Historical Note

Samuel Lander Black and White PhotoSamuel Lander, Jr. was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, of Irish parents who had immigrated to America in 1818. He devoted his life to education and the ministry.  He graduated as valedictorian from Randolph-Macon College (then in Boydton, VA) in 1852. For a short time he practiced civil engineering and studied law. In December of 1853 he married Laura Ann McPherson.

Lander taught at Catawba College in Newton, North Carolina and Randolph-Macon College between 1853 and 1855. While at Randolph-Macon, he also earned his Master of Arts degree. In 1858, the versatile Lander was called to teach mathematics at Greensboro College in North Carolina. In 1859, at age 26, he became President of the High Point Normal School in High Point, North Carolina. Licensed to preach in 1861, Lander became a Methodist minister in 1866. During the Civil War he published two textbooks in mathematics and one in English. Among his Methodist appointments were The Lincolnton Seminary, Lincolnton Station, and the Presidency of Davenport College in Lenoir, North Carolina. In 1870, Lander served as co-president of the Spartanburg Female College. Sent to Williamston, South Carolina as a Methodist Minister in 1872, Lander converted a vacant hotel into the Williamston Female College.

At Williamston Female College, Lander was both president and teacher. With a strong Methodist background, Lander’s practices in faith and discipline were to be embodied by the school’s faculty and students. As the author of “The Story of Lander” explains, "Rigid decorum, honest scholarship, high principles, and an ever-pervading spirituality made the school attractive to the parents who desired their daughters to be thoroughly trained for the multiple duties of life.” In 1878, Trinity College (now Duke University) granted Dr. Lander an honorary doctorate of Divinity.

In 1903, Dr. Lander and Greenwood officials negotiated the move of Williamston Female College to the town of Greenwood, South Carolina. Samuel Lander died on July 14, 1904, just before the college moved to Greenwood. Immediately following its move to Greenwood, the college was renamed Lander College, in honor of its founder. Duke University's President (1910-1940), Dr. William Preston Few wrote of Lander, “The female colleges under the guidance of Dr. Samuel Lander were pioneers among Southern Colleges for women in the handling of solid intellectual courses. The battle for plain, straightforward, honesty in education has not been completely won and the man that started the fight, when it was most urgently needed, should be remembered with gratitude.”

Scope and Content
The Lander University Archives contain Samuel Lander's correspondence, two sermons, two orations delivered before the Calhoun Literary Society, his diaries, a manuscript of Williamston Female College's class song, photographs, and contemporary correspondence between Lander family members and the university. Some of Samuel Lander's correspondence consists of letters written to his wife while on a trip to Pennsylvania in 1858, and letters sent to Lander from the president of the Spartanburg Female College.  Much of this material shows the day-to-day concerns of organizing and running a female college in the ninteenth century. There are also two letters written to the mother of a student at Williamston Female College.

Organization and Arrangement
The material is separated into four series groups: Correspondence, Diaries, Photographs, and Family Correspondence, which includes any material produced by Samuel Lander's ancestors that include information about Samuel Lander, Williamston Female College, or Lander University. Lander's correspondence and diaries are arranged chronologically.  The Family Correspondence series is arranged by accession.  

Digital Content
A digital image of each of the items in this series is available.  Select the link "Samuel Lander Digital Papers" below to access the digital version of this series.


Office of the President

  • Samuel Lander's Correspondence

  • Samuel Lander's Diaries

  • Samuel Lander Misc. Correspondence