Thursday, March 12, 2009

Library furnished in Reinhardt history

Hello! As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, the Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center has been very fortunate recently to receive the display of the old college uniform and the painting of Witham Hall. Our collection of artifacts from Reinhardt's history is not confined to these wall displays, however.

Perhaps you've noticed the two antique desks flanking the double doors on the second floor. If you stand facing them, the one on the left is the desk of Captain Augustus Michael (A.M.) Reinhardt, co-founder of Reinhardt College (then Reinhardt Academy). You know, I had always thought the college was named after Captain Reinhardt, but in fact Reinhardt named the school in honor of his father, Lewis W. Reinhardt.

In 1883, Captain Reinhardt and fellow Waleska resident John J.A. Sharp decided to start a school for the children of this Civil War-ravaged area. Reinhardt Academy opened in January of 1884 with the help of the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. There were approximately 40 students, ranging from grammar school to high school. The first class graduated in 1888 with four members. Among these was Reinhardt's niece Fredonia Blanton. It is Ms. Blanton's desk you will see on the right, and her portrait hangs above it.

Fredonia Blanton's own contribution to Reinhardt College did not end with her student days. She taught school for 50 years, most of those here at Reinhardt. With the help of our archivist Joel Langford, I located in our archives a copy of the Hiltonian article celebrating her retirement in 1933. From all accounts she was a much-loved teacher and a "guiding light unto [the] feet" of her students. She is described as a patient and dedicated teacher and a kind and generous woman, who not only cared for Captain Reinhardt (her beloved "Uncle Gus") in his final years but took several students into her own home, treating them like members of the family and helping them to secure an education.

Although Captain Reinhardt and Fredonia Blanton are gone now, I think they would have appreciated the fact that their desks, where they sat and did so much work on behalf of the college and its students, occupy a place of honor in our library and still watch over the hard work of Reinhardt students in the year 2009.

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