Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy 1887-1983:
A Distinguished Legacy of Educational Excellence for African Americans
Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy began as three private boarding schools that eventually merged in Camden, SC. All were founded by the Women's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 1800's to educate the children of former slaves.
The Boylan School began in Jacksonville, Florida in 1886, and the Haven Industrial Home and School (also referred to as Haven Home Industrial Training School) opened in Savannah, Georgia in 1885.
BROWNING HOME - MATHER ACADEMY
Mather Academy, the school in Camden, was founded in 1887. First known as the Browning Model Home and Industrial School, it was originally intended to teach females only.
Browning Home's genesis was a Freedmen's Bureau school, the "Camden Normal and Training School," operated on Broad Street by Sarah Babcock, a white teacher from Plymouth, MA, under the auspices of the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Later, as corresponding secretary of the New England Southern Conference of the Society, Babcock urged the group to establish a school on the 27-acre former Lang family plantation she had purchased during her prior stay in Camden.
A frame building was constructed on the site and named Browning Home after Fanny O. Browning, who'd left $2,000 towards the cost. A brick building replaced it in 1928.
In 1890, the New England Conference purchased the land from Babcock, who had married Rev. James Mather. That year, the first males --- John Maxwell, I.B. English and George McLain --- began attending. In 1900, at Babcock-Mather's request, the institution was named Mather Academy in honor of her husband.
Mather Academy expanded its curriculum over the years, offering grade levels from kindergarten through high school, and accepting applicants from across the nation as the school gained a reputation for excellence.
BROWNING HALL -- BHMA's signature building, dedicated on November 16, 1928. It housed administrative offices, girls' dormitory, chapel/original gymnasium, kitchen and dining hall, and several classroooms throughout its existence.
Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy NATIONAL ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Click the title to read about Mather and similar schools in an article from the January/ February 2000 issue of the NAACP's Crisis magazine. All played an important role in filling the gap and void in education for African Americans in a segregated America.
Click the title to read Mather's impact as a pioneer educational and social presence in Camden. See document pages 65-68.
This 1814 former plantation mansion was Mather's first building, serving as a school and dormitory.
Mather in Camden, Mather in Beaufort
Same Name, Different Schools
BHMA wasn’t the only “Mather” in South Carolina. Another "Mather" was in Beaufort.
They were two independent schools -- with the same purpose: to educate children of former enslaved people.
Interestingly, both founders were from Massachusetts and both married ministers surnamed Mather.
(Click photo above to view bio)
Click image above to view Freedmen's Bureau documents created by Sarah Babcock. (From FamilySearch.org.)
Click image below to view transcription of letter in documents.