|History of Piedmont College|
|Growth of Piedmont|
|A Bright Future|
History of Piedmont College
In 1897, opening a college in the wilderness of northeast Georgia must have seemed to some like a prescription for failure. The area was accessible by few roads—mostly crude dirt strips paved with sapling trees. A narrow-gauge railroad did make a waterstop in the frontier town of Demorest, but it was laden with passengers and freight bound for points further north.
For a youthful band of entrepreneurs trying to forge a community of businesses, factories and schools in Demorest, however, a college was just what they needed. Under the direction of a Methodist minister, the Rev. Charles C. Spence, they obtained a charter from the State of Georgia, organized a board of trustees, bought books, hired a faculty, and secured space for classes and dormitories. On the first Wednesday of September 1897, amid much fanfare and ceremony, the opening exercises for the J.S. Green Collegiate Institute were held in downtown Demorest, and the entire student body, from first grade to college juniors, marched up the hill from the square to begin their studies.
What the detractors of the time failed to take into account was the thirst for knowledge that a small town like Demorest could harbor. As one early observer noted, the "students came in for miles around, some of them walking barefoot .... They came from the high ridges and hidden coves; they came from the little corn patches, the log cabins and the moonshine stills."
In its first year, the J.S. Green Collegiate Institute (the name was changed to Piedmont College in 1903), enrolled 367 students, an astonishing number given the rural nature of the area and the scant population. Parents in some cases sacrificed their meager possessions to make certain that their children could attend. One mother reportedly sold her cookstove, choosing to labor over an open fire, rather than have her son miss his chance at an education.
Today, more than 100 years later, the students of Piedmont College arrive from all over the world, still carrying that same unquenchable thirst for education. Some are third, even fourth generation Piedmont students. Some are the first in their families to venture beyond high school. But all of them find at Piedmont College an experience much like that of the students who paraded up the hill in 1897 - a small college town where the faculty and students form a community with a rich academic tradition - where anyone with a desire for knowledge is welcome.