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Home North Carolina Watauga County City of Blowing Rock Historical Markers Emily Prudden 1832-1917

Emily Prudden 1832-1917

US 321 Bypass at Main Street, Blowing Rock, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 8' 5.9676", -81° 40' 40.3788"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Missionary. Founded 15 western N.C. schools including Pfeiffer College forerunner. Her Skyland Institute stood here."
     Few educators were better known in western North Carolina at the turn of the century than Miss Emily C. Prudden (1832-1917). In his eulogy Congregational minister George Dickerman estimated that no less than 10,000 students had passed through her schools.

     Prudden was one among many “Yankee schoolmarms” who came South in the late nineteenth century. At age fifty-one, she left her native Connecticut, where she had raised her late sister’s orphaned children, to serve as housemother at Brainerd Institute in Chester, South Carolina. Her accomplishments over the next thirty years were all the more remarkable in light of the fact that from the age of seventeen she was deaf. She began her work in North Carolina in 1884 when she acquired fifty acres at All Healing Springs in Gaston County. Her school there was known in time as Jones Seminary and later as Linwood College. In 1888, she established Lincoln Academy nearby for black females. From this beginning she went on to found schools at Blowing Rock, Connelly Springs, Saluda, Elk Park (one white, one black), Mill Springs, Cedar Valley, Lawndale, Brevard, Tryon, and near Lenoir. This last one was her greatest success. Oberlin Home and School, transferred to the care of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society in 1903, was the direct forerunner of Pfeiffer University at Misenheimer.

     The strategy she followed at Oberlin was the one she used elsewhere: to establish a school and, after a few years, transfer control to an organization (usually religious and most often the American Missionary Association) better able financially than she to keep it going. Consequently Prudden usually did not stay in one community more than two or three years. Upon retirement in 1909 she returned to Blowing Rock, site of her Skyland Institute founded in 1887. Prudden’s body was returned to Connecticut for burial. The site of Skyland Institute and her home is now the location of a condominium complex.

“Emily C. Prudden: An Autobiographical Sketch,” American Missionary (March 1914): 737-743
George S. Dickerman, “Concerning Miss Emily C. Prudden” (1917)
Mary F. Floyd, “The Life and Work of Emily C. Prudden” (n.d.)
Christine L. Thomson, “An Invincible Schoolmarm,” The State (March 1984), 10-11, 23
Barry M. Buxton, A Village Tapestry: The History of Blowing Rock (1989)
Emily Prudden 1832-1917 Historical Marker Location Map, Blowing Rock, North Carolina