The origin of Franklin Academy goes back to the chartering of Columbus as a town. Although Columbus was being called a town by December 1819, it was not until 1821 that the town was chartered. On Feb. 10, 1821, the town of Columbus was chartered by an act of the Mississippi Legislature. The Legislature also, in Section 5 of the act, stated that there “shall be established an academy by the name of Franklin Academy.” to be funded by the lease of lots in the town.
The legislature went on to appoint eight commissioners to survey the town and lease lots. This commission became the Trustees of Franklin Academy and the governing body of the town. The trustees/commissioners held their first meeting on June 4, 1821, and elected William Cocke President of the Trustees of Franklin Academy.
The trustees met again on July 13, to accept a plat of the town and name the streets. Then on Aug. 8, they met and appointed William Leech, John Mims, and Richard Barry to provide “the cheapest and best plan for a school house.” In addition the trustees placed an advertisement in the Tuscaloosa newspaper for a qualified teacher.
The first building was a 30 by 40 foot frame building that was “unceiled and unplastered.” That structure was replaced in 1835 by two brick buildings. One building was the male department and the other the female department. The buildings were two stories with two rooms on the second floor and one large room on the first floor. When those buildings became inadequate, a three story brick structure was constructed in 1886. In 1938, the current structure was built.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at email@example.com.