Cheshunt College collection on Bethesda College
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Cheshunt College collection on Bethesda College

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Georgia Historical Society
Creator: Cheshunt College.
Title: Cheshunt College collection on Bethesda College
Dates: 1770-1778
Extent: 0.05 cubic feet (1 folder)
Identification: MS 1133

Biographical/Historical Note

Cheshunt College was founded as Trevecca College in South Wales by the Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791) as a theological school based on the ministry of George Whitefield (1714-1770). In 1791, upon the death of the countess, the Cheshunt College Trustees moved the college to Cheshunt in Hertford, England, and changed its name. In 1905 the college was again moved, this time to Cambridge. It merged with Westminster College in 1967.

The Reverend George Whitefield founded the Bethesda Orphan Home in Savannah, Georgia, in 1740. During the last years of his life, Whitefield attempted to add a theological college, Bethesda College, to the orphanage. However, the new school was never securely established. Through his will, Whitefield bequeathed the school and lands to the Countess of Huntingdon. The executor of his estate, James Habersham (1715-1775), acted as the Countess' manager in Savannah until his death. By the end of the Revolutionary War, the countess had died and the property was confiscated. The orphanage continued to run through the state until it was destroyed in a fire in the early nineteenth century. The state sold the land at public auction and the school and orphanage were disbanded. In 1854, the Union Society of Savannah bought most of the original Whitefield estate and rebuilt Bethesda. By 1855 the Bethesda Orphan Home was again established and continues to run as the Bethesda Home for Boys.


Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of photocopies of letters, maps, and other documents pertaining to George Whitefield's plans to add the Bethesda College to the Bethesda Orphan House. These papers also contain information on the orphanage. Included are: a letter from James Habersham to the Countess of Huntingdon describing the situation at Bethesda during the months after Whitefield's death; a letter from Margaret Floyd on the pillaging and neglect of Bethesda during the Revolutionary War; and Habersham's account of the burning of Whitefield's house in 1773 and his proposal to rebuild in brick. The college planning documents include a letter on the staffing of Bethesda; a list of annual prizes to be offered at Bethesda, which display Whitefield's plans to include a theological college with the orphanage; rules for the conduct of Bethesda College; a map of land by the Vernon River; and a map and plan of the orphanage.

The descriptions in the inventory are notes on the items made by Rev. Stephen Orchard, who copied the documents from the Cheshunt College collection and sent them to the Bethesda Home for Boys in 1976. In addition to the photocopied documents, Orchard also included in his letter a copy of the Calendar of Archives; the titles of the documents have been kept the same as their listed forms in this inventory. Orchard was corresponding with W. Ford of the Bethesda Home for Boys, and some of his notes are directed toward their ongoing conversation; Ford may have been trying to uncover the original lands and building foundations of the orphanage.


Index Terms

Bethesda (Orphanage : Savannah, Ga. (1740-1809))
Cheshunt College.
Georgia--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Habersham, James, 1715-1775.
Huntingdon, Selina Hastings, Countess of, 1707-1791.
Letters (correspondence)
Maps (documents)
Savannah (Ga.)--History.
Whitefield, George, 1714-1770.

Location of Originals

Original documents, in the archives of Cheshunt College, Cambridge, England.


Administrative Information

Custodial History

Material was given to the Bethesda Home for Boys by Rev. Stephen Orchard in 1976, who copied the documents from the Cheshunt College collection.

Preferred Citation

[Item identification], Cheshunt College collection on Bethesda College, MS 1133, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Anne Douglas Leitch, 1977.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the Georgia Historical Society. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Division of Library and Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Georgia Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.


Sponsorship

Encoding funded by a 2012 Documenting Democracy grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Container List

 

Fldr

1Item 1: James Habersham to the Countess of Huntington. Savannah, 1770 December 31 (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "This letter of Habersham summarizes an earlier letter and the situation at Bethesda in the months after Whitefield's death. Apart from the postscript it is in the hand of his youngest son."
 

Fldr

1Item 2: James Habersham to the Countess of Huntingdon. Savannah, 1771 June 5 (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "A letter on the staffing of Bethesda with the school for private pupils in mind, again written in the hand of Habersham's son."
 

Fldr

1Item 3: Subjects for Bethesda prizes, undated (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "List of the annual prizes to be offered at Bethesda, in which it is clear that Whitefield had it in mind to put a theological college alongside the orphan house."
 

Fldr

1Item 4: Rules for Bethesda College, undated (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "Rules for the conduct of Bethesda beginning with detailed instruction for prayers, which are based on the Book of Common Prayer. A contemporary hand on the reverse of this and the previous item notes that these were copied from an original in Whitefield's own hand."
 

Fldr

1Item 5: Map of land in Georgia, undated
Note by Stephen Orchard: "A map of land by the Vernon River. Three landings are shown including one by an avenue 'to the Great House.' There appears to be a property by the Vernon River and about five miles north of the river is 'Place for the House.' This would appear to be property belonging to Bethesda."
 

Fldr

1Item 6: Plan of the Orphan House, undated (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "I don't remember your having this plan. A cellar is the kind of thing which can found after two hundred years and could locate Whitefield's house. Looking again at our large scale diagram of the existing and intended building s I note that the house is represented as on the direct route from the landing to the avenue. These features are likely to be in the same place and this would confirm your judgment that somewhere between the museum and the oldest existing buildings is the place to begin the search."
 

Fldr

1Item 7: Margaret Floyd to the Countess of Huntingdon, undated (Photocopy.)
Note by Stephen Orchard: "Margaret Floyd's heartbreaking letter about the pillaging and neglect of Bethesda during the war."
 

Fldr

1Item 8: James Habersham to the Countess of Huntingdon. Savannah, 1773 June 3 (Photocopy.)
Note from Stephen Orchard: "Habersham's account of the burning of Whitefield's house in 1773 and his proposal to rebuild in brick, which should help your search."