Founded in 1912 near Hawkins, Texas, the Jarvis Christian Institute (renamed Jarvis Christian College in 1927), owed its existence to both the philanthropy of white Disciples of Christ and to the initiative of African American Disciples of Christ. On the one hand, J. J. Jarvis and his wife, Ida Van Zandt Jarvis, felt morally and divinely obligated to lift up formerly enslaved Africans in the Lone Star State. Mr. Jarvis, prodded by his wife, graciously gave 418 acres of land near Hawkins to establish the school that bears their name.
African Americans in Texas also displayed a remarkable desire and determination to help themselves by canvassing churches and communities, recruiting students, and doing manual labor to help establish and support the institute. As early as 1902, African American Disciples had attempted establish a school in Dixon, Texas. Black Disciples possessed the drive, passion, and vision, but Anglo Christians such as the Jarvises contributed the monetary resources.
African American Thomas Buchanan Frost, however, is the individual most responsible for the creation of the college. In 1912, Frost, an alumnus of the Southern Christian Institute in Edwards, Mississippi, and his family relocated to Hawkins, Texas. The Frost family was shortly thereafter joined by C. A. Berry, another alumnus of the Southern Christian Institute. Frost, working with a mule cart and assisted by Berry, helped clear and fence the land that would be the site of the college.
Jarvis Christian College, after much planning and labor, opened its doors in 1913 with thirteen students. The following year, J. N. Ervin, labeled “the Booker T. Washington of Texas” because of his seemingly non-threatening racial posture, became the school’s first president. He continued to lead the institution for the next 24 years until 1938.
The current president of Jarvis Christian College is Dr. Cornell Thomas, a former educator at Texas Christian University and administrator at Oklahoma State University. As Jarvis Christian College approaches its centennial, the school boasts a thriving enrollment of 727 students.