Virginia Tech® home

1922 History Introduction

[This information is from the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Vol. 15, No. 4, May 1922. It is a semi-centennial history of the college written by Ellison Adger Smyth Jr., professor and founding head of the Department of Biology (1891-1925) and the first dean of the faculty (1902-06). The Supplement, not written by Smyth, was added to provide an update from the end of Smyth's narrative to the "present." A PDF document of the scan (30 MB file size) of this publication is available.]

"Service To The State And Nation"

A Brief History Of The
Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical
College and Polytechnic Institute

With the exception of the supplement, the contents were prepared by Professor E. A. Smyth.

The Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute is published bi-monthly. Entered as second-class matter January 29, 1908, at the post office at Blacksburg, Virginia, under the Act of July 16, 1894.

A list of the presidents of the college since its establishment

Dr. C. L. C. Minor
Dr. John L. Buchanan
Prof. Thomas N. Conrad
Gen. L. L. Lomax
Dr. John M. McBryde
Dr. Paul B. Barringer
Dr. Joseph D. Eggleston
Dr. Julian A. Burruss

A Brief History of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute

By an act of Congress passed in 1862 large grants of public land were made to each State, the proceeds from the sale of which were to endow state colleges. It was required that the main subjects taught should relate directly to agriculture and the mechanic arts, and that military instruction should be given. Scientific subjects and the classics were however not excluded. Such colleges were therefore known as "Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges."

In 1872 the General Assembly of Virginia met the requirements and accepted the provisions of this act with Virginia's share of the land grant. The Richmond Dispatch of March 20, 1872, contains this paragraph, namely,

Governor Walker has appointed the following to compose the board of visitors to the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College: Harvey Black, of Montgomery County; John T. Cowan, of Pulaski; Joseph Cloyd, of Pulaski: W. Alexander Stewart, of Smyth; Joseph R. Anderson, of Richmond; William T. Sutherlin, of Danville; Robert Beverley, of Fauquier; and D. C. DeJarnette, of Caroline.

There was some contention as to the best locality for this new school, and various sections urged their claims. At this time the Preston family owned large estates near Blacksburg in Montgomery County, and Judge Waller R. Staples, of Christiansburg, a close friend of the Preston family, championed Montgomery County's claims for the location of the school at Blacksburg. The county raised the sum of $20,000 and offered also a brick building and grounds at Blacksburg, known as the Preston and Olin Institute, as a nucleus for the college. Success crowned these efforts, and so now the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Blacksburg are synonymous to many.

The large farm known as "Solitude," owned by Col. Robert Preston, which was one of the three large Preston farms adjoining each other, was purchased and forms now a large part of the grounds of the college. The mansion still known as "Solitude," now the residence of Professor Saunders, is said to be an enlargement of the original hewn-log house, and is one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood.

Lithograph of the campus
1 & 2. College Buildings.  3. President's House.  4, 5, & 6. Professors' Houses.  7. Barracks.  8. Workshop.  9. Commencement Hall. Reproduced from an old lithograph made by A. Hoen & Co., Richmond, Va., and published in a encyclopedia.