north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Atlantic Christian College (ACC) was established by the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) in 1902 on a small campus in Wilson purchased, with local support, from the failed Kinsey Seminary. The college was coeducational, with the training of men for the Christian ministry as a primary objective. The first president was James Caswell Coggins, a Disciple minister living in Illinois. As head of the nascent college, Coggins met with many difficulties, including the resignations of most of his staff. He himself resigned in 1904.

     John James Harper, a Disciple minister and college trustee and, indeed, the man responsible for the name Atlantic Christian College, then took over as president. In moving to Wilson, Harper left his Johnston County home which is now a part of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. Harper offered ACC strong leadership and reliable recruiting until his death in 1908. Howard Stevens Hilley, a long-time president of the college, was named acting president in 1920. The appointment was made permanent in 1921 and Hilley remained in that capacity until 1949. During his term Hilley saw the campus grow from two buildings to six, with one under construction and an additional fourteen dwellings.

     Atlantic Christian College grew with Wilson, for as the town became an important tobacco market, students from around the country learned of the burgeoning school. In 1922 it became one of twelve colleges in North Carolina that were rated an “Class A College” by the state Department of Education. The high school preparatory division was eliminated in 1924 so that resources could be concentrated on the college. That fall enrollment increased by twenty percent. ACC weathered the Depression and World War II, continuing to place many graduates in North Carolina’s schools and pulpits. It was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in December 1955. In 1990 ACC became Barton College. The name was in honor of Barton W. Stone, an educator and a founder of the Disciples of Christ.

C. C. Ware, History of Atlantic Christian College (1956)
Patrick M. Valentine, Rise of a Southern Town: Wilson, North Carolina, 1849-1920 (2002)
Barton College website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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