Texas Holiness University - SNU Archives

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Texas Holiness University



It was a cool day in May. The sun was just beginning to rise in the east, bathing the barren fields in a murky, yellow light. The trees nearby cast eerie shadows over the mute ground. The empty land lay lazily spread out at their feet as if the morning was not good enough to honor it with getting up. A harsh breeze swept over the earth and the grass moved indignantly at its touch. No buildings or gardens, not even footprints spoke of human habitation, instead the barrenness bore witness of the desolate identity.

The air was silent.

Chapel
Chapel

This is how Dr. A.M. Hills beheld "his college" for the first time.

The people of East Texas had decided that they needed a holiness college, and so they had called Dr. Hills as President. He accepted and in May 1899 arrived at Peniel, Texas (now part of Greenville) to find a 37-acre piece of land that looked more like a cow pasture than a campus - without buildings, without teachers, without students.

Will Huff, THU's and thus SNU's first student
Will Huff, THU's and thus SNU's first student

So, throughout the summer Hills traveled around and preached, raising funds for the school. By September 27, 1899, a Ladies Hall had been built and the school was started with 27 pupils. By the end of the year it accommodated 108 students from 11 different states. Dr. Hills organized a faculty, arranged a curriculum, and had a board with laymen and ministers. He started a four-year school to begin with; not a two-year school like many other colleges did at the beginning.

A building at Texas Holiness University
A building at Texas Holiness University

Within one year 500 people found God in conversion or sanctification at the meetings in college or tent meetings around.

The cost for the first year was $100.00; and compared to other colleges there were almost no rules and restrictions.

A Group of Students at Texas Holiness University
A Group of Students at Texas Holiness University

In the second year the attendance had increased to 212 students, coming from 14 states, as far away as Ohio. There were prayers before the meals and at the beginning of every class. The first class each morning was a bible class. Two chapels of 30 minutes each were held every day, one before noon and one at 6 PM in which students preached.

In the year 1905-1906 the enrollment was 388, from 20 different states. Expenses had increased to $127.00 per year. In 1908 the school expenses said: "$137 for girls and $132 for boys, as they cut their own wood".

As with all other colleges, the year was divided into trimesters, i.e. three terms - a fall term from September till Christmas, a winter term from New Year till end of March and a spring term from March till June.

Girl's Dorm
Girl's Dorm

After seven years of service Dr. A.M. Hills left, and Edgar P. Ellyson became his successor, who again was succeeded by R.T. Williams in 1911.

The college continued to grow in attendance and popularity, and was a blessing to many.

Military Drill at Texas Holiness University around the turn of the Century
Military Drill at Texas Holiness University around the turn of the Century

In 1912 the name was changed to "Peniel University". Peniel is a Hebrew word from the bible and means "face of God". It is the name that Jacob gave the place where he wrestled with God the night before meeting his brother Esau.

By 1915 the school had become Nazarene and was called "Peniel College", till finally, in 1920, it merged with Oklahoma Nazarene College changing to "Bethany-Peniel College", those two being the first two of the five colleges that would eventually form Southern Nazarene University.


Dorli Gschwandtner