Log College

Plaque in the archway just outside the main entrance to Nassau Hall that commemorates three names for Princeton. Photo: Mahlon Lovett

A bronze memorial plaque in the archway just outside the main entrance to Nassau Hall commemorates three names for Princeton, with their respective dates: Log College in 1726; College of New Jersey, chartered in 1746; and Princeton University as renamed in 1896.

According to Alexander Leitch, author of "A Princeton Companion," Log College was the name given to a school that William Tennent, an Edinburgh-educated Presbyterian minister, conducted at Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, from 1726 until his death in 1745. Here, in a "log house, about twenty feet long and near as many broad," Tennent drilled his pupils in the ancient languages and the Bible. At that time, however, only graduates of Harvard or Yale could become Presbyterian ministers — effectively prohibiting Log College graduates from the ministry. This rule led to a movement to charter new colleges, which in turn led to the creation of the College of New Jersey.

Princeton's first president, Jonathan Dickinson, was a Presbyterian minister. Yet, in contrast to Log College's explicit preparation for the ministry, he focused the curriculum on liberal arts and sciences. Therefore, contrary to the Nassau Hall plaque, Log College — the first seminary founded in the Colonies — cannot be claimed as a direct predecessor of the College of New Jersey.

Log College was, however, a great source of influence and support. Six months after the granting of Princeton's charter in October 1746, and shortly before classes started in May 1747, Log College alumni Samuel Blair, Samuel Finley and William Tennent Jr., along with adherents Gilbert Tennent and Richard Treat, accepted election as Princeton trustees. And in 1753, William and Gilbert Tennent were sent by the trustees to Great Britain to raise the funds to build what would become Nassau Hall.