Almost Yesterday: Carleton College in Farmington, Missouri

Mar 31, 2020

It seems like Almost Yesterday that Miss Eliza Ann Carleton began a log cabin college north of Farmington, Missouri. Her goal was to establish a college of high quality for the young people of the region.

Born and raised in a prominent Virginia family, Miss Carleton moved to Missouri in 1843 at age 17 to be close to her uncle Henry Carleton. Her family had provided her with an excellent education, and she had visited some of the most famous college of her native state.

She taught school in her new state, received a Master of Arts degree from Arcadia College, and was so inspired that in 1854 she opened a four-year college with a curriculum modeled upon the very best institutions in the nation. So impressive was the program that the Missouri Legislature granted “The Carleton institute with university privileges” on March 4, 1859.

The log cabin Carleton College served the young people of St. Francois County and the wider region for 24 years. In 1878 Ms. Carleton moved the college to a 16 acre campus in Farmington. Soon there were three four-story brick buildings, a science hall, an auditorium, a library, a college football team (one of the first in the state), a dormitory for young women, and a college farm which provided food for students, faculty, and guests.

With 250 students, low tuition, and a rigorous curriculum, the Carleton College was highly successful, serving Farmington and the region for 62 years. Unfortunately, the college was so closely connected to Ms. Carleton that no one could sustain her enthusiasm or dedication. She served as president, professor, pastor, matron, director of the college farm, and manager of the football team.

In 1885, Ms. Carleton donated the college to the St. Louis Methodist Episcopal Church. But when she died in 1915 at the age of 89, the college soon closed.