On February 7, 1857, the first meeting of the Board of Education of the State Seminary West of the Suwannee River (one of Florida State University's precedessor institutions) was held. That year, the institution began offering postsecondary instruction to male students. The school became co-educational the following year (1858) when it absorbed the Tallahassee Female Academy, established in 1843.
According to William G. Dodd's West Florida Seminary, the 1873 appointments of James D. Wade and Susan S. Williams, Principals of the Seminary's Male and Female Departments, respectively, brought a measure of stability by retaining for seven years the same staff of teachers. At the same time, the Seminary was a financially troubled institution. At no time was its income sufficient for the School's needs, and there was uncertainty from year to year about the amount of funding the Seminary's Board would receive. After 1875, the interest on the Seminary's fund was its only resource, however its payment by the State of Florida was not always dependable. Salaries paid to teachers decreased from year to year.
From 1875 to 1880, the Seminary operated primarily through the support of the Leon County (Fla.) Board of Public Instruction. During the 1875-1876 school year, for example, that Board paid the salaries of W. W. Woodward, an assistant teacher in the Male Department of the Seminary, and Elizabeth Bythewood, Principal of the " Female Department, who conducted what was called Public School No. 1 in the Seminary buildings. In 1877-1878, the Seminary Board abolished the system of employing two principals, and made Wade the executive officer of both the male and female departments. To help manage its financial problems during this difficult period, John L. DeMilly, the Treasurer of Leon County, was appointed Treasurer, Ex-Officio of the West Florida Seminary Funds.