Miss Emily Prudden - Founder of Oberlin Home and School, precursor of Pfeiffer University, circa 1900s
Emily Catherine Prudden (1832-1917) is considered to be the founder of Pfeiffer University. The daughter of Joseph Prudden (1787-1840), a prosperous farmer and Congregationalist deacon with a zealous commitment to Christian service, she remained on the family farm near New Haven, Connecticut, until 1878 when she removed to Berea, Kentucky, probably to accept a teaching position with Berea College. She subsequently lived briefly with a sister in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1882, Prudden traveled south to work at the Brainard Institute in Chester, S.C. Though nearly deaf and hobbled by arthritis, she seems to have then found a personal vocation in the establishment of schools for needy communities. Two years later, the All Healing Springs School in Gaston County became the first of sixteen schools she established, most of which would be located in Western North Carolina. Typically, after operating these schools for a few years, she would turn them over to a church. Pfeiffer's origins may be found in the Oberlin School, which Prudden founded on Lick Mountain near Lenoir, N.C., in 1898. Five years later the school was given to the charge of the Methodist Church. Renamed the Ebenezer Mitchell Home School, it was moved to Misenheimer, N.C., in 1910, where it would grow into a post-secondary institution and eventually become Pfeiffer University. Ms. Prudden resided in Hickory, N.C., at the time of her death, and is buried in Orange, Connecticut. Recent scholarship (especially the work of Phoebe Pollitt) acknowledges her role as a key figure in the history of mission school development and African-American education in Appalachia.
Photograph # 19981.15.7