Oak Bowery Female College Diploma

Sarah's Diploma Oak Bowery Female College

On June 9, 1852, my third great grandmother, Sarah Matthews Starr, graduated from Oak Bowery Female College in Chambers County, Alabama. She was 21 years old.

The college was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Oak Bowery is located on U.S. Highway 431 near the Chambers County Road 23 intersection. It is about 13 miles northwest of Auburn University, between the towns of Waverly and Cusseta.

Sarah was known as “Sallie” to her family and close friends. She was born on 10 December 1831 to Rev. John Wesley Starr and his wife, Hannah Miller. Rev. Starr was an early Methodist circuit-riding preacher in Alabama. Several prominent Methodist leaders named on this diploma were friends and colleagues of Sallie’s father. The most well-known is James Ferguson Dowdell, who later became a U.S. Representative for Alabama’s 7th District. He was also the second president of the East Alabama Male College, now Auburn University, from 1866-1870.

Sallie and her family moved frequently around south Alabama communities. She married Jacob S. Hansberger on 17 September 1855 in the town of Summerfield, Dallas County, Alabama. She gave birth to four children: Mary Catherine Hansberger, John Jacob Hansberger, Hannah Elizabeth Hansberger, and Wilbur Earnest Hansberger. Records differ as to when Sallie died, but it was in either July or August 1879. She lived in Bibb County, Alabama, but she may have been visiting her brother in Opelika when she died. She is listed in the federal census mortality records in both places.

Sallie kept a scrapbook throughout her life. Her diploma was kept in its pages and carefully saved by Lizzie, her daughter. Lizzie contributed to the scrapbook as well, and passed it on to her daughter and Sallie’s namesake, Sarah Cooper Potts. The scrapbook has been passed mother to daughter since 1879 and will be the subject of a future post.

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