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College founder Nathan Cook Brackett (July 28, 1836-July 20, 1910) was born in Phillips, Maine. He was a minister of the Free Will Baptist Church. Graduating from Dartmouth College in 1864, he joined the U.S. Christian Commission and was stationed in the Shenandoah Valley to assist both Union and Confederate soldiers and freed slaves.

After the war, Brackett served his church’s mission to educate freed slaves by supervising 25 young female teachers from the North, scattered in Free Will Baptist schools throughout the valley from Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg to Lynchburg, Virginia. He proposed that his church’s best service would be to equip Blacks to teach other Blacks, rather than relying only on missionary teachers from New England. The church leaders embraced the idea and raised the necessary funding to establish Storer College at Harpers Ferry. The college opened in October 1867, with Brackett as its first president.

Brackett retired from Storer’s presidency in 1897, although he continued as treasurer until his death. Noted for his good humor and diplomacy, Brackett was respected by all races but was criticized on occasion by alumni such as attorney and newspaper publisher J. R. Clifford. He served on the Harpers Ferry Town Council and was for two years the superintendent of free schools there. He was a regent of the Bluefield Colored Institute (now Bluefield State University) for eight years, four as president of the board.

This Article was written by Barbara Rasmussen

Last Revised on October 13, 2023

Related Articles


Riley, Wayne. Sarah Jane Foster: Teacher of Freedmen. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1990.

Rasmussen, Barbara. "Sixty-Four Edited Letters of the Founders of Storer College." M.A. thesis, West Virginia University, 1986.

Storer College Archives. West Virginia & Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries.

Cite This Article

Rasmussen, Barbara "Nathan Cook Brackett." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 October 2023. Web. 24 July 2024.


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