SALINA CORDELIA HITE MASON - TEACHER, 1863-1867
When John Laidley, Jr., put Marshal College property up at a public auction in 1863 to satisfy the order of the Cabell County Court to reimburse former Principal William Boyers for personal funds he had used "for fitting up the basement and third story [of the college building], with such other improvements as were deemed necessary for the good of the Institution." Salina C. Mason purchased the property for $1,500, and the College passed from the control of the West Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Salina C. Mason was the daughter of John W. Hite. He was a Confederate sympathizer, who would not take the "test oath" to the Union, so he could not appear in court. He had his daughter act in his behalf. He was a prominent Guyandotte businessman and later took up residence in the College building.
The loss of the College did not mean that the Methodist Episcopal Church had lost interest in reacquiring the College. In 1866 the West Virginia Conference minutes noted, "Arrangements have been made by the Board of Trustees with the purchasers to reopen that Institution under the control of the Conference," by assuming all of its still outstanding liabilities of $2,750. The people of Cabell County had already pledged to raise $1,500 and the Conference pledged the remaining $1,250, but the latter could not raise the money and the proposal failed.
Salina C. Mason was a teacher—she may have even taught classes in the College—and in order to satisfy the original deed that the property was to be used for educational functions, she and "her two sisters, Katie Hite and Mrs. Addie C. Holderby, all of whom were experienced teachers, taught [classes] in the College [building] while [they] lived there." Doris Miller wrote that after her husband died in 1863, Mason "invested money from her husband’s estate in the college, in order that she might preserve it from reverting to the original owner. She and two of her sisters, all qualified teachers, taught the children of the family and the community throughout the war years." These classes were undoubtedly small subscription schools and could not be considered part of the original Marshall College.
Mason held the title to the school until the West Virginia legislature passed an act on February 27, 1867, establishing a new State Normal School at Marshall College. The Cabell County board of supervisors approved the purchased of the property and building from Salina Mason for $3,600, which was finalized on August 1, 1867. However, this did not end her affiliation with the school; she taught the Preparatory School into the 1870s.
Salina Cordelia Hite was born on April 11, 1832, the daughter of John W. Hite and Malinda (McMahon) Hite, and she married George Wilson Mason on June 8, 1854, at Steubenville, Ohio. They had four children: John Hite Mason; Mary Mason; George E. Mason and Romaine Mason. Her husband died in February 13, 1863, while they were living in the Marshall College building. She subsequently married William Hampton on July 28, 1875, at Catlettsburg, Kentucky, where they took up residence. The couple was childless. She died on February 13, 1931 in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
In hindsight, Cordelia Mason’s work to maintain Marshall as a school during the few years she owned the property was providential. Without her and her sisters’ diligent effort to keep a school functioning in the building, it is likely that Marshall would have ceased to be and the property might have even reverted back to the Holderby family, as the original deed of transfer specified. She should probably be viewed as Marshall’s "Florence Nightingale," who saved the school for future generations of students.
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