Former park was once LaGrange College, forerunner to UNA - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Former park was once LaGrange College, forerunner to UNA

The college was established January 11, 1830. (Source: WAFF) The college was established January 11, 1830. (Source: WAFF)

At the top of Lawrence's Hill now lies a park, cemetery and much more, but once upon a time it was home to the forerunner to the University of North Alabama. Alabama became a state in 1819.

"The college was first established in 1830,” said Florence Historical Board Chairman Robert Steen. “It opened January 11, 1830, and it was chartered by the state of Alabama on January 19, 1830."

He said people wanted access to higher education for their children.

"When frontiersman started coming in this direction they left all the educational institutions back east," said Steen.

He said primary grades were not the concern, but upper education was.

"So when the Methodist Church offered them the opportunity to establish a college on this site then they jumped on that opportunity."

Steen said the college drew people from about seven states and the school saw prosperity in the beginning.

"It was wealthy people who came here. These people went on to do great things in life. There were governors. Governor Emmett O'Neal went to school here."

There was also a preparatory department associated with the college.

"They were getting a lot of support from the Methodist Church,” said Steen. “They were getting support from the local people, but as time went on they needed more funds. They needed more facilities."

In the meantime, the city of Florence was flourishing and begging for the college to relocate there. President Richard Rivers, a graduate of LaGrange, took the leap, and after 25 years on the hill they were gone.

"Because the Florence people had been promising that they would provide them a building. They would provide them with a president's home. They would provide them with land,” said Steen.

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