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Barton College

by James I. Martin Sr., 2006

Atlantic Christian College, Wilson, N.C., 1910. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections. Barton College, originally called Atlantic Christian College, dates to 1886, when the Committee on Education for the Disciples of Christ expressed a desire to establish a collegiate institute in North Carolina. Predecessors to Atlantic Christian College included Carolina Christian Institute (Beaufort County) and Carolina Christian College (Pitt County). In 1901 the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention (Disciples of Christ) acquired Kinsey Seminary in Wilson, which had opened in 1897 but closed four years later. In 1902 Atlantic Christian College was incorporated by the state of North Carolina and opened in September of that year with 107 students (20 men, 87 women) and seven faculty. The following year Carolina Christian College in Ayden closed, and the land and buildings were sold. Among the first instructors at Atlantic Christian was Abdullah Ben Kori, a Syrian linguist who supervised the Language Department. Atlantic Christian inaugurated a four-year curriculum in 1923 and was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1953.

In 1990, in recognition of Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844), one of the progenitors of the Disciples of Christ denomination-and also in an attempt to dispel any perceptions of fundamentalism-Atlantic Christian changed its name to Barton College. The school in the early 2000s enrolled approximately 1,300 students representing 26 states and 24 foreign countries. Barton awards the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Barton College. Image courtesy of CFNC. Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Liberal Studies, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Bachelor of Social Work degrees. The college also offers Lifelong Education and Weekend College Programs, along with study abroad opportunities in Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland. From one building on a five-acre campus, the college has come to include 23 buildings on a 32-acre main campus, with an athletic complex located on an additional 30-acre tract.

Barton College's presidents since its inception have included James Caswell Coggins (1902-4), namesake of the Coggins Cup for academic achievement; John James Harper (1904-8), who gave Atlantic Christian College its name and was honored, along with other members of his family, with the dedication of Harper Hall in 1950; and Howard Stevens Hilley (1920-49), a Rhodes scholar and Oxford graduate who, during his lengthy tenure, witnessed the construction of the Hardy Alumni Hall (1935), the gymnasium (1935-39), and Howard Chapel (1939).


Griffith Hamlin, "Educational Activities of the Disciples of Christ in North Carolina, 1852-1902," NCHR 23 (July 1956).

Charles Crossfield Ware, A History of Atlantic Christian College: Culture in Coastal Carolina (1956).

Additional Resources:

Barton College:

Barton College, NC Highway Historical Marker F-30:

Image Credit:

Atlantic Christian College, Wilson, N.C., 1910. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections. Available from (accessed November 15, 2012).

Barton College. Image courtesy of CFNC. Available from (accessed November 15, 2012).

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