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.
his 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
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
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
n 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.
fter 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
n 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
y 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.