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Baptists High Schools in North Carolina

from "A History of Negro Baptists in North Carolina" by Dr. Whitted, 1908:

Negro Baptists of North Carolina


For many years after the war the Negro youth depended largely upon the public schools and schools supported by the Freedmen's Bureau. In some places the Friends (the Quakers) established schools for their education. Shaw University at Raleigh was the first school which promised anything like a high course of study. We have already mentioned the intention of the founders of Shaw University to prepare men for the gospel ministry, and to prepare men and women as teachers. The effort was a complete success. Some of the ablest and best men who have ever gone out from Shaw were among the first to enter after its establishment; this was not only true as ministers, but teachers as well. The public schools over the State were largely supplied by men and women from Shaw. Many of them were not content to teach in the public schools but felt the need of a higher training, and hence they began here and there to establish high schools. First among these were Alexander Hicks, of Plymouth, N. C., and E. H. Lipscombe, of Dallas, N. C. The School at Plymouth, established by Mr. Hicks, a graduate of Shaw, developed into a State Normal School. Although the Dallas School was continued for several years and during its existence sent out several teachers and preachers, it was finally discontinued.

Possibly the causes which led to the discontinuance of the School at Dallas proved helpful to the establishment of others. It was evident to maintain such schools whole associations met and formed educational associations, and here and there over the State Baptist Schools with Baptist Associations behind them were established. The Home Mission Society came to the rescue and partial support of three of them, the others received support from the Associations, and elsewhere, as friends could be moved to their help.


Shiloh Institute at Warrenton, N. C., was the third in the list of the secondary schools. This school was established in 1885 by the Shiloh Baptist Association. The Plummer residence, containing eight acres of land, was purchased for this purpose. This place was beautifully situated within the corporate limits of Warrenton, N. C., and offered every facility for such an undertaking. Taking the name of the Warrenton High School and conducted in that name for several years, it was afterward changed to Shiloh Institute, in honor of the Shiloh Association. During the first years of the existence of the school it was the strongest school of its kind in the State. Within twelve years after its establishment, in 1885, there were sent out one hundred and twenty-five teachers, in Warren and other counties of the State, besides several ministers of the gospel, who did much good along the line of the ministry.

After the property of this school was secured gradual improvements were made, and in 1906 it was valued at seven thousand dollars. Changes in the management of the school, and divisions in the Association, caused a decline in the school, and many who had patronized it turned to other similar schools scattered over the State.


Even prior to the establishment of the Shiloh Institute there was a school established at Garysburg, N. C., by Rev. R. I. Walden, a graduate of Shaw University. This property was owned and controlled by Rev. Walden. Several efforts were made to have the Neuse River Association adopt this school, as the school of the Association, but the effort was unsuccessful, although many of the leaders of that body received their education from the Garysburg School. Much of Dr. Walden's time was given to the gospel ministry, as well as to the work of teaching. Like the Shiloh School at Warrenton, much good was accomplished and many able men and women were sent out to join the hosts of Christian workers in the State. The strength of Dr. Walden was so taxed, endeavoring to keep the school going, and the two churches, the one at Louisburg, and the other at Henderson, he finally turned the school over to Rev. Mr. Blacknall, one of the graduates, and moved to Henderson, N. C., where he might give his entire time to the gospel ministry. Mr. Blacknall was quite successful, enrolling two hundred during the winter months of each year.


This institution, established in 1886, was by far the strongest and ablest school of its kind in North Carolina. For twenty-five years after its establishment Rev. C. S. Brown, a graduate of Shaw University, was the Principal. During the forty-three years of the history of Shaw there had not gone out from that institution a man who had done so much along the educational lines as Dr. Brown, the Principal of Waters Institute. When he went to Winton the site where the Institute was erected was a wilderness. He began with a rude structure for a boys' dormitory, and recitation rooms. In 1896 a two-story building was erected at a cost of six thousand dollars, a dormitory for girls, recitation rooms, and a dining hall.

The boys' dormitory, being destroyed by fire in the year 1907, a brick building was soon after begun and completed in 1908 at a cost of eight thousand dollars. The reports showed in 1908 that sixty-six had graduated from Waters Institute. Several had taken up the practice of medicine, six had gone into the gospel ministry and quite a number were teachers in the schools of North Carolina. Waters Institute received the largest amounts from the Home Mission Society given to any similar school in the State, which enabled the school to so far outstrip the other secondary schools of the State. And, too, as we have already indicated, Principal Brown was a man of rare gifts, as was shown in the success which came to the school and in many other ways, as he was interested in almost everything which meant the uplift of his race and the advancement of the Negro Baptists of North Carolina and elsewhere. This School exerted such an influence in Eastern North Carolina it not only proved helpful to the colored people but to Winton, which was little known before its establishment, and to all that section of the State. That they might enjoy the benefits of the school many of the patrons moved to Winton and, without a single exception, erected creditable and most of them beautiful buildings. As these were near the campus all added to the beauty and worth of that section of the town.

Shiloh Institute, about which mention has already been made, and Waters Institute, contributed each a missionary to the Foreign Mission forces of Africa. Miss Mary Fields, of the Shiloh Institute, and Rev. C. C. Boone, of the Waters Institute. If Waters Institute had done no more than give to the cause of African missions Rev. Boone, his services to the Dark Continent would have been worth the existence of the institution.

While the Home Mission Society of New York, together with the Woman's Home Mission Society of New England have contributed much to the strength of Waters Institute, great credit was due the colored people of the West Roanoke Association, and especially the colored Baptists of Hertford County. Fortunately Dr. Brown was pastor of five of the largest and ablest churches of Hertford County, and the Moderator of the West Roanoke Association for a number of years, the President of the Educational and Missionary Convention of North Carolina, and the President of the Lott-Carey Home and Foreign Mission Convention, all of which contributed to his influence and to his opportunity to raise funds to carry on the work at Waters, and he used the opportunity to a great advantage.


Like the Institute at Winton the Bertie Academy at Windsor was under the auspices of the West Roanoke Association. This school was established several years after the Waters Institute and while much helpfulness came to Bertie County and the cause in general in its establishment, it was never as strong as the Waters Institute. The ministry afforded the principals to such schools opportunities to reach the people they could not otherwise have, and it may be the Principal of Waters Institute being a minister and a man of extensive influence, and the Principal of the Bertie Academy being a layman, had much to do with the popularity of the Waters Institute over the Bertie, and yet, considering the proximity of the two schools, the Bertie Academy did splendid work.

The Bertie Academy was not only established by the colored people, but was altogether maintained by them. The churches of Bertie County, though a part of the West Roanoke Association, invariably directed their educational funds sent up to the Association to be paid over to the Bertie Academy, while the Hertford people directed theirs paid over to the treasury of the Waters Institute.

The collections from Bertie County were usually larger than the Hertford collections, which gave evidence of their deep concern for Bertie Academy. In 1908 the buildings and grounds were valued at six thousand dollars, located near the corporate limits of Windsor. For many years after its establishment the Academy had to undergo great hardships. Through wise management the opposition was overcome and all things considered, the school enjoyed much prosperity.


The Roanoke Institute, located at Elizabeth City, is the property of the East Roanoke Association. The property purchased for this purpose was formerly used as a private school by Rooks Turner. The growth of the school was so rapid that additional buildings were soon a necessity.

Dr. M. W. D. Norman, Dean of the Theological Department of Shaw University, was elected the first Principal. Dr. Norman had great influence with the brethren of the East Roanoke Association as well as in other sections of the State, and the much needed buildings were soon erected. Rev. G. D. Griffin succeeded Dr. Norman, and although a graduate of the Institute, had exceptional ability, and the work under his management went steadily on to success. Professor Graves succeeded Rev. Griffin. Although one of the Normal Schools of the State was located in Elizabeth City, the Roanoke Institute was crowded each year not only from the city but from the adjoining counties, over a thousand students up to 1908, with thirty-five graduates. In point of numbers the East Roanoke Association was one of the largest Associations in the State; financially the second only to the West Roanoke. This enabled the school to derive a good revenue. Self help was the motto of this Association, and the colored Baptists of that section deserved the entire credit for the Roanoke Institute, worth six thousand dollars in 1908.


After a few Associations had set the example and had organized themselves to do educational work. schools were established in every section of the State. While the Girls' Training School at Franklinton was not the property of the Wake Association, located in the bounds of the Wake Association, the Association became deeply interested in its welfare and made annual appropriations to it. Rev. T. O. Fuller, a scholarly young man, a graduate of Shaw University, became its first Principal. Rev. Fuller succeeded in interesting a few Northern friends in the school, and not only did they contribute their money, but several white ladies came down and taught in the school. The first to take hold as teacher was Miss Hawkins, who finally succeeded Rev. Fuller as Principal. Others joined her, and for several years the school was taught by white ladies. It was found expedient to change and secure colored teachers. Dr. A. W. Pegues was elected Principal. Like the other schools mentioned the Girls' Training School did much to foster Christian education, especially in the counties of Franklin, Wake and Granville. The Educational and Missionary Convention undertook to form these schools into a confederation and give partial support to them. This was kept up a few years, but afterward it was found to be impractical.


The Addie Morris School, at Winston, can hardly be called a secondary school, as it was largely composed of children. The school was named in honor of the founder, Miss Addie Morris, a missionary employed by the Woman's Missionary Society in Chicago. At that time there were ten thousand colored people in Winston-Salem, and Miss Morris, seeing so many children coming up in idleness, felt that something should be done to change conditions, and in connection with the missionary and Bible school organized a children's school. The object of this school was not only to impart secular knowledge, but especially a knowledge of the Bible. The First Baptist Church of Winston-Salem granted the lot to the Home Mission Society and Sister Morris, and a building was erected for this purpose. This school was composed entirely of pupils from Winston-Salem, but an incentive was given to several to pursue a higher course of study in Shaw University and elsewhere. It will never be known the real good this school did in shaping the life and character of so many who came under the training of this Godly woman. Few women with even better advantages, and none with the same advantage in North Carolina, did so much to shape the lives of so many individuals. Although of little learning "Sister Morris," as she was best known, gave her life unreservedly to the cause of Christ, both among the old and the young. She not only conducted this school during her lifetime, but gave much energy and care to the establishment of an Orphan Home two and a half miles from Winston. After her death, which occurred in the spring of 1907, her sister, Mrs. Emma Simmons, took charge of the school. Mrs. Simmons's health was poor and, although the same godly woman her sister was, could do but little in carrying on the school, and with the death of Sister Morris the school work largely came to an end.


The existence of the Rowan Normal and Industrial School was due to Rev. C. C. Somerville, who was called from the position of District Missionary for Eastern North Carolina to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte. Dr. Somerville was not only called to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church, but was elected Moderator of the Rowan Baptist Association, in whose boundary the school was located and for which the school was named.

The Moderator endeavored for several years to have the School adopted as the property of the Rowan Association, but the brethren could not agree to do so. They gave the school an endorsement and an annual donation, but they would never agree to adopt it as theirs. The untiring efforts and sacrifices of the Principal enabled him to carry on this school for several years. The Graded Schools, Biddle University, located in Charlotte; failure to secure the full cooperation of the Association made it hard for the Rowan Industrial, but made of an iron will, Dr. Somerville kept up the work, gathering means here and there until he was called to the pastorate of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, of Portsmouth, Virginia. The school was then moved from Charlotte to Salisbury and the name was changed to the Piedmont Institute. In the following fall the school opened in the property adjoining and belonging to the Dixonville Baptist Church, with Rev. D. W. Montgomery, Principal. Another effort was made to adopt the school as the property of the Rowan Association, but again the effort failed, although trustees were appointed in the meeting of the Association. The Association agreed to keep up the appropriation, but nothing more. Rev. Montgomery continued at the head but a short time and Rev. A. S. Croom, his successor at Dixonville, became the Principal.


The buildings of the Zion Academy were erected in the town of Wadesboro, 1903 and 1904. This school was owned and controlled by the Zion Baptist Association and, considering the capacity of the buildings, reflects credit on the Zion Baptist people.

We have already mentioned Prof. E. H. Lipscombe as the second person in North Carolina to undertake secondary schools. He was called to the Zion Academy as the first Principal of the Academy. No Association in the State was more enthusiastic over education than the Zion people, and no school advanced more rapidly than the Zion Academy. This enthusiasm did not by any means grow out of the fact that many of them were educated technically; there were but few among them educated, but they had great faith in the proper kind of education, and they went at it with a will. The first two years after the school was organized they raised and expended two thousand dollars. While Professor Lipscombe was scholarly he did not possess all the necessary energy and push to carry on such a work, and as a result the school was not all it might have been. No section of the State was more in need of such a school than the section included by the Zion Association, and soon after the school was established its great service was everywhere manifest.


The Thompson Institute, at Lumberton, N. C., took its name from the oldest minister of the Lumber River Association at the time of its establishment, Rev. A. H. Thompson. This school is another monument to the thrift and energy of the Negro Baptists of North Carolina. Just as has been said of the Zion Academy, the Thompson Institute was of the greatest necessity in the section in which it was located. In 1880 there was not a good dwelling belonging to a Negro Baptist in the section of Lumberton; in 1900 a poor dwelling was the exception. The old dilapidated church was torn down and a beautiful and commodious building erected in its place for the worship of God, and a little village surrounded the campus, which made it but the more attractive. Rev. D. J. Avera was elected the first Principal. Rev. Avera, being there but two years, could hardly make proof of his proficiency in this kind of work, but he laid the foundation upon which another has builded with considerable success.

Prof. W. H. Knuckles, from the Theological Department of Shaw University, was elected Principal to succeed Rev. Avera. Rev. Knuckles's efforts have been untiring, and instead of the one building partly completed there were three buildings with a faculty of five.

The school made rapid progress in every respect; large numbers gathered there from year to year from all that section of country. As early as 1905 most of the teachers from the three surrounding counties were supplied from Thompson Institute, and with the preparation were able to do splendid work in the public schools. While the annual appropriation from the Home Mission Society, of New York, was small yet the Society did make a small appropriation to the Thompson Institute, and was exceedingly helpful in the prosecution of the work. While, as we have said, much of the rapid growth of the School was due to the thrift and energy of Professor Knuckles, much was likewise due to Rev. J. D. Harrell, Moderator of the Lumber River Association, and Financial Agent of the Thompson Institute. It was through his persistency that the buildings in turn were erected, through his energy the large numbers were gathered, and through him much of the necessary funds were realized to carry on the school. In fact, the Lumber River Association was made up of many others like Brother Harrell, in their zeal for the progress of Thompson Institute.


This school was one of the exceptions, being the product of an individual or, better said, individuals, Rev. and Mrs. A. L. E. Weeks. Rev. Weeks was called to the pastorate of the Cedar Grove Baptist Church, New Bern, N. C. Realizing the condition of his people and the people of that vast section felt that their greatest need was the proper provision for their education, set to work at once and selected a place suitable for the planting of a school. The large lot adjoining the Fair Grounds was selected and bargained for at a cost of twelve thousand dollars. Only a man with the pluck of Rev. Weeks, with comparatively no money in sight, would have undertaken such a task; but if it occurred to Rev. Weeks that a mountain should be moved, he was the man at least to make a beginning. Undaunted he went about the raising of the money for his purchase and the erection of buildings for a beginning. Almost to a man he was told it could not be done, but he simply said do what you can, and when he or his wife left an individual they somehow felt that something must be given, whether they had it or not. In this way opinion began to take another shape, and it was said that it would be done, since Weeks was at the head.

At first the Home Mission Society was moved to give two hundred dollars, and the next year the appropriation was increased to four hundred dollars. This appropriation was indeed a blessing to the school struggling for life and existence. The white people of New Bern deserve great praise for the manner in which many of them stood by Rev. and Mrs. Weeks. In fact, without their moral and financial support, such as Rev. Weeks had from the beginning, it would have been utterly impossible to have established the school which would be more fitly called Weeks Institute. It was through them the beautiful and appropriate site was secured, through them Rev. Weeks was able to reach the ears of the Society, through them many friends, white and colored, in North Carolina. It is deserving of mention that Mr. Isaac Smith, a generous-hearted colored citizen, made the largest donation of any single individual, which gave the Principal much encouragement and enabled him to make a stronger appeal to others.

While the New Bern Industrial and Collegiate Institute was not directly under the supervision of any Association, as nearly all these secondary schools were, yet with his push Principal Weeks succeeded in reaching several Associations even with their own schools on their hands. How this was done only the Principal and God can tell. There was a strong effort to unite the school supported by the New Bern Eastern Association, located just across the Trent River, and the New Bern Collegiate and Industrial Institute, but the effort proved a failure. As has been said of other sections, there was much ignorance throughout this section, and somehow, despite his efforts to prove the worthiness of his cause and the sincerity of purpose, many of the old heads stood in awe of this young, active and able divine, and hence much he might have accomplished could not be done for this reason.

The church of which Rev. Weeks was pastor was burned in 1905, and much of the attention of the principal and pastor had to be given to church erection. A lovely brick structure took the place of the old frame structure, while the work of the school moved right on. The work of Rev. Weeks was the wonder of North Carolina. Much light was diffused and much good accomplished through this one man showing "Where there is a will, there is a way."


The Burgaw High School is located at Burgaw, N. C., and is the property of the Middle District Association. At the opening of the fall term of 1907 there were two buildings erected, one for school rooms and dormitory for girls; the other a dormitory for boys.

The decided success and growth of the Burgaw High School from the beginning was due to the faithfulness and proficiency of the Principal, Mr. J. A. Fennell. In all the secondary schools of the State there was not a more unassuming and energetic prinpical than Mr. Fennell. No distance was too far, no task too great for this man if it meant any advancement of the Burgaw High School. Like others of the Principals, Mr. Fennell had much unnecessary difficulties to overcome, and often those who were in the position to help him stood in the way of the progress of the school. The management of these secondary schools in North Carolina especially demonstrated the fact that in some instances the schools would have been better off with no other management than the faculty. It is not meant that there were not some good men in the management other than the faculties, but many who stood in the way of everything that meant progress and improvement.

Despite every opposition the Principal and Miss Smith, his assistant, did splendid work at Burgaw. Many splendid young men and women were sent out through that section imparting the light and instruction which they received at the Burgaw High School.


Both of these Schools grew out from the Kenansville Eastern Association. Unfortunately division marked the educational work of the Association almost from the beginning. A difference of opinion grew out of the place for the location, especially after the first change had been made. The Association was at the mercy of factions. Some wished the school to be located at Clinton and others at Faison. A majority voted in favor of Faison, while a strong faction contended for Clinton. An effort was made to have schools in both places and the Association to make equal or pro-rata appropriations to both of the schools, but in the meeting of the Association in Goldsboro it was evident that the majority opposed such a proposition, and as a natural consequence two associations were formed, the churches of Sampson composing the one and the churches of Duplin composing the other.

Mr. J. N. Bennett was elected Principal of the Faison School. Soon it was evident that still more divisions were ahead for the Faison High School. The management was not satisfactory to many of the leaders of the Association, and the differences were so great until Mr. Bennett came out in 1907 and formed an independent school. From the work accomplished it was evident, with a spirit of unity, a much better work could have been accomplished.

For some cause the Union Academy at Clinton was not what it might have been. The beginning of the school was under the direction of Professor Ashford. Professor Ashford was an earnest and good man, but the fact that Clinton was his home, upon the principle taught by our Saviour, "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house," was verified in his case, and he did not do the good he might otherwise have done. The same was true of his successor, Mr. Boykin. He was also a native of the county in which the school was located and he, too, was a good man¯but he was never able to accomplish so much as he might have accomplished. In the fall of 1897 Mr. Thomas J. Brown, of Winston-Salem, was appointed as the successor of Mr. Boykin. At once the school began to take on new strength and usefulness. At the close of the first year it was evident that the right man had been agreed upon, the people became united, the number of pupils in the school increased, and everything looked promising for a bright future for Union Academy.


This school was established by the New Bern Eastern Association, one of the largest Associations in point of numbers in the State. There were many divisions in the ranks of the New Bern Eastern Association, which gave many setbacks to the school project. The fact that the New Bern Industrial and Collegiate Institute was located just across the Trent River in New Bern and directed and controlled by an able and energetic young man, Rev. Weeks, stood in the way of the progress of the Atlantic and North Carolina Institute. Mr. Q. C. Mial, an old and experienced teacher from Johnston County, was elected as the first Principal. In the short time Mr. Mial was in charge of the school his work bore evidence of his splendid experience, but he soon grew tired of teaching and resigned. Since that time until 1908 the progress of the school was slow. Some of the old leaders of the Association have since died, and it is hoped that the new and more advanced leaders will see their way clear to unite with the New Bern and Collegiate or strengthen the work on the other side of the Trent, as such a work is so much needed in that section of North Carolina.


The Western Union Academy is located a mile from the town of Rutherfordton and is the property of several of the Western Associations. Two commodious buildings have been erected on the grounds and every section of that country was represented in the school.

Rev. Mr. Hobson, at that time living at Shelby, N. C., was foremost in establishing the school, in fact erected the first building. Afterward Rev. W. T. Askew, of Eastern North Carolina, who came to the school from Rich Square Academy, was proficient in this kind of service, was the first Principal, and under his leadership the school leaped into prominence and usefulness. Rev. Askew held this place for three years. Rev. R. B. Watts was elected to succeed Rev. Askew. Rev. Watts was experienced in teaching, having given many years to public school teaching and had experience in higher school work. Before leaving North Carolina Rev. Watts had quite a hold on the churches and associations of the Western Piedmont section, having edited a paper in that section for several years, which gave him a decided advantage in the school work, and a broad foundation having been laid by Rev. Askew he had but to move forward with the work of the Western Union Academy, which he did, and in a few years the school was on a firm footing.

The Educational Convention in forming a confederation of these secondary Baptist schools felt at that time that there were too many of them, but the associations caught the educational fever which was so prevalent especially in the administration of Governor Chas. B. Aycock, but it was afterward found that all of them did much good in bringing the Baptists to the front. They caused an interest in the associations which they would never have manifested. Hence, after all, the secondary Baptist schools were a great blessing to the cause of the denomination.


This school is the property of the Mountain and Catawba Association and was established at Claremont, N. C., 1904. Rev. W. S. Dacons was elected the first Principal. There were six acres of land in the tract and one building in 1908, the land and building valued at three thousand dollars. In the four years between its organization and 1908 the number of persons in attendance had increased to one hundred and twenty-five. A school of such a character was of such vast importance its success was assured from the beginning. The Principal was a man of energy, enterprise and push, and with but four years everything gave promise of a splendid work in the education of teachers and preachers so much in demand in that section.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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