A small cabin stands on the Berry College campus. It was from this humble beginning that Martha Berry founded today’s Berry College, which has grown to what is now the world’s largest college campus.
The cabin in the mountains served as a retreat for Martha Berry, the daughter of an Army Captain, where she could study and read her Bible. Local youths stumbled upon her reading one day and in talking to them she realized not only did they not know how to read but they knew almost nothing of the outside world.
Berry began holding Sunday School classes believing that education would help raise those living in the area from poverty. Eventually, Berry’s classes grew into complete schools for both boys and girls. In need of money to continue her efforts to educate the local children, she approached industrialist Henry Ford. Ford reportedly rebuffed her by pulling a dime from his pocket and throwing it on the desk saying, “That’s all the money I have in my pocket, take it and leave.”
Taking the dime back home she purchased seeds, plants, and trees. Photographing everything she had done with a simple dime, she returned the following year to see Ford again. Impressed with her efforts he ultimately contributed to her goals.
Today, the world’s largest campus of 28,000 acres is home to large amounts of wildlife, a working mill with a waterwheel 42 feet in diameter, and the plantation house where Martha Berry lived until her death. The white southern plantation home was used as a set in the Reese Witherspoon movie “Sweet Home Alabama” and is open to the public.
Nestled in the back of the school’s campus is the little cabin, moved from its original location to preserve the memory of how the school began over 100 years ago.