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Chapter 17

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume II by
William K. Boyd

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 19
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
Chapter 18
Academies and Higher Education

Between 1783 and 1860 intellectual life in North Carolina underwent a transformation as notable as the changes in political and economic organization. Its manifestations are found in the rise of private schools and colleges, the expansion of the press, the foundation of professional societies, the genesis of literature, and the advent of a certain pride in the possibilities of life in North Carolina.

The real index of educational interest was not the public schools but the academy. The collapse of the restrictions on the incorporation of schools, maintained by the British Government during the colonial period, was followed by the grant of charters to academies by the legislature. In 1777 the noted Queen's Museum was incorporated as Liberty Hall Academy; in 1779 Science Hall at Hillsboro and Granville Hall in Granville County received charters; likewise Smith Academy at Edenton in 1782. With the return of peace in 1783 incorporation of academies increased, the number chartered from then until 1860 being 321. Practically every county in the state had one or more of these institutions. Their location and dates of incorporation by counties were as follows:

County No. of Academies Years of Incorporation
Alamance 1


Anson 10

1791, 1800, 1802, 1821, 1822, 1822, 1829, 1833, 1842, 1854

Ashe 1


Beaufort 6

1808, 1822, 1829, 1830, 1831, 1860

Bertie 8

1806, 1807, 1823, 1825, 1832, 1850, 1850, 1850

Bladen 3

1797, 1810, 1850

Brunswick 1


 p355  Buncombe 3

1805, 1818, 1834

Burke 3

1783, 1828, 1858

Cabarrus 2

1810, 1812

Camden 3

1810, 1819, 1830

Carteret 4

1807, 1810, 1823, 1842

Caswell 4

1802, 1805, 1818, 1847

Chatham 8

1786, 1797, 1817, 1818, 1831, 1832, 1833, 1854

Cherokee 1


Chowan 2

1800, 1833

Cleveland 2

1848, 1848

Craven 2

1798, 1812

Cumberland 10

1799, 1809, 1830, 1831, 1831, 1832, 1832, 1847, 1854, 1854

Currituck 2

1789, 1835

Davidson 5

1823, 1825, 1833, 1854, 1854

Davie 1


Duplin 8

1785, 1801, 1813, 1814, 1825, 1828, 1834, 1842

Edgecombe 15

1793, 1813, 1822, 1823, 1823, 1824, 1824, 1825, 1826, 1827, 1830, 1835, 1842, 1847, 1850

Franklin 10

1786, 1802, 1814, 1821, 1842, 1847, 1847, 1847, 1850, 1854

Gaston 1


Gates 3

1820, 1832, 1832

Granville 9

1799, 1810, 1811, 1813, 1835, 1842, 1854, 1860, 1860

Greene 5

1805, 1812, 1813, 1825, 1835

Guilford 8

1798, 1809, 1816, 1823, 1833, 1833, 1835, 1854

Halifax 7

1809, 1810, 1814, 1819, 1820, 1821, 1846

Haywood 2

1809, 1860

Hertford 6

1797, 1809, 1830, 1847, 1848, 1848

Hyde 1


Iredell 7

1814, 1821, 1822, 1834, 1844, 1848, 1854

Johnston 3

1819, 1821, 1848

Jones 3

1807, 1818, 1854

Lenoir 6

1785, 1802, 1817, 1828, 1842, 1850

Lincoln 2

1813, 1821

Martin 3

1816, 1830, 1850

Mecklenburg 4

1811, 1821, 1821, 1834

Montgomery 4

1797, 1818, 1819, 1824

Moore 5

1799, 1805, 1809, 1811, 1833

Nash 6

1817, 1818, 1826, 1827, 1828, 1832

New Hanover 8

1783, 1804, 1833, 1834, 1847, 1850, 1850, 1854

 p356  Northampton 1


Onslow 7

1783, 1783, 1791, 1809, 1810, 1824, 1850

Orange 10

1784, 1814, 1818, 1819, 1824, 1829, 1838, 1850, 1852, 1860

Pasquotank 4

1804, 1807, 1809, 1820

Perquimans 6

1806, 1816, 1817, 1820, 1830, 1831

Person 1


Pitt 6

1786, 1814, 1830, 1830, 1831, 1848

Randolph 7

1798, 1824, 1828, 1838, 1842, 1850, 1854

Richmond 5

1788, 1789, 1804, 1809, 1829

Robeson 13

1793, 1793, 1806, 1808, 1812, 1819, 1823, 1826, 1831, 1833, 1848, 1848, 1850

Rockingham 4

1801, 1819, 1819, 1825

Rowan 4

1784, 1798, 1806, 1838

Rutherford 2

1806, 1838

Sampson 5

1821, 1825, 1827, 1834, 1850

Stokes 5

1809, 1824, 1832, 1833, 1834

Surry 2

1818, 1833

Tyrrel 2

1819, 1842

Wake 12

1801, 1818, 1824, 1826, 1827, 1829, 1830, 1832, 1833, 1848, 1854, 1854

Warren 5

1786, 1820, 1822, 1833, 1842

Washington (Tenn.) 1


Washington 1


Wayne 6

1810, 1813, 1818, 1832, 1846, 1848

Wilkes 3

1805, 1810, 1819

The academies, while varying one from another in detail, had certain general characteristics. In their curricula emphasis was placed on the classics, mathematics, and formal English. In addition "ornamental subjects" such as music, painting, and needlework were offered in the female departments, and sometimes in the male departments bookkeeping, natural philosophy, and astronomy. Some institutions went no further in their curricula than the modern high school; others, notably Newbern Academy, duplicated two years of college work and offered courses in logic and moral philosophy. Nearly every institution also required religious instruction based on compulsory church attendance, the Catechism, and textbooks on religion. In government and discipline the authority  p357 of the trustees was strictly applied. They prescribed the curriculum, enacted rules of conduct for the students, defined the rights of the masters, conducted public examinations, and even administered discipline. Teachers were recruited from various sources; the clergy, especially those of the Presbyterian Church, furnished a large proportion; likewise the University. A common type was the roving master who rarely taught more than a few seasons at one place. Salaries varied from $400 to $1,000. Income was derived from tuition fees and, until prohibited by law in 1825, from lotteries. Lancastrian methods were employed in academies at Fayetteville, Raleigh, Newbern, and in Mecklenburg County, between 1814 and 1825.

Two variations from the academy were the military and the manual labor schools. The impetus for the former seems to have been the war spirit that pervaded the nation during the controversy of the United States with France and England between 1803 and 1812. In 1810 Archibald Murphey conducted schools for the training of the militia in Stokes and adjoining counties. Similar work was undertaken by Mr. Wren in Northampton and other eastern counties. Summer schools of military training were advertised during 1812 at Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Louisburg. The first military academy was that of D. H. Bingham, a graduate of Partridge Military School, Connecticut, established at Williamsboro, Granville County, under the name of Southern Military School. It was later removed to Littleton, then Oxford, and finally to Raleigh, where it collapsed. Similar schools were also established at Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Raleigh before 1840. However the martial spirit in education was not so strong in North Carolina as in the neighboring states and the early military schools did not flourish. But in the last decade before 1860 the idea of military training received a new impetus. The North Carolina Military Academy at Charlotte was chartered in 1858 and the Hillsborough Military Academy in 1859; each had a curriculum higher than that of the average academy.

The manual labor school reflected the Pestalozzi-Fellenburg ideal, popularized in the United States by Theodore D. Weld. Its underlying theory was that mental training alone  p358 made the student effeminate, undermined morals, and created a false sentiment that labor with the hands is degrading. A practical argument was the opportunity for the student to become self-supporting. The earliest type of this institution was established at Fayetteville. It was chartered in 1833 as the Donaldson Academy and Manual Labor School. A subscription of $14,000 was raised in the community and the school opened in 1834. The principal was Rev. Simeon Colton, a Presbyterian minister who had taught in a similar institution in Amherst, Massachusetts. After a few years the manual labor feature was abandoned. In 1833 the Greensborough Manual Labor School was chartered under the auspices of the Presbytery of Orange.

Manual labor was also a feature of the early days of Davidson and Wake Forest colleges. A description of student labor at the latter institution has been preserved in the following letter:

Brother Meredith, — Taking it for granted that you would be pleased to learn some of the particulars of our operations here, I have taken it upon myself to give you a brief detail of our internal movements, and I might say, external movements; for never was a set of fellows kept so constantly on the go. I will begin at the dawn of day, when the loud peals of the bell arouse us from our sweet repose. We are allowed about fifteen minutes to dress ourselves and wash, when the bell summons us to prayers. At this second sound of the bell, the whole plantation seems alive with moving bodies; a stream of students is seen pouring in from every direction — some, while on the way, adjusting the deficiencies of their dress, which they had not time fully to arrange while in their rooms — some with vests with wrong side out — some with eyes half open — and all in haste to reach the chapel in time to answer to their names. Prayers being over, just as the sun raises his head from behind the distant forest, the Virgil class to which I belong, commences recitation. Other classes are reciting at the same time. At half past seven, the bell rings for breakfast; a few minutes after which, study hour commences. Every one is now kept up at the top of his speed; some in recitation, and others preparing for recitation, until 12 o'clock, when the bell announces the dinner hour; and almost immediately after this we start at the same mental race. This is kept up through all the classes until three o'clock, when the bell rings long and loud for the toils of the field. While the bell is ringing the students assemble in the grove in front of the dwelling house:— some with axes, some with grubbing hoes, some with weeding hoes, and some empty handed, all in a thick crowd. You must now imagine that you see  p359 Mr. Wait in one place, Mr. Armstrong in another, and Mr. Dockery in another. Mr. Dockery, though a student, frequently takes the lead of one company. Now the roll is called, when as their names are called off, the students take their appropriate stations around their respective leaders, axes with axes, hoes with hoes, and then we start, each one following his chief. Those with axes make for the woods, where they fell the sturdy oaks and divide them into rails; the grubbers take the field, and sweat with heavy blows over the roots and shrubs that have been encroaching upon their clear land. Those with weeding hoes find much variety in their employment; sometimes they cut down cornstalks, sometimes they take up leaves, and now you may see them in the barn yard piling up manure. We students engage in everything here, that an honest farmer is not ashamed to do. If we should draw back from anything that is called work, we should feel that we had disgraced ourselves.

Those who are empty handed make up the fences, and harden their shoulders under heavy rails. The fact is we are always busy — always ready for recitation and always ready for work. We are cheerful and happy — merry in a joke and hard to beat in a hearty laugh. We are sometimes tired when we quit work, but never so bad off that we cannot outstrip a common fellow when the supper bell rings. I am attached to the mauling corps and know but little about the other companies. Mr. Wait leads our company — when we reach the woods our coats are laid off, and we set to with a good will and hard blows. Our chief sets the example:

"Nec non Aeneas opera inter talia primus

Hortatur socios, paribusque ascingitur armis."

Blistered hands we consider here scars of honor, and we show them with as much pride as Marius exhibited his scars to the wondering multitude. That you may form some idea of our execution, I will state that two of our corps yesterday mauled one hundred and twenty-seven rails in two hours and a half, and that the fence corps, led on by Mr. Armstrong, in two evenings, made a fence and staked it near a half mile in length, and most of the rails were carried on the shoulders at least three hundred yards. You now see that we are not afraid of hard work. A little bell calls us from the field — we enter the chapel for prayers, and immediately after take supper. We now have about half an hour for amusement, when the bell again calls to study, etc.​1

Neither at Wake Forest nor at Davidson did the manual labor plan meet expectations. The young men "felt that they had come to college rather to learn how to escape the dusty toil of the fields and not to have the chain of hard labor riveted on them. Their experience proved that three hours of rough  p360 farm work in the morning begot such fatigue and drowsiness as disqualified them for afternoon study, and the afternoon toil was even worse for their studies. Between faithful labor and hard study life became a burden, the temper soured and the freshness and elasticity of youth was crushed." Nor was the manual labor plan a success financially. At Wake Forest in 1835 the average earning of each student was $4.04. At Davidson "some of the students who professed skill in the use of tools were allowed to labor in mechanical pursuits, especially carpentry, while the remainder were divided into three grades, as to proficiency and strength, and two or more classes, as to time of labor on farm, garden, or clearings. The first or stronger grade was to receive a reduction of three dollars a month on board bills, and the second grade a reduction of two dollars and forty cents a month, while the feebler grade got a reduction of only one dollar and eighty cents per month, for three hours of labor a day." In 1840 the hours of labor were reduced from three to two a day, and the remuneration received a corresponding reduction. In 1841 still another change was made according to which each student was to receive an apportionment of one half acre of ground, or more if he were ambitious in that line, to be cultivated at his own expense and discretion, but only in hours of recreation. It is not surprising therefore that the manual labor plan was abandoned at Wake Forest in 1838 and at Davidson in 1841.

Originality in education was not found in the academies or the common schools but in the University of North Carolina, the second state university to be chartered in the South and the first to open its doors. Its inception may be traced to the forty-first article of the state constitution of 1776, the last clause of which provided that "all useful learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more universities." No record exists as to the purpose or concept that inspired this statement. It may have been simply to guarantee the right of incorporation, denied by the Crown except to institutions dominated by the church of England, or it may have been to establish an institution supported by the state. Not until 1789 was any action taken. Then, largely through the efforts of William R. Davie, were incorporated the Trustees  p361 of the University of North Carolina, with the right to choose their own successors. Their duty was to collect funds for the institution, select a president and faculty and to make laws and regulations for its government, provided such were not contrary to "the unalienable liberty of the citizens or the law of the state." The site of the institution was not to be within five miles of the seat of government or of any of the court towns, and the state treasurer was to hold all funds collected, on which six per cent interest was to be paid. As an inducement to benefactors, those contributing £10 were entitled to have one student educated free, and the public hall of the library and four of the colleges should be called by the names of one or another of the six persons who should within four years contribute the largest sums for the University. To the institution went the name of the state, but there was no appropriation except the schedule of arrears due from sheriffs and other officers prior to 1783, and also escheats. Among the original trustees were Samuel Johnston, James Iredell and Alfred Moore, the latter two soon to become judges of the Supreme Court of the United States; John Stokes, first Federal District Judge of North Carolina, and John Sitgreaves, his successor; four members of the Federal Convention, Williamson, Blount, Spaight, and Davie; the first three state judges, Spencer, Ashe, and John Williams; one clergyman, Rev. Samuel E. McCorkle; Willie Jones, the anti-federalist, and McClaine, his federalist opponent; Joseph Winston, the military hero; James Hogg, a wealthy merchant; and John Hay, the eminent lawyer.

Seven days after incorporation the trustees organized and then, and also at other meetings, proceeded to lay plans for the institution. Senator Hawkins and Doctor McCorkle were appointed to secure information regarding the administration of the colleges and universities in the United States. Lawyers were appointed in each judicial district to collect arrears, from which over $7,000 were realized. In 1791 the legislature was asked for a donation and after a powerful appeal by Davie, $10,000 were given — the only direct appropriation from the state treasury in the ante-bellum period. For a location various places were considered. Choice was finally fixed  p362 on New Hope Chapel, the present Chapel Hill, because of its convenience, it being the meeting point of roads from the coast to the mountains and from Petersburg, Virginia, to the heart of the piedmont region. Another consideration in its favor was the donation of approximately 1,380 acres of land by twelve citizens of the vicinity. On October 12, 1793, the cornerstone of the first building (Old East) was laid and on January 15, 1795, the University was formally opened with one building and a president's residence, a faculty of one (Dr. David Ker) and no students. By the end of the academic year a tutor in mathematics had been added and there were forty-one students.

A notable feature of the early years was the curriculum. A plan of instruction adopted by the trustees in 1795 through the influence of Davie provided for professor­ships of moral and political philosophy (including history), rhetoric and belles lettres, natural philosophy and chemistry, as well as languages (Latin, Greek and English), and mathematics. Thus the natural and social sciences and literature were given an equality with the classics and mathematics. In fact a diploma, though not a degree, was offered those students who took the full course with the exception of the classics. The object of instruction was avowedly to make "citizens capable of comprehending, improving, and defending the principles of government, citizens, who from the highest possible impulse, a just sense of their own and the general happiness, would be induced to practice the duties of social morality." Later, after Davie left the state in 1805, there was a reaction toward the classics and only one diploma was offered, that which carried a degree, for which Latin and Greek were prerequisites; but never were these languages required through the entire four years of college work. Science vindicated its recognition — especially Geology in which Olmsted and Mitchell attained distinction. The ideal of public service overshadowed general culture prior to 1860. Among the alumni were one president of the United States (Polk), and one vice president (King), seven cabinet officers (Eaton, Branch, Mason, Graham, Dobbin, Thompson, and Badger), eight senators (Branch, Brown, Graham, Haywood, Mangum  p363 of North Carolina, and Nicholson of Tennessee, Benton of Missouri, and King of Alabama), forty-one members of the national House of Representatives, thirteen governors of North Carolina, three of Florida, two of Tennessee, one of Mississippi, and one of New Mexico, and numerous state judges and members of the state legislature.

Another characteristic of the institution was its relation to politics and religion. The prevalence of skepticism in the faculty and student body was as notable as the scarcity of ministers in the board of trustees, yet the teaching force was recruited largely from the Presbyterian clergy. Also, the public men most keenly interested in the institution were mainly federalists. Consequently the republican leaders frequently attacked it as a source of aristocracy and undemocratic ideals. It is not surprising, therefore, that the state was laggard in its financial support. Endowment which enabled the institution to exist was derived from arrears and escheats, from benefactions, notably that of Benjamin Smith, who gave warrants for 20,000 acres in Tennessee, and of Charles Gerard, who also left over 13,000 acres in Tennessee. The escheats, derived from the unclaimed warrants for military service, proved a godsend; through them the institution fell heir to over 100,000 acres west of the mountains, from which approximately $200,000 were realized.

Among the early presidents two stand out in pre-eminence, Joseph Caldwell and David L. Swain. The former during his administration (1804‑1835) really perfected the organization of the institution, ably defended its right to exist, procured scientific equipment, secured the services of Olmsted and Mitchell, and as an advocate of public schools and internal improvements did much to ally the university with the forces of progress beyond its walls.​a Swain retired from politics to accept the presidency in 1835. He gave the institution greater popularity, emphasized the idea of service to the public by establishing a department of law in 1845 and a chair of agricultural chemistry in 1854. By 1860 the enrolment of students reached 430 and the faculty numbered 18.


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Joseph Caldwell

President of the University

Around the University centered the first efforts for higher  p364 education. By 1830 a second movement was under way, which resulted in the organization of denominational colleges. Its genesis is found in a number of conditions. On account of sectionalism and poor transportation the University did not reach all sections of the state. This was particularly true of the region just east of the mountains and beyond. Hence in 1820, at a public meeting in Lincolnton, it was decided to establish a Western College "somewhere southwest of the Yadkin River" because "the more western counties of the state are distant from Chapel Hill, which renders it inconvenient for their youth to prosecute their education there." A charter was granted by the legislature in 1820. Subscriptions for  p365 nearly $60,000 were taken, but when the trustees decided to build at Lincolnton they found it impossible to collect more than twenty per cent. Then in 1824 the trustees decided to locate the college in Mecklenburg County and released all subscribers from their obligations. With this action the history of the institution ends, for it was never organized.

There was also a feeling that higher education as it existed did not reach the masses, and that a new type of institution was needed which would directly influence economic conditions. Hence Robert Potter in January, 1827, introduced a bill in the legislature for a political college, to be located in Wake County, which the state should endow with $220,000. Its faculty should consist of a president and four professors, who should teach agriculture, the art of war, political economy, and morality. Its students, apportioned among the counties according to taxes, should be educated as apprentices at public expense for three years, and on completion of their college course should be assigned to such duties at the expense of the school as the trustees should require. Thus, it was hoped, the college and its alumni would improve agriculture, put a new spirit in the militia, and create a better type of citizen­ship. The bill failed, but it illustrates a conviction that not only more education but a new type of school was needed.

The most effective cause of the new movement for higher education was religion. Against the University there was much prejudice on account of alleged skepticism and free thought among its founders and early faculty. The great revival which swept the state from 1800 to 1811 was followed by smaller waves of evangelism. This deepened the religious consciousness; and it in turn created a demand for institutions sound in religious doctrine, in which candidates for the ministry and also the sons of religious people could be trained without danger of compromising their faith. Moreover the strongest organization through which people were bound to one another and could be reached was the church. It was therefore natural that the demand for more educational facilities should express itself through church organizations.

Leadership was taken by the Baptists. One phase of the  p366 division in the denomination between 1821 and 1830 was the advisability of an educated ministry and the need of schools. At the first session of the Baptist State Convention in 1830 it was reported that an educational fund of $11,406 had been accumulated, and the convention authorized the instruction of young men in private schools. At the second session a plan for a Baptist Literary Institute was adopted, to be located on the lands of Dr. Calvin Jones in Wake County, with a manual labor feature. Its purpose, according to the "Board of Managers," was to "enable young ministers to obtain an education at moderate terms, and train up youth in general to a knowledge of science and practical Agriculture." To this end  p367 each student was to labor with his hands three hours a day and furnish himself with "an axe and a hoe, a pair of sheets and a pair of towels." Thus were united the practical, the moral, and the intellectual. In 1833 application was made to the legislature for a charter. The bill for incorporation was introduced by Hon. William H. Battle. It met bitter opposition from the Primitive Baptists, led by Joshua Lawrence. There was also deep prejudice against the bill on the theory that the incorporation of trustees chosen by a religious body would violate that principle of the state constitution which forbade the establishment of one religious society in preference to another. On the same ground there was opposition to the Greensboro Manual Labor School, whose trustees in the original bill were to be elected by the Presbytery of Orange. Finally the charter was granted with the casting vote of the Speaker of the Senate, William D. Mosely. Singular features of the charter were its limitation to twenty years, the self-perpetuating board of trustees, the property restriction to $50,000, and the absence of any exemption of property held from taxation. The school was opened in February, 1834, with Dr. Samuel Wait as president and only teacher, and twenty-five students. The hall of instruction and dormitories were the carriage house and cabins of the Jones plantation. The following year an additional teacher was employed, also two tutors in 1836. In 1838 the school was reorganized, the faculty was increased, the manual labor plan was dropped, and a new charter under the name of Wake Forest College was secured, with power to confer degrees, to hold property to the value of $200,000, exempt from taxation; but the duration of the new charter was also limited, fifty years being the period. Most of the faculty were from the North, graduates of Brown University and Columbian College. In 1838, also, the first college building was completed. In 1841 a loan from the State Literary Fund was obtained. This debt and others were repaid during the presiding of Washington Manly Wingate, whose administration was begun in 1854 and lasted until 1879.


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Samuel Wait

First President,
Wake Forest College

The Presbyterians were also alive to the need of a college. Certain ministers of the denomination had been interested in the attempt to establish a western college. That institution  p368 failing to materialize, a new effort was made based entirely on religious needs. In 1835 the Presbytery of Concord adopted the following resolution, submitted by Rev. Robert Hall Morrison: "Resolved, That this Presbytery, deeply impressed with the importance of securing the means of education to young men, within our bounds, of hopeful piety and talents, preparatory to the gospel ministry, undertake (in humble reliance upon the blessing of God) the establishment of a Manual Labor School; and that a committee of the Presbytery be appointed to report at the next meeting of the Presbytery the best measures for its accomplishment and the most favorable places for its location." Overtures were made to the  p369 Presbyteries of Morganton (N. C.) and Bethel (S. C.), which agreed to co-operate. Subscriptions amounting to $30,000 were taken. A farm of 496 acres in Mecklenburg County was purchased, and the school was named Davidson College in honor of General William L. Davidson, who lost his life at the battle of Cowan's Ford during the Revolution. Buildings were erected and the institution was opened in March 1837, with a president, Rev. Robert Hall Morrison, one professor, and a tutor. The manual labor feature, as previously noted, was not successful and was abandoned in 1841.


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Robert Hall Morrison

First President,
Davidson College

The institution had three characteristics of note. One was its relation to the Presbyterian Church. According to its charter, granted by the legislature in December 1835, the trustees were chosen from the presbyteries supporting the college. By the constitution of the college the trustees must be "members in full communion of the Presbyterian Church" and the teachers were required to take the following vow: "I do sincerely believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. I do sincerely adopt the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, as faithfully exhibiting the doctrines taught in the Holy Scripture. * * * I do solemnly engage not to teach anything that is opposed to any doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith, nor to oppose any of the fundamental principles of the Presbyterian Church Government, while I continue a teacher or professor of this Institution."

No less interesting were the finances of the college. In order to raise funds four hundred scholar­ships of $100 each were offered for sale, each entitling the purchase to tuition for twenty years. Thus 8,000 years of tuition were offered for $40,000. While some immediate financial relief was secured, the scholar­ships in the long run proved a liability; they were farmed out by the purchasers, thus depriving the college of tuition fees. Greater assistance than scholar­ships was the legacy of Maxwell Chambers in 1854, amounting to $250,000. As the charter of the college limited its holdings to $200,000, the excess was not received but went to the next of kin. This  p370 was the largest benefaction to any college in the state prior to 1860 and placed Davidson on a sound financial base.

Finally, the work of the college was notable for its emphasis on the classics and mathematics. Little heed was given to the current demands for educational reform, the intellectual outlook was conservative, and for this reason the number of students did not increase with the increase of resources.

Last of the more important denominational colleges to be established was Trinity. As Methodism in North Carolina had its origin in a wave of evangelism which rose in Virginia, the churches in the state were not grouped into a separate administrative unit until 1838, when the North Carolina Conference was organized. Long after that date many churches within the bounds of the state were under the jurisdiction of the Virginia, the South Carolina, and the Holston conferences. Educational ties were with Randolph-Macon College of Virginia. But in the academy movement Methodist impulses were prominent. One institution of lasting importance was Union Institute in Randolph County. It was organized in 1838 by Reverend Brantley York, a peripatetic teacher and a local minister of the Methodist Church. In 1842 his place was taken by Braxton Craven, also a local minister of the same church, under whose leader­ship the institution in 1851 was rechartered as Normal College, with the purpose of preparing teachers for the common schools. The college was permitted to license teachers. In 1852 the privilege of granting degrees was conferred, the governor of North Carolina became ex officio president of the Board of Trustees, the superintendent of common schools ex officio its secretary, and a loan of $10,000 from the Literary Fund was also authorized. As a training school for teachers the institution did not prosper; teaching was not really a profession, many teachers left before completing the course, and Calvin H. Wiley, the superintendent of common schools, favored institutes in each county rather than normal schools as the best means of teacher training. Hence in 1856 the curriculum was refashioned into that of a college of arts. For moral and financial support President Craven turned to the North Carolina Conference and in 1856 formal relations between that body and Randolph-Macon  p371 were severed and an agreement was made with Normal College by which its trustees should be elected by the Conference, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees, a visiting committee should be appointed by the Conference, and the trustees should raise $20,000 for the college with the approval of Conference. In 1859 the institution was rechartered as Trinity College, all relations with the state being severed. Thus within twenty years an academy expanded first into a college for teachers, then into an institution of liberal arts allied with the Methodist Church. In 1860 there were a faculty of six and an enrolment of 194.

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Braxton Craven

First President,
Trinity College

Such were the origins of the larger male colleges. Three  p372 others were chartered before 1860; Floral College at Maxton, in 1847, under Presbyterian influence; Catawba College at Newton, in 1851, under the auspices of the Reformed Classis of North Carolina; and North Carolina College at Mount Pleasant, projected by the Lutheran Synod in 1859.

Increasing interest in education was also manifested in the foundation of institutions for women; some were academies, others took the name of institute, nine assumed the name of college. The oldest was Salem Female Academy, organized in 1802 by the Moravians. Greensboro Female College was the second institution for women chartered as a college in the South (1836), but instruction was not begun until 1846. Saint Mary's School, founded by Rev. Aldert Smedes in 1842, was widely patronized by the Episcopalians. The Baptists, through the Chowan and Portsmouth associations, established Chowan Baptist Female Institute in 1848 and the Baptist State Convention was sponsor for Oxford Female College, established in 1851. The Presbytery of Concord established Statesville Female College in 1857. Private schools for  p373 young women attracted considerable capital and enterprise; every section of the state and many of the larger towns had one or more seminaries or female colleges; Greensboro two (including Greensboro Female College), Warrenton two, Murfreesboro two, and Charlotte, Raleigh, Oxford, Asheville and Goldsboro, each had one. Governor Ellis in 1860 made the following survey of the increase of denominational and private institutions:

1840 1860
Number of Male Colleges 3 6
Number of Female Colleges​2 1 13
Students in Male Colleges 158 900
Students in Female Colleges 125 1,500

Thus, principally between 1830 and 1860, the outlook for higher education underwent distinct improvement, while the number of academies increased rather than diminished with the advent of common schools.


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Salem Female Academy

The Author's Notes:

1 Quoted from Coon; North Carolina Schools and Academies, p208. "Mr. Wait" was president of the institution.

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2 Apparently he included seminaries, academies, and other institutions for women.

Thayer's Note:

a It was during Rev. Caldwell's tenure as president that the University's observatory was founded: it is usually considered the first college observatory in the United States (although the University of Virginia can technically lay claim to the precedence: see "Early Astronomy at the University of Virginia").

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Page updated: 14 Oct 12