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Mary Allen Seminary College

July 31, 2019 - 00:00
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A short distance north from downtown Crockett, on North 4th street is what remains of the Mary Allen Seminary College. It was a boarding school for African-American girls founded in 1871, first called the Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School.

In 1886, the Board of Missions for the Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church, because of the large African-American East Texas population, was seeking a location for a black parochial school. The Board of Missions for the Freedmen’s secretary, Rev. Richard Allen, was invited to visit Crockett school.

The Crockett community banded together offering a grant of 10 acres on a hilltop plot just north of the city’s downtown area. Rev. Allen’s wife, Mary Esther, a member of the Women’s Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedmen, took an active role in promoting this boarding school for colored girls. When Mary Allen unexpectedly died, the board named the school as Mary Allen Seminary College.

Reverend J. P. Smith, a Caucasian man, was named to open the new college at the beginning of 1886. A four-story brick structure with basement was completed the following October 1887 and named Mary Allen Hall. The college began as a day and boarding school offering courses at four levels; primary, elementary, high school and teacher-in-training for girls only. In 1889, 152 students were enrolled, 102 as boarders. First thing, each morning, the entire school was divided into four Bible classes, with an hour spent in systemic Bible study.

Today, the college no longer exists, but its existence still looms over that Crockett hilltop as a massive four-story crumbling brick structure still stands. Also marking the road up to the hilltop is the Mary Allen Museum of African-American Art and History, Inc.

The Museum has launched a “Save the Bricks” of Mary Allen College campaign. Most recently, a capital campaign fundraising party was held at the Museum Saturday, June 29.

A strong network has been formed to raise enough money by selling bricks from the crumbling building as well as other means, to at minimum, save an existing wall for historic posterity, and at maximum, to restore and preserve the structure.

Mary Allen College was the first African-American women’s college in Texas. It began as a religious school founded by Presbyterians. In 1924 the college was restructured to then operate as an accredited junior college. By 1944 it closed but reopened the following year until its permanent closure in 1972.

The Mary Allen Seminary College, despite neglect, weather and fire damages over the last 50 years, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Well-known educator, Dr. Thelma J. Douglass, president of the Mary Allen Museum, can be reached for more information at 936-213-0363. An internet search of Mary Allen College at 1042 North 4th Street in Crockett, will show a present time photo of what still exists of the four-story ravaged Mary Allen Hall.

Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. Visit for more information or to become a member.