The Millersburg Military Institute, founded in 1852 in Millersburg, Kentucky, closed over 150 years later due to dwindling enrollment. It briefly reopened in 2009 for a few years.
The first iteration of a military school in Millersburg was Col. T.F. Johnson’s Female Seminary that opened in 1850 and operated for two years.4 It was a female branch of his military school that had been established north of the city at Blue Lick Springs.4 In September 1852, Reverend John Miller M.D., pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, bought the Baterton residence that had been used for Col. Johnson’s Seminary and opened the Millersburg Male and Female Seminary.5 Just two years later, it passed into the hands of Reverend George S. Savage and his wife in the fall, and by then, enrollment had increased to 130 and rose the following year to 166.
In 1856, the name was changed to the Millersburg Male and Female Collegiate Institute, with the Kentucky Legislature chartering the school.6
In September 1857, Reverent T. F. Shellman began work to establish a male and female conference school and induced Millersburg to undertake the building of a house for the proposed school. The idea at the time was to engraft it upon the already established Millersburg Male and Female Collegiate Institute which had outgrown its building. One year later, a building committee purchased grounds just outside the northern limits of the city and laid the foundations of a large building.7
The Kentucky Conference met in Millersburg in September 1858 to propose to the stockholders of the institute that, if they would enlarge the building and convert it into a male college, the Conference would endow the institution with $100,000. The stockholders agreed upon the offer.8 The Male Department of the Millersburg Male and Female Collegiate Institute was set off as the Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1859. The Female Department continued on as the Millersburg Female College in the building owned by Savage.9
During the Civil War, male students attended the Millersburg Female College due to increased demand. In 1872, Reverend George T. Gould was associated with Savage in the control of the Female College and two years later, Reverend H. W. Abbett was added to its management, but by 1875, Savage severed his connection. Gould would become sole proprietor by 1877, remaining in that position until 1884.10
On December 29, 1878, the Female School was consumed in a fire, but continued to operate the very next day in rented houses throughout the city. A new structure for the Female College was begun in March 1879 and was finished later that September.9
The college suffered financial losses and Gould had to relinquish the proprietorship in 1884 to Reverend Morris Evans, who gave up the position one year later to Reverend Cadesman Pope. In June 1897, Pope retired and Reverend C. C. Fisher assumed the presidency.13 In 1890, the Wesleyan College was relocated to Winchester.11
On October 9, 1907, fire once again struck the Millersburg Female College. A new building was erected,14 and in 1915, the Female College was renamed to Millersburg College.
In 1893, the building that housed the Kentucky Wesleyan College was established as the Millersburg Training School by Col. C. M. Best of Virginia. The condition of the building prohibited boarding any students inside until 1898, at which time the property was purchased by Col. Best from the Methodist Church. The grounds were improved and the facility was converted into a boarding school with curriculum focused around the military. The school’s name was changed to the Millersburg Military Institute.15 The first class graduated 17.17
In 1903, a new classroom building was constructed that allowed the Institute to enroll 28 cadets,17 and other buildings were later constructed to hike the enrollment cap to 70.
In 1920, Best sold the campus to the Bourbon County Board of Education and the property became the Bourbon County High School. During the first school year 1920-21, the Millersburg Military Institute was conducted by Col. Nelson and his assistants in one of the school buildings.15
In the spring of 1921, the old Allen homestead in Millersburg was purchased and used as the administration building for the Military Institute.3 15 Over time, six other buildings would be added to the campus.15 In the 1930s, the Millersburg College became the home of the Junior Division of the Millersburg Military Institute.14 In 1953, Col. Leslie Blankinship assumed the position of president of the Millersburg Military Institute.15
The Allen House contained administrative offices, faculty apartments and the infirmary. Classroom facilities included Rankin Hall with 13 classrooms, an adjoining 6,000 volume library and 4 classrooms in the Memorial Gymnasium building. Miller Hall housed 70 students and 3 faculty members and Gamble Hall seated 100 students at mealtime. The lower level of Gamble Hall was used as a student center and post exchange while Moffett Hall was used for storage and JROTC activities. The Rees Athletic Field was the location for football, soccer, baseball and track, and tennis courts were nearby. The campus encompassed 18 acres.16
Students were also required to attend a church of their choice in Millersburg or Paris.16 Between 1897 and 1922, the school graduated 205. Between 1922 and 1944, the school graduated another 183 cadets.17
Trouble began at the military school at the turn of the 21st century. Millersburg Military Institute closed briefly in 2003 after it was discovered there was not enough money to complete the school year. After a furry of support from parents and alumni through fund-raising, the students were able complete the year and have a commencement for the graduating seniors.2
The school limbered into 2004 but faced declining enrollment. The debt load on the school approached $1 million by 2005, and its creditors were not able to extend the line. The alumni began to look at other options for the school, including the possibility of a sale.1 One of the plans were to rebrand the military institute as Forest Hill Preparatory School in an effort to attract a more diverse student body and to increase enrollment.1 The academy, once boasting over 80 students in 2003, was only housing 45 students by the spring of 2006. In order to try and fund the conversion and pay the teachers, an auction of school and military memorabilia took place in July. After the fund-raiser failed to generate sufficient money, plans for rebranding were dropped in June.1
The plans to “de-emphasize” military education also caught the fire from many alumni, who took the conversion news with disappointment. The lack of support from much of the alumni, as a result of the plans, drove many to stop financially support the school.2
Millersburg Military Institute closed on August 10, 2006 after 113 years of operation, surrounded by a growing debt of $2 million.1 Unlike its previous closure in 2003, there was not an outpouring of support for the reopening of the school. No ceremony was conducted and the school’s web-site was taken off-line within days of closure.2 Many, including the wife of the president of the school, was “left in the dark” about its closure.
On September 12, 2008, United States Army Cadet Corps Inc. purchased the Millersburg Military Institute with the goal of converting the site into its new national headquarters as well as a training center for various Corps summer training programs.18 The Corps, based in Dayton, Pennsylvania, stated that it would offer an “army-oriented career exploration” program for males and females aged 12 to 18. The program’s intention was to give students a firsthand view of military life.18
The Corps had earlier planned to convert their Dayon, Pennsylvania location into the new headquarters after purchasing it more than one year ago, but shifted direction after locating the Millersburg location for sale on eBay.19 Deposit Bank of Carlisle, who assumed control of the property in Kentucky, had listed it on the auction web-site six months prior to the purchase.
On April 24, 2009, the Corps hosted the first Millersburg Military Ball, with a keynote speech by Mr. James McEachin, an actor and a Silver Star and Purple Heart veteran of the Korean War who was also an Army Reserve Ambassador and a member of the U.S. Army Cadet Corps Board of Advisers.20 The city of Millersburg hosted the Parade of Cadets on the following day that evolved into a celebration of military heritage with groups from across the Mid-Atlantic converging on the city to participate in an event that restored the military identity to the community.21 More than 30 units participated in the commemoration of the 113 year history of Millersburg Military Institute.
In August 2012, Forest Hill Military Academy reopened on the grounds of the former Millersburg Military Institute.12 The Academy includes a residential military high school and junior college. When the Academy is in session, the campus is referred to as Forest Hill Station, but when the Cadets converge for annual training, the campus is known as the National Cadet Training Center.