The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

Bookmark and Share

who delivered the first annual address before your Societies, thus spoke in that address: "The General Assembly resolved to found our University. I was present at the House of Commons, when Davie addressed that body upon the bill granting a loan of money to the Trustees for erecting the building of this University, and although more than thirty years have since elapsed, I have the most vivid recollections of the greatness of his manner and the powers of his eloquence upon that occasion." After the grant of the charter, the first object which engaged the attention of the Trustees, was to fix upon a site for the institution. The first Board consisted of forty members who resided in various parts of the State, and were all men distinguished for position and influence. The committee appointed by them for the purpose, after a careful examination of many places which had been suggested them as suitable, selected Chapel Hill. This place was so-called from its being the site of one of the anti-revolutionary churches of the English Establishment. The church building is said to have stood on the lot now occupied by Capt. Richard S. Ashe. It may not be uninteresting to revert to the terms in which the location was spoken of in one of the public journals of that day:

        "The seat of the University is on the summit of a very high ridge. There is a gentle declivity of 300 yards to the village, which is situated in a handsome plain considerably lower than the site of the public buildings, but so greatly elevated above the neighboring country as to furnish an extensive landscape. The ridge appears to commence about half a mile directly east of the college buildings, where it rises abruptly several hundred feet.

        This peak is called Point Prospect. The flat country spreads off below, like the ocean, giving an immense hemisphere, in which the eye seems to be lost in the extent of space."

        The building committee, having in the year 1793 secured a competent contractor in the person of Mr. James Patterson, of Chatham County, the 12th day of October in that year was fixed upon for laying the corner stone of the first building. The following account of the ceremony subsequently appeared in the journal to which we have already referred: "A large number of the brethren of the Masonic order from Hillsboro', Chatham, Granville and Warren attended to assist at the ceremony of placing the corner stone, and the procession for this purpose moved from Mr. Patterson's at 12 o'clock in the following order: The Masonic brethren in their usual order of procession, the Commissioners, the Trustees not commissioners, the Hon. Judge McKay and other public officers; then followed the gentlemen of the vicinity. On approaching the south end of the building the Masons opened to the right and left, and the Commissioners, etc., passed through and took their place. The Masonic procession then moved on round the foundation of the building, and halted with their usual ceremonies opposite the southeast corner, where William Richardson Davie, Grand Master of the Fraternity, etc., in this State, assisted by two Masters of Lodges and four other officers, laid the corner-stone, enclosing a plate to commemorate the transaction."

        The Rev. Dr. McCorkle, a member of the Board of Trustees, then made an appropriate and eloquent address to his fellow members and the spectators, which closed as follows: "The seat of the University was next sought for, and the public eye selected Chapel Hill, a lovely situation, in the centre of the State, at a convenient distance from the capital, in a healthy and fertile neighborhood. May this hill be for religion as the ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the muses may it surpass the ancient Parnassus! We this day enjoy the pleasure of seeing the corner stone of the University, its
Page 338 of 471
Index - Contents
Featured Books & CD-ROMS