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1851-1905 Overview

Florida Institute c1857
On January 24, 1851, the General Assembly of Florida passed an act to open two seminaries of learning, one to be located east of the Suwannee River and the other to the west of it.

Tallahassee, the state's capital, seemed a logical site for the Seminary West of the Suwannee. Mayor Francis Eppes, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, worked diligently to acquire the school, but until 1855, no building was available to house the facility. Finally, in 1855 the Florida Institute opened as a secondary school and college on the site where the Westcott fountain stands today. This facility was offered to the state as a home for the Seminary West of the Suwannee River.

College Hall c1891
On January 1, 1857 the Legislature accepted Tallahassee's proposal and passed a bill making Tallahassee the official site of the Seminary West of the Suwannee. The public was generally pleased with the 10-acre site with one exception: women were not admitted to the school. The administration rectified this situation and permitted females to attend beginning in 1858.

The Civil War forced many state schools to close their doors, but only briefly disrupted the West Florida Seminary's progress. In an attempt to prevent the Confederate States of America from drafting male teachers, the seminary operated as the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute during the war years. Cadets attended military classes in case they were called upon to fight. On March 6, 1865 such an occasion arose. Cadets from the school joined regular CSA troops in the Battle of Natural Bridge, just south of the city, and prevented Union soldiers from capturing Tallahassee.

Following the war, the school took back the name Seminary West of the Suwannee River and continued to grow. As tourism increased in Florida in the 1880's, many visitors to the state remained and became permanent residents. The expanding population provided the Legislature with a broader tax base with which to fund the state's educational system. Schools began to increase in number, relocate to more populous areas, and change their names. Under the leadership of Albert Alexander Murphree, the Seminary West of the Suwannee River became The Florida State College (FSC) in 1901. The four original colleges of FSC were Arts and Sciences, Education, Home Economics and Music. In 1902, FSC awarded its first master's degree. The first library at the college opened the following year. The college offered athletic programs and an intercollegiate schedule for both male and female students. The football team won the state championship in 1904

The Buckman Bill of 1905 reorganized higher education in the state by funding only four institutions and eliminating coeducational facilities at two of those four schools. Florida State College became the Florida Female College, a name that proved unpopular with the state's citizens. In 1909 the Legislature changed the name of the growing women's school to Florida State College for Women

A.A. Murphree continued as the school's president. He did all he could to ensure that the Florida Female College would be a source of pride to the people of Florida, and that it would rank among the top colleges in the South.


  • Dodd, William G. History of a West Florida Seminary, Tallahassee: The Florida State University, 1952.
  • Sellers, Robin Jeanne, Ph.D. Femina Perfecta, Tallahassee: The Florida State University Foundation, 1995.
  • Wills, Martee & Morris, Joan Perry. The Seminole History: A Pictorial History of the Florida State University, Jacksonville: South Star Publishing Company, 1987.

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