The Will Mayfield College was the center for education in Marble Hill from 1880 to 1934. The co-educational school's enrollment peaked in the 1920s when it had over 200 enrolled students.
William Mayfield, a local doctor, and H. J. Smith, Mayfield’s former teacher in medicine, founded the college. They first opened a school north of Marble Hill, in a town called Smithville, which is now known as Sedgewickville. Smith was the main financial backer of the school along with the St. Francis Baptist Association, and it opened its doors in 1878 as Mayfield-Smith Academy. This institution offered high school and college level courses in varying subjects, from mathematics to music. However, the school did not have its own building.
A low-populated area away from the main road mixed with a cracked foundation led school officials to seek a new location before breaking ground on a new building. The school board had to choose between Jackson, Farmington, and Marble Hill, with the members ultimately deciding upon the latter. Instruction moved to the town’s public school and Baptist church in 1880 while an official building was constructed over the next five years.
In 1885, the first building was completed and Mayfield-Smith Academy climbed the ranks as a popular Southeast Missouri school for higher education. Over the years, additions were made to the original building, later named the Administration Building, and new buildings were erected and/or purchased, including Rosemont Hall (the women’s dorm), College Hall, Franklin Hall (the men’s dorm), and the Arts & Science Building.
In 1902, the name was changed to the Will Mayfield College, in honor of William Mayfield’s son, Will, who died of tuberculosis that same year. Enrollment maintained a relatively high number until the Great Depression.The school stayed open for a few more years, but ultimately the economic crisis led the institution to shut its doors in 1934.
Since the school’s closing, some of its buildings have been converted for other uses. After a long vacant period, the El Nathan retirement home organization built upon the grounds around the Administration Building in the 1950s. In 2001, the Arts & Science Building became the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History, which operated until 2022. The Will Mayfield College grounds still stand proudly atop a hill overlooking Marble Hill, serving as a reminder of the educational center the town once was.