Reverend Harvey S. Murdoch
A visionary, Murdoch focused on the immediate needs of the people and worked with them to build a church, a school, and an orphanage. Although they had little money, local people gave what they could, contributing logs and lumber from the surrounding forests, shingles, plentiful amounts of coal to heat the structures, nine acres of land, $140, and 125 days of work on the project.
Murdoch’s friends and members of his home church in Brooklyn sent the other needed funds, and in the fall of 1903, Witherspoon College was officially opened.
Founded as a Christian “college” including only grades K-12, Witherspoon graduated thousands of Appalachian students from isolated communities in Perry and adjacent counties.
By the time of his death in 1935, Murdoch and his wife, Louise (Saunders), who was a native of the mountains, had helped to expand the campus to include a gym, farm, and the only hospital within a 100-mile radius. Presently, many of the old buildings are gone, but Buckhorn’s Log Cathedral – still an active Presbyterian church – continues to stand as a treasured local landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, regularly drawing tourists to the area.
In the 1950s, Witherspoon College was dissolved and a K-12 public school, Buckhorn School, moved into the community. Turning from a focus on education to that of caring for dependent children, the Buckhorn Children’s Center was born.
Today, Buckhorn Children & Family Services provides programs and support to at-risk children and families from all across Kentucky.
With an expanded mission and a bold, new vision, Buckhorn Children & Family Services will continue to give hope to thousands of Kentucky kids and families each year for generations to come.
“The world does move, and we must move with it.”Reverend Harvey S. Murdoch
To learn more about Buckhorn’s history, click here or read Murdoch of Buckhorn by the Rev. Gordon B. Mahy, Nashville: The Parthenon Press, 1946.
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