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After writing about Lebanon’s magnetic well and discovering that the Gasconade Hotel was named Culpepper-Shannon College when it burned, I decided to do some more research into this extremely short-lived Lebanon institution.
Originally built as the Gasconade Hotel, a “Famous Magnetic Water and Bathing Resort”, the expansive building that was the be the Culpepper-Shannon College opened in November of 1890. There were over 100 rooms, a pool, athletic facilities, and a trolley line that could bring visitors from the rail station to the hotel. In 1894, the hotel closed. By 1897, the building had been turned into Hamilton White College. It eventually closed and the building sat vacant.
In April of 1899, Dr. T. W. Shannon and J. B. Culpepper agreed to purchase the building from the Lebanon Light and Water Company for $10,000. J. B. Culpepper had visited the Lebanon area in 1897 and had held a revival meeting at the M.E. church.
Originally built at about $80,00-$100,000, the $10,000 purchase price seemed like a steal. Local newspapers quipped, “There’s nothing like saving souls and money at the same time.”
Intended to be both an academic and a religious institution, the college catalog advertised that religious life would be a distinctive feature of the school. The college opened in September of 1899 and burned only a few weeks later. The news of the fire was published as far away as Hawaii. In early October of 1899, Culpepper and Shannon were leasing homes in the Lebanon area in order to house the students who had been displaced by the fire. It seems that instruction was continuing and plans were being made to rebuild the college. Several local leaders gathered to make an agreement to donate funds and start plans for the new building. The scheme did not raise enough money, though, and plans to rebuild the school were abandoned by early December.
The college was named for its founders, Reverend J. B. Culpepper and Reverend T. W. Shannon. Shannon was the son-in-law of Culpepper, having married Esther Altoma Culpepper in Kentucky in 1896.
Reverend Culpepper was a well-known revivalist from Georgia. He spent many years preaching all across the south, including Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. In 1978, speaking of Reverend Culpepper’s motivations for revival Rev. Charles Ross Culpepper wrote: “Grandfather saw that the war led to broken homes, broken lives and he felt that faith was stronger than booze as an escape and hard work could bring back the south. The Four Brotherhoods of the Railroads had Grandpa for a revival in Atlanta. The whisky crowd so feared his preaching that he was mugged by them and in the hospital asked his two sons to promise to fight the evils of alcohol all their lives.”
Shannon seems to have spent the rest of his life speaking about the ills of divorce and the harmful effects of an intemperate lifestyle. He wrote several books and spoke across the country. Several of his books are available for free online through Google Books, including: Self Knowledge and Guide to Sex Instruction: Vital Facts of Life for All Ages, Nature’s Secrets Revealed – Scientific Knowledge of the Laws of Sex Life and Heredity, and Perfect Boyhood: Vital Information For Young Boys. He espoused a view of “social purity” and discussed the theory that ill temperament and criminality were inherited. He was generally referred to as “professor” or “doctor.” By the time of his death, in 1921 at the age of 50, he was a member of the Arkansas State Board of Health.
After an online search, I was pleased to find a file titled “CULPEPPER-SHANNON COLLEGE (LEBANON, MO.) CATALOGUE, 1899-1900 (C0613)” in the holdings of the State Historical Society of Missouri’s manuscript collection in Columbia. A good friend of mine in Columbia volunteered to take a look at the file and what she found was a 60-page catalog of the school, printed on letter-sized paper and bound with staples. The catalog, more than 100 years old, appeared to be fragile, but she was able to take several pictures for me. The catalog gives a fascinating glimpse into life in 1899 in Lebanon and into the college that was never to be.