natural for the Grand Lodge to dedicate its
institution of higher learning to them.”

Source: Librarian of Grand Lodge of Arkansas May 14, 2007.

Saint Johns’ College of Arkansas’ proposed building, of which only the center section, less the bell tower, was built, started its construction in 1857, ~ ~ appearing suspiciously like that known as Knox College in Galesburg, Knox county, Illinois, created 1837, a progressive institution that welcomed women and people of color. Its Old Main, was constructed in 1857, one-hundred & fifty-six years later (156), still proudly standing and in use. In 1858, said Knox College, was site of the fifth of seven Lincoln-Douglas debates, where Abraham Lincoln, challenging incumbent Senator Stephan A. Douglas, debated the nature and future of slavery.

~ Researched, then ascribed March 2007, last revised 10/21/2013 by William (Bill) Samuel Boggess, billboggess@webtv.net ~

~ ~ ~ This is my working hypothesis – the way I currently understand it ~ ~ ~

~ You may want to save this to your flashdrive or a C D.

~ Additional relevant information may be found by clicking on the highlighted words.

~ Please, keep in mind, times were different in those days than they are today. One needs to review early Arkansas history for better appreciation of life’s hardships and education confronted during its early pioneering days.

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Saint Johns’ College of Arkansas was state’s first chartered institution for higher learning, – – – however, third to open her collegiate door, following Arkansas College and Cane Hill College. During its short, interrupted, College life of some fourteen years under Arkansas Freemasons, (its preparatory school open sixteen years) it trained some of the most important leaders in Arkansas.

Centrally located, was this Masonic sponsored school, becoming the premier collegiate facility prior to Arkansas’ accepting responsibility for public education some twenty years later. Saint Johns’ College occupied one-hundred and five acres immediately east of United States Arsenal in Pulaski county (which had been Col James DANLEY, along with Emzy WILSON and John N BOYLE Little Rock’s Jockey Club and Race Track since 1834, which in 1837 was purchased by the government for the United States Arsenal grounds at request of Governor CONWAY, sudden loss of the jockey club nearly causing a local riot) and west of Dr Robert Anderson WATKINS‘ acreage known as Oakwood Plantation, till 1859 when purchased by Peter HANGER, then being used as headquarters for Gen Sterling PRICE when Little Rock fell to the Feds September 1863, ~ ~ five donated, one-hundred purchased in 1852, with intent on selling sixty acres. She’s illustrated at upper left corner on Little Rock’s, ‘bird’s eye view’ of 1870’s, after 1869 subdivision into “Masonic Addition” to City of Little Rock, with streets named for lodge members. Her structure is at bottom, 2nd from left with blind school’s first from right. Modern day, area known as Hanger Hill.

2 Pic from The Arkansas History Commission.

Saint Johns’ College educated and trained her students (referred to as “cadets” by third president’s wife), for their life’s responsibilities, to name but a half-dozen:

BORLAND, George Godwin (1846AR-1862TX),
DODD, David Owen (1846TX-1864AR),
ENGLISH, Peyton Danley (1846AL-1921AR),
HEMPSTEAD, Fay (1847AR-1934AR), and brothers
ROSE, George Basil (1860AR-1943AR), and brothers
NEWTON, Thomas Willoughby, Junior (1843AR-1908), whose son, T W, III 1883AR-1962AR), married Fay HEMPSTEAD’s daughter, Elvyn (1880AR-1950AR), having a son named, T W, IV

“Arkansas’ History Wound Itself About St John’s” – – -

- – – so wrote Margaret Deane Smith ROSS (1922AR-2002AR), Little Rock historian, for her 1950 newspaper centennial tribute to Saint Johns’ College.

Seldom is SAINT JOHNS’ found spelled correctly, even twice in “Jan 10th 1871″ letter on schools stationary by its president’s wife. The “official” state record even misspelled the name causing confusion ever since because a state clerk wrote it wrong.





Memorial honoring Saint Johns’ College of Arkansas is its 1857 engraved cornerstone displayed at Albert Pike Consistory, Seventh and Scott streets, Little Rock, retrieved from building’s site after found covered with overgrowth by author Mrs. Bernie BABCOCK (1868OH-1962AR), (born Julia Burnelle Smade Babcock). Corner stone now with plaque affixed to its top, to wit:

“This cornerstone is from old
St. Johns College of Arkansas
Formerly located East of MacArthur Park
Founded and operated by the
Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted
Masons of Arkansas during a time
prior to the states assumption of
its responsibility in the field of education.”

pic by Pris Weathers

~ MII)-

Two monuments were erected in or near modern day MacArthur Park honoring her students:

FIRST: To memory of “Capitol Guards” during May 1911 16th Reunion of United States Confederate Veterans, fifty years following “Capitol Guards” (some being Saint Johns’ students), organized on the old United States Arsenal (1838-1890) grounds (pre-1837, Jockey Club & race track) .

This statute represents a Confederate soldier standing at guard, placed on a tall white granite pedestal with words, to wit:


During unveiling ceremonies, afore mentioned Fay HEMPSTEAD, poet laureate of Freemasonry, read poem he wrote entitled “At Camp Shaver”, in which high tribute was paid to the “Capital Guards”. Also included was Miss Mary FLETCHER (Mrs. Leonard H. DRENNAN) (1890AR-1982MD), daughter of Colonel John Gould FLETCHER (1831AR-1906AR), (3 June 1861 Captain, Age 30, Capital Guards. Elected May 8,1862; Severely wounded in thigh at Murfreesboro, Tennessee 31 December 1862; 6th Arkansas Infantry, Company A, and Mayor 1875-1881), standing at the east side of the monument, holding a blue ribbon, while Miss Helen Frances PEAY (1894AR-1928AR), granddaughter of Gordon Neil PEAY (1819KY-1876AR), first captain of the Guards (Mayor 1859-1860), stood on the south side holding a white ribbon. At a signal, Misses FLETCHER and PEAY pulled the ribbons while the band played “Dixie” and the old veterans assembled shouted at the tops of their voices. The screen fell away, with a shower of roses, the tall granite shaft stood revealed.

pic by Pris Weathers

SECOND: To memory of former student David Owen DODD,

“Boy Martyr of the Confederacy”

In 1867 while Fanny Green (Borland) MOORES was visiting Albert Pike‘s daughters, Isadora and Lillian in Memphis, the General suggested she write a poem in tribute to afore mentioned David Owen DODD. He most likely published it in the “Memphis Appeal” which Gen PIKE was then editor before moving to Washington city, a newspaper her father, Solon BORLAND, started January 1839, which, one hundred seventy four (174) years later is, The Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

 DODD is thought to have worked in Masonic member Alderman James A HENRY‘s, mercantile store, – – – in 1926 United Daughters of the Confederacy (created 1890), placed a large piece of granite with a commemorative plaque attached, to wit:

“In Memory of
David O. Dodd
The boy hero of the Confederacy
This marks the place of his execution January 8, 1864 Erected by the
memorial chapter U.D.C.1926″

Originally located one block east of former United States Arsenal building (wherein General Douglas MacARTHUR (1880AR-1964NY) was born), marking site on former property of Saint Johns’ College of DODD’s execution as spy, by hanging, January 8, 1864 at three o’clock in afternoon, coldest day of the year with ice covering river and snow under foot, before crowd estimated 5,000 to 6,000. Hanging ordered by Major General Frederick STEELE (1819NY-1868CA), United States Army. DODD’s body was reportedly removed to Dick JOHNSON‘s (1826-1889) Rock street home, following day interned in Mount Holly cemetery in plot reportedly donated by Barney A KNIGHTON (1805MO-1873) (whose home the body may (?) have been taken), where in 1913, an eight-foot tall spire was placed. Interstate Highway 30’s access road now covering hanging site with 1926 monument currently, May 2007, found at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Law School’s parking lot.

pic by Pris Weathers

In January 2009, this memorial was moved to the parade grounds at the Little Rock Military Museum and rededicated by the Joseph Thornhill Chapter of the U.D.C, Sons of the Confederate groups and many other organizations..  Many more memorials exist for Dodd in other locations.

pic by Pris Weathers

Organization of Saint Johns’ College began 1848 as a thought of Elbert Hartwell ENGLISH (1816AL-1884NC). Then through efforts of Masonic Grand Lodge of Arkansas, reportedly following creation of similar schools in neighboring states (Missouri c1844). Grand Master of Masons Elbert H ENGLISH,

“…his brain and heart in it [St Johns’] as long as he lived.”


Arkansas’ fourth Supreme Court Chief Justice, considered by many, the father of Saint Johns’ College (some credited Albert PIKE, who didn’t become a mason until 1850), starting 1844, law partner and junior editor with fellow mason, Dr Solon BORLAND, Esquire (1811VA-1864TX).

Elbert addressed some 4,000 members of about 50 Lodges of Arkansas’ problem with no higher education in 1850, year following Solon’s son Thomas, age 16, attending Alexandria Boarding School, Alexandria, Fairfax county, Virginia under Benjamin HALLOWELL (1799PA-1877MD), then in 1850 at Blue Lick Springs, Nicholas county, Kentucky in Western Military Institute, where its said many Little Rock boys attended, under Colonel Edwin Wright MORGAN (1814PA-1869PA), — (both Elbert & Solon had 4 y/o sons). A committee was formed to establish an institution of higher l