A University Across the Woods

  • Education
  • 1780

In the early years of the American republic our population erupted over the heights of the Allegheny Mountains, starting the long national journey to the Pacific. Unlike their worldly possessions, the settlers of our frontier could not pack their schools for the move; they knew fresh educational institutions would have to be built from scratch. Persuading fellow Americans to donate to institutions of learning in the sparsely peopled Western territories would be a necessity. The first college west of the Alleghenies, established in 1780, was Kentucky’s Transylvania University, and private donors came through generously on its behalf. By 1795, when the university was relocated to Lexington, it was a respected institution. Transylvania (Latin for “across the woods”) educated 36 governors, 50 senators, and 101 congressmen, and its wide base of donors demonstrated the willingness of Americans to support fellow citizens working to improve themselves, even when they had no fraternal or geographic tie.