Documenting the American South Logo

Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989


Table of Contents



Page 283


           WHILE theories were being propounded and sentiment in favor of public schools was slowly taking shape, the educational needs of the State were being met inadequately by private means. As in colonial times, families who lived in isolated regions employed a tutor for their children if they could afford to do so; or the mother, if she had sufficient leisure and education, taught the children herself. 1

In 1808 Samuel Ashe of Rocky Point advertised in the Raleigh Register for a "Decent, sober and discreet Person, that can teach the Latin and Greek Languages, and the Mathematics, willing to engage in a private family to teach three or four Youths only." 2


           In the more populous areas, families during the colonial period had combined to pay the salary of the minister or some lay reader sent out by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to instruct their children for several months during the year. Out of this custom arose the subscription school, so widely known in antebellum North Carolina as the "old-field school." A parent, wishing to obtain instruction for his own children, might employ a teacher, provide a room or a building for the school, and take it upon himself to solicit pupils from other families to help defray the expense. In 1838 A. J. N. Hall of Oxford advertised in the Raleigh Register as follows: "The Subscriber, having engaged a Teacher to instruct his own children, begs leave to inform the public that he is ready to take in a select number of boarders at the moderate price of $6 per month, the Tuition fees being very moderate." 3

           More often the teacher himself solicited pupils and started a school on his own account. The usual procedure was to draw up

Page 284

"articles" and circulate the paper through the community, obtaining the signatures of all who desired to send their children. In 1857 Mary A. Gash circulated the following "article" in the Burn's Creek community in Western North Carolina:

           Almost every village and every rural community in the State had a subscription school at some time or other during the antebellum period, although some places might not have a teacher more often than once in every two or three years. In 1853 Calvin H. Wiley, recently appointed state superintendent of public schools, declared that prior to 1840 "there was not a schoolhouse for every twenty miles square of territory in the State" and that even in "the most enlightened country neighborhoods the leading heads of families could not succeed oftener than once in two years in getting up a subscription school for the three winter months." 5


           Sometimes a prosperous farmer in the neighborhood built the community schoolhouse if he had several children of his own to educate, but more often the schoolhouse, like the school, was obtained through subscription. If the subscription was large and a commodious house erected, the school very frequently blossomed into an academy. An academy was frequently nothing more than a subscription school on a sounder financial basis, chartered by the Legislature, and governed by a board of trustees. It did, however, seek to give a more thorough education than the subscription school, laying chief emphasis upon the Greek and Latin languages.

           The Germans, Quakers, and especially the Scotch-Irish were

Page 285

responsible for the erection of the first academies in North Carolina. 6 One of the first classical schools in the State was Tate's Academy, which the Reverend James Tate, a Presbyterian minister, opened in Wilmington in 1760. 7 In the same year Crowfield Academy in Mecklenburg County opened its doors. The Revolution put an end to this early academy movement, but the war had scarcely closed before the movement started anew. Before 1800 the Legislature had chartered forty-one academies. Perhaps the most celebrated of these early academies was David Caldwell's "log college" which he opened near the present site of Greensboro in 1767. Many a man, later prominent in the State, received the most of his education at one of these schools.

           With the passing of the eighteenth century, the academy movement got well under way. From 1800 to 1860 the Legislature chartered 287 academies. Practically every county in the State had at least one academy during the period, and Wake County had as many as twelve. Not all, however, were in existence at the same time. Despite the special privileges which academies received, exemption from taxation, the privilege before 1809 of issuing due bills under certain conditions, and permission to raise funds by lotteries, 8

they seldom prospered for many years at a time. In 1804 Maurice Moore, in a debate in the House of Commons on a bill concerning the University of North Carolina, pointed out that the support of an academy involved "expences far too great to be met by any neighbourhood in the present state of our country." "From the frequent attempts which have been made in various parts of the state to establish Academies, their imbecility is too clearly evinced to be farther trusted," he declared. "Salisbury, Warrenton, Hillsboro,' Pittsboro' and Fayetteville have each had its Academy to boast of-- . . . they have each flourished for a day, on the first effusions of generosity, . . . What are they now?" 9 They have either been abandoned entirely or have degenerated to the precarious existence of an old-field school.

Page 286

           The Raleigh Academy was one of the few schools in the State which prospered for several decades. Incorporated in 1801 in the name of John Craven, Joseph Gales, and others, the building was started on Burke Square in 1803 after failure to raise by lottery sufficient funds to complete the work. 10

In 1804 the building was completed at a cost of $600 and the trustees were "desirous of engaging a fit Person to superintend the Institution. If they could meet with a Clergyman of liberal Education and Principles, who would take charge of the Academy and give the citizens a weekly Discourse, such an one would be preferred, and for such a Character, it is believed, a handsome Salary would be provided." 11 The Reverend Martin Detargny, "late of Princeton College," was the first principal of the Academy; he was followed by various others until in 1810 the Reverend William McPheeters of Virginia took charge of the school and successfully guided its affairs for seventeen years. In 1807 the trustees erected another building "for the Female Department," and in the same year the Thespian Society, a group of men interested in theatrics and education, assumed patronage of the school.

           But the best days of the Academy were over by 1827. In that year the Reverend Mr. McPheeters resigned the principalship and attempted to establish in Raleigh a Female Boarding School which he finally discontinued after six years of unsuccessful effort. 12

Also in 1827, Timothy E. Dwight, a graduate of Yale, opened his Select School "in the House lately occupied by Robert H. Wynne." 13 Previously, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Lumsden had opened in 1823 a private school which they taught at their residence, and in 1828 Mr. Lumsden was teaching a night school to "young men who are engaged in business during the day." 14 By 1839, however, the Lumsden school was confined to "the instruction of Girls and small Boys--say 10 years of age and under." In 1823 George W. Freeman opened the Episcopal Classical School in Raleigh which was continued under various teachers until 1840. 15

Page 287

           Competition with these private schools was so great that the trustees of the Raleigh Academy were forced to sell the buildings in 1830 to pay their debts incurred by the employment of teachers, necessary repairs, and the general overhead. William Peace, who, as treasurer, had already advanced the Academy $900 from his own funds, bought the buildings for $600 and until 1855 rented them to teachers to carry on the school. In that year the State took over the buildings, then valued at $2,800, which had been erected in the beginning on public land. 16

After an existence of more than fifty years the Raleigh Academy finally closed its doors.

           An academy usually attracted students from neighboring communities, but it was seldom that the trustees provided accommodations for the "boarding scholars" within the academy buildings. Instead, they made arrangements with private families to give the students room and board at fixed rates. The first principal of the Raleigh Academy, upon arriving, advertised that he and his wife were "desirous of meeting with Boarding in some regular Family in the city." 17

Later, the trustees obtained board for the students "in several respectable Families, on very low Terms." 18 At the same time other academies in the State were announcing, as did the Springfield Academy in upper Caswell County, that students might obtain "Boarding, Washing and Lodging (notwithstanding the bad prospect of Crops) within one mile and a half of the School, at Forty-five dollars each, per annum." 19 In 1831 James Grant, principal of the Raleigh Academy, offered students board in his father's family at $8 a month. When an academy did provide board and lodging for its students the rate was about the same as that charged by private families. In 1823 Fayetteville Academy charged $35 a quarter for board and tuition in every branch of study except Music, for which the tuition alone was $20 a quarter. The students were taxed "25 cents each . . for wood, water, etc." but were provided pens and ink without charge. 20

           The academy fees, like those of the subscription school, were usually based upon the course of instruction followed by the student. The Raleigh Academy opened its doors in 1804, charging $3 a quarter for reading and writing, $4 for the more advanced

Page 288

branches of an English education, and $5 for the classics. 21 Twenty years later the price of tuition had scarcely been changed, but by the thirties there was a noticeable rise. In 1834 Hyco Academy in Caswell County was charging $8 a session for "some of the elementary branches of English education," $10 for "other branches of English education," and "$15 for Latin or Greek Languages or Mathematics." 22


           Throughout the ante-bellum period various schools devoted to the study of special subjects flourished for a while in the State. There were law schools, medical schools, agricultural schools, military schools, music schools, dancing schools, shorthand schools, and even kindergartens, or "infant schools," as they were called.

           Perhaps the most distinguished of these special schools were the law schools taught by prominent lawyers and judges of the State. In 1822 John Louis Taylor, chief justice from 1809 to 1820, who had for a number of years been instructing a few in the legal profession, "at the request of some of his old friends and pupils," threw open his school to the public in order to afford "the youth of the country an opportunity of acquiring a scientific knowledge of their own Laws without the inconvenience and expense of seeking it in other States." His textbooks were Blackstone's Commentaries and the Revised Statutes of North Carolina. The "solid advantages" which his school offered students were "frequent examinations and conversations on legal and literary topics, an extensive Law Library, the practice of drawing pleadings and discussing law questions." 23

In 1831 Archibald D. Murphey opened a law school in Hillsboro. 24 For a number of years Chief Justice Leonard Henderson taught law, instructing by "familiar conversation," and in 1840 Richmond M. Pearson, at that time a superior court judge, later associate justice and still later chief justice of the Supreme Court, opened his school in Mocksville, charging $100 for his course. 25 In 1841 James Iredell and William H. Battle began their law school in Raleigh, adopting "the most improved

Page 289

course of Studies," showing by oral and written instruction "the alteration of the law as laid down by Blackstone, arising from our Acts of Assembly and the decision of our courts." 26

           Most of the prominent ante-bellum physicians obtained their education in the North, a great many going to Philadelphia for their instruction. There were doctors in the State, however, who undertook to instruct students in medicine. In 1811 Dr. James H. Keys, who lived eight miles from Warrenton, announced that he "would willingly take two or three Medical Students." 27

           The military schools, a number of which flourished for short periods, ordinarily were academies which included some military training. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, Archibald Murphey taught military schools in Stokes and adjacent counties and a Mr. Wren taught in Northampton County. In 1812 Murphey advertised that he would teach military discipline during the summer at Hillsboro, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Louisburg, Warrenton, Granville, Chatham, and Rockingham. 28

In 1813 Colonel Simon Burton was president of a society organized in Lenoir County to establish a military school at Kinston. 29 In 1826 D. H. Bingham opened his military school at Williamsboro "on the plan of the West Point Seminary and of Capt. Partridge's Academy" in Connecticut. Besides the usual academy courses, he offered "Military Law, permanent and Field Fortifications, Artillery and Field Engineering generally, with a complete view of Military Tactics." 30 From Williamsboro, he moved his school to Littleton and then to Oxford and to Raleigh, finally giving up the academy in 1833 when he became an engineer for an Alabama railroad. 31 In 1830 Captain Ransom opened a military academy at Fayetteville patterned after Bingham's school. When Bingham left Raleigh, Colonel Carter Jones began a so-called military school, giving a day of drills once every eight weeks "in the Infantry and Light Infantry Tactics, together with the Broad Sword Exercises and Calvary movements to Troopers." Three years later he was teaching a similar school in Wilmington. After 1840 North Carolinians

Page 290

seem to have been content to confine their knowledge of military tactics to that learned at the regular militia musters and in the volunteer corps. Two military academies, Hillsboro and Oak Hill in Granville County, were chartered in 1860, and Major D. H. Hill was conducting his North Carolina Military Institute. 32

           While most farmers in the State thought that it was unnecessary to have an education to know how to raise a good crop, a few early in the century began to speak of the need for training in agriculture. In 1820 a correspondent of the Hillsborough Recorder referred with regret to the contempt with which most planters considered "book farming." 33

In 1837 Elijah Graves began his Farmers' School at Rock House, nine miles west of Chapel Hill, for "such gentlemen as do not wish to give their sons a classical education; but who would be pleased to have them taught to read and write correctly, and also the English Grammar and Geography, with some knowledge of Astronomy, Mathematics, Rhetoric, and Chemistry, which is intimately connected with Agriculture." 34 In response to the increased demand for scientific farming which arose in the State after 1840 the University of North Carolina included in its courses on geology and industrial chemistry practical information concerning soil analysis and the use of fertilizers.

           In practically every village where there was an academy there was also a music teacher, an art teacher, and sometimes a dancing teacher. In some of the towns, such as New Bern, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Wilmington, there were music teachers independent of academy patronage. In 1823 James Aykroyd of New Bern "respectfully informed the citizens of Hillsboro and its vicinity that he intended giving lessons in music there during the summer months." His terms were "for the Piano, twelve dollars a quarter, for lessons every other week; and three dollars for vocal music, two lessons every other week." 35

           The first kindergarten in the State seems to have been opened in Fayetteville in 1832 "under the superintendence of a Lady who

Page 291

has been instructed in the Infant Schools in the City of N. York, under the patronage of Mrs. Bethune." This northern woman taught children of both sexes from two to eight years of age at 12½ cents a week with the assistance of an "Instructress" and "a Servant to take care of the children." 36 In 1842 Mrs. Peat's Infant School in Raleigh gave a public examination at the City Hall before "a crowded and intelligent auditory." Yet, notwithstanding "the incalculable service" Mrs. Peat rendered the children in her care, the receipts from the school were insufficient to support herself and her family. 37

           The schools for teaching penmanship, shorthand, and book-keeping were usually temporary, being taught by men who drifted into town for a few weeks or months, staying as long as patronage was good. In 1813 "those Ladies and Gentlemen" who wished "to be instructed in the elegant and improved art of penmanship," were "respectfully invited to call on B. Nichols at the Eagle Hotel, Raleigh." 38

In 1820 T. McQueen taught "a highly improved System of Stenography" for two weeks at the Eagle Hotel, and in 1831 Charles Berkeley promised to teach a knowledge of shorthand characters and the mode of using them in four lessons. 39 In 1834 L. B. Johnson and Thomas B. Haywood added "Book-keeping, the Statement of Accounts, the drawings of common Instruments of Business, &c." to their regular courses offered by the Raleigh Academy. 40


           The first step which the Legislature of North Carolina took to carry out the instructions of the Constitution of 1776 to promote the education of youths was to charter the University of North Carolina in 1789. William R. Davie, a cavalry officer in the Revolution, a representative to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, grand master of Masons, introduced the bill which chartered the University and later obtained $10,000 from an unwilling Legislature with which to erect the first building at New Hope Chapel Hill in Orange County fourteen miles from Hillsboro, an isolated

Page 292

spot, chosen no doubt because of an offer from the citizens of the community to donate 1,380 acres of land to the new school and because of a provision in the charter that the University should not be located within five miles of the state capital or of any court town. On October 12, 1793, in the presence of a distinguished company, Davie laid the cornerstone of the first building, the oldest state university building now standing in the United States. The first session opened January 15, 1795, with the Reverend David Ker, formerly pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville and principal of the Fayetteville Academy, as "Presiding Professor." Before the close of June the trustees had elected a tutor in mathematics, Charles Wilson Harris, recent honor-graduate of Princeton, and the students, numbering forty-one, had organized two debating societies, later to be known as the Dialectic and Philanthropic societies.

           From the first, the trustees had a struggle to keep the institution alive. Having chartered the University, the Legislature left it to prosper as it might. It was not until 1881 that the University received a small cash appropriation for maintenance from the State treasury. When the Legislature chartered the University, however, it did pass an act conferring on the school certain claims which the officers of the State had been unable to collect and such property as had escheated or should thereafter escheat to the State. From the first source, the University eventually obtained a little more than seven thousand dollars; from the latter, considerably more. 41

By a provision of the act, only the interest on these monies could be used. In 1857, therefore, the University had an endowment of $150,000. 42 But money from these sources came in slowly, and the demands on the young institution were great. It was not until after 1835, when gifts from Smith, Gerrard, and others had swelled the treasury, that the University was free from heavy debts.

           In 1796 Joseph Caldwell, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Princeton, came to the University at the age of twenty-three to be professor of mathematics. From that time until his death in 1835, as professor, presiding professor, or president, he successfully guided the affairs of the University and in time became the acknowledged

Page 293

educational leader in the State. Governor David L. Swain was appointed president of the University at President Caldwell's death, and continued in office until his removal by the Reconstruction government in 1868. At the close of his administration, he could point with pride to the fact that the students had numbered almost five hundred at the outbreak of the Civil War and that he had added to the number of buildings and to the endowment. 43

           The year following the opening of the University, Professor Harris wrote to Caldwell, then at Princeton, "We imitate Nassau Hall 44

in the conduct of our affairs, as much as circumstances will admit." 45 The students numbered about one hundred, sixty of whom were in the preparatory department. In the college department there were classes in moral philosophy, mathematics, geography, arithmetic, Latin, and Greek. In the issue of February 18, 1800, the Raleigh Register observed:

           It cannot be otherwise than interesting and agreeable to the Citizens of the State at large, and it may be useful to those among them who have Sons to educate that due subordination and a proper and regular attention to the business now happily mark the conduct of every class at the University of North Carolina:--The proper demeanor and industry of the Students at present there, and their increasing number authorize the flattering presage, that the most sanguine hopes of the people of the State at large, and of the friends of Literature and Science in general, with respect to this institution, will ultimately be fully and completely realized.

           By 1819 the school had grown into a creditable college. Joseph Caldwell was president and held the chair of moral philosophy and metaphysics. Denison Olmsted, a graduate of Yale, held the chair of chemistry; Elisha Mitchell, also a graduate of Yale, the chair of mathematics; and the Reverend Shepard K. Kollock, a graduate of Princeton, the chair of rhetoric and logic. For admission into the freshman class, the students must have studied certain specified works in Latin, including seven books of Caesar and six books of Virgil, and Greek including St. John's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, and Graeca Minora to Lucian's Dialogues. The studies in the freshman and sophomore classes

Page 294

included Latin and Greek, geography, mathematics, English composition, and declamation. Junior Sophisters and Senior Sophisters, as the upper classmen were called, dropped their study of Latin and Greek and spent their time on conic sections and fluxions (calculus), "applied mathematics," natural philosophy, chemistry, mineralogy, geology, philosophy of natural history, astronomy, metaphysics, logic, rhetoric, the English classics, composition, and declamation. 46 By 1855 the University had added the study of law, history, the modern languages, civil engineering, and industrial chemistry to the curriculum, and the faculty numbered fourteen. 47

           The University had scarcely opened when a few friends came forward with books for a library and the two debating societies began to make small book collections of their own. In 1812 the University library consisted of 1,500 volumes and the society libraries had between 800 and 1,000 volumes. In 1824 President Caldwell urged the trustees to spend $6,000 for "Philosophical Apparatus" and books, and he paid his own expenses to Europe to make the purchases. After President Caldwell's death, the trustees neglected the library. In fact, B. F. Moore, a trustee, reported near the close of the ante-bellum period that the board had not purchased a single volume for twenty-five years. Although in 1850 a building, Smith Hall, now the Playmakers' Theater, was erected for the library, "the College Library was never open to the students; on two occasions only, . . . consulted by persons from abroad; and almost never . . . used by members of the Faculty." 48

But on one occasion, at least, during the college year the library building shown with bright lights, for here the students held their annual commencement ball.

           The early by-laws for the regulation of the students show the influence of Revolutionary political theory. The first set of rules which the trustees drew up contained a "Declaration of Rights," and declared that "the students charged shall have timely notice, and testimony taken on the most solemn assurance shall be deemed valid without calling on a magistrate to administer an oath in legal form." 49

Trustees and faculty were inclined to enforce discipline with a firmness which the students occasionally felt impinged upon

Page 295

their "natural rights." In 1799, for instance, the students openly rebelled against the laws and the faculty. They "beat Mr. Gillaspie personally, waylaid and stoned Mr. Webb," and uttered "violent threats" against the others. 50 In 1805 twenty students left the University, "having conceived disgust at the Monitorial law, imposing an oath on all by turns to act the part of spies on each other's conduct." 51 In 1816 the faculty suspended and the trustees expelled William B. Shepard of New Bern, a senior, because he insisted upon delivering in public a political speech contrary to the President's instructions. 52 Forty-five others were suspended because they encouraged Shepard's defiance with repeated cheers, but were permitted to return to the University upon solemnly promising to submit to the laws of the school.

           It is little wonder that professors and tutors frequently complained that the students were impertinent, fond of fighting and playing bandy, and fonder still of bedeviling the faculty. They had few other diversions. As late as 1852 students were required to attend morning prayers at sunrise and to devote the hours from nine to twelve and from two until five to study, "and the bell shall be rung for summoning the Students to their rooms at 8 o'clock in the evening." During study hours every student was expected to be either in his room or in class; nor could he receive visitors in his room without permission from a member of the faculty. On Sunday the student was required "to be present at the reading or delivery of a sermon in the Chapel" and to attend any other instruction in morals or religion that his professors might appoint. Students were to "refrain from their ordinary diversions and exercises"; they could not hunt, fish, swim, or walk far abroad, but throughout the day must "observe a quiet and orderly behavior." 53

           For the first quarter of a century after its establishment, the University had to face bitter opposition. It was criticized as a hotbed of infidelity, as the fountainhead of Federalism, as the

Page 296

matrix of high-toned aristocracy. Its rebellious student body won it ill fame, and its efforts to collect through the courts its claim to confiscated property and escheats made many an enemy. But in time the University offset much of this criticism by the role of leadership its graduates assumed in the State. Between 1824 and 1827 Professors Denison Olmsted and Elisha Mitchell made a geological survey of North Carolina for the State Board of Agriculture. Their published reports are the first geological publication made by any State in the Union. 54 President Caldwell's Numbers of Carlton, in which he strongly urged the State to undertake a system of internal improvements, and his Letters on Education helped to convince the people that the chief concern of the University was its ideal of public service. In 1845 President Swain organized at Chapel Hill the North Carolina Historical Society and began the collection of documents bearing on the history of the State. In 1860 the University could point to a long list of alumni who had been public officials in the State and the Union: one President of the United States, one Vice-President, seven Cabinet officials, ten United States senators, forty-one representatives in Congress, fifteen state governors, and numerous state legislators and judges. 55


           The Presbyterians were the first of the religious denominations to attempt the establishment of a college. For almost seventy years before the founding of Davidson in 1837, Presbyterians had sought to build a college in North Carolina. The provincial Legislature chartered Queen's Museum of Charlotte in 1770, and despite the royal disallowance of this act the school existed under that name until about 1777. 55a

In that year the school was incorporated as an academy bearing the name of Liberty Hall; but before many years Liberty Hall had also fallen into "an entire state of decay," and the trustees obtained a new charter in 1784, moved the school to Salisbury, and called it Salisbury Academy.

           The impetus for the establishment of Davidson College was an outgrowth of the agitation started in 1820 for a college in Western

Page 297

North Carolina. 56 The movement for Western College was not entirely a Presbyterian agitation, although more than half of the trustees who met in Lincolnton on May 7, 1821, were Presbyterians.

           When Presbyterians next turned their efforts toward building a college, they kept the movement within the Presbytery. In March, 1835, Concord Presbytery, meeting at Prospect Church in Rowan County, passed a memorial to "undertake (in humble reliance upon the blessing of God) the establishment of a Manual Labor School." 57

By the fall meeting of the Presbytery, the college was assured. The Reverend P. J. Sparrow and the Reverend R. H. Morrison, who had been a trustee of Western College, had obtained $30,000 for beginning the college; the committee on site had chosen "a granite belt ranging from Beattie's Ford on the Catawba to Trading Ford on the Yadkin" as the seat of the college, and the sub-committee on building had already contracted for 250,000 bricks to be made on Major John Caldwell's plantation.

           There was little left for the Presbytery to do except choose a name for the new school; whereupon it resolved "that the Manual Labor Institution which we are about to build be called Davidson College as a tribute to the memory of that distinguished and excellent man, General William Davidson, who . . . fell . . . in the Battle of Cowan's Ford." 58

On March 1, 1837, the college opened with Morrison as president and with students to the number of sixty-five. The following year the Legislature granted the school a charter.

           The very feature of Davidson College which had made its founders so hopeful of its success, retarded its development. 59

According to the "Constitution" of the school: The trustees paid the best workers $15 a session for three hours of work a day; the next best, $12; and the least efficient, $9. Some boys worked conscientiously, but most of them took the labor system as a huge joke. They hung new plow stocks high up in pine trees; they hid plow shovels in the woods; after work they raced the horses to the stables and frequently rode them at night. 61 In 1841 the trustees abandoned the idea of manual training and Davidson became a classical school fashioned after Princeton. In 1860 the college had 6 professors and 112 students. It had just spent $1,000 for laboratory apparatus, and classes were meeting for the first time in Chambers Building, the most imposing college building in the State, erected from funds received from the Maxwell Chambers legacy of $200,000. 62

           The Baptists were slow to enter the field of education, but, once having committed themselves to the policy, erected the first denominational college in the State. 63

The split in the denomination which occurred between 1821 and 1830 was due partly to the controversy over the need of schools and an educated ministry. The first session of the Baptist State Convention reported an educational fund of more than $11,000 and authorized the education of young ministerial students in private schools. The next meeting of the Convention sanctioned the establishment of Baptist Literary Institute, called "The Wake Forest Institution" by the Board of Managers. The school, which was in Wake County on lands bought from Calvin Jones, was to be conducted on the manual labor plan "to enable young Ministers to obtain an education on moderate terms, and to train up youth in general to a knowledge of Science and practical Agriculture." The total expense of the academic year was not to exceed $60; the trustees agreed to make an allowance "to each student according to the value of his work";

Page 299

and required each to "furnish himself with an axe and a hoe, a pair of sheets and a pair of towels." 64

           In 1833 the Legislature chartered the school, not, however, without bitter opposition from the Primitive Baptists led by Joshua Lawrence and from others who thought that the incorporation of a body chosen by a religious denomination was a violation of an article of the constitution providing that no religious body should be established in the State in preference to another. 65

In February, 1834, the school opened in the carriage house and cabins of the Jones plantation with sixteen students present and with the Reverend Samuel Waite as principal and teacher. Before the close of the year the students had increased to forty and the trustees had employed the Reverend John Armstrong as professor of languages. Classwork began at sunrise, even before breakfast, and continued until three o'clock in the afternoon when the bell rang "long and loud for the toils of the field." The students, "some with axes, some with grubbing hoes, some with weeding hoes," led by their professors, worked until dusk when a bell called them to prayers and to supper. 66

           But students came to college to escape labor, not to engage in it. "A Visitor" in September, 1838, thought that it was "a mortifying fact" that the college was "almost neglected by the public." 67

Later in the year the Legislature granted the school a new charter under the name of Wake Forest College with the privilege of conferring degrees, holding property to the value of $200,000, and claiming exemption from taxation. The trustees dropped the manual labor plan and increased the faculty by adding professors who were from the North, graduates of Brown University or of Columbian College. Also in 1838 the first college building was ready for occupation. Three years later the trustees obtained a loan of $10,000 from the State Literary Fund, which helped temporarily to tide them over the financial burdens which had handicapped the college from the beginning. In 1849 they started a

Page 300

movement for an endowment which by 1860 had grown to $47,500. In 1854 they elected Washington Manly Wingate president and he began a distinguished administration which lasted until 1879.

           It was not until 1859 that the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church had the vested rights in a college of its own. In 1837 a group of Methodists in Randolph County persuaded the Reverend Brantley York to begin a subscription school in the spring of 1838 at Brown's Schoolhouse, an "inferior building," scarcely habitable. 68

So popular was the school that the farmers, as soon as they had "laid by their crops," erected a small log building into which York moved with his sixty-five pupils. He had already conceived of establishing "a permanent institution of learning of high grade at this place," and had no difficulty in communicating his enthusiasm to the neighboring farmers. They organized Union Institute Educational Society and in July, 1839, laid the cornerstone of a clapboard building which they called Union Institute.

           In 1842 York, finding his eyesight failing, resigned to become principal of Clemonsville High School, and Braxton Craven, the assistant teacher who had recently attended school at New Garden, was elected in his place. 69

Craven, hoping to increase the popularity of his school and at the same time to render a service to the common schools of the State, determined to make of Union Institute a normal school for training teachers. In 1857 the trustees obtained a charter naming the school Normal College 70 and providing that students holding certificates from the college should be licensed to teach in the common schools without an examination by the county examining committee. The following year the Literary Fund lent the school $10,000 for building purposes and the Legislature amended the charter, making the governor president and the state superintendent of common schools secretary of the board of trustees, and permitted the school to grant degrees.

           The good which Craven sought to render both the State and his school by converting the Institute into a normal college was "to some extent realized." "But the influence upon the institution was exceedingly injurious," President Craven wrote years later in a sketch of Trinity College. "Young men with a mere elementary

Page 301

education, with little mental development or discipline, and often without those social influences that are the best foundation for elegant culture, went forth bearing a Normal certificate. . . . Coming from an institution having the name of a college, they were unjustly compared with the regularly educated students of other colleges." These "crude young teachers" generally had "no higher ambition than to teach a few terms of a country primary school." 71

           In 1851 the North Carolina Conference, of which President Craven was an ordained minister, endorsed Normal College and the school agreed to educate ministerial students without charge. Five years later the Conference took over the school, and in 1859 obtained a charter which changed its name to Trinity College, severed its connection with the State, and vested the property in the Conference. Trinity, Duke University since 1924, had become a liberal arts college.

           Although the Society of Friends founded New Garden Boarding School, later Guilford College, during the ante-bellum period, the school did not attain collegiate rank until after the Civil War. The Quakers, like the Scotch-Irish, were zealous in behalf of education from their first settlement in colonial North Carolina, but, unlike the Scotch-Irish, they did not direct their efforts toward the foundation of academies and colleges. In 1829 the North Carolina Yearly Meeting adopted a plan of establishing primary schools under Quaker control and of placing books within the hands of every member of the Society. 72

As a result of a report in 1831 that "there is not one school in the limits of this Yearly Meeting that is under the care of a committee either of a Monthly or preparative meeting, and the teachers of schools where Friends children go are mostly not Friends, and all the schools amongst Friends are in a mixed condition," the Yearly Meeting was "brought . . . under concern for a better plan of education." 73 The result was the founding of New Garden Boarding School at New Garden in Guilford County which the Legislature chartered in 1833.

           Unlike the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Davidson, New Garden was coeducational from the first, although

Page 302

the boys and girls recited in separate classrooms. The school opened August 6, 1837, in an imposing brick building "40 ft wide and 120 ft long, 2 stories high with a basement story in the center 50 ft. long to 40 ft. wide." 74 Fifty "scholars, 25 of each sex," were present at the opening, with Jonathan L. Slocum, Miss Harriet Peck, and Miss Catherine Cornell, all of New England Yearly Meeting, in charge. In common with other schools of this period, New Garden Boarding School was burdened with overwhelming financial obligations despite the loyal support of the denomination.


           All of the ante-bellum colleges in the State except New Garden had excluded women from their classrooms because the prevailing theory of woman's role 75

in life placed her in a sphere of activity apart from man. Woman's place was "in the seclusion of the fireside"; man's "in the public glare" of business, the professions, and politics. Boys and girls should not be taught in the same classroom; 76 each sex should be educated according to its necessities, the education of boys being far more advanced and intricate than that of girls. 77 Restrain my daughters "from all places and persons Dangerous to their virtue and Innocence," instructed the Reverend John Alexander of Bertie County in his will, dated April 4, 1795. Give them "an Education to their rank in life suitable and becoming--let their books, and their needles be their principal companions and employ." 78 In subscription schools, boys and girls were usually taught in the same room and even in the same classes, but in the academies mixed groups were not permitted except in beginners' classes in which the children were under ten years of age.

           The nineteenth century opened with two conceptions of the education of women fairly well developed in North Carolina. The one held that "skill in household matters and a certain degree of cunning in culinary dispositions" was the chief education that woman needed; the other contended that woman should add the elementary branches of an English education to her knowledge of the household arts. As the ante-bellum period advanced and more

Page 303

schools for women were established, the idea gradually arose that the schoolroom should teach girls more of books and less of needlework. Some even rejected the household arts altogether and maintained that only those courses "which bestowed grace upon the person and manner were worthy of attention," novel reading, piano playing, and dancing. In 1859 a writer lamented that this conception of the education of women had taken such a hold upon North Carolina. "I regret to say," observed this commentator on female education, "it is too often considered as denoting poverty, or ignoble origin for a woman to be conversant with the details of home management, plain work, and cooking." 79

           In 1840 James B. Shepard, prominent in the State as legislator, politician, and a friend of education, speaking to the young ladies of Wake Forest Female Seminary, urged the schools for women to hold to a middle ground. He rejected the idea that women should be educated only in the household arts on the ground that such an attitude degraded woman to the condition of a brute. "The idea . . . that your only station is that of ministering to the physical necessities of man--his luxury and ease--is rapidly yielding to the lights of civilization and refinement," he told the young ladies. But the idea that woman should be taught only the "gay accomplishments" was "equally erroneous." The schoolroom should teach girls to become "serviceable and pleasant companions." "To be economical as the head of a family--diligent in the employment of time--tasteful in the recreations of leisure hours--devoted wives--kind daughters--to render yourselves pleasant friends, and benevolent in all the relations of life, are clearly the true interest and should be the sole object of your sex." To that end he recommended that they give special attention to novel reading, dancing, drawing, painting, and needlework, in addition to the elementary branches of an English education. 80

           As early as 1807 "A Traveller," writing in the Raleigh Register of May 7, insisted that the ideal course for the education of women included "Grammar, Geography, and Natural and Moral Philosophy . . . French, Music, and Painting, . . . especially if they can be obtained on moderate terms . . . [and] the various

Page 304

branches of needle work." At this time the course of study in the "Female Department" of Fayetteville Academy consisted of spelling, reading, grammar, geography, letter writing, copy-writing, cyphering, marking, Dresden work, Tambour work, and embroidery. In the "Male Department" the studies were exactly the same except that Latin and Greek took the place of needlework. In 1823 the course of study for the Male Department of Newbern Academy was outlined according to the language studied, Latin, Greek, or English, but for the Female Department it was outlined according to classes 81 and corresponded in every detail to the English course for the Male Department except for surveying and declamation. A young lady, if she were sufficiently ambitious, might even be taught Latin and Greek in this progressive academy; she might complete in two years the regular course of study if she were "a Young Lady of ordinary talents and studious habits," and receive "an Honorary Certificate, and a Golden Medal with an appropriate Inscription."

           Newbern Academy announced courses in Latin and Greek for girls in 1823 in answer to the boast which Joseph Andrews and Thomas P. Jones made the previous year that their school at Oxford offered "the highest branches of science ever taught in Female Seminaries, including Grammar and Parsing, Belles Lettres, Geography, Chemistry, Botany, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, . . . Music, Drawing, Painting, and the Latin and Greek Languages." 82

Throughout the period, girls were required to take part in public examinations just as the boys did. Occasionally, a newspaper announced after such an examination: "In justice to the Young Ladies and their Teachers, the Trustees with pleasure, remark, that, notwithstanding their attention and progress in needlework, which increases the variety of their exercises and the objects of their attention, they generally excelled the young Gentlemen, particularly in reading, spelling and English Grammar." 83

           In 1859 Mrs. Delia W. Jones, in an essay read before the Education Association of North Carolina, complained of "the want of suitableness in the studies" and the "inadequate proportion of

Page 305

time for completing them." Although the course of study for boys and girls was practically the same in the elementary branches, the educational standard for women was far below that for men. Custom forced girls out of their colleges into society and matrimony at sixteen, the very age at which boys were entering college for four more years of education. Girls who were graduated at fifteen or sixteen usually had spent not more than three or four years on their entire education. For example:

           She is completely unfitted for after life. She cannot even count change for a dozen and a half eggs at 12½ cents a dozen or write a short letter correctly. Nor is she acquainted with the mysteries of knitting stockings or making bread.

           Calvin H. Wiley objected to the manner of educating women for still another reason. "Nearly every female school of high grade is expensive, the tuition being high, board high, and the state of things in the institution requiring a rather fashionable outlay of money in other matters. Many poor girls of delicate sensibilities and high spirit would not attend a fashionable female school if they could go free of cost; and this is said without any reflection on such institutions." 85

In 1805 Mrs. Sarah Falkner of Warrenton charged $105 a year for board and tuition in her Young Ladies' Boarding School and Francis Maurice, the music teacher, charged

Page 306

$25 a quarter for "Music, vocal and instrumental, treble, tenor, counter bass and thorough bass for the Piano Forte, and Dancing." 86 In 1825 the Reverend Thomas Cottrell "and Lady" who conducted the Charlotte Female Academy charged $10 a session for "the literary branches," $5 for muslin work and marking, $10 for embroidery and marking, $10 for drawing and painting on paper, $10 for drawing and painting on velvet, and $20 for music on the piano. Pupils could obtain board "in respectable families in town" at $40 a session. 87 In 1839 the tuition in LaVallee Female Seminary in Halifax County, which was "under the care of two Ladies from the North," was $10 a session for the literary branches, $7.50 for French, $5 for Latin, $15 for Music on the piano forte, $30 for music on the harp, $10 for music on the guitar, $5 for drawing and painting in water colors, $15 for mezzo-tinting wax flowers and fruits, and $40 for board. 88

           The nineteenth century opened without much emphasis being placed on the education of girls. In 1802, however, the Wachovia Provincial Conference of the Moravian Congregation in the South resolved to enlarge its day school for girls, which had been started in 1772, into a female boarding school, and in 1804 Salem Academy opened its doors. It was conducted upon the same traditions as the Moravian school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As early as 1814 the Seminary was "much crowded" and had a "sufficient number of candidates in the list, for the vacancies which may take place in the course of at least eight months." 89

It soon became one of the most influential schools for women in the South, drawing students from the Lower South as well as from neighboring states. 90

           In 1802 Mrs. Sarah Falkner, a native of England, was conducting her Young Ladies Boarding School in Warrenton which she and her husband continued with few intermissions until their death in 1819. The Raleigh Register referred to Mr. Falkner as "the Founder of the Seminaries for the education of young ladies in

Page 307

this section of the country," and declared that "many accomplished wives and mothers" in the State owed Mrs. Falkner grateful acknowledgment for her maternal care and unwearied attention. 91

           Gradually other schools for girls were opened. In 1807 Mrs. Milligan, "having taught with success for many years in Charleston," began her Young Ladies School in Charlotte. A year later Jacob Mordecai opened the Warrenton Female Academy and Mrs. Gregory, "late from Danville, Virginia," began her Boarding School for Young Ladies in Hillsboro. In 1811 Charlotte B. Brodie opened the Williamsborough Female Academy, and in 1812 Mrs. E. Bevens started a School for Young Ladies in Charlotte. In 1815 Judith Mendenhall, Jr., opened Jamestown Female Seminary in Guilford County. Schools for girls now began to be founded more rapidly. By 1840 Shocco, Hannah More, Louisburg, Milton, Charlotte, Salisbury, Randolph, Lincolnton, Northampton, Nashville, Hillsboro, Asheville, and Greenville female academies had been chartered, and Governor John M. Morehead had just founded Edgeworth Seminary in Greensboro. Many of these schools flourished for a few years and then ceased to exist. In 1860 Governor Ellis stated that there were thirteen female colleges in the State. After 1840 schools for women began to adopt the ambitious title of college although their courses of study were little more advanced than those offered in the female academies and boarding schools prior to that date. In 1836 a group of Methodists founded Greensboro Female College which first opened its doors to students in 1846; in 1842 St. Mary's School was founded under private ownership but under Episcopal influences; Chowan Baptist Female Institute was founded in 1848; Oxford Female College, sponsored by Baptists, in 1851; Statesville Female College, a Presbyterian school, in 1857; Davenport Female College, a Methodist school, in 1858; and Peace Female Institute, under Presbyterian influences, in 1857, although it did not begin instruction until 1872.

           Perhaps more girls in North Carolina were educated in the regular village academies than in the "schools for young ladies." In 1801 almost half of the 110 students in Fayetteville Academy were girls. Some academies, beginning with the chartering of

Page 308

Newbern Academy in 1766, which opened first as schools for boys, later added female departments. Other academies, such as those of Raleigh and Salisbury, opened with both male and female departments, and as the schools grew the trustees erected separate buildings for the use of the girls. In Raleigh, the two buildings were erected on the same lot. In other towns, they were occasionally in different parts of the village. The trustees usually employed a man as principal of the academy and teacher in the male department and a woman to take charge of the girls.

           A few parents sent their daughters to school outside the State, to South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D. C., and Philadelphia. In 1841 Mary S. Bryan, daughter of Judge John H. Bryan, and her cousin, Mary Pettigrew, attended Miss Breshard's school in Washington. Mary Bryan wrote her mother that she and her cousin were the only girls in school there from North Carolina. She spoke of having just begun Combe's Physiology and of having to make her bed every day. 92

Judge Bryan sent his daughter Isabel to Reisterstown, Maryland, and Charlotte to Miss Carpenter's School in Philadelphia.

           Since the opening of the century, subscription schools had given way to the more progressive academies and academies to the more progressive colleges. Subscription schools there were and a great many academies still, but the colleges gave tone to the educational atmosphere of the State. Instead of one college, the University of North Carolina, still catering as many thought to "the rich and high-born," there were now four others, denominational all, bidding for the humble student who would go out among the people and breathe into them the Soul of Education. 93

The education of women still lagged far behind, although a few spirited females were beginning to demand that their daughters have a place in the schoolroom beside their sons, and female seminaries, institutes, and colleges were beginning to spring up everywhere.

Table of Contents