History of Irving College
Irving College School is located approximately eight miles south of McMinnville, Tennessee on Highway 56. The land surrounding the school is mainly a farming and nursery area.
The school has a very interesting history spanning more than 160 years. During this time, the site of the school has been moved; it has burned down twice; and it has been remodeled and expanded several times.
In 1835, the citizens living in the neighborhood of Morrison’s Crossroads built a large one-story brick school building which became known as Irving Academy. R. William T. Coons was employed to teach, but he left the school shortly to resume his study of Latin and Greek. A prominent citizen was sent to induce T. O. Owens of Wilson County to take charge of Irving Academy. Mr. Owens came and brought several of his students with him. Irving Academy soon became one of the leading colleges in Tennessee.
The school progressed well until near the close of that session. On the night of a weekly debate in 1844, a mob assembled near the house for the purpose of breaking up the debate. Soon after this effort to break up the debating, Irving Academy was burned to ashes. While the ashes were still hot, the neighbors gathered around the smoldering ruins and resolved to rebuild the school.
Isaac Hill, a prominent man in the county at that time, led the way in erecting Irving College. The community was eager for the school to be placed back. Everyone helped financially and manually. The new school, which was said to have been located approximately one-half mile from the first building, consisted of a college hall, ten dormitories, and a brick faculty residence. The buildings were made ready for the fall of 1844.
In 1845, the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee granted S. W. Owens a charter for the incorporation of Irving College. From this time, the school dates its beginning as one of the successful male colleges in Tennessee and of the South. Irving College developed into a greatly enlarged and finely equipped institution of learning with a full corps of highly trained teachers, educated in the best schools in the South and East. At one time, there were seventy-five students in attendance from the state of Alabama.
The course of study included English, Greek, Latin, French, science, mathematics, and dancing. There was a college paper called “The Dispatch”.
Irving College promised to be one of the noted schools of the South, but the Civil War closed its doors. The students from Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas decided to enter the Southern army. The library was divided among the students and they left the school for their homes.
During the war, the buildings were used as a barn for sheep and cattle. Following the war, the buildings were remodeled and some were rebuilt by E. Martin, I. Hill, W. M. Meadows and two Cardwells. Other citizens of the Irving College community and McMinnville helped with the building.
The school at this time was run as a military school under the leadership of Alfred Debard. For a number of years, it was one of the outstanding military schools in the area. It gradually declined and was later sold to E. B. Etter. The school was reopened for both young men and young ladies. After a number of years, E. B. Etter sold the school to the county. Mr. Etter and Warren County operated the school jointly for a few years.
In 1925, the old buildings were torn down the school was built on its present site which Judge P. N. Moffitt exchanged for the old college grounds. Fire again destroyed Irving College in 1928.
After the fire of 1928, a brick structure was built. The brick building was constructed in hope that fire would not destroy the school a third time. There were seven classrooms and an auditorium in the building situated on the “hill.” This building served as a high school and elementary school until 1952.
In 1952, the brick building became the “elementary building” while the high school and junior high gained a two-story classrooms and gymnasium structure. The new buildings came about after a damaging storm destroyed part of the old building.
In 1962, Irving College’s long-time friend, Judge Moffitt, donated land to build the west wing of the high school with its five classrooms and an enlarged cafeteria. Irving College could continue to grow with another grant of land by Judge Moffitt’s widow and daughter.
In 1966, a modern steel-structure building was constructed during the summer months. This building contained four classrooms which were used for the primary grades.
In 1969, the last senior class graduated at Irving College School with the consolidation of Warren County Schools. It then became a kindergarten through eighth grade school.
In 1978, another big change occurred. The old brick building built in 1929, and a part of the 1952 building, were torn down. The remaining part of the building was remodeled with addition of seven classrooms, a modern library, offices, and restrooms.
In 1994, our school campus was enlarged when our school board decided to purchase five acres to add to the west side of the school grounds. This land was to be used to construct a ball field.
In 1995, with the help of parents and community volunteers, a horse riding arena was built on a part of the newly purchased land. Our school building was again enlarged in 1996 with the addition of six more classrooms.
In 1998, a new ball field was constructed on the land purchased in 1994. An additional acre was purchased by the school board to add to the original five acres purchased in 1994. The additional acre would allow a road to be built connecting the softball field and horse arena to Dry Creek Rd.
In 2014, the Warren County Commission authorized three million dollars in order to construct new facilities at Irving College. Construction began in the summer of 2015 on a new gym, two new classrooms and a new cafeteria. Phase II of the construction will include reallocation and redesign of parts of the existing building. Stay tuned!