“…[A]ll applicants for admission to Clemson College will be entered if there be room in dormitory when College opens, and that the students will be designated as “pay students’ or ‘free students’. The students who claim free tuition will be required during the session and before returning next [February] to furnish satisfactory proof of their inability to pay the forty dollars required by law, and blank forms will be furnished them upon which to make such proof.” (Board of Trustee Minutes, February 1, 1893)
Students came from a variety of economic backgrounds. Those who were able paid $40 tuition for the session. All students also paid $7 per month for Board, $5 per year for Washing, $5 per year Medical Fee and $23.75 per year Uniform Fee.
Members of the first Board of Trustees were anxious to transform Thomas Clemson's plantation into the college they envisioned as quickly as possible during a time of political and economic uncertainty. Acts passed by the State Legislature starting in 1889 ordered the State Penitentiary to furnish convicts to build the new college.
Much of the work clearing the land, making bricks, creating infrastructure and constructing the first buildings was done by these convict laborers. The leased-convict system was popular in the South after the Civil War as a means of providing a supply of workers to individuals, businesses and institutions for only the cost of basic lodging, food and medical care.
Due to the inequalities of convicting and sentencing by white judges, as well as the state’s population ratios, most of the nearly 600 convicts who were assigned to work off their sentences at Clemson College between 1890 and 1899 were African Americans. They ranged in age from 12 years old to 53 years old, with most in their late teens and twenties. They mainly were farmers and laborers, although a few were skilled carpenters and brick masons.
For more information on this topic see: Convict Labor by Jemma Everyhope-Roserin in Glimpse, Spring 2016.
The Main Building, designed by Bruce and Morgan Architects of Atlanta, contained nineteen class rooms, a museum, offices for the president and secretary-treasurer, literary society meeting rooms and the College Chapel in Memorial Hall.
Although pictured in the architect's drawing, the tower clock would not be added for another decade.
The Main Building also housed the library: "The one thousand dollars set aside by your Board . . . had enabled us to purchase several hundred books, which have been placed in the commodious Library of the College, now open daily to students. I trust that the Board may continue to make liberal appropriation for the purchase of new books so much needed by our students. A number of valuable works have been presented to the Library by generous friends of the institution. Without a good Library no college is complete." (Board of Trustees Report, 1893)
The Dormitory or Barracks had 153 bedrooms, bathrooms on each floor and a guard room. Each room had three iron cots with cotton mattresses, three chairs, a table, a washstand and a three-compartment wardrobe with rifle rack. The ground floor was the Mess Hall with dining room, kitchen and baking room.
The Main Building and Dormitory were lighted by electricity, heated by steam and supplied with water under pressure. The water was collected through drain tile from springs and pumped from a reservoir to all the public buildings. These were novelties to many of the students who came from rural areas of the state without electricity or running water in their homes.
Mechanical Hall housed rooms for Carpentry, Machine Shop and Forge and Foundry.
From the outset, Mechanical Hall was too small: "It was impossible for the board in planning the buildings for the several departments to so construct them as to exactly meet the demand upon their capacity. This is particularly true of the mechanical hall, one of the first buildings erected, which was planned when the attendance was not expected to exceed 300." (Board of Trustees Report, 1893)
The 1887 Hatch Act provided for the establishment of experiment stations at the land-grant colleges and universities for conducting agricultural research. In 1889, money from the Hatch Act was assigned to Clemson College. The Experiment Station raised most of the College's funding through fees charged for analyzing commercial fertilizers.
Campus buildings also included a Laundry and an Infirmary that had eleven rooms, offices and a hospital ward. A Dairy Building also was under construction.
In addition, the campus had approximately thirty houses for faculty and administrators. Many of the houses included separate servant’s houses.
The campus also included farms, orchards, and barns to fulfill the college's mission of providing practical "hands on" work for the students.
Only the Beginning
As the 1893 session progressed, changes and adjustments were made as students, faculty and administrators learned what worked and what didn't for the new college. At the end of the 1893 term, nearly four hundred of the first students were planning to return and there were over five hundred new applications for admission.
Clemson's future had begun.