The University of North Carolina opened its doors on 15 January 1795, and by the end of the first school term, forty-one students were enrolled. It quickly became apparent, however, that at least half of the first class was unprepared for university-level work. In North Carolina, approximately forty preparatory schools had been chartered by 1795, but few were open. Seeing a need for an institution to offer students remedial instruction, in July 1795, University Trustees ordered the construction of a separate preparatory school.
Though the order was given in 1795, the Grammar School was not built until 1801. In the interim, the University rented a building in Chapel Hill, and it served sixty-two or sixty-three students by 1797. Boys continued to attend the makeshift school until the Grammar School building was completed. John M. Goodloe was paid £159 12s. 1d. (approximately $320) for constructing the 600-square-foot, one-story building. The Grammar School stood on the Grand Avenue, between what are now Franklin and Rosemary Streets.
Grammar School classes were taught by tutors. Among the early tutors were Nicholas Delvaux, Samuel A. Holmes, William L. Richards, Matthew Troy, and Chesley Daniel. Discipline was "strict and rigorous," and corporal punishment "freely practiced" (Henderson 1949, 43). For example, "any Preparatory student under sixteen years of age willfully injuring the college buildings was to be publicly whipped with not less than five or more than ten stripes" (Battle 1974 1:205). Tutors lived among the students and were required to report on their misbehavior to the University faculty. Students of the Grammar School took classes such as English grammar, reading and spelling, arithmetic, Latin grammar, and French grammar. During the first years of operation, graduates of the Grammar School were admitted to the University without passing an exam, as it was simply another department of the University. As time passed, however, the two institutions separated, and the Grammar School operated outside of the University. Enrollment in the Grammar School began to decline as preparatory instruction in the rest of the state improved. The need for the Grammar School steadily lessened, and in 1819, the Headmaster resigned and the school closed. In 1832, the building and grounds were sold.
Works Consulted: Battle, Kemp P., History of the University of North Carolina, Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1974; Henderson, Archibald, The Campus of the First State University, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1949.