Log College

Log College was the name given to a school that William Tennent, an Irish-born, Edinburgh-educated Presbyterian minister, conducted at Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania from 1726 until his death in 1745. Here, in a ``log house, about twenty feet long and near as many broad,'' Tennent drilled his pupils in the ancient languages and the Bible and filled them with an evangelical zeal that a number of them, his four sons included, manifested conspicuously during the religious revivals known as The Great Awakening.

The name ``Log College'' was at first applied derisively by Old Side Presbyterians who disliked some of the excitable and intrusive methods of its New Side graduates and disdained the narrowness of their training. But in time it took on a prouder connotation as its graduates filled vacancies in the growing number of Presbyterian congregations in the Middle Colonies and in the South and founded schools on the frontier modeled on their Alma Mater.


Some writers have assumed that the College of New Jersey grew directly out of the Log College, that indeed it could be regarded as a continuation of it, but, as President Maclean and Professor Wertenbaker have shown, this assumption is not supported by the facts.

The Log College adherents, Professor Wertenbaker pointed out, were not among the seven original incorporators of the College of New Jersey on October 22, 1746. Moreover, it was the educational ideas of these seven men, all graduates of Yale or Harvard, that were embodied in the charter they obtained, establishing a college for the education of youth in the liberal arts and sciences -- not those of the adherents of the Log College where personal piety and religious experience were emphasized, and as President Maclean said, ``the great benefits of mental discipline . . . and of polite learning were not estimated at their full value.''

However, soon after the College of New Jersey was founded, a number of Log College men rallied to its support and joined with their New Side brethren from Yale and Harvard in rendering it conspicuous service. Six months after the granting of the charter, three Log College graduates -- Samuel Blair, Gilbert Tennent, and William Tennent, Jr. -- and Samuel Finley, who was probably also an alumnus, and Richard Treat, who was one of its adherents, accepted election as Princeton trustees. Finley later became fifth president.

Samuel Davies, who preceded Finley as president, studied with Samuel Blair and thus fell heir to the influence of the Log College. It was, moreover, Davies and Gilbert Tennent who, sent to Great Britain by the trustees in 1753, raised there the funds to build Nassau Hall.

Thus, while the facts do not warrant Princeton's pushing its founding date back to 1726, as has sometimes been proposed, they do show that an historical debt of gratitude is due some of William Tennent, Sr.'s pupils and some of their pupils for the substantial help -- both spiritual and practical -- they gave the College of New Jersey during its formative years.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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