The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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        William Cherry was a native of Bertie County, and was graduated here in the year 1800. While in college he was not a very diligent student, but his aptitude for learning was so marvellous that, it was said, he could prepare his lesson after the recitation bell had commenced ringing. Having selected the law as his profession, he had already attained an extensive practice and a high rank at the Bar, when his career was cut short by death, caused by intemperance, at the early age of twenty-seven. Those who were engaged in practice with him could not but wonder at the admirable manner in which he managed his causes, knowing as they did that the time which he ought to have spent in the preparation of them, was passed at the card table and around the intoxicating bowl. A story is still remembered, that on one occasion, in the forgetfulness caused by a deep debauch, he opened an important cause by making a very able argument on the wrong side; but being made aware of his mistake just as he was about to close, he, immediately, with admirable presence of mind, commenced a reply for his own client, by saying that the argument which he had just made was what he supposed would be urged by his opponent, and that he would proceed to answer it, and expose its fallacy. Tradition, however, reports that his first argument was so masterly that he could not answer it successfully, and thus lost his cause.

        About fifteen years after Mr. Cherry left the University a young man from the County of Nash was, with many others, suspended from college in consequence of what was long known as the great rebellion of 1817, which resulted in the expulsion of the leaders, Messrs. George C. Drumgoole and William B. Shepard, and the resignation of the President, Dr. Chapman. The expelled members both afterwards became distinguished men, but talented as they undoubtedly were, they were decidedly inferior in genius to their classmate and friend, Thomas N. Mann. He became a lawyer, and at the time when he fell a victim to consumption, while under thirty years of age, he was one of the best read and most profound lawyers in the State. Though so young, he was appointed by the then President of the United States as Charge d' Affaires to Central America and died while on his way to the court of that country.

        In the year of 1824, Thomas Dewes, a young man from the County of Lincoln, took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, dividing with Prof. Simms, Judge Manly and ex-Governor Graham the highest honor of the class. His parents were poor, and it is said resorted to the humble occupation of selling cakes for the purpose of procuring means for the education of their promising boy. After his graduation, he studied law and commenced the practice with every prospect of eminent success, when, unhappily, a morbid sensitiveness of temperament drove him to habits of intemperance, during one of the fits of which he came to an untimely end His name which ought to have gone down to posterity on account of great deeds achieved by extraordinary talents, will probably be remembered only in connection with a happily turned impromptu epitaph. When ex-Governor Swam was at the Bar, he was, on a certain occasion, at the same Court with Messrs. James R. Dodge, Hillman and Dewes. Mr. Swain had seen somewhere a punning epitaph on a man named Dodge, which ended with the couplet that

                         "After dodging all he could,
                         He couldn't dodge the devil."

        This he wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to the other members of the Bar, whose merriment it very much excited. After a while it reached the hands of Mr. Dodge himself, who, seeing from whom it came and supposing that Hillman and Dewes were participes criminis, immediately wrote on the back the following:

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