Samuel Stanhope Smith

H-SC President, 1775-1779

Samuel Stanhope Smith After graduation as valedictorian of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) class of 1769, Samuel Stanhope Smith studied theology and philosophy and taught Latin and Greek until 1773 when he came to Southside Virginia as a missionary.

In summer 1774 he began pressing the cause of a local academy/college, and within six months his enthusiasm had matured into reality when on 2-3 February 1775 the Presbytery of Hanover, charmed by the 24-year-old preacher, approved his plans, elected twelve of his new local friends - many of them Episcopalian - Trustees, accepted a gift of 100 acres for the campus, and elected him Rector (later President). The Presbytery's meeting was held in the office of Nathaniel Venable's plantation, Slate Hill, 2.5 miles south of the campus; that office, called The Birthplace, now stands next to Atkinson Hall. In summer 1775 Smith went to Philadelphia to buy books and science equipment and to Princeton to hire his faculty.  At the same time he married Dr. John Witherspoon's daughter and took Dr. Witherspoon's suggestion for the College's name.

The College opened as advertised on 10 November 1775, but in 1779 Smith heeded pleas to return to Princeton as coadjutor to President Witherspoon whom he succeeded in 1783; he served until 1812.