Education in Fayette

Elizabeth Davis

Howard County was organized Jan. 23, 1816. Fayette, its largest city and county seat, was laid out in 1823. Education was important to the early settlers and the first school began that same year. Fayette Academy followed in 1825; three years later, an academy for girls opened.

The Fayette community approved Howard College in 1835, but lost the bid for the University of Missouri to Columbia. In 1847, after the school was sold, Captain William Swinney deeded the building to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. After all was settled, Howard High School was established and eventually evolved into both Howard Female College and Central College.

Nathan Scarritt and David Rice McAnally founded Central College on April 13, 1853. It was chartered by the Missouri General Assembly on March 15, 1855. With one acre of land, 144 students, and three faculty members, classes began Sept. 18, 1857. The first graduate of Central College was Samuel C. Major in 1858. A hundred years later, the campus covered 55 acres, had over 1,000 students, and a faculty of 65.

Central College became Central Methodist College in 1961. It was granted university status in 2004 and became Central Methodist University.

The girls’ academy was chartered as Howard Female College in 1859. Classes were interrupted during the Civil War when Union Army troops occupied the campus. The war was responsible for the school going into debt, but a Rocheport man bought it in 1869. Moses U. Payne immediately deeded the college’s property and land to the Methodist Church, but continued to build though the 1890s. In 1892, the school’s name officially changed to Howard-Payne Junior College and maintained a close association with several other Missouri Junior Colleges for women.

In 1918, Howard-Payne was one of the original eight charter colleges that formed the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Howard-Payne received formal accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission in 1923.

A consolidation of small Methodist colleges in Missouri took place in 1927 and Howard-Payne was forced to close. All former buildings are now used by Central Methodist University.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to