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Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume III by
J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 17
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. III
p347
Chapter 16
Educational Development

Thayer's Note: The gentle reader is invited to bear in mind that I did not write the text on this page; I transcribed it from a book published in 1919. It does not reflect my opinions or language, but those of its author and its time.

When the civil war broke out the school system had been firmly established by Calvin H. Wiley. It compared favorably with the systems of the other states and was infinitely better than any other in the Southern states. Already the influence of the schools was beginning to be felt in the state, and one of the most hopeful things in connection with them was the widespread public sentiment in their favor, which was a fact clearly apparent. The state was committed at last to public education, and the promise of the system was very bright when war upset the calculations of every one who had dared to plan for the future.

The war was, of course, a disaster which did irreparable damage not only to the whole existing system of schools, but also to the whole future of public education in North Carolina. It stripped the schools of male teachers and started a process of feminizing education. It led to the release of the counties from the obligation to levy local taxes for school support. It diverted public interest from education. It swept away the major part of the literary fund, which at that time amounted to nearly $2,000,000. And, finally, through its outcome, it left as a legacy to the South the negro problem, which was to prove one of the most persistent and embarrassing obstacles to the re-awakening of public interest in universal education.

Of course, all of these things did not happen at once. Attendance dropped in the first year of the war, and the amount spent on schools was far less; but 65,000 children were in school and more than $100,000 was expended. Wiley, with all his strength, urged the maintenance of the fundamentals of the system, and the press insisted that the schools must p348be kept in operation, the Standard phrasing it, "In the name of the good people, and especially the children of the state, let none of the schools be abandoned," while the Charlotte Democrat tersely said: "The children of the state must be taught to read, war or no war." Governor Vance, in his message of November, 1864, said:

The subject of our common schools is one which I beg you will not forget amid the great concerns of war. * * * I earnestly recommend to your consideration the whole subject. * * * I also suggest that regular teachers be exempted from state military duty whilst engaged in teaching. * * * The common schools should surely be kept going at any cost; and if sufficient inducements cannot be offered to disabled soldiers and educated women to take hold of them, the necessary males should be exempted. * * * Our great system of common schools is, after all, our only true and solid foundation for public education and demands your constant and fostering care.

Thanks to this sort of spirit and the courage and labors of Wiley, the system did not die until the war was over. Wiley's faith never faltered, and he redoubled his efforts, ignoring the fact that his small salary, considering its purchasing power, had practically vanished, firm in his conviction that there would be greater need than ever after the war for the educated man and for the continued education of the youth of the state.

At the beginning of the war he was fearful that the school fund would be used for military purposes, either directly or by investment in doubtful securities. He carried the matter to the governor, stating his fears, and the latter, along with the council of state, entered into an agreement with him to assist in keeping the fund intact. Accordingly when propositions were made in the legislature at its first session to take it for war purposes, executive influence was added to the opposition in the legislature. A rather heated contest followed which terminated favorably to the preservation of the literary fund, and, except in 1863, when $128,000 was borrowed by the state from it, the safety of its securities were not later in doubt. Nor were the securities changed, for, in spite of the pressure to invest in Confederate bonds, the fund remained invested mainly in bank stock which seemed more secure. p349But the banks were ruined at the close of the war by the loss of Confederate securities and the repudiation of the state war debt, so the result was much the same. The other investments were more secure and had a par value of about $1,000,000, but the sum finally saved from the wreck amounted to scarcely more than a third of this.

Wiley still gave all his thought to plans for improvement of the system and secured in December, 1864, the passage of a law providing for graded schools. He was literally a man of one idea, and even in the midst of a devastating war thought only of what had ever been North Carolina's supreme need — the education of all the people. It was only this single-mindedness of his which saved the schools. Their continued existence was little short of a miracle, when one considers the condition of the state. Nothing better indicates the hold which public education had secured upon the minds and hearts of the people than this war record, which Wiley thus briefly described in his last report:

To the lasting honor of North Carolina her public schools survived the terrible shock of cruel war and the state which furnished the greatest number and the bravest troops to the war did more than all the others for the cause of popular education. The common schools lived and discharged their useful mission through all the gloom and trials of the conflict, and when the last gun was fired, and veteran armies once hostile were meeting and embracing in peace upon our soil, the doors were still open and they numbered their pupils by the scores of thousands.

Dr. Joyner aptly adds:

He did not say, but he might have said with truth, that to the eloquence, the zeal, the vigilance, the courage, the devotion, the wisdom, the tact, the power, the energy and the influence of the great superintendent of her public schools was mainly due the credit of this honorable record.

When the end of the war came with economic and financial prostration, under the pressure of the most absorbing political problems and grave doubts of the future, public attention was turned elsewhere. Provisional Governor Holden, when he appointed provisional state officials, for some reason unknown, unless because of Wiley's opposition to his candidacy for governor in 1864, ignored him and did not appoint a successor. p350When the convention of 1865 was about to meet Wiley submitted his report, which Holden declined to receive. Wiley asked that it be transmitted to the convention and the governor again refused to recognize him. Wiley protested without avail. He and Worth were great friends, and the latter sought to get the report before the convention.

On October 19 the convention, by ordinance, declared vacant all state offices in existence April 26, 1865, whose incumbents had taken the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States. As it happened, Wiley had never taken the oath, and he, therefore, claimed the office and submitted his report to the legislature in 1866 which received and printed it. But on March 9 a law was passed abolishing the offices of superintendent of common schools and treasurer of the literary fund. The same law allowed the county courts to lay and collect taxes for school support, but it was not likely that this permission would continue the school system. Towards Wiley there was manifested some bitterness of feeling, which undoubtedly to some extent influenced the legislature. But the lack of sufficient funds to carry on the system in any adequate way, the poverty of the people, and the uncertainty prevailing as to the future would of themselves serve to explain the action of the legislature. At the same session the House passed a bill, which the Senate killed, appropriating $70,000 to assist the schools.

At the last meeting of the legislature before the passage of the reconstruction acts a law was passed allowing towns and cities to establish public schools. Another law, passed at the same time, required the county courts to appoint county superintendents and local trustees. These acts indicate that in the minds of the legislators the suspension of the schools was but a temporary matter, and that in time the system would be restored.

One of the chief purposes of the northern settlers in North Carolina, if their words can be taken as evidence, was to establish an effective system of common schools based upon the New England plan. They ignored entirely the system which had already been established and which was temporarily inactive, and made their demand for the creation of schools for p351all one of the main defenses of the policy of Reconstruction. There is little doubt that much of this sentiment was real, but, obscured by the greed which characterized the activities of the aliens, it did little for the cause of education in the state. From the beginning, their plans were threatened by the hostility which was aroused by the determination of many of them to prevent the separation of the races, their ignorance of the people of North Carolina and of the conditions existent in the state, and the economic and financial prostration which prevented the expenditure of the necessary funds to maintain the system.

When the convention of 1868 assembled there was much interest in its probable action in relation to education. The committee on education was composed of eleven republicans and two conservatives. Seven of the former were carpet-baggers and two were negroes. The section on education reported by the committee made no provision for separate schools for the two races, and twice the convention voted down amendments offered to secure separation. The carpet-baggers were planning mixed schools and the decision of the question was, under the constitution, a matter for each county.

The new constitution provided that the legislature should provide by taxation or otherwise for a general and uniform system of public schools, and it further provided that a four months' school should be maintained in every district. The legislature was given power to compel the attendance of all children for a period of sixteen months. Three-fourths of the poll tax was assigned to the school fund. The superintendent of public instruction was made a constitutional officer and was associated with the other state officers in a board of education which replaced the literary board. The composition of this board put the control of the schools into political hands and it has remained there ever since — not the least of the evils inherited from the carpet-baggers.

No action in connection with the schools was taken until the regular session of the legislature in 1868, further than the appointment of committees in each house. The Senate committee consisted of seven republicans, one of them a negro, p352and the House committee of ten republicans, one a negro, and one conservative.

Governor Holden in his message urged the establishment of a general and uniform system of schools with separation of the races but with no difference in the schools. In January a bill providing for the establishment of a school system was introduced into the Senate and sometime later into the House. In the Senate it was the subject of much debate but was amended very little except that a provision for separate schools was adopted. Finally, in April it became law. Under it, the income from the old literary fund, now the public school fund, was to be apportioned among the counties according to school population. The commissioners of each county were to levy taxes for sites and for building or renting schoolhouses and township school committees were to maintain a sufficient number of schools for at least four months in the year. The duties of the school boards and of the county examiners were defined and a course of study outlined. It was provided that three-fourths of the money received from the poll tax should be spent on the schools and the further sum of one hundred thousand dollars was appropriated by the legislature for their assistance. Could this law have been actually put into operation by an honest and good-intentioned state government the story of public education in North Carolina after the war would have been very different. But the obstacles were almost insuperable. The state and the people were almost bankrupt, the new status of the negro and the general knowledge that the more radical elements of the republican party were seeking to establish mixed schools made the matter of the schools a serious problem, and for the next two years the state was administered by a shamelessly corrupt government. It is easy to see today that there was really no hope in the situation.

The new superintendent of public instruction, Rev. S. S. Ashley, was a carpet-bagger from Massachusetts who was probably himself of mixed blood. He was an earnest fanatic of doubtful honesty who was bent, to the exclusion of other matters, on the establishment of mixed schools. He had some ability but was utterly unable to gain public confidence. He p353devoted most of his official attention to the preparation of elaborate reports which were notable for their large plans for the future and their small record of things already accomplished.

In November, 1868, he reported the beginnings of organization; in August, 1869, he believed that something would be begun in the following October and that by 1870 many schools would be in operation. He calculated that the school fund would be three hundred thousand dollars and that the Peabody Fund would help the cities and towns. But, as events soon showed, no taxes were forthcoming for the year ending September, 1869, nor did the legislative appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars ever materialize. The poll tax produced very little. For the year ending September, 1870, more than one hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars was collected for schools but only about thirty-nine thousand was spent upon them. Still, according to Ashley's report, by the same time about fourteen hundred schools were in operation with close to fifty thousand pupils, nearly half of whom were colored.

Assisting Ashley in the work of superintendence was J. W. Hood, a negro carpet-bagger, who had been a member of the convention of 1868. Without any warrant of law the board of education had appointed him assistant superintendent of public instruction for the colored schools, and with far more energy and ability than was shown by Ashley, he entered upon the work of organizing schools for the negroes. These schools were the beneficiaries of considerable assistance from numerous societies and religious organizations in the North and also from the Freedmen's Bureau. The latter had begun the establishment of negro schools in 1865 and when its existence was terminated in 1869 it was supporting wholly or in part more than four hundred schools with more than twenty thousand pupils. No figures can be obtained as to the expenditure of the bureau but it could scarcely have been less than two hundred thousand dollars. Both white and colored schools received assistance from the Peabody Fund.

In the attempt to work out the problem of establishing p354a school system many difficulties appeared. Party strife was rampant and the schools, as has been seen, had been definitely put under political control by the constitution. It thus lost many of the friends it should have made among the class by whose support alone could success be won. Teachers were untrained and incompetent, and, even of this sort, very scarce. Books were difficult to obtain. School officials were uninterested and careless in the majority of cases and there was no public drive behind the schools to make them go. Of course the lack of funds was the greatest weakness. In 1869 the investments of the literary fund which still survived, were sold, part of them with considerable suspicion of fraud, and invested in special tax bonds which were soon worthless, so this source of income had practically disappeared. In 1870 a special tax was levied to pay the special appropriation by the state, but only a small amount was collected. The final financial blow came in 1870 when the Supreme Court held unconstitutional that part of the law of 1869 which provided for local school taxes, because school expenses were not necessary within the meaning of the constitution and because the levy would prevent the preservation of the equation between poll and property taxes required by the constitution. This decision put a heavy handicap on the schools for some years to come.

Leaving the public schools for the time being, let us follow the University through the years of Reconstruction.

During the entire period of the war, the University of North Carolina never closed its doors. Year by year its student body decreased until there remained only a mere handful, all disabled by service or too young to go to the front. With the students went the younger members of the faculty, but the older professors, led by President Swain, continued at their posts, determined that the exercises of the institution, begun in 1795, should not be suspended.

At the close of the war the economic prostration of the state and the financial condition of the institution itself both militated against any rapid return to prosperity. Its debts, not including arrears of salaries, amounted to more than $100,000 while the bulk of its property was invested in bank p355stock which became worthless with the repudiation of the state debt. In 1866 the legislature helped somewhat by the appropriation of $7,000 and the next year by the transfer of the land scrip granted the state by Congress under the Morrill Act of 1862 for the support of an agricultural college. North Carolina was entitled to 270,000 acres which were sold for 50 cents an acre, $10,000 down and the rest payable when Congress should recognize the state.

The attendance was very small and it became evident that failure was near. Two professors resigned in 1867 and Governor Worth at a special meeting of the trustees urged that some steps be taken to save the institution. President Swain, it was clear, had outgrown his usefulness but was entirely unaware of the fact. Kemp P. Battle in consultation with Dr. Charles Phillips, determined to secure the remodeling of the institution and they secured the resignations of all the faculty including the president. These were presented at the meeting of the trustees and all were asked to hold over until their successors should be chosen which they promised would be done in 1868.

In the meantime, the new constitution had been adopted, and by its provisions the existing board of trustees, which had been chosen by the General Assembly, was replaced by the one chosen by the board of education, consisting of the state officers, who were ex‑officio trustees. In consequence of this the outgoing board at their last meeting re-elected the president and faculty and abandoned the new scheme of reorganization.

The new system of control which went into effect in July, 1868, was purely political and was designed to be so. The governor was chairman of the board of trustees and also of the executive committee, which consisted of the board of education and three trustees chosen by the trustees. This political character was apparent when the new board of trustees was finally elected. The constitution required that they should be selected, one from each county, but this was not followed because of the desire of the board of education to place upon the board of trustees certain prominent republicans, chiefly carpet-baggers. Of the new board, eighteen were alumni, but p356only five members had previously served on the board. Almost every member was a partisan republican, and the executive committee was dominated by Governor Holden. It was a matter of common knowledge, long before the meeting of the board, that a clean sweep would be made of the old faculty and that a "loyal," that is to say partisan republican, University would be established. The change was received with deep anger and frustration by the friends of the old University, who were not slow to express their feelings and to contrast the governor of 1868, bent upon making the University republican, with the editor of the Standard, who in 1856, led the hue and cry against Professor Hedrick whose only crime had been a quiet desire to vote for Fremont.

The first meeting of the trustees was held in June. The resignations of Swain and the faculty which had been presented to the old board were accepted and a new executive committee of the trustees was given full power to put into operation a "thorough and efficient organization of the University upon the proper and liberal basis contemplated by the constitution," to elect a president, and resume exercises. The one limitation placed upon them was that no one should be elected to the faculty who had not "an established national reputation as a scholar and educator." The presidency was then offered to L. P. Olds, Holden's son-in‑law. He declined and delay followed. Talk was common that the college was to be opened for negroes as well as whites and the carpet-bag members of the board favored it, but it was never voted or even seriously considered by the native white trustees.

In January, 1869, Rev. Solomon Pool was elected president. He had been an adjunct professor but had left to enter the internal revenue service. He was a man of some ability but unknown even to the state and owed his election to the influence of his brother, John Pool, and to his vehement and outspoken desire that the University should be organized on an entirely partisan basis.

The selection of professors was made on a somewhat similar plan. As professor of mathematics, they chose Alexander McIver, a graduate of the University and a member of the faculty of Davidson College. He was able, active, and entirely p357honest, but owed his election chiefly to the fact that he had practically been forced from his position at Davidson on account of politics. Fisk P. Brewer, a graduate of Yale and a man of undoubted scholarship was elected professor of Greek. He was at the time at the head of a negro school in Raleigh. He injured himself very much in public estimation by boarding in a negro family for some time after his arrival in Chapel Hill. David S. Patrick, a nephew of Judge Settle, also a graduate of the University, was chosen professor of Latin. He was without qualifications or reputation. James M. Martling, of Missouri, a brother-in‑law of Ashley, was elected professor of belles-lettres. He also lacked reputation or other qualifications. George Dixon, an Englishman, was made professor of agriculture. What influence led to his appointment cannot be discovered.

The University was of course doomed under this organization. It opened for students in March, 1869, and a small number appeared, all from republican families or from the village of Chapel Hill. The attendance during the first year was thirty-five, twenty-five of whom were in the preparatory department. The second year the number rose to fifty-three, twenty of whom were preparatory pupils. By now it was evident that the institution would have to close since there was no money. President Pool took up his work as a revenue officer for which he was far better adapted, and the faculty began to leave. To his government position Pool gave all his time and, when urged by a close friend in Chapel Hill to resign the presidency, replied, "I would not resign for $50,000."

In 1870 the end came and all the students having disappeared, the president and three professors still held on. Finally at a faculty meeting in 1871, Pool being absent, McIver introduced a resolution declaring that no member of the faculty wanted to stand in the way of a revival and it was clear that they did not have the confidence of the public. Patrick voted with him and Brewer opposed the resolution. Martling was in Raleigh working with Ashley on the Standard. Soon afterwards McIver succeeded Ashley as superintendent of public instruction and began to advocate the complete reorganization of the University. By this time both Martling and p358Brewer were gone. The state educational conference in 1873 adopted resolutions demanding the reorganization of the institution free from political or sectarian control or interference.

During the session of the legislature in the spring of 1872, after that body had shown itself favorably inclined towards the public schools, the question of the University was brought to the personal attention of the members. There was a strong disposition to revive it upon a non-partisan basis, but the chief difficulty was the attitude of Solomon Pool, who did not wish to surrender the title of president. The trustees adopted a resolution asking the assistance of the alumni and, in response, fifty-five of them met in Raleigh and expressed their entire willingness to aid if the institution was taken out of politics. A quorum of the trustees conferred upon the matter and instructed McIver to send to each member of the board an account of what had been done and to request them to resign. At first there was a very favorable response and resignations came in rapidly. Then the Pool influence was brought to bear upon the threatening situation. John Pool wrote McIver that he disapproved of the whole plan and sent out a circular letter to the trustees, urging them in behalf of the republican party not to resign and, if they had already done so, to recall their letters. In consequence of these facts, the plan for revival slumbered until the legislature of 1872‑1873 met and adopted the amendment to the constitution proposed by the preceding legislature, by which the appointment of trustees was placed in the hands of the legislature. This was ratified by the people in 1873 and a new board of trustees was chosen, which met in February, 1874, and organized with William A. Graham as chairman and Kemp P. Battle as secretary and treasurer. Governor Caldwell denied the validity of the constitutional amendment and refused to attend and warned McIver not to turn over the seal and records. A friendly suit was decided in favor of the new trustees. The legislature of 1875 agreed to pay the interest on the land scrip fund which had been invested in special tax bonds and the way was open for reorganization. The trustees met in the spring of 1875, and, having adopted a plan of reorganization, p359elected a faculty, three of whom had served in the former one. Dr. Charles Phillips was elected chairman, and the doors of the institution were opened in the autumn with much ceremony. The next year, Kemp P. Battle was chosen president and the University began slowly to climb back to health and strength that it might enter with its full powers upon a career of greater usefulness, free from any taint of politics, in the service of all the people.

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Campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1907

When the conservative legislature of 1870 met it cut Ashley's salary, took away his clerks, and allowed nothing for traveling expenses. Nothing more in relation to the schools was done at this session and when the next session came Ashley had resigned to seek a more congenial atmosphere in a negro school in New Orleans,a and Governor Caldwell had appointed Alexander McIver to the position. Unquestionably this helped the school system. McIver was both honest and earnest and deeply desirous of furthering the cause of public education. At this session the law of 1869 was repealed and a new and better one passed which made more liberal provision for support and also provided for some training of teachers. Special poll and property taxes were provided for and the counties were also authorized to levy special taxes. Its chief defect was its failure to recognize the district as the fundamental unit of the whole system.

McIver was defeated for the republican nomination for superintendent in 1872 by a bit of political jobbery and James Reid, an old, retired minister of extremely radical tendencies, was nominated and elected over Nereus Mendenhall, an excellent man who ran on the conservative ticket. Before he took office Reid died and Governor Caldwell, ignoring McIver, appointed Kemp P. Battle. McIver refused to yield and was sustained by the Supreme Court in his contention that no vacancy had occurred, and thus held over until the next election.

During these years the outlook began to brighten. The school fund was much larger, more teachers were examined, and a number of teachers' institutes were held through a special appropriation for the purpose and the aid of the Peabody Fund. And yet but little had been accomplished. While p361the principle of support of schools by public taxation had been adopted, the necessary machinery had not been created. Local taxation was a failure, the school funds were constantly raided by unscrupulous officials and used for other purposes, and the people were indifferent, no public sentiment being created behind the schools. Nor was indifference the worst obstacle. The fear of mixed schools was widespread and, seriously complicating the whole situation, was destined to continue as long as the constitution was silent on the subject. The agitation over the civil rights bill greatly increased this feeling. McIver, when asked what would be the effect upon the schools of the passage of the bill, said frankly that if the people were compelled to choose between mixed schools and no schools they would prefer the latter. As a result of the agitation the building of schoolhouses stopped, teachers sought new occupations, and a bill for the establishment of city school systems was dropped. And yet for the year ending with June, 1873, more than $400,000 was spent on the schools and more than 100,000 children were enrolled, 70,000 of them white. The session, however, was only about ten weeks in length.

In the summer of 1873 an educational conference was held in Raleigh which was attended by men of both political parties and of all the leading religious denominations. The question was discussed fully, addresses were made by prominent leaders, and strong resolutions were adopted including the following:

That the general educational interests of this State are deplorable and alarming in a high degree, and are such as to require the noblest and most self-sacrificing efforts of every true son of North Carolina to relieve her from such serious embarrassment.

That this convention respectfully but earnestly request and urge every friend of the State, the people, and particularly the clergy, all public speakers and the press, to be zealous and constant in making efforts to arouse the whole people to a realizing sense of the paramount importance of education, and especially of common schools, to the rising and coming generations, and of the overruling necessity for universal, active and cordial co-operation of all, to avoid the blight and the disgrace of ignorance.

A permanent organization was formed, and a second convention the following year planned an educational campaign p362and resolved to put pressure on the legislature. The succeeding year saw nearly 200,000 children enrolled and an expenditure of almost half a million dollars, but all efforts to increase the length of the term failed.

McIver had proved himself efficient and should have been retained as superintendent. Here the conservatives had a fine opportunity to take the office permanently out of politics. As it was he was not even nominated by the republicans, who selected as their candidate Thomas R. Purnell. The democrats nominated Stephen D. Pool. Neither was in any way qualified for the position. Pool was elected and within eighteen months had used money from the Peabody Fund to purchase a residence for himself. His infuriated party, which had made official corruption the chief count in its indictment of the republican party, forced him to resign and Governor Brogden appointed John Pool to fill the position although he too was merely a discredited politician without a trace of qualification for the position.

In 1875 the constitutional convention inserted a provision specifically requiring separate schools and the way was thus cleared for improvement of the system. The sweeping democratic victory in 1876, which completed the redemption of the state, should have brought this improvement. It had undoubtedly some beneficial effects upon the schools but it is unquestionable that following it came, if not a slowing down, at least a failure of any new impetus which in effect was a reaction. This was part of a general reaction against the extravagance of Reconstruction but it was more due to popular indifference to the subject and the widespread economic depression. A growing number argued that education was not the function of the state and that it was impossible to hope for universal education even if it were desirable. The injustice of taxation of those able to educate their own children to educate the children of those who had no property and paid no taxes was frequently urged and there was a widespread feeling that it was too much to ask that the negroes be educated at white expense. Thoughtful men did not employ these arguments. They were agreed that education was necessary and that in a free public school system lay the p363blighting curse of illiteracy and ignorance which lay upon the state. But the mass of men are unthoughtful, the ratio increasing in proportion to the amount of illiteracy, and in North Carolina the need of thoughtful men was acute. It was true that the schools still advanced, with increasing attendance, with growing popular interest in them, and with improved methods. The governors, one by one, urged the question of public education upon the attention of the legislature, but there was lacking the driving force that could carry the gospel where alone it could effect its saving purpose — into the homes and hearts of North Carolinians — and make it a real force, not merely to the thoughtful group, but to all classes, which would make men think, and, thinking, forget the narrowing and confining bonds set by poverty, and the demands of a new and crass industrialism, and, looking alone to the future of their children and the commonwealth, with intention usher in a new period of state history. Possibly the time was not yet ripe; certainly the leader was not there.

The legislature of 1877, urged by Governor Brogden and Governor Vance, passed a law giving authority to the townships to levy taxes for the support of graded schools, provided the tax was approved by a majority of the qualified voters at a regular called election. The legislature also provided a normal school for each race and paved the way for city school systems. Under the authority of the former law the first summer school in the United States was opened at the university in the summer and continued with growing attendance and increasing usefulness until 1881, when the legislature, yielding to sectional demands, established four others, and so divided the available funds that none were strong.

The colored normal school at Fayetteville ran for eight months of the year and was successful from the beginning. In 1881 four others were established.

Public opinion condemned the obvious defects of the state's educational system and such demand as there was for improvement found expression in Governor Jarvis, ever the sincere and earnest friend of education, who urged the raising and expending of more money. The school tax was raised p364but not sufficiently to support the schools for four months. In 1883 he renewed his plea to the legislature and throughout his term he constantly called the attention of the people to the subject.

In 1881 the office of county superintendent was established, a distinct advance, although the incumbents were given so small a financial return that no man could give more than a small part of his time to the duties of the office, and so it failed in most instances to attract strong men. Yet much good was done in the way of centralizing school administration. The same law made provision for county institutes and many were held. County certification of teachers also began.

The establishment of city graded schools was commenced by Greensboro in 1875, followed by Raleigh in 1877, Salisbury in 1880; Goldsboro in 1881; Durham, Charlotte, and Wilmington in 1882; and Winston in 1885. By 1891 sixteen towns were maintaining local systems.

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Typical Rural High School of Today

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A Typical Country School Prior to the Educational Revival

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The Type of School Which Has Largely Replaced It

In the midst of this period of real though slow growth, the decisions of the Supreme Court presented a serious obstacle to progress. An act of 1885 authorized the county commissioners to exceed the constitutional limit of taxation for the benefit of schools. But the court held the act invalid as not coming within the provisions of the constitution which authorized a special tax for a special purpose with the approval of the legislature. Two other decisions of the court held unconstitutional a special tax on property of white owners only, levied to pay for white schools and the division of the poll taxes between the two races according to its source.

In 1889 the legislature abolished the absurdly numerous normal schools which had through division of funds and energy lost all significance, and in their place appointed Charles D. McIver and Edwin A. Alderman as state institute conductors to canvass the state, hold educational meetings, conduct institutes, and awaken public interest. The two years which followed were probably in the long run the most fruitful ones in North Carolina educational history. These two superbly gifted men constituted themselves educational evangelists and conducted a state-wide revival which made converts p365by the thousand. Everywhere they preached the gospel of universal education by the state and aroused an interest and enthusiasm hitherto confined to politics alone and usually to national politics. To their work has been given the full credit for the equivocal position on the matter of education assumed by the Farmers' Alliance, which was just now assuming a dominating position in state politics. This is scarcely accurate since the Alliance all over the South demanded educational reform, but their work furnished beyond doubt a real stimulation of the demand which was soon to rise for an improvement in public education. The more obvious results of the campaign were the establishment of the Normal and Industrial College for white women, of which McIver became president and Alderman a professor, and the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical (later the Agricultural and Technical) College for Negroes. The fundamental result was the preparation of the soil and the sowing of the seed from which Charles B. Aycock was to reap so rich a harvest.

The fusion victory in 1894 caused no change of importance in the school system, but when in 1897 the entire state government passed into the hands of the fusionists, changes began. The new superintendent was Charles H. Mebane, an earnest and enthusiastic teacher under whom the office became a new educational agency. He was a live wire. He ignored precedents and refused to recognize difficulties. He tirelessly sought to attract public attention to the cause of public education and succeeded in employing the newspapers very effectively in behalf of the schools. Politics entered not at all into his calculations when educational matters were at stake, and in a period of intense partisanship he very effectively divorced the schools from politics.

The legislature of 1897 passed a new and very advanced school law. It was premature, however, and hence ineffective. It sought to make local taxation the basis of public school support, and ordered an election on the question to be held in every district. In those which should fail to vote the tax the question was to be resubmitted every two years until it was passed. Every district was to receive from the state p367for three years a sum equal to the amount collected from the special tax, not to exceed $500. But only eleven districts voted the tax. Sixty-six more raised a fund by subscription which was duplicated by the state.

The democrats, upon carrying the state in 1898, decided upon disfranchisement of the negro and, to avoid ultimate disfranchisement of a large number of white men, were forced to accept a new policy of public education and to pledge educational opportunity to every one. The legislature of 1899 repealed the fusion school law but appropriated $100,000 to be apportioned among the counties on the basis of school population. The amendment was submitted and when 1900 came and Aycock was nominated for governor the dominant party committed itself in a new and real way to the aggressive and permanent policy of universal education. Aycock, upon his inauguration, pledged himself to the four years of service which were to give him the title of the "Educational Governor" of North Carolina and to make him one of the best loved as well as one of the greatest men in the history of the state. Said he, in his inaugural:

On a hundred platforms, to half the voters of the State, in the late campaign, I pledged the State, its strength, its heart, its wealth, to universal education. I promised the illiterate poor man bound to a life of toil and struggle and poverty, that life should be brighter for his boy and girl than it had been for him and the partner of his sorrows and joys. I pledged the wealth of the State to the education of his children. Men of wealth, representatives of great corporations, applauded eagerly my declaration. I then realized that the strong desire which dominated me for the uplifting of the whole people moved not only my heart, but was likewise the hope and aspiration of those upon whom Fortune had smiled. * * * We are prospering as never before — our wealth increases, our industries multiply, our commerce extends, and among the owners of this wealth, this multiplying industry, this extending commerce, I have found no man who is unwilling to make the State stronger and better by liberal aid to the cause of education. Gentlemen of the Legislature, you will not have aught to fear when you make ample provision for the education of the whole people. * * * For my part I declare to you that it shall be my constant aim and effort, during the four years that I shall endeavor to serve the people of this State, to redeem this most solemn of all our pledges.

p368 His administration, in accordance with this promise, was one long determined campaign for education which was highly organized and most effective.

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Recent Educational Leaders

Charles D. McIver
Edward K. Graham
C. B. Aycock

Apart from the awakened interest of the people there was but a small foundation to build upon. The situation has been well described by Dr. Edgar W. Knight:

Only thirty districts in the State, all urban, considered education of sufficient importance to levy a local tax for the support of schools. The average salary paid to county superintendents annually was less than one dollar a day, to public school teachers, $91.25 for the term. This meant, of course, that the office of county superintendent was either a "political job," usually given to some struggling young attorney for local party service, or a public charity used to help support the growing family of some needy but deserving preacher; and, further, that there were no professional teachers in the public schools. Practically no interest was manifested in the building or equipment of schoolhouses. The children of more than 950 public school districts were altogether without schoolhouses, while those in 1,132 districts sat on rough pine boards in log houses chinked with clay. Perhaps under all these circumstances it was well that the schools were kept open only seventy-three days in the year, and that less than one‑third of the children of school age attended them. * * * To complicate a situation already sufficiently difficult, the race issue injected its poison into the very vitals of the problem.

General Thomas F. Toon, who had been elected superintendent in 1900, died a year after taking office and was succeeded by James Y. Joyner, then a professor in the Normal and Industrial College, who entered upon his duties with keen interest, high ability, and a vast enthusiasm. He has held the office ever since and to him is due much of the credit for the state's educational progress in that time. When the legislature of 1901 met, the special appropriation was doubled, and in 1909 it was again raised.

The progress in a decade is shown in the following summary of the department.

The annual expenditures for elementary rural schools was increased from $1,018,157.34 to $2,126,695.50, more than doubled.

The average term of the rural white schools was increased from 76 to 93 days, nearly one school month.

The value of rural schoolhouses and grounds was increased from $1,146,000 to $3,094,416, nearly trebled.

Three thousand four hundred and fifty-six new schoolhouses were p369built after 1902, more than one a day for every day in every year.

Expenditures for salaries of white rural school teachers were increased from $621,927.97 to $1,126,059.83, nearly doubled.

The average monthly salary of white rural teachers was increased from $25.39 to $34.47, and the average annual salary from $98.77 to $159.79, an increase of more than 60 per cent in the annual salary.

The enrolment in the white schools was increased from 293,868 to 360,121, an increase of 22 per cent. The total white school population of the state had increased less than 11 per cent.

The average daily attendance in the white schools was increased from 166,500 to 235,872, an increase of more than 41 per cent.

The number of rural white school teachers was increased from 5,570 to 7,047, an increase of 1,477.

The expenditures for salaries of county superintendents were increased from $23,596.85 to $78,071.75; the average annual salary of the county superintendent was increased from $243.27 to $796.65.

The number of special local tax districts was increased from 18 to 1,167. In 1910 about $300,000 was raised by local taxation for the rural schools. Nearly $900,000 was raised by local taxation for the rural and city schools.

After 1905 the number of rural schools having more than one teacher was increased from 851 to 1,355.

The number of rural libraries was increased from 472 to 2,772. In addition, 914 supplementary libraries were established. These libraries contain 265,752 volumes of well-selected books, costing $96,870.

After 1907, when the rural high school law was passed, 202 rural public high schools were established in 93 counties, in which were enrolled in 1911 nearly 7,000 country boys and girls.

Since 1910 the advance has continued. In 1916 the rural school fund was $4,573,931 and the urban fund $2,698,956. The rural school property was valued at $6,135,060; the urban at $5,354,821. More than 22 per cent of the entire fund was raised by local taxation. There were 8,088 schoolhouses with a rapidly increasing average value. Over two‑thirds have been built or rebuilt since 1901. Compulsory attendance began in 1914. One of the most notable and important developments is to be seen in the rise of the public high schools. In 1916 there were 212, exclusive of the city high schools, in ninety-six of the 100 counties with an enrolment of 10,379. Farm life schools are increasing and promise much assistance in settling the rural problems of the state.

The following table gives a comparison of certain significant facts in relation to school growth:

p370 1870 1901 1916
Schools 1,800 7,314 8,088
Teachers 1,590 8,663 14,550
Pupils 41,912 428,560 649,246
Expenditure $42,856 $1,248,157 $6,561,646
Value Property 1,146,000 11,489,881
Local Tax Districts 0 18 1,834
Length of Term in Days 86 124

For the training of teachers the state has a number of agencies. The Normal College and the East Carolina Training School are the largest normal schools for white teachers. The Cullowhee Normal School receives state aid and the Appalachian Training School was established by the state in 1903 to serve the counties of Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, Mitchell, Yancey, Caldwell and Wilkes. The University and several colleges of the state through departments of education and through summer schools have also greatly assisted in this task. For negroes there are three normal schools besides the Agricultural and Technical College at Greensboro. There is also a normal school for Croatan Indians.

In the period following its reopening, the new University had many difficulties to meet and a long hard road was before it. The most outstanding one was lack of funds. Founded by and under the complete control of the state, the state, nevertheless, had done little for it beyond giving it the escheats, the military land warrants in Tennessee, and the land scrip fund. In 1881 the first annual appropriation for maintenance — $5,000 — was made, which in the face of bitter denominational opposition was increased to $20,000 in 1885. In 1887 the land scrip fund was lost, but the annual appropriation by the state was increased at intervals, reaching $25,000 in 1897, $45,000 in 1905, $70,000 in 1907, $115,000 in 1915, and $165,000 in 1917. Occasional appropriations for repairs and improvements were made and in 1905 the legislature gave the money for a chemical laboratory which was the first building erected by the state. Since that time money for a number of buildings and other permanent improvements has been appropriated, and the legislature of 1917 made an annual appropriation p371of $100,000 for permanent improvements. Students came slowly but the nineties saw a great increase which has continued.

Opposition to the University was present in the legislature which chartered it, one member entering a protest against the creation of an aristocracy of education, and opposition has appeared from time to time ever since. Some feeling was manifested in the years following the reopening by certain people who professed to see in it an institution supported by the state for the sons of rich men, a charge utterly without foundation. But the chief enemies have been those who opposed it as being in competition with the denominational colleges. The fight on the University has been long and bitter, amounting at times in fact if not in form to a demand that the University be closed for the benefit of the denominational colleges. At no time has the University opposed the denominational colleges, maintaining with much truth that there was more educational work to be done in the state than that University and all the colleges were doing, and that the growth of the former was a distinct benefit to every other institution of learning within the borders of North Carolina. In spite of the fight against it, in spite of its meagre support, smaller than that of almost any state university, it has risen to the front rank of the southern universities, and has steadily rendered, as means were given it, greater service to the state in every line of activity and endeavor. Its presidents since the reopening have been Kemp P. Battle, 1876‑1891; George T. Winston, 1891‑1896; Edwin A. Alderman, 1896‑1900; Francis P. Venable, 1900‑1914; Edward K. Graham, 1914‑1918.

In the period since Reconstruction the state has broadened the scope of its activities in higher education. The College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was established at Raleigh and has grown steadily, widening its influence and making a place in state service. Generous appropriations from the state and federal governments have enabled it to grow with great rapidity. Its presidents have been Alexander Q. Holladay, 1887‑1899; George T. Winston, 1899‑1908; D. H. Hill, 1908‑1916; Wallace C. Riddick, 1916—. In 1916 p373there were sixty-one members of the faculty and more than 700 students. The buildings had increased to twelve.

In 1891 the Legislature established the Normal and Industrial School, which soon after became the Normal and Industrial College, for the training of the girls of the state. Under the guidance of Charles D. McIver, in reality its founder, who was filled with a passion for universal education, its value and importance was immediately apparent. It too has grown rapidly and its influence upon public education has been incalculable. Not less has been its influence upon the women of the state personally. Dr. McIver died in 1906 and was succeeded as president by Julius I. Foust.

In the denominational colleges there is the same story of growth. Three denominational colleges, Wake Forest, Davidson, and Trinity, were in existence in 1860 and two, Guilford and Elon, have come into existence since the Civil war.

Wake Forest, owned and controlled by the Baptist Church, came out of the war with only a small enrolment. Its endowment which had been $40,000 in 1860 had been reduced to less than $11,000 in 1865. Dr. W. M. Wingate, the president, was a minister of great power and eloquence who had the full confidence of his church. He was succeeded in 1878 by Rev. Thomas H. Pritchard, who, however, soon returned to the pulpit. For a time there was no president, the conduct of the college being under Dr. W. B. Royall as chairman of the faculty. In 1884 Dr. Charles E. Taylor became president. He had just successfully raised an endowment of $100,000 and during his administration there was a great development. When he came to the presidency there were seven professors, 150 students, and three buildings. When he retired in 1905 there were seventeen professors, more than 300 students and seven buildings, and an endowment of more than $300,000. His constructive ability had largely remade the institution. He was succeeded by Dr. W. L. Poteat, under whose administration the progress of the college has been uninterrupted. There were in 1916 a faculty of twenty-three, and a student body of more than 500. The buildings had increased to eight and the endowment was more than $500,000.

Davidson College, the property of the Presbyterian p374Church, like the other colleges in the state, was desperately hurt by the war. Fewer students had been lost because they were younger, but the endowment of $260,000 of 1860 had been reduced to one-fourth of that amount. The presidents have been Rev. L. Kirkpatrick, 1861‑1866; Rev. G. W. McPhail, 1866‑1871; John R. Blake, chairman of the faculty, 1871‑1877; Rev. A. D. Hepburn, 1877‑1885; Rev. Luther McKinnon, 1885‑1888; Rev. John B. Shearer, 1888‑1901; Henry Louis Smith, 1901‑1912; William J. Martin, 1912—. The recovery of the college began about 1871, and commencing during Dr. Shearer's administration, there was a notable advance. In 1916 there were nineteen in the faculty and nearly two hundred students. The endowment and equipment together amounted to nearly $700,000.

Trinity College, the property of the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church, was growing rapidly at the opening of the civil war. But war largely decreased the attendance, President Craven resigned in 1863, be succeeded by W. T. Gannaway, and exercises were finally suspended in April, 1865. In the same year Dr. Craven was re-elected and the doors of the institution were opened in 1866 to a mere handful of students. The college lived only through Craven, who gave himself unstintedly to its preservation and upbuilding. Under his administration it grew slowly and its student body increased. He died in 1882 and W. H. Pegram became chairman of the faculty until 1883 when Rev. M. L. Wood was chosen. Upon his resignation in 1884, John F. Heitman became chairman of the faculty, serving for three years. In 1887 John F. Crowell, a forward looking and progressive man was called to the presidency. His administration lasted until 1894 in which time he showed himself to be courageous in speech and action, a keen student of public affairs, especially in the state, an excellent administrator and an educator of high ideals. He saw clearly that the college was in too remote a place for great success and urged its removal. He carried his point and after some discussion it was finally decided to move it to Raleigh. Just at this time Washington Duke offered to give the college $85,000 if it was brought to Durham, and Julian S. Carr donated the p375site. These offers were accepted and in 1892 the move was accomplished. It was a fortunate thing since it led through greater contact to greater opportunity for growth and service.

Upon President Crowell's resignation in 1894 as president, Rev. John C. Kilgo was elected and served until 1910. When he took charge the college had a faculty of nine men, 153 students and a plant worth $135,000. He won for the college the closer friendship and interest of the Dukes, father and sons, who together bore the financial burden of the college for twenty-five years. Their gifts were generous. Before his death Washington Duke gave the college nearly $500,000 and the two sons together have given more than a million and a quarter.b

During Dr. Kilgo's administration there was a steady growth in students and faculty. He resigned in 1910 and was succeeded by Dr. William P. Few, the present head of the college. In 1916 there were thirty members of the faculty, nearly six hundred students and nine buildings. The endowment was almost a million and a half dollars.

In 1888 the school at New Garden belonging to the Society of Friends was chartered as Guilford College. It has established in the years which have intervened a reputation for good sound training and high ideals. In 1916 it had a faculty of fourteen, 127 students, and eight buildings and a plant and endowment of about $500,000. Its presidents have been: Lewis L. Hobbs, 1888‑1915; Thomas Newlin, 1915‑1917; Raymond Binford, 1918—.

Elon College was founded by the Christian Church in 1889 and opened in 1890. Its presidents have been Rev. W. S. Long, Rev. W. W. Staley, E. L. Moffitt, and W. A. Harper. In 1916 it had a faculty of eighteen, four hundred students, and seven buildings.

In addition to the institutions described there are numerous junior colleges in the state owned by religious denominations as well as a great number of church and private schools which have played no small part in the life of the state and the education of its people.


Thayer's Notes:

a Among the author's many disingenuous or tendentious characterizations. The school was Straight University, founded by the American Missionary Association; Ashley served first as a professor then very soon as acting president (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II.58‑59). Among its other graduates, the liberal arts university educated a number of lawyers, both black and white, who would go on to play an important rôle in the civil rights movement of the mid‑20c. The school eventually merged into Dillard University.

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b In 1924, with the impetus of further financial contributions from the Duke family, Trinity College changed its name to Duke University, under which name it has become distinguished well beyond the borders of North Carolina.


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