The Millersburg Military Institute is a former military academy in Millersburg, Kentucky.
Col. T.F. Johnson’s Female Seminary, a branch of his military school in Blue Lick Springs, opened in 1850 in the Baterton residence in Millersburg. 4 The Seminary closed in 1852 but reopened as the Millersburg Male and Female Seminary in September 1852. 5 It was operated by Rev. John Miller, pastor of Methodist Episcopal Church South. The Seminary passed into the hands of Rev. George S. Savage in 1854 and the name of the school was changed to the Millersburg Male & Female Collegiate Institute in 1856. 6
Rev. T.F. Shellman began work to establish a male and female conference school in September 1857, purchased acreage outside of Millersburg in 1858, and laid the foundations of a large school building. 7
The Kentucky Conference met in Millersburg in September to propose to the stockholders of the Millersburg Male & Female Collegiate Institute that, if they enlarged the building and converted it to a male-only college, the Conference would endow the school with $100,000. 8 The stockholders agreed to the offer and the Male Department of the Millersburg Male & Female Collegiate Institute was set off as the Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1859 while the Female Department continued on as the Millersburg Female College. 9
Facing overcrowded classrooms in the mid-1860s, some male students of the Kentucky Wesleyan attended the Female College. The Female College was consumed in a fire on December 29, 1878, but continued to operate the very next day in rented houses throughout the city. A new structure for the Female College was built between March and September 1879. 9
After suffering financial hardship, Kentucky Wesleyan was sold to Rev. Morris Evans in 1884, 13 and given to Rev. Cadesman Pope in 1885. In June 1897, Pope retired and Rev. C.C. Fisher assumed the leading role. Kentucky Wesleyan relocated to Winchester in 1890. 11
Fire once again struck the Female College on October 9, 1907, which was quickly replaced. 14 The Female College was renamed to Millersburg College in 1915.
Millersburg Military Institute
The Millersburg Training School was established by Col. C.M. Best of Virginia in the former Kentucky Wesleyan building in 1893. 17 The condition of the structure prohibited students from using it until renovations were completed in 1898, at which point the school’s name was changed to Millersburg Military Institute. 15 A new classroom building was erected in 1903 that allowed the Institute to enroll 28 cadets. 17 Other buildings were later added to hike the enrollment cap to 70.
Best sold the campus to the county in 1920 for Bourbon County High School, however, the Institute continued to meet in one of the school buildings. 15 In the spring of 1921, the old Allen homestead was acquired and used as the administration offices for the Institute. 3 15 Over time, six buildings were constructed. 15 16 In the 1930s, the Millersburg College became the home of the Junior Division of the Millersburg Military Institute. 14
[su_spoiler title=”Buildings” icon=”caret”]
- Allen House: Administrative offices, faculty apartments, infirmary
- Gamble Hall: Cafeteria on the upper level with a student center and post exchange on the lower level
- Memorial Gymnasium
- Miller Hall: Dormitory for 70 students and three faculty members
- Moffett Hall: Junior ROTC activities
- Rankin Hall: 13 classrooms
- Rees Athletic Field: Football, softball, baseball, and track with tennis courts nearby
Millersburg Military Institute closed in early 2003 over financial concerns, but after a flurry of support from parents and alumni through fundraising, the students were able to complete the school year and have a commencement for the graduating seniors. 2 The school was able to reopen in 2004, but by 2005, it carried $1 million in debt. With such uncertainty, enrollment dropped from 80 students in 2003 to 45 students by early 2006.
The Institute began to explore the possibility of selling the school or rebranding it as Forest Hill Preparatory School in a bid to attract a more diverse student body and boost enrollment. 1 To try and fund the rebranding, the Institute attempted to auction school and military memorabilia in July with little success. The plans to de-emphasize military education also caught the ire from alumni who took the conversion news with disappointment. 2
On August 10, 2006, the Millersburg Military Institute closed after 113 years of operation. 1
United States Army Cadet Corps
The United States Army Cadet Corps, of Dayton, Pennsylvania, purchased the Millersburg Military Institute on September 12, 2008, with the goal of using it as its new national headquarters and training center for various Corps summer training programs. 18 The Corps wanted to offer an “army-oriented career exploration” program for males and females aged 12 to 18 and to give students a firsthand view of military life.
The Corps hosted the Millersburg Military Ball on April 24, 2009, with a keynote speech by 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 Corps Board of Advisers. 20 The city hosted the Parade of Cadets on the following day that evolved into a celebration of military heritage. 21
Forest Hill Military Academy reopened on the grounds of the former Millersburg Military Institute in August 2012, which included a residential military high school and junior college. 12
In March 2013, a Pendleton County mother filed suit against the Corps, alleging that a former camp instructor made sexual advances against her son and that there was misconduct against her daughter by a fellow cadet. 24 In June, a fire inspector ordered the Corps to evacuate 70 teenagers and some staffers from two buildings after finding safety concerns, which included exposed electrical wiring, missing fire extinguishers, broken fire alarm systems, and missing or defective smoke detectors. 24
The state Attorney General filed suit in the county against the Corps in August 2013 over concerns of mismanagement at the Corps, which led to the resignation of the school’s leadership and board. 24 A court-appointed receiver was put in place to oversee the school’s finances and day-to-day operations until a new board was installed.
In September, following an investigation by the State Police, a grand jury indicted a former school employee on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse. 24 The court-appointed receiver filed an affidavit in December alleging that former Corps employees were interfering with the school’s operation.
Forest Hill Military Academy closed its boarding program in December 2014 over low enrollment 22 but reopened in August 2015 as the Millersburg Military Institute, 23 focusing on holding camps for high school youths. 22 It closed in September after the Corps filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Mustard Seed Hill
Community Ventures acquired the former school for $450,000 on November 9, 2016, and began transforming the dilapidated campus into Mustard Seed Hill. 25 The historic Allen House was renovated into event space for weddings and special events while the second floor became office space for the non-profit 25 while the gymnasium was restored for use by the Bourbon Christian Academy with a total project cost of $8.5 million. 26 Financing was derived from a $3 million bank loan, tax credits, grants, and fundraising. Mustard Seed Hill was dedicated on June 11, 2018.
Community Ventures plans to renovate a third building into ten guest rooms for weddings and corporate retreats and restore a fourth building so that it could start a boarding school. 26
Roger C. Womack War Memorial Gymnasium
[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- Lannen, Steve. “Historic military academy surrenders, closes doors.” Herald Leader [Lexington] 18 Aug. 2006. Web. 23 Aug. 2006.
- Lannen, Steve. “Millersburg military school to stay closed.” Herald Leader [Lexington] 19 Aug. 2006. Web. 23 Aug. 2006.
- “Administration.” Millersburg Military Institute. 14 Feb. 2004. Web. 23 Aug. 2006.
- Newspaper clippings in a scrapbook kept by Lavina Letton.
- Lewis, Alvin Fayette. History of Higher Education in Kentucky. Washington, 1899. 237.
- Welch, James R. History of Education in Bourbon County. Diss. University of Kentucky, 1933. N.p.: n.p., 1933.
- Lewis, Alvin Fayette. History of Higher Education in Kentucky. Washington, 1899. 126-127.
- Ibid., 127
- Perrin, W. H. History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison and Nicholas Counties. Chicago, 1882. 127.
- Ibid., 238.
- Lewis, Alvin Fayette. History of Higher Education in Kentucky. Washington, 1899. 126-130.
- “Background.” U.S. Army Cadet Corps. 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2012. Article.
- Lewis, Alvin Fayette. History of Higher Education in Kentucky. Washington, 1899. 238-239.
- Millersburg College Catalogue. 1915-1916.
- Clarke, Nannie Deye. Bourbon the beautiful. 1927. 5, 13.
* Primary source for 4-15 above: Booth, Marietta and Mrs. Price Houston Jr. History of Millersburg, Kentucky. n.d.
- “Education for Life and Leadership.” Millersburg Military Institute. Brochure.
- Scott, Jeanie. “Best chose Millersburg because of choice location.” Bourbon Times [Paris] 2 Dec. 1996: 1, 18. Print.
- Warren, Jim. “Summer military outfit purchases Millersburg site.” Herald Leader [Lexington] 12 Sept. 2008. Web. 12 Sept. 2008.
- Warren, Jim. “Millersburg Military Institute saved by eBay.” Herald Leader [Lexington] 12 Sept. 2008. Web. 12 Sept. 2008.
- “Millersburg Military Ball.” United States Army Cadet Corps 2009. 9 June 2009.
- “Parade of Cadets.” United States Army Cadet Corps 2009. 9 June 2009.
- Kocher, Greg. “Former Millersburg Military Institute files for bankruptcy, canceling master commissioner’s sale.” Herald-Leader [Lexington], 30 Sept. 2015.
- “Military academy to close temporarily, will re-emerge as Millersburg Military Institute.” KyForward, 11 Dec. 2014.
- Kocher, Greg. “Planned rebirth of Millersburg Military Institute this fall is uncertain after years of turmoil.” Herald-Leader [Lexington], 7 Feb. 2015.
- Musgrave, Beth. “Millersburg Military Institute gets a new owner and a new life.” Herald-Leader [Lexington], 28 Nov. 2016.
- Musgrave, Beth. “Can the renovation of Millersburg Military Institute revive this tiny Kentucky town?.” Herald-Leader [Lexington], 8 Jun. 2018.