Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina survived the war but found itself in desperate condition when Northern carpetbaggers and local scalawags assumed control of State government in 1868. Historian Hugh Talmage Lefler wrote: “Lack of public confidence, financial support, and students closed the University in 1870. A student expressed it graphically when he wrote of a classroom blackboard: “Today this University busted and went to hell.” The University was reopened in 1875 after North Carolinians regained political control of their State.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill
“Of the seventy-eight new Trustees of the University, only four had been members of the former Board, and they were men who had seldom attended meetings of the Trustees and really cared very little about the fate of the University. At the meeting of the new Board in Raleigh, in June 1868, several names were brought forward for the presidency.
After several days of travail the Board brought forth Mr. Solomon Pool, a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina . . . To be sure, he had no “established reputation” for scholarship, though he was a man of some ability. Immediately after the close of “The War” in 1866, Mr. Pool had resigned his position as Tutor in the University to take a job as a Deputy Appraiser in the Revenue Service of the hated Reconstruction Government, allying himself with the Republican party.
The word “opportunist” had not been invented, but “traitor,” “renegade,” and “apostate” were freely hurled at his complacent head. Mr. Joseph [Engelhard], editor of the Wilmington Journal, said in one issue of his paper that the University was “infested with pismires” (termites?) and the very next week he wrote that it was “presided over by nincompoops.”
The Board of Trustees had its own troubles in forming a new faculty. Mr. S.[S]. Ashley, a Massachusetts Yankee, who was Superintendent of Public Education, placed a relative, James A. Martling, in the “Chair of Belles Lettres,” whatever that means. The Martling family occupied the house recently made vacant by my grandfather’s death, and June Spencer and I, living next door, watched with scornful eyes the daughters of the family . . . with their village beaux on the piazza or strolling in the moonlight, but there was no communication between us.
George Dickson, Professor of Agriculture, was a Friend from Philadelphia who came South as a missionary to the Negroes. He brought Bibles, Testaments, and hymn books from the good Quakers of his city, a fine and generous gesture – if only the recipients had been able to read. Friend Dickson went to England to inquire into some new ideas in agriculture for the benefit of the South. He never came back.
During the first year of the Reconstruction Administration there were thirty-five students in attendance . . . just little bare-foot boys from the village and the adjoining country, with their home-made breeches held up by a string across one shoulder, and their dinner in a little tin bucket. Now and then a small black face appeared among them. None of them knew what it was all about. It was just a grand frolic for them to be “goin’ to college.”
Nor were the pupils altogether appreciative of their advantages. We find one A.J. Banks haled before the faculty for non-attendance upon his classes. His excuse was that he did not want to study Greek, nor did he want to stay in college with “them Yanks.”
The grim record shows that the Archives of the Literary Societies were broken into and their contents scattered. A box of Siamese curios presented to the University by the Reverend Daniel McGilvary, a Presbyterian missionary to Siam, was broken, and objects of rare beauty and great value stolen or destroyed. Scientific apparatus was smashed into bits, and great damage was done to the buildings and libraries of the University . . . owls and bats flew in the broken windows of the buildings, the campus was a jungle of weeds, cattle and hogs roamed the unlighted streets at night.
From a charming, dignified home of cultured people, who enjoyed a gracious society, Chapel Hill had become a desolate, silent wilderness. Even the strangers who composed the puppet faculty disliked each other, the village, the State, and the institution they were expected to serve.”
(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, pp. 45-49)