Highland Home College

In our last post we learned about the Barnes family and the establishment of a new community around their plantation and their school Strata Academy.  We're going to pick back up today and focus on the school.

In 1856 Strata Academy was founded in southwestern Montgomery County by Justus McDuffie "Mack" Barnes.  Mack had just returned home with a new degree from Bethany College, and his father decided to help him set up a school.  The first year Mack had thirteen students and classes met on his father's farm, but Strata Academy thrived.  Within a few years they built a new building to the east of the family home, and in 1872 that site became a campus when Mack hired his first partner.  Samuel Jordan also became Mack's brother-in-law, and in 1879 they Colonel M.L. Kirkpatrick married the other Barnes daughter and became the third brother-in-law and third teacher and partner at Strata Academy.  The next three years saw serious sickness, including the deaths of three students, which prompted the trio to look for a new site for the school.  In the end they bought 500 acres on a ridge about six miles to the south, just across the border into Crenshaw County.  The move provided an opportunity to rebrand, and so in 1881 Strata Academy became Highland Home Institute.  In 1889 the name was changed again, to Highland Home College.

The new building was the largest structure in the county, and contemporary reports indicate it may have been the nicest educational building in the entire region.  Here is a photo of the building, followed by a description from Mack's son, Elly Barnes.

It was a two-story frame building, 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. The lower story was divided into four recitation rooms, each spacious, and into smaller rooms for books and apparatus, the entire upper floor was one large auditorium, unbroken by post or other obstruction. A grand hall for concerts or for Christmas celebrations! But it was by no means reserved for such occasional use. Every minute of every school day it was a busy place.
— E.R. "Elly" Barnes, son of Mack Barnes

Kirkpatrick taught at the college until his death in 1892.  In 1898 Mack Barnes and his son Elly decided to start a new venture in Montgomery, the Barnes School.  That institution will be the focus of our next post.  The two Barnes men continued their relationship with HHC as board members.  While the school had seen a high enrollment of nearly 500 students, the onset of World War I, along with the establishment of colleges run by the state, caused declining enrollment.  Mack Barnes died in an automobile accident in Montgomery in 1913, and in 1915 Highland Home College closed its doors with Samuel Jordan still serving as President.  The campus was sold to the state of Alabama for educational use, and Highland Home High School sits on the grounds today.

The next two photos show the Highland Home College historical marker and the location of the marker in front of Highland Home High School. 

Highland Home College historical marker, Highland Home, Crenshaw County, Alabama

Site Of Highland Home College

A pioneer institution organized in 1889 by Justus M. Barnes, Samuel Jordan and Milton L. Kirkpatrick. This was an extension of Strata Academy, founded in 1856 by Barnes six miles north at Strata. In 1881 Strata Academy was moved to Highland Home and the name changed to Highland Home Institute. From its inception, the school was coeducational. It brought culture to frontier Alabama —- music, foreign languages, science, literature, and drama as well as “the Three R’s.” Although never a religious institution, Bible courses were offered. Its graduates provided the State many distinguished citizens. When the economics of competing with state normal schools forced it to close its doors forever, in 1915, it had served Alabama continuously for 59 years. The trustees deeded this property to the State of Alabama in 1916 for educational use.
— Erected by the Barnes, Jordan, Kirkpatrick Memorial Association - 1977

Setting of Highland Home College historical marker, Highland Home, Crenshaw County, Alabama