At the turn of the 19th century, the tiny hamlet of Pleasant Valley in southwest Mississippi was little more than a cluster of small farming families. Its first community building was a Methodist Church. The second was a school.
Reuben Webster Millsaps was born in Pleasant Valley on May 30, 1833, the second of nine children. His father, a schoolteacher turned farmer, taught him a lifelong love of learning and an unshakable respect for the value of education.
In those days, his home state presented no opportunity for higher education, so Reuben worked his way through college in Indiana and the Harvard University Law School. Twice wounded during the Civil War, Reuben attained the rank of Major, which he continued to wear throughout his remarkable life.
Major Millsaps returned home after the war to carve out an accomplished career in business, finance and church leadership. His most enduring legacy, however, was created in 1890, when he made a personal gift of $50,000, matched by contributions from Mississippi Methodists, toward the establishment of “a Christian college within the borders of our state,” a college that would bear his name.
The Major devoted the rest of his life to enthusiastic support of Millsaps College and its mission. Yet, even he could not have envisioned the academic and cultural achievements of this nationally respected institution during its first century and beyond.