Funk Seminary

Historical Marker #957 in LaGrange tells of the huge contribution made to education when William M. Funk, son of a farmer and Methodist campground owner of German descent, died in Sept. 1841 at age 27. His will stated, “I wish the sum of $10,000 appropriated to the establishment of an institution of learning at La Grange, to be called the Funk Seminary, provided the citizens of Oldham County subscribe and pay the sum of $500.00 in aid of said institution.” The following year a two-story brick and stone building with eight rooms was erected in La Grange and the school was chartered by the Kentucky Legislature. It took the name of Funk Seminary and was comprised of four town lots located behind the public square.

Unable to solicit enough subscriptions to support the school, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky assumed control of the school and changed the name to Masonic College in 1844. The school was for males only and students were able to earn an A.B. or B.S. degree in Oldham County. By 1846 the school had 203 students enrolled. The first graduate was George M. Bibb who graduated in 1847 with an A.B. degree. Two years previous, the trustees voted in favor of organizing a Female Seminary in connection with the Funk Seminary. It operated until 1867.

Early on, the school was a success, but by 1848, decay and decline had started to set in. The outbreak of cholera in 1849-1850 greatly affected the school’s enrollment. In 1850, one last attempt was made to revive the seminary. The Board of Trustees organized a medical school, but it was eventually moved to Louisville. In 1852 it became known as the Masonic University of Kentucky. The Civil War and a struggling economy made things difficult for the school. In 1870, Funk Seminary discontinued its college department but continued to serve at a high school status from 1870 to 1908. The building burned on Sept. 24, 1911.