French taught by Frenchman left memorable legacy

Source: French taught by Frenchman left memorable legacy

“There had been pious concern [at the University of North Carolina] that French taught by a Frenchman might inculcate immoralities. The university’s president, David Swain, recommended to the Board of Trustees that any tutor would have to be ‘an educated American.’ This nativist injunction may not have been unconnected with the sad tale of Charles Marey, who had taught French in Chapel Hill in the late 1830s. Marey was ‘a Frenchman born,’ as well as ‘a man of good accomplishments and handsome physique,’ whose ‘usefulness was ruined by his fondness for ardent spirits.’

“One day the president heard a great din in Marey’s classroom, entered to find him drunk and the class happily out of control. Swain is said to have grimly said, ‘Mr. Marey, I will take charge of this class. You are relieved, sir.’ To this, Marey loftily replied, ‘If you give this order as president of the university, I obey. But if you give it as David L. Swain, I demand satisfaction!’

“The former seems to have been the case, for Marey left Chapel Hill immediately. Reports drifted back that ‘he had been killed in a brawl in Charleston.’ ”

– From “Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860″ by Michael O’Brien (2004)


Elizabeth City State University’s Beginnings, 1891

Source: Elizabeth City State University’s Beginnings, 1891

Elizabeth City State University principal and students in 1899.

Principal Peter W. Moore and students at what’s now Elizabeth City State University in 1899. Image from ECSU Archives.

On March 3, 1891, legislation passed creating a Normal and Industrial School in Elizabeth City. The school was founded with the express purpose of “teaching and training teachers of the colored race to teach in the common schools of North Carolina.”

The bill began in the House of Representatives and was championed by Hugh Cale, an African American who represented Pasquotank County. Cale, who was a free person of color before the Civil War, had been involved in African American education immediately following the Civil War and served on the Pasquotank County Board of Education.

The campus of what’s now Elizabeth City State University, circa 1938-39.

The campus of what’s now Elizabeth City State University, circa 1938-39. Image from ECSU Archives.

Read the rest…


NC to George Washington: Don’t despair, Your Excellency

Source: NC to George Washington: Don’t despair, Your Excellency

“During the mid-1780s, [George] Washington was convinced that time running out for the United States. As if he needed instruction on how to meet the challenge, the leaders of North Carolina who had dragged their feet on ratification of the Constitution reminded Washington of how hard it was to bring the critics and the doubters around to supporting the new government.

“In a letter sent to Washington in May 1789, the governor and council observed, ‘Your Excellency will consider (however others may forget) how extremely difficult it is to unite all the People of a great Country in one common sentiment upon almost any political subject, much less a new form of Government materially different from one they have been accustomed to. ‘

“They were optimistic. After all, ‘We sincerely believe that America is the only country in the world where such a deliberate change of Government could take place under any circumstances whatever.’

“Washington hoped the North Carolinians were right….”

— From “George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation” by T.H. Breen (2016)


Census Tips: 1800 Census

Source: Government and Heritage Library Blog

1800 map of NC

The second federal census occurred in 1800 census and contained more details about the ages of people in the household than recorded in the 1790 census. More age ranges for free white men and women were added. Slaves and all other free people (except American Indians who were not taxed), are still in the same groups – all slaves counted together, all other free people of color counted together.

The new age categories for free white men and women are: under 10 year, 10-16 years, 16-26 years, 26-45 years, 45 and up. This brings up a question – What if a person was exactly 16, 26, or 45? It is important to know, 10-16 means those who are 10, but under 16, so the category covers 10-15. In the same way, 16-26 indicates those who are age 16, but under 26, so the category includes 16-25. Following suit, 26-45 refers to age 26, but under 45, which is why the final  group is “45 and up”. Some blank charts keep the categories the way they appear on the census, but others are modified to show the true age range. See below for links to free printable blank charts.

There are two published indexes of the 1800 census for North Carolina; however, they differ in the number of heads of households (Leary, 439). The Government and Heritage Library has the index published by Elizabeth P. Bentley, which according to Leary, contains 61,000 names while the version from Ronald V. Jackson contains only 60,000 names.

As with all census records, spelling variations are very common and based on many things, such as accents. Enumerators were not allowed to ask how a name was spelled. My southern Foxworthy family was found in an Illinois census as Coxweathen, for example. It is important to be aware of these variations, even with common names, such as Smith, Smyth, Smythe, Smithe. If you are using an index, whether online or in print, you might still have difficulty finding your ancestor. Take a look at a post from November on viewing original census microfilm when you hit a brick wall while searching for your ancestor in the census.

Race can be another tricky issue in the census. Census takers were not allowed to ask a person’s race; rather, they based their recording on observation. Because of this, some free African Americans were counted as white. If a potential ancestor’s race does not match other documents, just remember it’s all about what was seen and perceived. Free African American research in antebellum North Carolina is my specialty. I have often seen a family marked as Black one year, Mulatto the next, and White the third year.

Read more at Government and Heritage Library Blog.

New Gallery exhibition celebrates student fashion at UNC

The North Carolina Collection Gallery has a new exhibit — From Frock Coats to Flip-Flops: 100 Years of Fashion at Carolina — open through June 5, 2016.


While these two pieces have fifty years between them, they share the same Carolina spirit. The sweater is from the 1920s, and the overalls are from the early 1980s. Both were worn to sporting events during their time.

The exhibition focuses on the years 1900 to 1999, although the oldest pieces of clothing come from 1892. Come see what a frock coat, Earth Shoes, and flannel can teach us about the social history of the 20th century.


Doors at Dix Hospital Opened, 1856

Source: Doors at Dix Hospital Opened, 1856

The main building on the Dix campus, circa 1940. Image from the State Archives.

On February 22, 1856, the new “Insane Hospital of North Carolina”—renamed Dorothea Dix Hospital a century later—admitted its first patient, suffering from “suicidal mania.” Previously, families kept mentally ill members at home or local governments confined them in jails or poorhouses.

Nationwide social reforms during the 1830s and 1840s sparked interest in state-run hospitals for the medical treatment of mentally ill patients. In 1848, mental health crusader Dorothea Dix travelled to North Carolina from Massachusetts and personally lobbied legislators for an asylum.

Read the rest at NC History Today.