Asheville Farm School faculty 1909

History - Warren Wilson College’s beginning was the Asheville Farm School, founded and supported by the Woman's Board of Home Missions, a department of the Presbyterian Church. The Board aspired to provide education to Americans in isolated regions; they had already built hundreds of schools throughout the nation. In 1893 the Board (later renamed the Board of National Missions) bought a 420 acre farm in the Swannanoa Valley. Here they would build a farm school for young mountain boys.The next year twenty-five students enrolled. They had daily scripture study and took academic and industrial courses. They boys' work on the farm provided food for students and staff, keeping operating costs low.

Arthur M. Bannerman, WWC president
with Zeb Williams, and Bill Deihl,
As enrollment increased, administrators expanded the curriculum. In 1924 the first high school class graduated, and by 1942 junior college classes were offered. That same year the school became co-educational when the Board incorporated into it the Dorland-Bell, a nearby Presbyterian girls' school.The AFS was renamed the Warren H. Wilson Vocational Junior College and Associated Schools. Wilson, a sociologist and prominent Presbyterian, was the Board of National Missions' Secretary for Rural Church Work.

Students moving dogwood tree
from dam pasture to the Williams Building

Many people helped shape the school. Edna Voss, the Board's Secretary of Educational and Medical Work, and her successor Katherine E. Gladfelter carefully developed and implemented policies that ensured the school's success. Henry Randolph, the AFS's first Superintendent, a product of both the Tennessee hills and Columbia Teachers' College, endorsed modern educational theories. His successor Arthur Bannerman guided the Farm School's transition into a college. Biologist Henry Jensen, who taught agriculture and chemistry and later became Dean, strengthened the work program and brought his love of stories, poetry, and music to the community.

As public education came to the mountains, the high school division was phased out. More college courses were offered, and in 1969 the first senior high college class was graduated.The next year the Presbyterian Church announced it would withdraw financial suppport (although many individual congregations continued to give generously). By 1973 Warren Wilson was an independent, four-year liberal arts college. Under the guidance of President Reuben Holden (a Yale University alumnus and former Yale secretary), the curriculum again expanded. A Master of Fine Arts Program in creative writing was introduced, as were new interdisciplinary offerings in environmental, intercultural, and Appalachian studies. The Holden and successive administrations have been commited to keeping the college a small residential community offering a triad of study, work and service.

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Created by Charlotte Marie Hayes