History of Warren Wilson, 1894-1942

Warren Wilson College began as the Asheville Farm School in 1894. The school was founded by the women's home missions board of the Presbyterian Church, in order to give mountain boys vocational training and classroom study. Initially the school enrolled 25 students in grades one through three. Higher grades were added as enrollment increased, and in 1923 the first high school class was graduated.

In 1942 the Asheville Farm School and Dorland-Bell School for girls in Hot Springs, N.C., merged to become the coeducational Warren H. Wilson Vocational Junior College and Associated Schools. The expanded institution in the Swannanoa Valley was named for the late superintendent of the Presbyterian Church's Department of Church and Country Life. WWC also holds the records for ANTC.


The Asheville Farm School

In 1893, the Women’s Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church noted that there was an extreme lack of education for students in the isolated mountain areas. After purchasing the land, the Asheville Farm School officially opened in 1894, enrolling 25 students and three faculty members, with the students eager to work their way to an education. The school adapted a three-sided curriculum that focused on education, work, and morality up through an eighth grade level. Gradually, more advanced courses were offered, with the first high school class graduating in 1924.

Not only did kids at the Farm School supplement their education with skills they could take back to farms in their home region, they were also expected to participate in regular religious activities, such as Bible study and prayer meetings, in order to create well-rounded young men.

The farm school boys were mischievous and fun-loving, often stealing watermelons from Uncle Charley Alexander’s farm, or hitching rides on the wagons of local farmers on their way into Ashville. Visits with girls from the sister school and various athletic activities kept the boys busy during their stay at the college.


Founded in 1887 by Rev. and Mrs. Dorland, the Dorland Institute was located in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Six years later, the coupled shifted the school into the hands of the Presbyterian Home Missions Board. Two years after that, Julia Phillips became the superintendant; her leadership led to increased enrollment, better facilities, and a more advanced curriculum.

This curriculum provides the base for Warren Wilson’s current Triad. Girls at the school received an education of “head, hand and heart,” which stemmed from their Presbyterian roots. Students worked on campus, performing such tasks as cooking, cleaning, and other daily duties that taught maturity and responsibility.

Asheville Normal and Teachers College (ANTC)

The Asheville Normal and Teachers College (originally known as the Home Industrial School for Girls) was founded in 1887 by Dr. and Mrs. Louis Pease. The couple had always dreamed of opening a school for girls. However, they had been unable to access the necessary funds until Dr. Thomas Lawrence, along with the local Presbyterian Church, granted them funding in exchange for the use of the Peases’ property for the school; the Peases eagerly accepted.

Attendance (which was originally limited to sixty girls) rose quickly to nearly double by 1888. When John Calfee became president in 1916, he established new programs for the school’s curriculum, which included dairying and furniture-making. One of his more noteworthy programs was a summer school that offered continuing education for teachers; these summer courses became extremely popular, drawing over 1300 students in the summer of 1922.

Over the next fifteen years, the school changed its name to the Asheville Normal and Teachers College, and the student body became more active in campaigning for their personal freedoms on campus. After being denied requests for increased social privileges, March 1937 saw a number of students protesting the decision by skipping meals and classes—Calfee eventually relented.

Sadly, as some alumni recall, the protests may have been a factor in spelling the end of the college. By 1937, the Board of Missions had determined that ANTC was no longer needed in the region due to the increase of other learning institutions; students, faculty, and the surrounding community were all sad to see the school close. However, the school’s influence and legacy continued on as they merged with the Farm School.

 For the history of Warren Wilson College from 1942 to the present, continue here!