College of Cambridge, Ninety-Six, SC

In 1785, the South Carolina state legislature voted to establish three public colleges – one in Charleston (the current College of Charleston), one in Winnsboro, and the “College of Cambridge” in Ninety-Six.

“In 1785, the South Carolina legislature established the College of Cambridge in Ninety Six. The school was a college preparatory academy for young white men. The citizens voted to change the village name from 96 to Cambridge in its honor. In 1787, the South Carolina General Assembly renamed the old Ninety Six district judicial center Cambridge, but the name Ninety Six (96) persisted. Cambridge lost its status as a courthouse town with the formation of new districts in 1800. The village of Cambridge declined, eventually becoming a ghost town.”
From Ninety-Six Revolutionary

An Act for Erecting and Establishing a College at the Village of Winnsborough, in the District of Camden, a College in or Near the City of Charleston, and a College at Ninety-Six in the District of Ninety-Six, in the State of South Carolina
March 19, 1785
The Statutes at Large of South Carolina – Volume IV, Pages 674-678

Full text of the Act is linked above. Excerpted, Opening and Section III:

WHEREAS, the proper education of youth is essential to the happiness and Prosperity of every community, and is therefore an object well worthy the attention of this Legislature; and whereas, the incorporated Mount Sion Society have petitioned this House that a college may be erected and established by law at the village of Winnsborough, in this State, for the instruction of youth in the learned languages and the liberal arts and sciences, and that the said college may be committed to the management, direction, and government of trustees, to be chosen and appointed by the said society out of their number:

III. And whereas, by the liberal subscriptions which have been made towards erecting and maintaining a seminary of learning at Ninety-Six, and the exertions of the trustees appointed by an Act of the General Assembly, passed the thirteenth day of August, in the eighth year of the Independence of the United States of America, to whom the government of the public school was committed, a very considerable fund hath already accumulated, and a prospect of still greater additions; and whereas, it is just and proper to give all possible encouragement to, and enlarge the foundations of, the said public school, in common with the others by this Act to be established; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the honorable Benjamin Guerard, John Lewis Gervais, and Henry Pendleton, Esquires, and Leroy Hammond, Nicholas Eveleigh, Major Thomas Pinckney, Benjamin Tutt, Arthur Simkins, Joseph Adair, of Duncan’s Creek, .John Thomas, senior, Robert Rutherford, Alexander Gillon, and John Purvis, Esquires, together with the trustees of the public school established at Ninety-Six, mentioned in the said recited Act, or a majority of them, shall be, and they are hereby appointed, trustees of a college to be erected at or near the town of Ninety-Six, which shall be called and known by the name of the “College of Cambridge;” which said trustees, or a majority of them, and their successors, to be elected in manner hereinafter directed, shall forever be one body politic and corporate, in deed and in name, by the style of the “Trustees of the College of Cambridge,” and shall be vested with the same powers and authorities, and enjoy the same rights and privileges, to all intents and purposes, as are vested in, belonging to, or enjoyed by, the said colleges of Winnsborough and Charleston, or either of them.

Old Joseph Adair was 74 years old in March of 1785.

He represented the Backcountry in the founding of Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church, as a Commissary in the Revolutionary War with the Little River Regiment, and here – helping to establish higher public education in South Carolina.

A sample of Joseph’s handwritten signature –

Trustees Of Cambridge College, Petition Asking Permission To Sell All College Property And Pay Its Debts.

The Lost Town of Cambridge historical marker

Cambridge History from Carolana

National Park Service, Ninety-Six National Historic Site

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