Moses Waddel (1770-1840) the father, was born in North Carolina in 1770. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, studied theology, and was preaching in the South Carolina and Georgia area in 1792. John Newton Waddel (1812-1895), the son, was prominent in his own right for his contribution to education in the South, especially in Mississippi.
Dr. Moses Waddel set up his “Presbyterian Academy” in upcountry South Carolina at Willington in 1804. He married into the leading Scotch-Irish Presbyterian family of the area, the Calhoun’s. Catherine, his first wife, the older sister of John C. Calhoun, was to live only one year. It was enough time for the young John to become attached to Moses Waddel as a teacher. Although Waddel remained close to the Calhoun family, after a time he went to Virginia where he married Elizabeth Pleasants, then return to maintain the school and cultivated a farm.
Moses Waddel’s first academy was a two-room log cabin in a clearing in the woods, but if the buildings were unsophisticated, the education was not. Students read and translated authors in the original tongues of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. They were exposed to the great and humane minds of those who established Western culture. The school of Dr. Waddel was also a Biblical one. A Hebrew ram’s horn, which in the Bible called the Israelites to repentance, was sounded to wake the scholars, to call them to recitations, and for evening prayers beneath the trees at night.
Many of the students who came from a distance stayed with nearby farmers and walked or rode horses to school every day. Finally, log cabins were built as houses for the boys, and the students could stay on campus. The final plan of the school was a central building of logs with four large teaching rooms, a log church in which Dr. Waddel preached and log cabins for the boys around these two main buildings. The school rested in a clearing in the woods where the boys hunted and trapped after hours.
Dr. Waddel organized the Presbyterian Church at Willington, South Carolina, in 1813. In addition to his school, he held services on Sundays for the congregation. Considered the most famous schoolmaster in the South, he was asked to become President of the young University of Georgia at Athens, and, leaving the Academy in the hands of others, began the University job in 1819. A year later he organized the First Presbyterian Church of Athens. Dr. Waddel stayed at the University of Georgia for ten years, seeing it grow from seven students to over one hundred. He then retired to the Willington Academy, which he gradually turned over to his son, John, but the father continued to preach and teach until he died in 1840.
Because of his roster of success, the school of Dr. Moses Waddel was called the “American Eton.” The alumni included Vice President and Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina; Senator William Harris of Georgia; Speaker of the House Howell Cobb, also of Georgia; Senator George McDuffie of South Carolina; Hugh Legare, founder of the Southern Review; William Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury; Augustus B. Longstreet, judge, educator and author; plus five governors, nine members of Congress, six judges, and a number of teachers, clergymen and lawyers of Southern society.
A.B. Longstreet wrote a short novel describing his experiences at Moses Waddel’s academy, which is one of the best contemporary sources: Master William Mitten, published in 1864.
After Moses Waddel’s death, son John Waddel decided, in the fashion of many of this time, to move further west and set up a school in Mississippi, then a rich and promising frontier area. Ordained a minister by the Presbytery of Mississippi in 1841, he established in the pine forest at Montrose, about sixty miles from Jackson, a replica of the school at Willington. A large number from the area enrolled immediately in this school of log cabins. The curriculum was much the same: Latin, Greek, mathematics, higher English literature. Dr. John Waddel also preached every Sunday morning.
Several years later, Dr. John Waddel was one of the organizers of the University of Mississippi, which Augustus B. Longstreet headed from 1849 to 1856. After the War between the States, Dr. John Waddel became the University’s chancellor, from 1865 to 1874, and wrote a short history of the University. He also wrote the family history being reviewed herein.
Availability of this Book
The original printing of the Memorials of Academic Life are not easy to find, but give it a shot. If a paper printing is not found go for the Google e-book at the online address below:
Two other books concerning Moses Waddel and the famed Willington Academy may be of interest:
The Great Doctor Waddel by James Lewis MacLeod, published n 1985 by the Southern Historical Society Press, a paperback of 182 pages.
The American Eton: Moses Waddel’s Fames Willington Academy by Tom Horton, published n 2012, consisting of 148 pages, which is available as a new book, a used book and as a Kindle e-book.
Much of the content of this review was taken from www.faithinwriting.com.