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Archives Meredith History: Thomas Meredith

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Thomas Meredith


Thomas Meredith

Thomas Meredith (1795-1850): A Biographical Sketch

     Thomas Meredith was born on July 7, 1795 in Warwick Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of eight children of John Meredith, a prosperous farmer, and Charlotte Hough Meredith, a Quaker. In his youth he first attended a neighborhood school, then Doylestown Academy, a classical school of good repute. In 1813 he entered the University of Pennsylvania, intending to become a lawyer. In 1814, following the death of his mother, he decided to become a preacher. He began to prepare himself for the ministry upon his return to the University. In 1816 Meredith, one of nine graduates, delivered the "Valedictory Oration," choosing as his subject "Christianity."

     In 1817 Meredith came to eastern North Carolina as a missionary. In March 1819, he accepted a call to the pastorate of the church at New Bern, and shortly became one of the leading figures among North Carolina Baptists. In addition to a succession of pastorates, Meredith was prominent in the formation of the State Baptist Convention in 1830. He was the first president of the Wake Forest Institute's (later Wake Forest University) Board of Trustees. His counsel and assistance was always sought when important issues arose among Baptists in the state. He has been described as the greatest single influence on Baptist history in North Carolina. Meredith's most lasting contribution was his founding of the state Baptist newspaper,The Biblical Recorder, in 1834. In 1838, when he moved to Raleigh with the Recorder, he gave up his last pastorate to become editor full time. He remained in this position until his death in 1850.

     Thomas Meredith was a tireless campaigner for the higher education in North Carolina. In addition to his role in the establishment of what is now Wake Forest University, he was among the earliest proponents of education for women. He began his work in this area in 1834, and in a resolution offered to the Baptist State Convention in 1838 he urged the establishment of "a female seminary of a high order." After a number of false starts, the Baptist Female University opened its doors in 1899. The name was changed to the Baptist University for Women in 1904. Finally, in 1910 the name of the institution was changed to Meredith College to honor the memory of the man who initiated the idea of such a college 76 years earlier.


-- information from A History of Meredith College, by Mary Lynch Johnson, 1972.

Page by Ted Waller, Meredith College Archives

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