The Founding of Reinhardt College
In 1883, Captain Augustus M. Reinhardt and his brother-in-law, John J. A. Sharp, set out to start an academy in Waleska to educate the area's young people, which would be named after Capt. Reinhardt's father, Lewis W. Reinhardt. He sought the support of the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Church sent a teacher/preacher, Rev. James T. Linn. 
 
The following January (1884), 40 students of all ages, from primary through high school, began classes in a former cabinetmaker's shop. They studied a curriculum including language, mathematics, science, history, and religion. In 1891 the Georgia State Legislature issued a charter for Reinhardt Normal College, which at that time had enrolled about 200 students. 
 
 

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Reinhardt College’s First Building

 

Reinhardt Academy was founded in 1883 by Augustus M. Reinhardt and his brother-in-law John J. A. Sharp, both of whom had grown up in the Waleska area. Augustus Reinhardt was the son of Lewis Reinhardt, who had settled in the area in 1833. Both Augustus Reinhardt and John Sharp had served in the Confederate Army. Sharp had owned a store, cotton gin and tobacco factory in Waleska before the war. After the war, Augustus Reinhardt became a prominent attorney in Atlanta.
 
Both men were devout Methodists, and the school was affiliated from the beginning with the Methodist Church, which sent Emory graduate Rev. James T. Linn as the school's first teacher. Briar Patch Church, also known as the Reinhardt Chapel, had been founded by Lewis Reinhardt in 1834, and when the school was founded, served as its chapel, with the President of the college also serving as pastor in the early years.
 
Reinhardt started as Reinhardt Academy, with elementary and high school classes; then became Reinhardt Normal College, a teacher-training institution. Later, it became Reinhardt College, a junior college and then a baccalaureate institution. Finally, in the 21st century, it became Reinhardt University, with both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.  

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Hope for "Brave, Plucky Children"

 

This article from The Atlanta Georgian and News, Sept. 7, 1909, describes Reinhardt College as a place where the children of poor “mountaineers” could get an education. Many of the students came from poverty and paid their way by picking cotton during the summers. The first paragraph of the article states:
 
“Over the hills as the crow flies or the motor speeds, it is some 50 or more miles from Atlanta to where, nestled in the mountains of Cherokee County, there is a group of plain and unassuming wooden buildings holding, I believe, as much heroism and as rich a promise for the future as any group of buildings in Georgia.”
 
Later in the article, the author describes a father who only had two months of schooling in his life but who “has sent four of his children to Reinhardt, sparing them as best he could from the farm and mill with a full comprehension of what the education he missed will mean to the younger generation.”  

 

The Atlanta Georgian and News, Sept. 7, 1909

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Reinhardt Students Cutting Lumber for Campus Buildings 

Rosa Pendleton Chiles’s novel Down Among the Crackers depicts the early years of Reinhardt College. Chiles was herself a teacher at the College from 1892-1896. Her use of the term “Crackers” in her title reveals her condescending and caricatured view of the Appalachian students for whom Reinhardt College was founded.
 
The novel’s protagonist, Mr. Ramla, states that the Reinhardt College President, who was his friend, had assigned him the “mission” to “learn the real condition of the Georgia ‘cracker.’":
 
"An earnest, ardent teacher of a little school in the village of Waleska, six miles from Pine Log Mountain, had asked me to come and devise with him some plan for saving the ‘cracker’ from himself. The plan was for me to visit the homes of these peculiar people without their knowledge of my purpose and gain the key to the ‘cracker’s’ soul.”   
Reinhardt College Junior Class, 1900 

In Down Among the Crackers, Chiles’s protagonist Mr. Ramla gives a recruitment speech, encouraging the local youth to attend Reinhardt College:
 
In the valleys nowhere have I found greater talent, but it is undeveloped; untutored genius runs wild; I beg you to direct it in given paths.
 
"At Waleska you have a rare opportunity. The school there is not a brush arbor university; neither is it makeshift. It would be a thorough, broad, liberal Christian institution if you chose to make it so.
 
"And at its head is a man whose life among you speaks for itself. Have you thought of his discouragements? He would make the school equal to any in the State if you would support him.” 

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Society 

Reinhardt Class of 1908 

In Down Among the Crackers, the Reinhardt President tells Mr. Ramla how much the college has grown in the years since Mr. Ramla first started his work:
 
“Five years ago there was a two-room school-house; now there is a handsome college building, with classrooms requisite for a large faculty. Then there were no appliances for the best work; now there are ample appliances for the most progressive teachers. While you have been going out in the mountains, bringing in the crackers, I have been preparing a place for them." 
 
"Five years ago the manners of the students were barbarous; now they are the manners of ladies and gentlemen. Then the sentiment of the people was opposed to education, and the labors of the indolent crackers were directed toward destroying the work; now they do not oppose our efforts, and are beginning to help us.
 
"Five years ago the attendance upon church services was small, now it is comparatively large. The progress is very marked, and if we do nothing more, we may feel that we have already done much.”  

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Reinhardt Class of 1909 Picnic 
In Down Among the Crackers, Mr. Ramla convinces a “cracker” named Bill to attend Reinhardt College, and the book follows Bill’s progress. At the beginning of the book, Bill speaks with a caricatured Appalachian accent, but by the end of the book he has become well educated and his speech reflects his newfound education.
 
He still struggles with his accent, though, telling Mr. Ramla,
 
“I don’t want my little brothers to grow up talkin’ like me. It seems to me I never will get no English education. I know what’s right, but I can’t use my knowledge; it’s just because I’ve been raised on my kind of talk. Some days I get fightin’ mad with the English teacher ‘cause he stops me ever’ five minutes to correct my speech when I’m talking about principles and ain’t thinkin’ about language.
 
"I ought to ‘a been learned to speak correct before I begun to learn principles. Now, I want my little brothers to start to school ‘fore they’re set in their speech, so that the influence of the college may balance this here at home.”  

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Reinhardt College boys in tents atop Pine Log Mountain.
Reinhardt’s Annual Pine Log Mountain Day
 
In the early 1900s, Reinhardt College held an annual Pine Log Mountain Day, during which all of the students and faculty climbed the mountain, camped at the White Cliffs, and even held religious services there.
In an essay called “The Camping Trip” in The Reinhardt Mountaineer, the college’s first literary magazine, one student described a battalion of male Reinhardt College students (they were called cadets in the early days of Reinhardt) spending a weekend camping on top of Pine Long Mountain:
 
 
 
 
“The path which leads to the mountain top was finally reached. Here the wagon was unloaded and each cadet assigned a turn to carry up the mountain. The rain had not yet ceased. The lightning flashed from the clouds and played from rock to rock. But this did not weaken the courage nor dim the vision of the boys with the task of reaching the camping place assigned them. Still over the peaks, still on towards the spring, each plodded.”
 
They climbed the mountain walking alongside a wagon of supplies. Once the elevation became too steep, the boys had to carry the supplies to the campsite. They would have to battle rain and a lightning storm before reaching the top. Once they reached the campsite, they set up camp. The following day they gathered for Sunday Services atop the mountain, where the school president and the pastor joined them. Later, they explored the mountain, then returned to camp. That evening, the weather was cold and they used leaves to stay warm in camp.
Camping trips
 
The male students were still wearing their cadet uniforms in this 1909 photo taken during a camping trip on the mountain. They would walk up the mountain to go see the White Cliffs, the Indian mill, and the flagpole.
 
They would take pictures up there as they picnicked, staying up on the mountain until 6 o’clock and then begin heading home. Many of the students would reportedly come home fatigued following their adventure.

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

Reinhardt Cadets in the trees
Spring Day on Pine Log Mountain
A group of both male and female students from Reinhardt spent Spring Day on top of Pine Log Mountain in 1914. They are pictured here on the White Cliffs at the top of the mountain.
 
An article in The Reinhardt Hiltonian describes such a hike:
 
“We explored the cliffs (finding no cliff-dwellers), visited the old Indian mill, and took pictures. Gee, it was beautiful up there – so calm, peaceful, and far removed from Waleska’s excitement and din – no rattling milk trucks and no jangling street cars!”
 
The article went on to say that “we have no casualty list and few tragedies” but that “some few Reinhardt beauties seem to have been ruined externally and eternally by the sun; a number are sore and have trouble walking.”

Photo courtesy of Reinhardt University Archives.

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