Beginning in 1804, Dr. Moses Waddel’s Willington School in South Carolina produced great American leaders which included political giant John C. Calhoun, distinguished Charleston attorney James L. Pettigru, future US Congressman George McDuffie, future governor of Georgia George R. Gilmer, classical scholar Hugh Swinton Legare, and Augustus Baldwin Longstreet — noted preacher, editor and writer, author of ‘Georgia Scenes.” Dr. Waddel was born in Rowan County, North Carolina and licensed by the Presbytery of Hanover to preach in Virginia.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Statesmen are Schoolboys First
“Willington School, so named from a nearby settlement, got its character from its founder, Dr. Moses Waddel . . . [who] later became an outstanding educator in the South as president of the University of Georgia.
Dr. Waddel was a Presbyterian minister who first entered the educational field as a side line. He was a born educator, a veritable champion of learning in a community still emerging from the pioneer stage. It was in the year 1801 that he started his Willington School and at a time when education was not generally regarded in those parts as an essential. Most of the local farmers’ families had more practical uses for strong youngsters with sturdy arms and legs.
Despite obvious financial handicaps from the poor economy of the region, students came flocking to Dr. Waddel’s school, some at great sacrifice. In time there were two hundred and fifty students . . . Many were from poor families who somehow made provision for educating their sons.
The school consisted of a central hall, or “academy,” built of logs. About it were several other cabins, also built of logs and chinked with clay against the chill winds that blew off the river now and then in the winter season. The food was plain, mostly corn bread and bacon. Plain living, devotion to study, and high thinking formed the credo of Dr. Waddel.
[The] boys were turned loose in good weather along the river for study periods. There, scattered about under the oak and hickory trees, singly or in groups, they conned their Latin and Greek. The classics were the bases of Dr. Waddel’s curriculum, which seems to have been an innovation in educational methods for a secondary school. His formula and methods attracted interest among educators all over the country.
The routine was simple. In the early years of the school Dr. Waddel used a horn to arouse the students in the morning . . . [for] changing classes, and as a signal for shutting out lights. These were provided by pine knots rather than candles, then a rarity. [Dr. Waddel would often] step out of the central schoolroom and call the boys from their sylvan study periods with a loud “Books, books young men!” He inculcated a certain amount of self-rule and democracy by holding court every Monday morning to try offenders of the previous week. He acted as judge but the jury was made up of a panel of five students.
To this school here in the woods there came from the Long Cane section of Abbeville [South Carolina] . . . the almost equally austere John Caldwell Calhoun, a humorless sort of fellow, straight out of the rugged, God-fearing Calhoun clan of Scotch Covenanters. At nineteen he was a grown-up young man for those times. To prepare for entrance to Yale it was decided that he should go to Dr. Waddel’s school. Just after John Calhoun had left the school for Connecticut, the same neighborhood sent another promising youngster in James L. Pettigru . . . [though] His homespun clothes and rusty, rural manners were ridiculed by students from wealthier homes who sported broadcloth and fine linen.
Thus, Dr. Waddel’s school, with its emphasis on mental discipline, on the classics, and on history and philosophy, provided a cultural incubation for the politicians and statecraft to which some of its more promising students turned in after years. Its curriculum was conducive to the development of fine, flowing oratory, to the elaboration of closely drawn distinctions about the rights of the States versus the federal government. Its graduates went naturally from the law into politics.”
(The Savannah, Thomas L. Stokes, University of Georgia Press, 1951, excerpts, pp. 252- 260)