Historical Marker #653, located in Garner, KY (Knott County), celebrates the rich legacy and ongoing progress of Alice Lloyd College.
The College derives its name from Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd, an educator and activist whose efforts brought new vitality to Knott County communities. Lloyd was born in Athol, Massachusetts in 1876, and was educated at Chauncey Hall and Radcliffe College in Boston. During her years in New England, she served as the publisher for the Cambridge Press, a newspaper staffed by women, as well as the editor for the Wakefield Citizen and Banner.
In 1916, she and her mother moved to Knott County, first residing in the town of Ives in a ramshackle cabin provided to them by the local church. Drawing upon funding from interested friends back in Massachusetts, she soon founded the Ives Community Center, which provided health care resources, educational services, and agricultural advances to local residents.
In 1917, during Lloyd’s first winter in Kentucky, she and her mother were visited by Abisha Johnson, who lived on nearby Caney Creek with his family of nine. He had reportedly dreamed that two women, outsiders to the Appalachian community, would teach his children how to read. He offered the women fifty acres on his property and built them a cabin there, which they moved into in 1918.
On that land Lloyd, calling upon both her extensive fundraising network and her collaborative relationships with Knott County locals, first established the Caney Creek Community Center (CCCC). It began as a general school, where men, women, and children could receive fundamental education and vocational training, all free of charge. County officials tasked the CCCC with administering the struggling nearby primary school, and allowed it to construct a public high school in 1919.
Lloyd was joined that year by Dr. June Buchanan. Buchanan had been working with her graduate fellows at Wellesley College for three years when they made a collective donation to the CCCC to build a recreation hall. The donation inspired her to contribute more than just her money to the project. She moved to Caney Creek and became a leading educator and financial director for the CCCC.
In 1923, the pair founded the Caney Junior College, which provided two years of college education to students. The College served as one of the only opportunities for higher education in Western Kentucky, and was by far the most affordable— students paid no tuition, instead “paying” through part-time labor and, most importantly, a pledge.
Students at the Junior College would promise “to settle in the Southern Mountains and take a decided stand for capable and consecrated citizenship.” Lloyd instituted this pledge to combat a trend that plagued rural communities all across America, especially with the onset of the Great Depression: outmigration. The vast majority of educated students would move away as soon as they completed their schooling, because there were fewer lucrative opportunities for educated individuals in rural communities. Thus, many rural communities had trouble maintaining momentum in their efforts to improve education.
But Lloyd inspired her students to stay, and she built opportunities for them to thrive. Through aggressive fundraising and continual expansion, the CCCC had forty-four buildings by 1956, offering a vibrant array of social services, classes, and paid positions. Thousands of her students became doctors, lawyers, educators, and activists, establishing themselves both in the CCCC and all throughout the Appalachian region.
Lloyd died in 1962, whereupon Caney Junior College was renamed Alice Lloyd College. Dr. Buchanan continued to support the organization until her death in 1988, at the age of 100. Now a four-year college, Alice Lloyd College is prepared to provide education to Kentuckians, as well as all Americans, for years to come. And although students no longer take a written pledge to “settle in the Southern Mountains,” the College instead declares that its students and alumni will “serve others, both in the Appalachian region and beyond.”