Though these few men had only a meager common school education themselves, and some scarcely that, they, nevertheless, felt the responsibility of providing some means of higher education for the children of the Kentucky mountains.
The Association minutes show the founders were poor-$366 was the total amount contributed by their eighteen churches during the year 1887-1888 to pastors' salaries.2 They, nonetheless, solemnly passed a resolution, through the encouragement of General Green Clay Smith 3 and under the leadership of R. C. Medaris,4 looking toward the founding of a College then called Williamsburg Institute. The articles of Incorporation were approved by the State Legislature on
Like Abraham of old the founding fathers began their journey with precious little more than faith and a promise. Little did they know that their vision would shortly catch the eye of men like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, both of whom initially supported the college through their philanthropy.
This was but the beginning of famous names associated with the College including William Jennings Bryan, Duncan Hines, Bing Crosby, Henry Clay Frick and the list goes on and on.
Actually Dr. Ancil Gatliff, a local physician, along with other local residents such as J. P. Mahan, J. W. Siler, E. S. Moss, T. B. Mahan, R. C. Medaris, and A. T. Siler must be given much credit for getting the college underway.
These founding fathers envisioned young people from humble homes filling the halls and coming forth from the portals, their faces radiant with the light of learning.
The institution has produced two governors, five military generals, an admiral, five college and university presidents, a Congressman, ministers, missionaries, legislators, judges, a host of medical doctors and attorneys, teachers and the list goes on.
Undaunted by recession and depressions, The Spanish American War and two World Wars, the college has continued to serve Appalachia.
Nine presidents have served the college including William James Johnson, E. E. Wood, John Newton Prestridge, Gorman Jones, acting president; A. R. Evans, acting president; Charles William Elsey, James Lloyd Creech, J. M. Boswell and James H. Taylor.
At a meeting in Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1959 the General Association of Baptists voted to allow Cumberland College to resume four year status, having previously awarded the bachelor's degree until 1913.5
The Cumberland College campus is nestled in the Kentucky mountains and located on four hills in the city of Williamsburg.
This college, one of America's unique institutions, is located near the Cumberland River, Cumberland Falls, and Cumberland Gap.
The green, manicured campus is old, spacious, and pastoral, with twenty buildings,
The campus is unsurpassed with steeples sweeping up to the glory of God. At times
Cumberland is one of those almost extinct colleges: a small college intimate and concerned in a setting of almost incomparable beauty. Meticulous would be the key word to describe the physical facilities, largely because of a grand maintenance staff supported by student labor. The college has remained true to its founding purpose: "To provide a first class education at rates that are compatible with the means of mountain people."