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Summer 2009 Newsletter

Annual Meeting to be at Davidson College
Saturday, October 10

Register now for the meeting!

Photo of MacPherson Church
Davidson College Campus,
Photo by Samthegirl,

This October we will be visiting the lovely old campus of Davidson College, one of the best-loved Presbyterian institutions of our state and region. Over the years, the college and its graduates have had a profound influence on the Presbyterian church in North Carolina. Dr. Jan Blodgett, head of the college archives, will be our speaker and tour guide.

In 1835 Concord Presbytery resolved to open a school for the education of young men. It was named for General William Lee Davidson, who died at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford in 1781, and whose son sold the presbytery 469 acres of land for the college. Elm Row and Oak Row were built to house the residential students. The Rev. Robert Hall Morrison was the first president and taught math and science. He and two other professors greeted sixty-four students when the doors opened in 1837.

The students promptly organized themselves into two societies, the Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies, similar to those being formed at other campuses around the country. They met bi-weekly, presented compositions, and held debates on topics as diverse as "Ought students to associate with ladies while pursuing their studies?”, and "Ought the Indians to be driven from the land they occupy?” From the beginning, each society owned a sizeable library for the use of their members. In 1849-50 they each built a hall in which to meet, discuss, and house their books. Meanwhile, the Rev. William H. Foote donated funds to create a library just for the faculty. It was not until 1887 that these three libraries were combined for the use of all.

In 1860 the Phi Society debated whether a state had the right to secede, and in early 1861, whether North Carolina should join the Confederacy. Both were answered in the negative, but when the war had truly begun, only 11 students remained out of 87. Nonetheless, Davidson did remain open throughout the war. There were a number of preparatory students. The daughters of faculty, staff, and residents of the town of Davidson could enroll, but were not allowed to receive a degree. In fact, only one student graduated during the war.

At the end of the war, buildings were in disrepair, food was scarce, and faculty members took students into their homes. Some students joined the local Klan and “frightened the colored community into good behavior.” By the 1870s, the college began to recover financially under the administration of President J. R. Blake. During this period, baseball arrived at Davidson, possibly brought by ex-Confederate prisoners who learned the game from their Northern prison guards. When the railroad came closer to the town, the college became less isolated. Alcohol became an increasing temptation to students, and in 1877 the NC General Assembly banned the sale of liquor within three miles of the campus.

Davidson began to offer pre-medical courses in 1886, and in 1893 Professor John Peter Monroe founded the North Carolina Medical College, the first such to be chartered in the state. Eventually it moved to Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, and then to Richmond, where it became part of the Medical College of Virginia.

The college has had many benefactors over the years. In 1855 a bequest of $250,000 from Maxwell Chambers made it “the richest college south of Princeton.” The Chambers Building was completed in 1860, containing classrooms, laboratories, dormitories, a chapel, the faculty library, and a commencement hall. It served as the main college building until it was destroyed by fire in 1921. New Chambers was completed in 1929. James B. Duke created the Duke Endowment at Davidson in 1924. During the Great Depression, the college never ran a deficit, did not cut salaries, and did not release a single faculty member for financial reasons.

Davidson became racially integrated in 1962 with the enrollment of a student from the Congo. Another came the following year, and two African-American students were admitted in 1964. Although women had increasingly been allowed to attend classes, they were not admitted as degree candidates until 1972.

Our speaker at the meeting, Dr. Jan Blodgett, has been the college archivist for 15 years. In addition to the history of the college, she will be able to tell us about the very modern college of today, offering an excellent education within the Reformed tradition.

Elm Row Davidson College Archives

Photo of Longstreet Church
Elm Row

Our tour will include the college church where we will be meeting; the Old Quad with the 1836 dormitories and the restored society halls; and the cemetery where educator and Civil War General D. H. Hill is buried. He taught mathematics at Davidson in the 1850s and married the daughter of the college president, Robert Hall Morrison.


Photo of Longstreet Church
Congregation House, Concord Road

Davidson College Presbyterian Church was organized at the same time as the college, and met for about fifty years in the college chapel. Until the 1880s, the president of the college also served as the congregation’s minister. After the Civil War the African-American members formed their own congregation, which became the Davidson United Presbyterian Church. The campus congregation moved out of the Chambers Building in 1885 and into its own sanctuary, although it was still on campus. By 1950 the building had become too small, and it was replaced by the current structure. We will be meeting in the Congregation House behind the church on Concord Road (see map on p 6).

The Freshman Riot of 1903, Davidson College

It all started innocently enough.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, February 10, 1903, the freshman baseball team beat the sophomores by a score of 12 -9. Rubbing salt in the wound, a few members of the class of 1906 painted the score on the columns of the main campus building. After hearing some threats, the freshmen compounded their impudence the next day by blocking the exits to the Sophomore Banquet and also the entrance to campus.

Once freed, the sophomores tracked the class of 1906 to a boarding house and proceeded to lay siege for the remainder of the night. According to student accounts, the sophomores had sticks and clubs (probably baseball bats), and the freshmen defended with buckets of rocks and water.

A truce was called at 6 a.m. Seniors, juniors, and sophomores planned a meeting for 7 p.m. to decide appropriate justice. The freshmen, deciding discretion was the better part of valor, left en masse for the train station in nearby Cornelius. They were almost successful in their getaway, being stopped only at the last minute by faculty who had pursued them. Friday’s classes were suspended, and the weekend was spent in conferences and class meetings. On Monday the freshman class finally agreed to a modified apology. By Tuesday the faculty declared the matter settled, and President Henry Louis Smith declared that Wednesday the 18th would be a holiday.
Responding to local and national newspaper reports, the editors of the Davidson College Magazine attempted to place the riot in a better light by declaring, "College troubles are always to be deplored, but the manner of the settlement … will be of lasting benefit to the young men involved, and to all the interests of life on our Campus."

By Jan Blodgett
From the College Archives blog, “Around the D”

Our Spring Tour to be at the Presbyterian Heritage Center at Montreat, April 9-10

Be sure to join us next spring for an inside tour of the new Presbyterian Heritage Center at Montreat. Director Ron Vinson will discuss their holdings, current access to records, preservation, exhibits, their plans for digitization, and their relationship with Columbia Theological Seminary and with PHS in Philadelphia. We will also tour some nearby churches and sites. Mark it on your calendar now!

Register now for the meeting!


President’s Column

It is early August as I write, and your Society’s president has had an active summer. As the only Protestant instructor for the second year at the History of Christianity seminar in Jerome, Idaho, I helped our faculty team lead our adult learners through some of the events marking the history of the faith since 1789. It was great to review my old lecture notes from 32 years of teaching and read many recent publications getting ready for the experience. I may have chance to participate in a different program there next summer—plans are not complete.

I was also pleased to meet Tony Brewer, our Program Chair, in Davidson in late July to do a pre-program run-through for our October business meeting (see details and registration information elsewhere in this newsletter). We have a good day in store, and I thank Tony for his efforts in planning the meeting. I hope to see a large number of you, as we hear about the college’s relationship to the Presbyterian Church through the years, and visit its campus, the beautiful college church, and walk through its historic cemetery. I know you will enjoy the day.

At the board meeting of the Presbyterian Heritage Center in Montreat this week we learned how active the Center has become in its first year: nearly 5000 people have walked through its exhibits and seen its new configuration, used its resources, and visited its hardworking staff. And this summer’s attendance is up 40% over last summer, due in part to the creative and informative programs the Center has been hosting, from celebrating Calvin’s birthday to a white-glove opportunity to touch one of the earliest manuscripts of Handel’s Messiah. We plan to visit the Center on the Society’s spring tour, April 9-10, 2010. You will be impressed with the Center’s educational outreach, not least through its website, If you have not been visiting the on-line site regularly you are missing out on a lot of good things. Our Society has already formed a close bond with the Center.

If you have not made a financial contribution, however modest, to its work I hope you will do so. Some of you may have materials that ought to be in its care. I donated a leather-bound copy of a collection of Calvin’s sermons, printed in 1835 in Philadelphia, which a neighbor gave me when I was still in high school—more can appreciate it there, and the book can be kept in optimum condition by a professional staff. Perhaps you have some similar items in your own library.

It has been my pleasure to serve as your president to the limit of my time in office under our by-laws (in fact, I served an extra year, as we amended the election cycle when we moved our tour from spring to fall). I will eagerly support the president you will elect in October and will continue my interest and devotion to the manifold interests our Society and its membership cultivate. See you in October.
--Don Saunders, President

Dr. Donald B. Saunders, President
P.O. Box 1846, Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Phone: (828) 295-8917

Brenda Spence, Secretary
294 Fairway Lane, Sanford, NC 27332
Phone:  (919)-498-2159

Ann Myhre, Awards Chair
1005 Park Ave., Garner, NC 27529
Phone:  (919) 772-5514

Sally MacLeod Owens, Membership Chair
710 North Person Street #204
Raleigh, NC  27604-1276
Phone:  (919)-835-0920

Tony Brewer, Program Chair
915 Evans Dr., Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: (919) 776-8091

Arthur H. Burgess, Jr., Treasurer
P.O. Box 2587, Hickory, NC 28603
Phone: (828) 322-2720

Barbara T. Cain, Newsletter Editor
1041 Shelley Road, Raleigh, NC  27609
Phone:  (919)-782-0944

Thomas K Spence, Past President
294 Fairway Lane, Sanford, NC 27332
Phone:  (919)-498-2159

Election of Officers
At our Annual Meeting this fall, an election will be held for three offices: President, Secretary, and Second Vice-President, who serves as Membership Chair. The nominating committee are Joy Heitmann, John Gordon, and Sheila Brewer. They will present their report, but any member may make a nomination from the floor.


If you know of a recently published church history or a completed history project that you feel is worthy of consideration for an award, please send the book or a description of the project to Awards Chairman Mrs. Ann Myhre, 1005 Park Avenue, Garner, NC 27529, by Monday, March 16. Her contact information is in the previous column.


Schedule and Registration for the Fall Meeting

Saturday, October 10

9:00 Registration, Davidson College Presbyterian Church Congregation House, Concord Road

9:30 Speaker: Dr. Jan Blodgett, Davidson College Archivist.

10:30 Break and refreshments.

11:00 Tour of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Davidson College Old Quad buildings, including Oak and Elm Row, and Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Society halls, and Old Davidson Cemetery.

12:15 Lunch, DCPC Congregation House

12:45 Annual business meeting, DCPC Congregation House.

After lunch, depart for home, or explore other points of interest.


Registration Form



Address: _______________________________________________________

Telephone: ______________________

Email: ______________________________________

No. of registrations ____ @ $19.00 ea= $ ___________

Dues (Individual $10; Family $15; Individual Life Membership, $100): $_______

Total enclosed: $________

Please send this form with your check (made out to NCPHS) by April 10 to Arthur H. Burgess, PO Box 2587, Hickory, NC 28603.

Suggested accommodations and Map to area:

Rooms for Friday night have been set aside for us until September 18 at the Econo Lodge & Suites Lake Norman at the special price of $53.99 + tax. Telephone 704-892-3500 and tell them this is for the NC Presbyterian Historical Society meeting. The motel is just off I-77 at Exit 28, and the address is 20740 Torrence Chapel Rd., Cornelius, NC 28031. It is about 3 miles from Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

map to Innkeeper and MacPherson church

North Carolina Presbyterian Historical Society
P.O. Box 20804
Raleigh, NC 27619-0804

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