North Carolina Education - Granville County

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Granville County

In 1779, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter XXV - naming and authorizing trustees to build and manage a new academy to be built and named Granville Hall. The trustees were authorized "with full power and authority to receive into their hands and possession all monies and other personable property, as also to receive a grant in fee for all such land as shall be given in donations, with such uses and trusts as may be necessary for the purpose aforesaid."

The Bingham School has the distinction of being the first military school in the state of North Carolina. Once located in what became Vance County near Williamsborough (then in Granville County), the academy sometimes has been confused with the nationally famous Bingham School. Both were private classical institutions that educated many elite North Carolinians in the 19th century.

Capt. D. H. Bingham founded his Bingham School, formed to offer military training, in 1826. The institution was created to satisfy the need for more accessible education for aspiring military officers. A contemporary North Carolina newspaper, The Star, recorded, “The want of such an institution in the Southern States must be apparent to all, when the difficulty of obtaining admission into the Academy at West Point, from the number of its Students being restricted, and the distance . . . are taken into consideration.”

The military and science academy opened in January of 1827 and, according to the Raleigh Register, offered courses that included history, English, Latin, astronomy, geometry, as well as military law, navigation, artillery engineering and tactics. Bingham acted as the school’s superintendent and the head instructor was Capt. Partridge, an officer who had served with the French Army. The institution’s presence in Williamsborough was short-lived, as it was moved to Littleton in 1829. By the end of that year it moved again to Oxford, back in Granville County.

The Star would grow more critical of the Bingham School over time. The paper criticized the academy in its February 17, 1831 edition, determining that it was unfit to provide appropriate and classical education to its youth. “The Oxford Academy is unquestionably destitute of all those opportunities and advantages indispensable to afford a good education. As regards resources, it is not worth one single cent beyond the proceeds of the Cadets. It has no libraries, scarcely any apparatus and not sufficient buildings for the comfortable accommodation of a large number of persons.”

The paper went on to imply that the connection to the qualified Captain Partridge was nominal at best. “He perhaps makes a flying visit to Oxford once a year, and the Cadets are scarcely warmed by a solitary ray from this sun of science.” The Star also described the four main instructors as unfit to educate the students, as three were too young to be good leaders for students. It was rationalized they did not have enough life experience to truly educate as mentors to other younger men.

Bingham announced the academy’s move to Raleigh in the Raleigh Register in 1831. However, in 1833, Bingham himself left the school and the state, being offered an engineering position on the Dale Town, Woodville & Greensborough Rail Road in Alabama. The military school was taken over by Col. Carter Jones who taught light infantry tactics and cavalry movements. Three years later he moved the school to Wilmington where it operated briefly.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.



Oxford Female College was established in 1850 as a Baptist academy with Samuel Wait, minister and educator, serving as president. Wait is best known as the first president of Wake Forest College, serving there from 1834 to 1845. Due to financial difficulties, the Baptist Church sold the school to John H. Mills, later founder of the Oxford Orphanage in 1857. Mills was able to keep the college open during the American Civil War, but sold it soon after due to low enrollment and rising debts.

Oxford Female College was operated by several different administrators until Franklin P. Hobgood became president in 1880. Hobgood initiated extensive changes including a new name, Oxford Female Seminary, and an overhaul of the curriculum. “Preparatory” and “collegiate” courses were supported by physical activities that encouraged “gracefulness of bearing and movement.” Students wore uniforms and attended daily chapel services. When a fire destroyed the campus in 1904, citizens of Granville County raised money to rebuild the institution “on a larger and more enduring basis.” However, Oxford Female Seminary was not able to endure without Hobgood, closing its doors the year after his death in 1924.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


James Hunter Horner established the Horner School on the outskirts of Oxford in Granville County in 1851. The school, which alternately was called the Horner School, the Graves School, and the Horner Military Academy, remained one of the premier academies in North Carolina throughout its six decades of operation. As Horner aged, his sons continued to operate the school in Oxford until fire destroyed large parts of the campus in 1914. At that time the Horner Military Academy moved to the Myers Park suburb of Charlotte, where it remained until it closed in 1920.

The founder of the Horner School, James H. Horner, was born near Rougemont, in present-day Durham County. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1844 and subsequently taught at the Hillsborough Academy and the Oxford Male Academy before opening the Horner School in 1851. His school centered on mathematics, science, and classical studies, and originally did not have a military focus. The school closed briefly during the American Civil War, during which time Horner served as a Captain in the 23rd North Carolina Regiment. Following his return from service, in 1862, the school reopened and continued operation.

In 1870, Horner partnered with R. H. Graves to form the Horner and Graves School. The facility, still located in Oxford, was moved to Hillsborough in 1874 to occupy the vacant grounds of the former North Carolina Military Academy. Graves died in 1876 and Horner fell ill around the same time, which led to the failure of the school in Hillsborough. In 1876, with the support of his two sons, Jerome and Junius, Horner moved the Horner School back to its original location in Oxford. He remained a teacher at the school, but turned over operation to his sons.

In 1879, Jerome C. Horner, who attended Davidson College and served as principal at the Ablemarle Academy in Edenton, worked for a year at Cape Fear Military Academy. He gained experience for the conversion of the Horner School to a military academy, and upon his return changed the Horner School to the Horner Military Academy. Barracks were constructed for the students and a large schoolroom was used. Horner Military Academy operated in Oxford as one of the premier military academies in the state until its campus was damaged by fire in 1914.

Upon the destruction of its campus in Oxford, Jerome Horner was offered several potential locations in the state to re-establish the school. He moved the Horner Military Academy to Charlotte, onto the grounds of a former school in Myers Park, in 1914. The school continued at the site until 1920, at which time Jerome Horner retired and the academy closed after almost seventy years of operation.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources



The Oxford Orphanage began when the statewide organization of Masons, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, passed a resolution in 1847 indicating that a seminary of learning should be created to educate children, whether poor or rich, whether orphan or not. The committee assigned to create the school proposed that astronomy, natural philosophy, chemistry, geology, electricity and application to machinery, various processes of manufactures, metallurgy, natural history, and engineering be taught. The Masons wanted the students at their school to have as good an education as could be attained anywhere in the nation. On June 24, 1855, the anniversary of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the cornerstone of St. John’s College was laid in Oxford, North Carolina. The building was completed in December of 1857 and opened on July 13, 1858. From the outset the school was unsuccessful. The campus was offered to the state for use as a military school, but, during the war years, served only to house squatters or war refugees.

In December of 1872, John H. Mills suggested that the school should be turned into an orphanage. Trustees accepted his proposal and the former St. John’s College became the first permanent orphanage in North Carolina. Mills moved onto campus and remained in the post until 1884. In February of 1873, the first orphans, Robert L. and Nancy Parrish and Isabelle Robertson, took up residence. In the first year of operation, the orphanage welcomed 136 children, 109 of whom remained at the close of the year. The name of the institution was changed in 1923 to Oxford Orphanage and, in 1994, to the Masonic Home for Children. In 2000, the home launched an ambitious campaign to attain state licensing, improve and expand services, and construct a set of new, handicapped-accessible one-story cottages.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


Mary Potter Academy was launched in 1889 with George Clayton Shaw as principal, a post he held until 1936. Shaw was born to slaves in Louisburg in 1863. His mother, Mary Penn Shaw, had been provided what he described as “a fairly good education” and she instilled the importance of education in her six children, all of whom became educators. George Shaw graduated from Lincoln University (in Pennsylvania) in 1886. He studied at Princeton Theological Seminary before completing studies at Auburn Theological Seminary (New York) in 1890. While in New York, Shaw met Mary Potter, secretary to the Presbyterian Freedmen’s Board and benefactor of the educational improvement of freedmen. Potter provided funding to establish the first school for blacks in Granville County (in the town of Oxford), where in 1888 he founded Timothy Darling Presbyterian Church.

Called Timothy Darling (for Shaw’s teacher) until 1892, the school was funded by the Board of Missions for Freedmen, New York Synodical Society, and Albany Presbytery. It would later serve as a private boarding school, until the 1950s, then as a public high school until 1969. In 1970, Mary Potter became an integrated middle school.

In 1932 Shaw wrote: “How about the thousands of young people who have spent one to ten years with us . . . who came to us in the crude and went out refined, cultured, and polished—and have gone on to serve even as they were served. If Mary Potter is proud of anything it is proud of its success in developing character in sending our men and women into the walks of life who are transforming the thoughts and ideas of the community in which they live.” Local residents and alumni recently have established the Mary Potter School Museum in the Shaw House. Over the school’s history fifty percent of its graduates were natives of Granville County.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


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