The foundations of the Mississippi Synodical College were laid in 1864, when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Davis Watson (1832-1912) opened a girls school called Fenelon Hall inside her father’s antebellum mansion, Watson House. During the Civil War and the following Reconstruction period, Fenelon Hall slowly grew, until Lizzie Watson renamed the school as Maury Institute in 1883 and turned the day school into a girls’ boarding school. A new dormitory was constructed onto the back of the Watson House to provide room for the many new students.
In 1891, Lizzie Watson retired, after teaching for nearly 30 years. Watson sold Maury Institute and the Watson House to the Presbyterian Church, which turned the school into a private, church-run girls’ school and renamed it the North Mississippi Presbyterian College. The College was led by Dr. T. W. Raymond. In 1903, the school was again renamed, this time to the Mississippi Synodical College. At the same time, the College received the antebellum house next door, Hull Place, and then proceeded to move that house north on the same lot. The old Hull Place was known after this time as the “Annex”, and was used primarily as classroom space. On the original spot of Hull Place, the College built a new building, which housed dormitories and administration offices.
The Mississippi Synodical College was a two-year liberal arts women’s college and also had a preparatory school for lower grades. In 1916, the Mississippi Synodical College became the first two-year college in Mississippi to receive full accreditation.
By the 1920s, the College was booming, and eventually expanded even further, to the lot just south of the school, where the College bought Linden Terrace to use as girls’ dormitories and as the home of the College headmaster. The College also had a tennis court next door to Coopwood, on the same lot.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression took its toll on the college, and enrollment quickly plummeted. In 1939, the Mississippi Synodical College merged with Belhaven College, in Jackson, Mississippi, and the existing student body was moved to the Belhaven College. After educating four generations of local women, the Mississippi Synodical College finally closed.
Around 1945, both the Watson House and Hull Place were demolished. The newer Administration Building survived, and today is home to the Marshall County Historical Museum. On the spot of the Watson House, the Old North Mississippi Hospital was built in about 1947, and today is used as the Department of Human Services.
Today, the memory of the Mississippi Synodical College is preserved in the Marshall County Historical Museum, located on the original College campus, and in several adjacent street names: College Avenue and Maury Street.