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The College of William & Mary was closed during the following periods:

  • 18th century: additional terms to be added
  • 1781-1782 during the American Revolution
  • 1861-1865 during the Civil War
  • 1881-1888 (see below)

1880s Closure

"In 1881 the College was forced to close for lack of funds. The College bell continued to be rung by President Benjamin S. Ewell at the opening of each academic year, reminding Williamsburg that the ancient College still lived. On March 5, 1888, the General Assembly of Virginia approved an annual appropriation of $10,000 to the College for training male public school teachers. It also enlarged the Board of Visitors by mandating that "ten additional and associate visitors" be appointed by the governor; the superintendent of public instruction would serve as an ex officio member. On August 23, 1888, the College was revived under President Lyon G. Tyler, son of President of the United States John Tyler. Until transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1906, the College was limited by available finances to a small but able teaching staff, which, by 1891, included professors Lyman B. Wharton, Thomas J. Stubbs, J. Lesslie Hall, Van F. Garrett, Charles E. Bishop, Hugh S. Bird and President Tyler-"The Seven Wise Men" as they were affectionately called by the students."1

The College of William & Mary: A History, Susan Godson, et al. (1993), volume 1, p. 402, states:

"Documenting the decision to close the College is difficult, in part because President Ewell insisted throughout the 1880s that the school was in fact open. In early 1883, for example, he penned an indignant letter to the editor of the Richmond State to refute a news item that described William & Mary as deserted. "The College of William & Mary is neither deserted nor dead," he wrote. "Since the reduction of the Faculty..., the work has been, and is now, very limited, and chiefly local." That limited and local work consisted of Ewell and an occasional assistant tutoring Williamsburg boys at the preparatory level, but it protected the charter and maintained the fiction of historical continuity."

In the bulletin publication Catalogue of the Alumni and Alumnae for the Years 1866-1932 (1932), the following note is listed where classes for the years 1882-1888 would have been listed:

"During the six sessions between June, 1881, and September, 1888, the fortunes of the College were very low. In those years, President Ewell, sometimes with assistants and sometimes as the sole teacher, kept the College in partial operation. The only students were young men of Williamsburg and vicinity. NO catalogues were published and if any records were kept, they have since disappeared. While the names of some students of this period could be published, it is no considered advisable to do so until more authentic information can be had."


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.