Guide to the Emily C. Prudden Collection 1840-1996
Collection Number Mss 19971
G.A. Pfeiffer Library, Mary Fisher Floyd Archives & Special Collections
Detailed Description of the Collection
Abstract: The Emily C. Prudden Collection documents the life, career, and posthumous recognition of the founder of Pfeiffer University. The collection primarily consists of correspondence and research relating to Prudden by Pfeiffer College historian Dr. Mary Fisher Floyd (1960-68), various published and unpublished work on Prudden by Harold Davenport (1959), Pfeiffer College archivist Dr. Bernard Russell (1978-91), Christine L. Thomson (1984) and Dr. Phoebe Pollitt (1993-94), and clippings, programs, and addresses acknowledging Prudden's role in the mission school movement in Western North Carolina and the origins of Pfeiffer University. While the researcher will find relatively little primary material, he or she will find two articles published by Ms. Prudden (1910-14), a Bible inscribed by Prudden in 1878, some carte de visites of Prudden (ca. 1880), and Ms. Prudden's watercolor sketchbook (ca. 1890), which was presented to Pfeiffer by a Connecticut contact in the 1960s.
Information for Users
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.
Scope and Content Note
Types of materials in this collection include: correspondence, wills and estate inventories, addresses, articles, eulogies, notes, theses and dissertations, sketchbooks, photos, books, brochures, clippings, manuals, press releases, and programs. Refer to the Mitchell Home School Collection and the Oberlin Home School Collection for more information on these Emily C. Prudden schools.
Online Catalog Headings
Organization of Collection
The collection is divided into 6 series.
Detailed Description of the Collection
- Much of the correspondence series consists of Dr. Floyd's correspondence with Connecticut contacts and others during her Prudden researches of the 1960s. Her correspondents include Raymond Cuzzocreo, who was instrumental in helping Floyd with her Connecticut research, and Albert M. Clark, donor of the Prudden watercolor sketchbook. The series also includes a letter (1967) from Mary E. Bethea on an Orange, Connecticut, pilgrimage, correspondence (1995) on the Prudden exhibit at the Orange Historical Society Museum, and an exchange of letters (1984) relating to the researches of Christine L. Thomson.
- The short legal series consists of facsimiles of Prudden family wills and estate inventories (1840-69).
- This interesting series is perhaps most notable for unpublished research on Prudden by Dr. Bernard Russell, Harold D. Davenport, and Dr. Phoebe Pollitt. Russell (1978, nd) contributed the discovery of primary source materials on the origins of the Oberlin School in Caldwell County, while Davenport (1959) compiled a history of Prudden's first school in Western North Carolina, All Healing Springs/Linwood College. Pollitt's dissertation (1994), "Emily Prudden and Her Schools," is to date the most rigorous examination of Prudden's contribution to education in Western North Carolina.
- Ms. Prudden's watercolor sketchbook, certainly the best-known Prudden relic (ca. 1890), forms this single entry series.
- Most prominent in the photos series are two original ca.1880 carte de visites of Prudden. Researchers will also find photographs of the highway marker dedication ceremony for Skyland Institute in Blowing Rock, NC, in 1991, and the unveiling and presentation of the Prudden portrait at Pfeiffer College in 1963.
- The largest in the Prudden Collection, the printed series includes autobiographical articles (1914, 1910) written by Prudden, as well as some of the most recent serious research on Prudden's contribution to African-American education in Appalachia by Pollitt (1993) and Ostwalt and Pollitt (1993). The series also includes two important Prudden relics: a Bible presented by Prudden to an acquaintance named Anna in 1878, and a hymn book presented by Prudden during her Oberlin days (1901) to Celia Tolbert. The clippings group includes a Charlotte Observer article (1997) on Andrew Young's connection to Lincoln Academy (one of Prudden's African-American schools), and two articles (1978) by columnist Dot Jackson on Linwood College. Christine Thomson's (1984) State magazine article on Prudden titled "An Invincible Schoolmarm" is noteworthy as a useful summary of Prudden's work. Folders 6:27 and 6:29 include programs for two important Prudden related events at Pfeiffer College: the establishment of the Prudden Lectureship (1972) and the unveiling of the Prudden portrait (1963). Researchers working on Prudden genealogy should see Peter Prudden ...With the Genealogy of Some of His Descendants (1901).
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