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Title: "Legend of Chapel Hill, 1866": Electronic Edition.
Author: [Fries, John Williams, b. 1846]
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Amanda Page
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 22K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-05-23, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Ferebee, Gregory, and McPherson Family Papers (#3374), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "Legend of Chapel Hill, 1866"
Author: [Fries, John Williams, b. 1846]
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 3374 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Education/UNC Faculty, Staff, and Servants
Education/UNC Student Life
Examples of Student Writing/Fiction, Poetry, Character Sketches
Editorial practices
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For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

The story, told in King James English, of a prank perpetrated on Prof. Hildreth Hosea Smith by students who ignited powder cord placed under the rostrum from which he was conducting a recitation.
"Legend of Chapel Hill, 1866"1
[Fries, John Williams, b. 1846]

Page 1
Legend of Chapel Hill, 1866.
And it came to pass that, in the year '66 in the month of Shebat [May] there reigned over one the departments Hildreth whose surname is Smith , whose cognomen is Tiger . And he was a man of exceding height and fair to look upon. And in those days the subjects of Hildreth became exceeding wroth with him, and set about to devise some plan whereby he might be overthrown. Now there was in those days a man named Jones whose surname is Watson , a dealer in Merchandise, and the subjects of Hildreth knew him and went to him, and they exchanged shekels of silver with him, for a composition called powder, moreover they2 procured a string wrapped in powder—yea having powder all through it, and they deposited them in their pockets—even on the inside of their garments, and they journeyed to the place where Hildreth held his court. Now there chanced to be a rostrum or throne3 on which sat Hildreth when he ruled, and the subjects removed this rostrum or throne4 from the place whereon it stood: and with an auger the size of a man's finger did they bore a hole—even through the floor, and in it they inserted the string wrapped in and through with powder, and over the hole they placed the powder—even all that they had bought, and they placed the

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throne5 in its accustomed place, yea over the powder, and the string led from under the building to the outside thereof. And it came to pass that about the eleventh hour Hildreth , the Prince, arrived at the place where he held his court and the subjects were ranged beneath him to be judged, and he was judging them. Now while Hildreth sat in judgement behold a man! one of his subjects whose name is unknown even to this day—did with fire—yea with fire which burneth—ignite the end of the string which led from the outside of the building even to the thronn on which sat Hildreth ; and it burned quickly, and when it drew nigh unto the powder, which was under the throne6 whereon sat Hildreth , the Prince—behold the noise of a great explosion met the air, yea it was heard afar off, even the fowls of the air did fly away sorely frightened, and the beasts of the field did hide themselves in the depths of their caverns, and Hildreth , the Prince, was inflated, yea, verily, he was blown up to the height of about three cubits, and he fell backwards upon his back, whereat his subjects rejoiced exceedingly; and in such manner was Hildreth , the Prince, whose surname is Smith whose cognomen is Tiger , whose ruleth over one of the departments of David , the King, blown up, Now Jordan , the Ethiopian, whose surname is Swain who is of the household of David , the King, drew nigh, and

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when his eyes beheld that which was done he lifted up his voice in praise of the rebellious subjects, saying: eye hath not seen—ear hath not heard, Neither hath aught like this before entered the mind of man, to conceive it, and it pleased the subjects mightly. Now it came to pass that it was noised abroad throughout the land. How Hildreth the Prince had been overthrown, and the noise news came to the year ear of David , the King; then he arose and rent his mantle and shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and blasphemed and said: let the hour perish wherein I was born; cursed be the cow that sustained me with milk when my mother's breasts were dry; damned be that old grey mule that didn't throw me off and break my neck when I journeyed towards Chapel Hill; let Hell be the portion of those of my subjects who hanged me in effigy and not in reality; Oh! that I had never seen the light" Then he arose and sent messengers to summon his Princes to Council, and the Princes who assembled at the call of David the King were James , surnamed Phillips , together with his son Charles ; Fordyce , the dignified; Manuel , who keepeth the monies; Solomon who oweth allegiance to a far off country, together with William , whose surname is Martin —a mighty man of war.7 And they were annoyed and marvelled exceedingly at that which had been done. And behold Hildreth , the Prince, was not there! and

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they tarried for him; and when they beheld him a far off and knew him they lifted up their voice and wept and they rent, every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust on their heads towards heaven; and none spake a word to him, for they saw his grief was very great. And they took council together and resolved that the rebellious subjects should be banished—even from the kingdom. And it came to pass on the day following that David , the King, stood in the presence of the rebellious subjects and thus addressed them: "ye wicked and perverse generation, whose paths are crooked, and whose deeds are shrouded in darkness, whose ways are evil, and whose countenances betray ye devils. Know ye not that ye shall be banished from our peacful presence, unless ye confess this outrage and humbly ask forgiveness? know ye not that I shall be made acquainted with the performers of this deed? Yea though I make ye swear who did it, are ye not aware that my Princes shall be respected and the peace and quiet of my kingdom maintained? And the King's anger was kindled against his rebellious subjects, and he could not find words to speak it to them So he arose and departed, and so wroth was he that his knees did knock one against the other as he left,8 but neither did King David nor any of his Princes discover the doers of the deed, and it is covered with darkness—even until this day.9


1. Ferebee, Gregory and McPherson Family Papers, SHC. Though the document is unsigned, it is written in the hand of John William Fries (b. 1846). In a July 3, 1926, letter to Hope Sumerell Chamberlain, Fries recalls the day "'Old Tige'- Professor Smith - was blown up": "That occurred before I entered Chapel Hill, but I heard all about it. Jim Battle and Paul Means were the culprits, and all the rest of the Class were innocent, so when the bomb exploded under his rostrum the Class was on the point of panic, and Captain Burgwyn jumped to his feet and called out 'Steady, boys, steady!' just as he had doubtless done to his company on the field of battle [. . .]. Battle and Means went to Mr. William H. Battle , made a full confession, and engaged him to defend them in case of trouble, but there was no trouble; in spite of his large size and ferocious aspect 'Old Tige' did not have grit enough to resent an insult" (Hope Sumerell Chamberlain Papers, SHC).

2. y has been written on top of an unrecovered character.

3. thronn has been changed to throne by writing e on top of the second n.

4. thronn has been changed to throne by writing e on top of the second n.

5. thronn has been changed to throne by writing e on top of the second n.

6. thronn has been changed to throne by writing e on top of the secondn.

7. In addition to Hildreth Hosea Smith , professor of modern languages, the faculty in 1866 included David Swain , president and professor of law; James Phillips , professor of mathematics; Charles Phillips , professor of civil engineering; Fordyce Hubbard , professor of Latin; Manuel Fetter , bursar and professor of Greek; Solomon Pool, adjunct professor of mathematics, who was regarded as being a Union sympathizer; and William Martin , professor of chemistry, who attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army. The writer omits Andrew Hepburn , professor of metaphysics, logic, and rhetoric, who may have been on a leave of absence

8. Swain was knock-kneed.

9. Kemp Plummer Battle , son of Judge William H. Battle and related by marriage to James Smith Battle , reported the incident without naming names in his history of the University:
A trick played on a Professor at a later date was very dangerous, although intended only for amusement. The Professor's chair was on a hollow box in front of, and fastened to, which was a desk, all rudely made of pine. Shortly before the recitation opened, two youths placed under the box a ball of gunpowder to which was attached a time-fuse lighted. When all were assembled the explosion came with unexpected violence. Although the Professor was projected into the middle of the room, no one was injured. W. H. S. Burgwyn, a model student, who had "smelt gunpowder" in actual battle, was earnestly attentive to his French lesson, then being recited. The sudden noise and smoke transported him to a field of battle in Virginia. He leaped to his feet and gave the appropriate order, "Steady, boys! Steady!"
The guilty youths were so alarmed that they consulted counsel, but their names were never known until they became staid Senators and Trustees of the University. (1:578)