Bettis Academy and Junior College

Jct. of Bettis Academy Rd. and Nicholson Rd., Trenton, South Carolina

Historic school for the education of African-American children near Trenton, SC


Bettis Academy and Junior College, Right Rear Oblique

South Carolina Department of Archives and History

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Bettis Academy and Junior College, established in 1881 and closed in 1952, is significant for its role in the primary, secondary, and higher education of African Americans in what is now Edgefield, Aiken, Greenwood, and Saluda Counties from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. During this period black education was neglected by many of the public and private institutions in South Carolina. Alexander Bettis (1836-1895), founder of Bettis Academy, was born a slave on a nearby Edgefield District plantation owned by a Widow Jones and worked as an overseer and sawmill manager during the Civil War. In 1868, after the local Baptist association refused to ordain him, Bettis and a group of seventeen other free blacks, helped by three ministers affiliated with the association, organized Mt. Canaan Baptist Church. Bettis Academy was an outgrowth of the Mt. Canaan Education Association, founded in 1880 by Bettis, other ordained ministers, and representatives of various black Baptist churches in the area. The complex, once a campus of fourteen classrooms, a dormitory, and related buildings, now consists of three historic buildings and one triangular historic landscape, all dating from the last twenty years of the institution. The rock-faced Alexander Bettis Community Library (1939) is a bungalow-form building with a dual-pitched pyramidal roof clad in V-crimp metal sheeting. The stuccoed brick Classroom Building (1935) is a bungalow-influenced building featuring exposed rafter tails, gable hoods with knee-braces, and a V-crimp metal-clad hip roof. The rock-faced Biddle Hall (1942) is more akin to the classically inspired or Colonial Revival secondary schools of the rural south. Listed in the National Register May 20, 1998.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1998
Reference number
Architectural style
American Movement: Bungalow/Craftsman
Areas of significance
Education; Ethnic Heritage - Black
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic functions
College; Library
Current function
Period of significance
Significant year
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 3
Contributing sites: 1

Update Log 

  • August 28, 2014: Photo imported by Michael Miller
  • October 30, 2013: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "Description" & "Overview"