Bollinger County Museum of Natural History
Will Mayfield College

The Will Mayfield College

The Museum is housed in the Art and Science Building; one of two buildings that remain on the former Will Mayfield College Campus, a school founded in 1878 as the Mayfield-Smith Academy under the sponsorship of the St. Francois Baptist Association, in Sedgewickville, Missouri, by Dr. William Henderson Mayfield and Dr. H. J. Smith. In 1880 the school was relocated to Marble Hill, Missouri, where classes were held at several locations until land was acquired and a two-story masonry building containing four large class rooms was completed in 1884. The name of the school was changed to Will Mayfield College in 1904 to memorialize William Henderson Mayfield’s son Will, who died of tuberculosis not long after graduating from the school.

In the Museum’s Mayfield Room, we have assembled yearbooks, photographs, school records and biographical material related to students and staff who were part of this campus. Though the school closed in 1934, Will Mayfield College was held in such high regard and affection that alumni reunions continued to be held until 1986. The school had an impact that reached far beyond Marble Hill. "During the school year of 1924-1925, a census of the public schools of all Southeast Missouri revealed that a greater number of superintendents were graduates of Will Mayfield College, than from any other single school. " An endowment left by Mary L. and Lawrence L. Hahn, both WMC graduates provided essential funding to begin the renovation of the Art and Science Building as the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History.

The first building, the Administration Building (also called Mayfield or Memorial Hall) was followed by construction of Rosemont, a women’s residence hall. Enrollment increased slowly but steadily. In 1920 the campus was increased to 15 acres and a large residence built by Barton Snider was purchased and converted into a men’s dormitory, Franklin Hall. A gymnasium was built and by 1925, the construction of the Art and Science Building was well under way. Unfortunately Rosemont Hall was lost to a fire in 1926. Other financial reverses began to mount on top of the expense of the construction of the Art and Science Building. The Great Depression probably eliminated all possibility of recovery. Between 1930 and 1934 the school struggled to stay open. The last graduating class left in May 1934 and the doors were closed. Ownership of the main campus was transferred to a bonding company in St. Louis. The gymnasium was sold and relocated to Patton, Missouri and Franklin Hall once again became a private residence.

Lottie Bollinger acquired the Will Mayfield College property in 1942 and began extensive repairs to the buildings. In 1954, a residential care facility, the El Nathan Home, relocated from Buffalo, New York, to the Administration Building. It was run by Lottie Bollinger and her daughter, Minna Gene Bollinger.

Lottie attempted to convert the Art and Science Building into a hospital but the State did not approve her license application. Subsequently, the building served as a half-way house for Laotian refugees and as a mattress factory. By the 1998 the building had become a liability that the El Nathan Corporation was ready to dispose of. Local community members started meeting to formulate a plan to return the building to public use and relieve El Nathan of the financial burden of maintaining and insuring the structure. Thus was born the non-profit, Will Mayfield Heritage Foundation.

In 2000, an agreement was signed granting a long-term lease for the Art and Science Building to the Foundation. Renovations to adapt the building for use as a museum began and in 2002 the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History was organized.

El Nathan, Inc. sold the Art and Science Building and the Administration Building to the Will Mayfield Heritage Foundation in 2010. Both buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Foundation is renovating the Administration Building as the Mayfield Cultural Center, a venue for performing and visual arts and for social gatherings.

Learn more at the "Will Mayfield Heritage Foundation" Facebook

Will Mayfield College


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