News From Terre Haute, Indiana


April 15, 2007

Historical Perspective: Elizabeth Boynton Harbert’s mark on the Valley started with the Terre Haute Female College Class of 1862

In April 1862, plans for the fourth annual Terre Haute Female College commencement were well under way.

Graduation exercises conducted by the Rev. John Covert, founder and president, were scheduled for Wednesday, June 18, 1862 – about 145 years ago – on the picturesque commons facing current College Avenue, west of Sixth Street.

There were 15 girls in the senior class, the largest in the institute’s short history. Five were from Terre Haute:

• Emma C. Barbour, daughter of Terre Haute attorney Cromwell Woolsey Barbour;

• Mary C. Cornwell, daughter of dry goods merchant B.H. Cornwell;

• Clara A. Graff, daughter of carriage manufacturer Jacob K. Graff (and sister of the future Illinois Congressman Jacob V. Graff);

• Anna N. McKeen, daughter of Benjamin F. McKeen; and

• Eliza B. Warren, daughter of pioneer porkpacker and financier Chauncey Warren.

The other 1862 graduates were Sarah L. Andrews and Hannah K. Greenough of Marshall, Ill.; Sarah E. Deming and Anna H. Ewing of Elbridge, Ill.; Elizabeth Morrison Boynton of Crawfordsville; Mary C. Fullenwider of Waveland; Catharine R. Gaines of Pleasant Hill; Mary C. Kingsbury of Danville, Ill.; Cynthia A. Patrick of Mattoon, Ill.; and Sallie M. O’Neall of Pulaski, Tenn.

In three previous years, a total of 22 girls received diplomas from the Presbyterian-sponsored nondenominational school: five in 1859, eight in 1860 and nine in 1861.

Of the five Terre Haute seniors, Eliza Warren probably is best-recognized today. Because of her long service as matron of the Terre Haute Social Settlement, Warren Elementary School was named in her memory.

Elizabeth Boynton had a significant national impact. A prominent suffrage journalist for many years, she remains a popular subject of academic study. Harbert’s evolving positions on suffrage issues and attitudes trace the progress of the movement.

The daughter of William and Abigail (Sweetser) Boynton, “Lizzie” was born in Crawfordsville on April 15, 1843 (though some biographies assert, incorrectly, 1845). Her parents died when she was young, so Elizabeth, and sister Mellie were raised by Alvin Ramey, a Crawfordsville merchant and former postmaster, and his wife Abby. Ramey was listed as “guardian” on Miss Boynton’s enrollment forms.

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    March 12, 2010