Museums Director Explores Relationship Between Greeneville College, Tusculum Academy Founders

Saturday, February 23, 2019


Dollie Boyd, Tusculum University’s director of museums, speaks with Father Ken Saunders, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Greeneville, during a break at the February 19 Theologian-in-Residence presentation.

Dollie Boyd, Tusculum University’s director of museums, speaks with Father Ken Saunders, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Greeneville, during a break at the February 19 Theologian-in-Residence presentation.

Members of a denomination usually share similar core beliefs about their faith, but that does not mean they agree on everything.

For example, take Hezekiah Balch and Samuel Doak, the respective founders of Greeneville College and Tusculum Academy, which are the predecessors of what is known today as Tusculum University. The two enjoyed a common bond as fellow Presbyterian ministers and experienced many years of harmony together, but Dollie Boyd, Tusculum's director of museums, recently explained how they often did not see eye to eye.

Boyd shared these stories during the third presentation of the 2019 Theologian-in-Residence lecture series, held Tuesday, February 19, in the Chalmers Conference Center of the Scott M. Niswonger Commons on Tusculum's Greeneville campus. The four-part series will conclude with another lecture by Boyd from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM Tuesday, February 26, in Chalmers.

Among the aspects of life Balch and Doak shared were degrees from Princeton University and receipt of their license as ministers in their 20s. They also arrived during the Revolutionary War era to serve in the Hanover Presbytery in North Carolina, which also covered most of Virginia and the populated parts of Tennessee. In addition, they understood the challenges of ministering in a part of the country that posed travel difficulties and had a population that was not easy to categorize.

The two men experienced their first major difference of opinion during the creation of the State of Franklin (now Northeast Tennessee) in 1784. They agreed about the need to establish a state independent from North Carolina, but their viewpoints diverged with the details, Boyd said.

Boyd said Balch went to an extreme by burning an opposition leader in effigy. But when the State of Franklin ended in 1789, the disagreement between him and Doak appears to have dissipated, she said. The two clergy members then collaborated with Charles Cummings to establish a Presbytery in the region, which grew to include 36 congregations in just 12 years.

As they worked together, they demonstrated different personalities. Boyd shared a story how Balch, Doak and some elders from the Presbytery, after praying, proceeded to license a minister even though several other eligible voters were not present.

It is unclear what final approach they took, but church leaders forgave them and upheld the granting of the license.

In about 1786, Balch and Doak also partnered to advocate for replacing Francis Rous' psalms sung in worship services with those of Isaac Watts. They succeeded, with Watts' versions becoming the accepted version at the 1786 Abingdon Presbytery meeting.

However, their relationship was about to cool significantly, and it centered primarily on Balch's exposure to the philosophy of a fellow minister, Samuel Hopkins. Balch had been encouraged to seek out Hopkins' followers when he made a trip to New England in 1795 to raise funds for Greeneville College.

Boyd said Hopkins' belief system is a moderate Calvinist theology. She said Hopkins developed his philosophy from the ideas of renowned revivalist and theologian Jonathan Edwards who was a mentor, friend and colleague.

She said Hopkins believed God not only permits, but also wills, sin to exist so the world can see the full extent of God's grace and power to punish the wicked. He advocated for emancipation and preached against slavery from the pulpit, receiving a mixed response. Hopkins also argued in a Knoxville Gazette letter for love of Africans, Cherokees, Roman Catholics as well as Quakers, Methodists, Baptists and "even for the Presbyterians."

When he returned to the area and explained what happened at the Synod, his local opponents accused him of downplaying his censure, and Mt. Bethel's doors were closed to him. He dealt with that by preaching to supporters under the trees near the graveyard. However, his troubles continued, with members of the Union Presbytery filing several charges against him. The Synod of the Carolinas dismissed most of the charges in 1799 but suspended him and forced him to wait for the Presbytery to agree to reinstate his license.

Boyd detailed another incident from sometime in the 1790s that showed the testiness between Doak and Balch. When the two men met on a muddy street in Greeneville, there was room for only one man to walk across a particularly impassable section. Doak said, "I never make way for the devil." Balch said, "I do", and stepped aside for Doak to pass.

As difficult as the period with the presbyteries and synods and subsequent years were for Balch, a bright spot emerged. Charles Coffin, a minister who Balch had met during his 1795 trip, came to this region at Balch's invitation and made a positive difference, particularly with Greeneville College.

Coffin became a beloved minister and teacher who succeeded Balch as president of Greeneville College, serving from 1810-1827.

Greeneville College and Tusculum Academy merged to become Greeneville and Tusculum College and later Tusculum College and Tusculum University. Boyd conjectures Balch and Doak would not have supported the merger given their poor relationship in the later stages. But she cites an 1880 speech by a Doak descendant that praised Balch, 70 years after his death.

Boyd's February 26 lecture is called "The Role of Presbyterians in the Education of Women in the 19th Century". To reserve a seat and receive lunch in the Tusculum cafeteria afterward, please call the Institutional Advancement office at 636-7303 or email kkidwell@tusculum.edu. The session and meal are free, but Tusculum appreciates donations.


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