ENTRY

Corey, Charles Henry (1834–1899)

SUMMARY

Charles Henry Corey served as president of what became Virginia Union University. Born in New Brunswick, Canada, he entered the United States late in the 1850s to pursue a divinity degree. He preached to Union troops during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and later became active in the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which ministered to freedpeople. In 1868 he took over a fledgling theological school for African Americans in Richmond. The school became the Richmond Institute in 1876, and a decade later it was renamed Richmond Theological Seminary. In 1896 the seminary and the nearby Hartshorn Memorial College, a women’s institution, pursued plans to incorporate as Virginia Union University. By May 1897 Wayland Seminary, in Washington, D.C., joined the institution. The merger was formalized in 1900 with the school’s reincorporation as Virginia Union University; however, Corey did not live to see the event. His poor health had forced him to resin the presidency in 1898, and he died the following year.

Early Years and the Civil War

Corey was born on December 12, 1834, in New Canaan, New Brunswick, the son of Gardner Corey, a farmer, and Elizabeth Humphreys Corey. Raised in the Baptist faith, he attended a seminary in Fredericton. In 1854 Corey matriculated at Acadia College (later Acadia University) in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There he learned about the English abolitionist movement, a revelation, he stated later, that prepared him for his life’s work as an educator of freedpeople. He graduated with a BA in 1858 and then enrolled at Newton Theological Institute (later Andover Newton Theological School), near Boston. In 1861 Corey received both a divinity certificate from Newton and an AM from Acadia. He was ordained on September 18 of that year and became pastor of First Baptist Church in Seabrook, New Hampshire.

Early Ministries

In January 1864 Corey joined the United States Christian Commission, founded in 1861 by the Young Men’s Christian Association to minister to soldiers and sailors during the Civil War. As a delegate in Indianola and Brownsville, Texas, and in Port Hudson and Alexandria, Louisiana, he distributed supplies and reading materials and preached in Union camps. Corey returned to New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada during the summer of 1864 to recover his health. That autumn the commission sent him to Morris Island, South Carolina, where he continued his ministry among the soldiers and also took charge of Wentworth Street Baptist Church, in Charleston, until May 1865. Corey described his experiences in a series of letters that were published in Saint John, New Brunswick, in the Christian Visitor under the pseudonym Viator. He returned to Seabrook, where he married Fannie Sanborn on August 26, 1865. They had two sons.

After the war Corey became affiliated with the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which had committed itself to educating and ministering to the new freedpeople in the South. The society sent Corey back to Charleston in September 1865. There he spent two years organizing churches for African Americans, raising money for new buildings, and ordaining ministers throughout South Carolina. In November 1867 Corey moved to Augusta, Georgia, where he took charge of the recently established Augusta Institute (later Morehouse College), which operated under the aegis of the National Theological Institute and University, an organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., and also devoted to providing a Christian education for former slaves. Corey remained at Augusta until July 1868, when he was transferred to Richmond, Virginia, to manage the new seminary there.

Richmond Theological Seminary

Lumpkin's Jail

In 1867 the National Theological Institute and University had opened a school for black ministerial students in Richmond. Corey’s predecessor, Nathaniel Colver, held classes in Lumpkin’s Jail, a former holding cell of a slave trader. Corey arrived in Richmond in September 1868 and the following month began teaching day and evening classes for more than 120 students. In May 1869 the American Baptist Home Mission Society took responsibility for the developing theological school, popularly called the Colver Institute in honor of its first superintendent. Corey arranged for the purchase of a former hotel in January 1870, and he and the students spent several months repairing the building for use as their permanent facility.

Corey and his wife taught classes at the school, which in 1876 was incorporated as the Richmond Institute. His duties as president also included developing the curriculum, raising funds, and preaching. Although intended primarily to train young men for the ministry, the institute also offered a general education for students, including women until 1883, at a variety of levels. The rapid growth of Baptist churches organized by African Americans, coupled with the desire to train missionaries for service in Africa, increased the need for a school devoted solely to ministerial education. In 1882, recognizing the institute as a leading center for black Baptists, the American Baptist Home Mission Society determined that Richmond would be the best location for such training, and on February 5, 1886, the Richmond Institute became the Richmond Theological Seminary. Corey continued as president. During a leave of absence in 1890 he visited Egypt, Palestine, and several European countries in an effort to recover from poor health.

In 1896 Richmond Theological Seminary joined with Hartshorn Memorial College, a nearby school for women, to incorporate as Virginia Union University. Still usually known by its former name, the school soon began negotiating to absorb Wayland Seminary, a Baptist institution in the District of Columbia. Corey pursued the merger, which the institutions had accepted by May 1897. The arrangement was formalized in February 1900 with the school’s reincorporation as Virginia Union University.

Later Years

A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary With Reminiscences of Thirty Years' Work Among the Colored People of the South

Continued ill health forced Corey to resign late in 1898. He was named president emeritus. During his thirty-year presidency about 1,200 students received their education at the seminary, including more than 530 who prepared for the ministry. Corey attracted donors who provided money for endowed professorships, a scholarship fund, and expansion of the library. He wrote two histories of the seminary, Historical Sketch of the Richmond Institute (1876) and A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, with Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Work among the Colored People of the South (1895). In recognition of his work, Corey received honorary doctorates in divinity from Richmond College (later the University of Richmond) and Baylor University in 1881 and from Acadia University in 1892. Toronto Baptist College (later McMaster University) honored him with a courtesy recognition in 1884.

While staying at his summer house in Seabrook, New Hampshire, Corey died of Bright’s disease on September 5, 1899. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in that town.

Major Works

Historical Sketch of the Richmond Institute (1876)

A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, with Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Work among the Colored People of the South (1895)

MAP
TIMELINE
December 12, 1834
Charles Henry Corey is born in New Canaan, New Brunswick, the son of Gardner Corey, a farmer, and Elizabeth Humphreys Corey.
1854—1858
Charles Henry Corey attends Acadia College (later Acadia University) in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, earning a BA.
1861
Charles Henry Corey receives both a divinity certificate from Newton Theological Institute (later Andover Newton Theological School) near Boston and an AM from Acadia College (later Acadia University) in Nova Scotia.
September 18, 1861
Charles Henry Corey is ordained a Baptist minister and becomes pastor of First Baptist Church in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
Summer 1864
After ministering to soldiers in Texas and Louisiana, Charles Henry Corey returns to New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada to recover his health.
Autumn 1864
Charles Henry Corey travels to Morris Island, South Carolina, where he continues his ministry among soldiers.
January 1864
Charles Henry Corey joins the U.S. Christian Commission, founded by the Young Men's Christian Association to minister to soldiers and sailors during the Civil War.
Autumn 1864—May 1865
Charles Henry Corey takes charge of Wentworth Street Baptist Church in Charleston.
August 26, 1865
Charles Henry Corey marries Fannie Sanborn in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
September 1865
Charles Henry Corey returns to Charleston, South Carolina, where he spends two years organizing churches for African Americans, raising money for new buildings, and ordaining ministers throughout South Carolina.
November 1867
Charles Henry Corey moves to Augusta, Georgia, where he takes charge of the recently established Augusta Institute (later Morehouse College), which operates under the aegis of the National Theological Institute and University.
July 1868
Charles Henry Corey is transferred from Augusta, Georgia, to Richmond, to manage a new Baptist seminary for black ministerial students.
May 1869
The American Baptist Home Mission Society takes responsibility for developing the Colver Institute, a theological school for black ministerial students in Richmond.
January 1870
Charles Henry Corey arranges for the purchase of a former hotel in Richmond to become the permanent facility for the Colver Institute, a Baptist theological school for black ministerial students.
1876
The Colver Institute, a Baptist theological school for black ministerial students in Richmond, is incorporated as the Richmond Institute. Its also offers a general education for students.
1881
Charles Henry Corey receives honorary doctorates from Richmond College (later the University of Richmond) and Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
1883
The Richmond Institute begins admitting women. It began as a Baptist theological school for black ministerial students and now offers a general education as well.
1884
Charles Henry Corey is honored with a courtesy recognition by Toronto Baptist College (later McMaster University) in Hamilton, Ontario.
February 5, 1886
The Richmond Institute becomes the Richmond Theological Seminary. The school began as a Baptist theological school for black ministerial students, then offered a general education, and now becomes specialized again.
1890
Charles Henry Corey, on a leave of absence as president of the Richmond Theological Seminary, visits Egypt, Palestine, and several European countries in an effort to recover from poor health.
1892
Charles Henry Corey receives an honorary doctorate from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
1896
Richmond Theological Seminary joins with Hartshorn Memorial College, a nearby school for women, to incorporate as Virginia Union University.
May 1897
By this date, a merger between Virginia Union University and Wayland Seminary, a Baptist institution in the District of Columbia, has been accepted by both institutions and by the American Baptist Home Mission Society.
Late 1898
Charles Henry Corey resigns as president of Virginia Union University due to poor health.
September 5, 1899
Charles Henry Corey dies of Bright's disease at his summer house in Seabrook, New Hampshire. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in that town.
February 1900
Virginia Union University and Wayland Seminary, a Baptist institution in the District of Columbia are reincorporated as Virginia Union University.
FURTHER READING
  • Corey, Charles H. A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, with Reminiscences of Thirty Year’s Work among the Colored People of the South. Richmond, Virginia: J. W. Randolph Company, 1895.
  • Durham, Suzanne K. “Corey, Charles Henry.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 470–471. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Durham, Suzanne. Corey, Charles Henry (1834–1899). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/corey-charles-henry-1834-1899.
MLA Citation:
Durham, Suzanne. "Corey, Charles Henry (1834–1899)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 02 Mar. 2021
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