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Greenbrier College for Women


The Greenbrier College for Women, which once operated in Lewisburg, descended from the Lewisburg Academy. Dr. John McElhenney, who was the third pastor of Old Stone Presbyterian Church, came to Lewisburg in 1808. He and his wife organized a board of directors and succeeded in having a two-story brick building constructed to house the academy. McElhenney was president of this board from 1812 to 1860. A succession of principals and presidents followed, with Philander Custer and Alex Mathews being two of the most successful.

Having closed because of the Civil War, the academy was reopened in 1875 and its name changed to Lewisburg Female Institute. Across town the boys’ division opened and by 1890 was known as the Greenbrier Military Academy, later Greenbrier Military School. Robert L. Telford was the last president to serve while the school was still known as Lewisburg Female Institute. Lewisburg Seminary was the third name, from 1911 to 1923. Then the school was named Greenbrier College for Women and continued as such until 1933.

Since its founding in 1812, the school had been associated with the Presbyterian Church, first the Synod and then the Presbytery, not faring well under either. On October 16, 1929, the college assets were transferred to an independent corporation, and it was chartered in 1933 as just Greenbrier College. French W. Thompson was president for the major part of this time, and the college prospered as a women’s junior college. Greenbrier College closed in 1972, but its buildings remain Lewisburg landmarks. Its Greenbrier Hall, an impressive red brick structure, now serves as the Greenbrier Campus of the New River Community and Technical College. Carnegie Hall and North House, once part of the campus, also remain an active part of community cultural life.

Written by Bettie S. Woodward


  1. Graybill, Henry B. A Brief History of Greenbrier College. Lewisburg: Greenbrier College, 1949.