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

 
 
 

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Marker Text:

Essay:
     Concordia College was the first Lutheran school established in western North Carolina, an area populated by people of German descent who worshipped in the Lutheran Church. The first indication that a school would be in Catawba County appears in records of the Tennessee Synod in 1852. The school, it was announced, would offer ministerial training but also provide a basic education for local students. In 1877 members of local Lutheran churches met at St. John’s Lutheran Church and decided to construct a high school. Members from the towns of Conover, Hickory, and Newton pledged funds to establish the school.

     Classes opened with R. A. Yoder as the first professor teaching nineteen students in a private home. In 1878 classes moved into a new administration building on four acres of land donated by J. P. Spencer. In 1881 the school converted into a college and was incorporated as Concordia College. By 1883 the school had an enrollment of 125 students and was officially taken over by the Tennessee Synod. The school’s founders realized that they needed to expand to meet their needs. At the same time, philanthropist Col. Walter W. Lenoir offered thirty-six acres in Hickory to any Protestant school willing to establish a college there. The decision was made to move the college to Hickory and the school was re-named Lenoir-Rhyne College.

     Some members of the Board, however, preferred to remain in Conover and they sought to retain their school. They appealed to the synod which maintained the school until a fire in 1935 destroyed the main building. Since enrollment was down and funding was scarce, the synod voted to close the school and the property was sold to Concordia Lutheran Church for the site of its new church building.

     The school served around 600 students from the surrounding area, often providing the only education alternative above elementary level for many, offering a two year preparatory school and a four year degree. Many of the students, such as educator Charles Lee Coon, moved on to become leaders both locally and statewide.


References:
Charles J. Preslar, A History of Catawba County (1954)
Jacob L. Morgan, and others, eds., History of the Lutheran Church in North Carolina, 1808-1953 (1953)
Gary R. Freeze, The Catawbans: Crafters of a North Carolina County (1995)
George W. Hahn, The Catawba soldier of the Civil War (1978)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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