North Carolina Education - Mecklenburg County

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Mecklenburg County

In 1770, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter III - naming and authorizing trustees to build and manage Queen's College in the tow of Charlotte within Mecklenburg County. The Act directed the trustees to first meet at the existing Grammar School in Mecklenburg County on March 1 of next year. King George III rejected this college in 1772.
In 1771, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter IX - authorized the creation of the position of Vice-President with the same powers and authority of the President in his absence. The Act was obsolete after King George III rejected the college in 1772.
In 1777, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter XX - naming and Incorporating trustees to manage an existing school in Mecklenburg County named Liberty Hall.
In 1778, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter XXIII - authorizing the commissioners of the Town of Charlotte to lay out eighty (80) more lots in said town, and for the monies collected by the sale or rent of these 80 new lots "once in every Year, to be applied to the Use of Liberty Hall, in said Town."
In 1784, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter XXIX - that due to various reasons Liberty Hall was in a state of decay, and the remaining trustees now believed "it would be more eligible to have an academy for the education of youth at or near Salisbury, in the county of Rowan," the legislature named new trustees for the removal of Liberty Hall and the construction of a new Salisbury Academy in Rowan County.
In 1789, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act - Chapter XXVII - to incorporate the Centre Benevolent Society, which included members in Rowan and Mecklenburg counties, that "come under a certain system of laws and regulations for the improvement of useful knowledge, for the encouragement of literature, to alleviate the distresses of the unfortunate, and to supply tho wants of the poor and indigent" in both counties.

On March 12, 1835, the Concord Presbytery adopted Robert Hall Morrison’s resolution to establish a “Manual Labour School” dedicated to the education of young men preparing for the ministry. Morrison would later become the institution’s first president. William Lee Davidson, son of the Revolutionary War general of the same name, sold the presbytery 469 acres of land on which to locate the school and remained an important benefactor. The land was strategically located near a public road in a rural area that was in close proximity to four substantial towns—Charlotte, Concord, Statesville, and Salisbury. In August, the founders announced “that the Manual Labor Institution which we are about to build be called Davidson College as a tribute to the memory of that distinguished and excellent man Gen. Wm. Davidson who in the ardor of patriotism, fearlessly contending for the Liberty of his country, fell (universally lamented) in the Battle at Cowan’s Ford.”

South Carolina’s Bethel Presbytery pledged to support, both spiritually and financially, the college that would be so close to its border. In the early days, congregations in the communities surrounding the college were generous with their time and labor—helping to clear the land, hauling debris, building fences, and making and hauling bricks. The students also contributed to the labor force at the college. As part of the manual labor contract, they were required to work three hours per day. Although this arrangement was designed to assist students of limited resources, the college shifted to a classical curriculum in 1841. The college struggled financially until Salisbury planter Maxwell Chambers left his will, probated in 1856, making Davidson the most heavily endowed school south of Princeton at that point in time. Future President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, who had lived for a time in Wilmington studied at the school in the 1873-74 term.

Co-education began at Davidson College during the American Civil War when President John Kirkpatrick’s five daughters attended to boost enrollment. Thenceforth, the daughters of faculty and capable local women were permitted to take classes but could not earn degrees. The first female degree candidates were upper-class transfer students admitted in the fall of 1972. The college has retained its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church.

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 early history of Queens College can be traced to attempts by pioneer settlers to establish a Presbyterian school of Charlotte in 1770. An Act by the colonial General Assembly authorized the school in 1770. However, King George III revoked its charter in 1772, doubting the wisdom of creating a Scots-Irish institution that could perpetuate anti-royalist views in the colony. The trustees continued to apply for a charter and operated the school under the name of Queen’s Museum. During the American Revolution, school trustees sympathized with the colonial cause and many future leaders, including William R. Davie and Andrew Jackson, were educated there. When independence was declared, the school became known as Liberty Hall Academy. It relocated to Salisbury in 1784.

In 1821, the Male and Female Academy Corporation was chartered to operate two separate institutions to educate men and women. In 1851, sessions for females were suspended due to an epidemic in Charlotte and a fire that destroyed the school building. By 1857, the trustees of Charlotte Female Institute organized a stock company, erected a building on College and Ninth Streets, and recruited Rev. Robert Burwell and his wife to head the Institution. The Burwells ran the Charlotte Female Institute until 1872, when Rev. Burwell left to lead Peace Institute.

Elizabeth Long re-organized the school as the Seminary for Girls and kept the institution open during difficult times following Burwell’s departure. In 1896, when the Concord and Mecklenburg Presbyteries chartered the Presbyterian College for Women, the Seminary for Girls merged with Presbyterian College. In 1896, the Concord and Mecklenburg Presbyteries chartered the Presbyterian Female College. The Seminary for Girls merged with the new college and, in 1912, anticipating a move to the present campus in the Myers Park residential area, it became Queens College.

In 1930, Queens College affiliated with the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina through a merger with Chicora College in Columbia, South Carolina. Restructuring of the Presbyterian Church gave Queens College ties to both the South Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic synods. The school became co-educational in 1987 and changed its name again in 2002 to become Queens University of Charlotte in order to reflect the institution’s current curriculum and to distinguish it from other institutions internationally bearing the Queens name.

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 North Carolina Military Institute was organized in the 1850s by a group of Charlotte businessmen led by Dr. Charles J. Fox. The cornerstone of the first building was laid in 1858. The building and educational programs it housed were patterned after those of the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York.

D. H. Hill, previously a professor at Davidson College, guided development of the curriculum and served as president of the board of directors. Hill instituted stiff regulations on conduct for his cadets based on training he received as a student at West Point and through his Mexican War experiences. After receiving its charter in 1859, the Institute enrolled approximately 125 students ranging in age from twelve (12) to twenty-one (21). The first class of cadets graduated in 1860 and served as some of the first recruits and training personnel for North Carolina troops at the start of the American Civil War.

At the start of the war, Governor Zebulon B. Vance summoned D.H. Hill and other military strategists to Raleigh to assemble camps of instruction for freshly recruited troops. Hill was placed in charge of Camp Ellis in Raleigh and was joined by many of his faculty and cadets in forming the First North Carolina Regiment. All of the staff officers of the regiment were former faculty members of the Institute. When the regiment was formed, Adjutant General Robert F. Hoke stipulated that the cadets could join the regiment with the consent of their parents and guardians. Once most of the students and all of the leading faculty members had gone off to war, the school was used as a Confederate military hospital.

Following the war, the facility was used as a female academy and later another military school - the Carolina Military Institute (also called the Charlotte Military Institute) was conducted by Colonel J. P. Thomas from 1873 until 1882. After the close of the military school in 1882, the building was used by the Charlotte public school system from 1883 until 1950. Construction of an extension of Independence Boulevard in 1954 led to the destruction of the impressive brick school building.

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

Established in 1867 by the Presbyterian Church, modern-day Johnson C. Smith University was known from that year until 1876 as the Biddle Memorial Institute. Samuel C. Alexander, minister at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, took a lead role in the establishment of a school “for the education of preachers and teachers among the ex-slaves, realizing that only in this way could they be fitted for Christian citizenship.” Around three thousand (3,000) former slaves lived in Mecklenburg County in 1867. Stephen Mattoon was the first president, presiding over the school for fourteen years.

Mary D. Biddle of Philadelphia raised $1,400 for the new school and selected the name to honor her late husband, Major Henry Biddle. W. R. Myers, a wealthy Charlotte businessman, donated the first eight (8) acres of land on Beatties Ford Road for the campus. In 1876, the state legislature formally chartered the school at which time the name was changed to Biddle University. Biddle Hall, the centerpiece of the campus, was completed in 1884. The first African American president was Daniel Sanders, who served in the position from 1891 until his death in 1907.

In 1921 and 1922, Jane Berry Smith of Pittsburgh donated funds for a theological dormitory, science building, teachers’ cottage, and memorial gate. In addition she established an endowment in memory of her late husband, Johnson C. Smith. In recognition of her gifts, trustees voted to rename the institution. Consequently, the charter was amended to reflect the new name in 1923. James B. Duke, the tobacco magnate, included the school as a beneficiary of the Duke Endowment, created in 1924, putting in place an affiliation that has benefitted the university greatly over the years.

In 1932, women first enrolled at JCSU. Today the school retains its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, reporting to its General Assembly through the Board of Christian Education. Since 1944 JCSU has been associated with the United Negro College Fund.

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 "Servicemen's Re-adjustment Act of 1944," better known as the "G.I. Bill of Rights" was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. With unprecedented unemployment in post-war America, many veterans took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the G. I. Bill, which included the payment of tuition, as well as expenses for books, fees, and subsistence. Soon the enrollment demands at colleges and universities surpassed available slots for admission. Educational facilities sprang up across the country. One such institution opened in Charlotte in 1946. Known as the Charlotte Center, it offered evening classes at the old Central High School building near downtown. In 1947, Bonnie E. Cone, a mathematics teacher, was asked to direct the center.

Although the demand for such centers had decreased by 1949, Charlotte’s leaders recognized the importance of having a state-supported college in town and convinced state legislators to transform the center into Charlotte College, a two-year institution. Cone became the first president of the college. In 1957, Charlotte College acquired land in northeast Mecklenburg County for a larger, permanent campus, and the following year it became a part of the state’s community college system. The first buildings on the new campus were opened to students in 1961.

In 1963, as part of a statewide expansion, the state legislature voted to make Charlotte College a branch of the newly-created University of North Carolina system. The formal transition and name change occurred on July 1, 1965, when it became the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dean W. Colvard was selected to be the first chancellor.

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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