Male and Female School

Historical Marker #2242 in Columbia notes the location of the Male and Female School, a subscription school that served the community for several decades.

In 1853, Columbia recognized a need for better educational opportunities for local children. This led to the formation of the Columbia College Joint Stock Company, and, eventually, the construction of the Columbia Male and Female School.

The building’s cornerstone was laid on May 15, 1854, and included an iron box time capsule. Contained in the box were a Bible, a dictionary, a spelling book, an arithmetic book, a farmer’s almanac for that year, and list of the joint company stockholders’ names.

Local support and the joint stock company to fund construction were necessitated by Kentucky’s lack of state funds for education. The Transylvania Presbytery also proved to be influential in the school’s origination and continuance by appointing the board of trustees. Included among the first trustees were future governor Thomas Bramlette (1863-67), who lived in Columbia at the time the school was constructed. The school’s first principal was the Rev. John L. McKee, a graduate of Centre College in Danville and Princeton Seminary.

The Male and Female School operated until 1908, when it was taken over by the public school system. It was abandoned in the 1960s when a new high school was built for Adair County. The Male and Female School building was later razed. One of the few remaining remnants of the school is a stone step-block that students used to mount and dismount their horses for travel from home to school and back.

The time capsule that was buried with the school’s cornerstone in 1854 was uncovered many years later, when an addition was constructed before the building was razed.