July 20, 1910: College Founder Nathan Brackett Dies at 73
College founder Nathan Brackett died on July 20, 1910, at age 73. The native of Maine was a minister in the Free Will Baptist Church. In 1864, he joined the U.S. Christian Commission, which was providing assistance to Union and Confederate soldiers and to freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley.
After the Civil War, Brackett dedicated himself to the Free Will Baptist mission of educating former slaves. He supervised 25 white female teachers from the North, scattered in Free Will Baptist schools from Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg to Lynchburg, Virginia. Brackett soon realized it’d be better for the African-American community if blacks taught other blacks rather than continuing to bring in white missionaries from New England. In October 1867, the Free Will Baptist Church opened Storer College at Harpers Ferry. Brackett was its first president and served 30 years, until his retirement in 1897.
Prior to the establishment of West Virginia State College in 1891, Storer was the only college open to African-Americans in the state. Brackett also played a role in founding another black teachers college: Bluefield State.
Storer College closed its doors in 1955.