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ERIC Number: EJ847221
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-15
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
A Student Sleuth Haunts the Grounds where a College Once Burned
Biemiller, Lawrence
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n39 Jun 2009
On the 224th anniversary of the laying of Cokesbury College's cornerstone, Bonnie J. McCubbin drove to the little church that was once the institution's chapel and told the congregation that she might have solved a two-centuries-old mystery: Who set the fire that destroyed the pioneering Methodist college one December night in 1795? Ms. McCubbin, who graduated last month from St. Mary's College of Maryland with majors in history and anthropology, grew up not far from the Baltimore suburb of Abingdon, Maryland--the town Cokesbury's founders chose for its location on the post road between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Raised as a Methodist, she had heard of the college both because it had once been nearby and because those founders included the first two bishops of the Methodist movement in America, Frances Asbury and Thomas Coke. An assignment in a historic-preservation course led Ms. McCubbin to long-unopened boxes of artifacts stored in a preservation official's basement, and the field notes from a 1960s site excavation by Dewey M. Beegle, a biblical-history scholar from Wesley Theological Seminary. Although newspaper articles of the time cited arson, none of the printed accounts gave any evidence or explanation for the claim, Ms. McCubbin found a letter written by Asbury that refers to the fire in what she believes is a riddle, but perhaps containing a veiled reference to James O'Kelly. Asbury's most vocal critic. There is no record of O'Kelly's whereabouts in December 1795, and noting that proving anything about a 200-year-old-fire is a nearly insurmountable task, Ms. McCubbin acknowledges that citing O'Kelly as the arsonist is based on "preponderance of evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt." Ms. McCubbin will begin studying for the ministry this fall, and, although she enjoyed her research, does not foresee pursuing it further. For now, her thesis stands as the most comprehensive exploration of Cokesbury College's demise.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Maryland