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From: Walter <>
Subject: [RYLAND] Robert Ryland, 1805-1899
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 22:09:11 -0800

Posted on: RYLAND Biographies
Reply Here: http://genconnect.rootsweb.com/gc/surnames/r/y/RYLAND/biographies/72

Surname: Ryland, Peachey, Norvell, Thornton

The following article appeared in the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, Sunday,
May 4, 1952. It is reprinted with the kind permission of the Times-Dispatch.
Visit their website at http://www.timesdispatch.com

Ryland Street Bears Name
Of First Head of College

By Ulrich Troubetzkoy

Both the name and location of Ryland Street are appropriate, for Robert
Ryland was the first president of Richmond College, which had its early
home in that neighborhood.

Dr. Ryland loved to preach and he loved to teach. It was said that no child
could pass by him without being taught something. And when he was 85 he
said, "I would today rather be the humble pastor of an appreciative and
progressive gospel church than to wear the brightest diadem that ever sparkled
a monarch's brow."

Robert, the son of Josiah and Catherine Peachey Ryland, was born at "Farmington,"
in King and Queen County, March 14, 1805. Even in childhood and adolescence,
he already was pondering religious problems, which was not surprising in
the home environment of his growing up. "In my father's family," he recalled,
"morning and evening worship, consisting of reading, singing, and prayer,
was from my early infancy a uniform habit."

Ryland was one of the early graduates of Columbian College in Washington
in 1826. When the thought of preaching first occurred to him, he said once,
he "shook it off as a vile presumption." Yet by 1827, and fortified with
his new degree, he accepted the pastorate of what is now the First Baptist
Church of Lynchburg, whose 19 members were then worshipping in the Masonic
Hall. It was a four-day horseback trip from his home in King and Queen
County, and the young pastor received $500 cash and miscellaneous donations
in goods for his first year of preaching.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, an apprenticeship plan for training Baptist ministers
had been tried, but found inadequate. Actually, the first organized movement
for education among Virginia Baptists had occurred in 1788, but was frustrated
for lack of funds. In the first part of the next century, Luther Rice had
been influential in establishing Baptist colleges along the seaboard, of
which Ryland's alma mater had been one.

In June 1832, Ryland resigned from his duties in Lynchburg and came to
Richmond to become the first principal of the Virginia Baptist Seminary,
which was for a short time located at Spring Farm, north of Richmond. The
first classes met on the Fourth of July, with Ryland the only teacher and
with 14 students, all preparing for the ministry under the stern Ryland
regimen, calculated to quench all kindling vanities and achieve a "becoming

The first bell rang at 4:30 a.m. to wake the students. The 5 o'clock bell
called them to worship. Breakfast was at 6. Recitations were from 7 to
10, and dinner at 1. At 2:30 there were more recitations, and the 3:30
bell summoned the students to manual labor. After evening worship, at 6:30,
they had tea.

The College Begins to Grow

The farm operated at a loss, so it was said in 1834, and the school moved
in December to what was then the western suburbs of Richmond. It was housed
in the former Haxall residence, at the corner of Lombardy and Grace Streets,
and the old campus extended south to Franklin and east to what is now Ryland
Street -- $9,500 was paid for the house and grounds and $3,300 for additions
to the campus.

Though emphasis was on ministerial education, other paying students began
to come and more teachers were secured. When courses were interrupted by
the War Between the States, there were six professors and well over 100

For a decade the seminary continued to be operated by the Baptist Education
Society, but by 1840 it was found expedient to convert the school into
a liberal arts college and to apply for a charter, which was granted on
March 4. Robert Ryland then became the first president of Richmond College.
Because he was a man of "transparent honesty, with supreme scorn for shams
of every sort," upper classes were not added until he felt the quality
of instruction available warranted them. Poindexter Smith Henson and Josiah
Ryland received the first B. A. degrees, in 1849.

Dr. Ryland was deeply troubled by slavery, and from 1841 to 1865 he served
as pastor of the First African Church in Richmond. State law at the time
forbade Negro pastors, and he welcomed the opportunity "to elevate an unfortunate
race and thus to mitigate, in some degree, their servitude." Forty years
after his resignation, a Northern worker among the colored population of
Richmond found the older people surprisingly "up on" the Scriptures. "Dr.
Ryland taught us," was the explanation.

After the war, Dr. Ryland resigned as president of Richmond College. For
awhile he remained in Richmond, teaching in Richmond Female Institute (predecessor
of Westhampton) and at the National Theological School for Negro Preachers.
In 1868 he moved to Kentucky and became principal, successively, at Shelbyville
Female College and similar schools at Newcastle and Lexington. He also
served as pastor of various churches, and from 1893 to 1897, as chaplain
of the Southwest Virginia Institute at Bristol.

Robert Ryland died in Lexington, Ky., April 23, 1899. His body was brought
back to Richmond for funeral services in the chapel of Richmond College
and burial in the college-owned lot in Hollywood Cemetery. He had practiced
conscientiously the rigorous life he preached, with candor, courage, and

--Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used by permission.

[ADDENDUM: Dr. Ryland was married twice. On May 27, 1830, he married Josephine
Norvell in Richmond. She was born June 19, 1807, and died in Richmond Oct.
28, 1846. They had five children. He married Elizabeth Presley Thornton
(1821-1905)on Jan. 8, 1848, in Caroline County. They had eight children.]

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