Memories, Places, and People That Make Saluda NC an Enchanted Place to Be

Emily Prudden and Saluda Seminary

“Hampered by deafness from the age of seventeen, I could not enter the ways of large endeavor.”

Emily C. Prudden (1832-1917) wrote those words in 1913, but they could not have been farther from the truth. Although also crippled by arthritis as an adult, she did indeed engage in large endeavors: Between the ages of 52 and 85, she founded seventeen schools in western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. She made it her life’s work to educate white and African-American children across the region, bringing to them opportunities that they would not otherwise have had. Among the schools that Prudden founded were Oberlin Home and School- which later became Pfeiffer University- and Saluda Seminary. 

Emily Prudden established Saluda Seminary in 1891 and wrote, “The large building at Saluda has been completed and rapidly filled with over 150 pupils…Prior to the erection of our seminary, the village had no school building, although there is still standing a house of logs without seats, window, door or chimney which formerly was used for a school.”

A brochure for Saluda Seminary in 1906 advertises instruction in writing, arithmetic, geography, health, physiology, history, composition, rhetoric, and music. The school was financed by selling used clothing and household items donated by supporters. Saluda graduate Brian Bollich became a Rhodes Scholar.

Dr. Phoebe A. Pollitt of Appalachian State University has written a thoroughly-researched account of Emily Prudden’s work. You can read the chapter about Saluda Seminary here. The entire dissertation (as a Google doc) is here.

Playwright, director, and producer Keith Smith of Wind and Woods Productions is writing an outdoor drama about Emily Prudden and her work to be presented in 2013. It will be called The Legacy of Lick Mountain, and you can read a synopsis here.


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