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Alexander Gregg, First Bishop of Texas

By His Son, the Late Wilson Gregg

Edited and Extended by the Reverend Arthur Howard Noll.

Sewanee, Tennesee: The University Press, 1912.

Chapter X. The University of the South.

THE Bishop's spring visitations in 1868 lasted until about June, when he set out for Sewanee, Tennessee, being joined en route by a portion of his family from South Carolina. [The official name of the post office at that time was University Place. The name Sewanee was existent, but was applied to a region rather than to a settlement.] He was among those who, by establishing summer homes at Sewanee, helped to realize the dream of the founders of the University of the South, who when asked what a university built in the wilderness was to do for society, replied that it would make its own society--that it would attract to it the most cultivated and refined society to be found anywhere in the South. Bishop Gregg built a cottage and spent every subsequent summer there, with but one exception, until the time of his last illness. He had some distinguished neighbors. Bishops Green and Quintard were early residents of Sewanee; later came Bishop Galleher. General Gorgas, General Shoup and General Kirby-Smith, were also among his neighbors.

He began again his work for the University of the South with which he was associated, as has been [107/108] noted, at the beginning. With his consecration as Bishop of Texas, he became an Episcopal Trustee and as such he attended the meeting of the Board held in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1861. The constituency of the Board was now much changed. Elliott, Polk, Otey and Rutledge had gone, leaving of the original Episcopal Trustees, Atkinson, and Green, with the places of Cobbs and the others supplied or to be supplied.

A charter had been secured for the University and an extensive domain obtained, and upon this domain the corner. stone of the chief building of a group of Academic edifices had been laid in October, 186o. But in the Civil War which followed, Sewanee lay in the track of both of the contending armies, and after the war nothing was left but the charter and the domain; and even the title to the later was imperilled, for it had been conferred upon the condition that a school or college be opened upon it within ten years, and that period was to expire in the year when the Bishop established his summer home in Sewanee.

In the year in which the war was brought to a close, Bishop Quintard of Tennessee, with others, began a movement to resuscitate the plans of the original founders. The movement had already resulted in the reorganization of the Board of Trustees and tentative meetings had been held in 1865, 1866, and 1867; [108/109] and Bishop Quintard, while in England as the guest of the Lambeth Conference in 1867, had succeeded in interesting the influential English Churchmen in the plans for the University and secured the means for opening the school on the 18th of September, 1868. A meeting of the Trustees was attempted in 1868, but was without quorum, and it was upon the motion of Bishop Gregg that the attending Trustees adjourned to meet at New York some time during the sitting of the General Convention of that year.

The University opened with fourteen students in 1868, and these were organized into what was known as the Junior Department. The only University building at the time was St. Augustine's Chapel, a small structure which served as chapel and class-room. The number of students increased within the next few years, and among those of the early years were two of the Bishop's sons. [One of them was the author of this biography,--EDITOR.]

From this small beginning has grown the University, fully equipped, its permanent stone buildings, its alumni to the number of about five thousand, scattered all over the world and occupying prominent positions in every department of life.

The University never had a more faithful or influential member of its Board of Trustees than Bishop [109/110] Gregg. He was Chairman of the very important Committee on Ways and Means until, upon the death of Bishop Green, in 1887, he was made Chancellor by the unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. [Up to this time the Senior Bishop in the Dioceses connected with the University was the Chancellor by reason of seniority. It is curious to note the following from the Proceedings of the Board for X871. "The Bishop of Texas, in behalf of the Chancellor, offered the following resolution:--Resolved that Article IV of the Constitution which provides that the Senior Bishop, by consecration, of the Dioceses interested in the University, shall be the Chancellor, be so amended as to read: 'Whenever a vacancy shall occur, the Chancellor shall be elected by the Board of Trustees.'" Under the rules the proposed amendment lay over; and was adopted at the next meeting.]

The Bishop of Texas was looked up to on all sides, not only for his wisdom and good judgment on all subjects, but as a pacificator between discordant factions. His deep interest in the University was manifested in his Diocese as well as at Sewanee, and as a result the contributions from the Diocese of Texas for the Theological Department of the University were larger than from any other Diocese in the South; and this continued after the Diocese was reduced in size by the cutting off of two missionary districts, as will be seen in a subsequent chapter.

The late Bishop of Tennessee, in the Memorial Address above alluded to, thus refers to Bishop Gregg's relations to the University:--

[111] "I must in closing call to your minds his devotion to the building up of this University. He was present at a Convocation of the Trustees of a proposed University for the Southern States, at Lookout Mountain on the 4th of July, 1857. He wrote a story of that gathering. Seven Bishops, seven priests and one layman were officially present, but the proceedings were open to the public. Bishop Otey delivered a masterly address and in the course of it he said: 'I must now notice an intimation that this movement wears the appearance of sectionalism. I repel the unfounded suspicion. It is supported by no act or sentiment or word of those who originated this enterprise and have labored for its accomplishment up to the present hour. We affirm that our aim is eminently national and patriotic and as such should commend itself to every lover of his country. We rear this day an altar, not of political schism, but an altar of witness that we are of one faith and household. We contemplate no strife, save a generous rivalry with our brethren as to who shall furnish to this great Republic the truest men and the truest Christians and the truest patriots.' Bishop Gregg in his account of Bishop Otey's address tells us that when the Bishop began to speak of our country and the love all good men bear it, a breeze came to stir the stars and stripes; and still as he proceeded to denounce the thought that we would come with holy words upon our lips to plot mischief against our brethren, the flag waved more proudly than before, seeking the person of the speaker and causing his words to come as it were from the midst of its folds.

[112] "From this day on, Bishop Gregg was faithful in the discharge of every duty connected with the University. Always present at the meetings of the Board of Trustees, he annually presented the claims of the University in his addresses to his Diocesan Convention. In 1867 he says, 'I cannot commend too earnestly to your remembrance and consideration that great enterprise of the University of the South, which has been revived and brought to the general notice of the Church. There is a settled determination to carry on the work, and with God's blessing we trust it will be achieved.' In 1871 he reports to his Convention that the University of the South continues to advance steadily. He expresses his great gratification that two trustees from his Diocese were present at the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees, 'the first time,' he says, 'for several years the Diocese had been represented in the Board at University Place except by myself. The interest throughout the Diocese in this cherished School of Learning is everywhere increasing. Its influence is already beginning to be felt among us for good. I have an abiding confidence that Texas will from year to year do her part and that it will continue to tell for all time to come on the rising generations of the Church as well as on many others throughout her borders.' Again in 1872: 'The Church in Texas is as much interested in the work as that of Tennessee or any other Diocese. It is common property, their cherished heritage bequeathed by the fathers who have fallen asleep. In its corner-stone will be laid a sure foundation for the noblest Christian culture and highest intellectual [112/113] training of the sons of the Church in the South, and the day is not distant when its preeminent claims upon our people will be generally acknowledged.' I have quoted briefly but there is no misunderstanding his position. Everywhere throughout his Diocese he brought the subject before his parishes and missions. He told of the University from house to house. It was my privilege to accompany him on one of his visitations and I remember well the enthusiasm which fired his heart when appealing for the University of the South. And what was the result? Why, with the exception of Tennessee, Texas has sent more students here than any Southern Diocese. She contributed more regularly and largely to the Theological School than any other Diocese.

"On the death of Bishop Green, Bishop Gregg was elected Chancellor of the University. On being conducted to the chair by the Bishop of Northern Texas, he made a brief address and in conclusion said: 'Language fails me fully to express the enthusiasm inspired in my breast at the inception of the University, the hope inspired when the foundation of the University were afterwards laid, or the anxieties subsequently experienced through the day of deepening gloom. Those times of despairing seem to have passed away and I congratulate you on what we now behold.' What he was as the presiding officer of the Board you all know. He was always so gentle and considerate, so thoughtful, so entirely the Christian gentleman that the Board was greatly blessed by his wisdom and the faithful discharge of his duties."

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