North Carolina Education

North Carolina Education 1663 to 1700

The Albemarle Region was settled by Virginians even before the colony of Carolina was authorized by King Charles II in 1663. Those who soon followed after it became "legal" to settle in what became known as North Carolina in the latter half of the 1600s first landed in Virginia then made their way southward to secure suitable farm lands along the many small rivers and creeks. Of course there were Native Americans already living in the area, and there soon followed unpleasant encounters between the new settlers and the well-established natives - but - those clashes are not part of this discussion.

The settlers of the Albemarle Region were mostly small-time farmers with few, if any, slaves. Most were of English/Welsh descent, and most considered themselves to be "fairly religious" with leanings towards the various Protestant faiths of their time. A slight majority were of the "Anglican faith," some were "dissenters," and some were essentially "agnostics," with little need for organized religion. Most of those "with religion," however, made no great strides in building churches or other meeting places to gather those of their faith together on a frequent basis in the Albemarle Region until after 1700 - with the exception of the Quakers (aka the Society of Friends). The Quakers did establish "meeting houses" in the Albemarle Region prior to 1700.

In 1672, George Fox and William Edmundson traveled to America. The two made their way to Carolina and visited Henry Phillips and his wife, the only known Quaker settlers at that time in the Albemarle Region. As early as 1680, monthly meetings were established around the Albemarle Sound. The establishment of a yearly meeting in North Carolina dates from 1698, as shown by the following record:

"At a Quarterly Meeting held at the house of Henry White, Fourth Month 4th, 1698, it is unanimously agreed by Friends that the last Seventh-day of the Seventh Month, in every year, be the Yearly Meeting for this country, at the house of Francis Toms, and the Second day of the week following to be set apart for business."

Most who settled in the Albemarle Region prior to 1700 had little, if any, formal education. Those who did obtained their education in England for the most part, or from their home country, if not England/Wales. Small-time farmers had little need for formal education - they needed practical training and experience in keeping their families clothed and fed. As had been the case for centuries, this practical training and experience came from their parents and neighbors, who generally helped each other when it suited them. Boys learned to be farmers, how to manage livestock, and how to build structures to store their harvests and protect their livestock. Girls learned to make clothing, how to cook, and how to preserve the products of their harvests. The majority never learned how to read or write, but most knew "how to count."

Even in Albemarle, there were a handful of families that became much more than "small-time farmers" prior to 1700. Some were very well off and were smart enough to acquire larger tracts of land, which led to an increase in their wealth and standing in the small neighborhoods - for, there were no towns as yet, and really not any dense populations to even consider as a "community" as yet. There were, however, already political divisions called "counties and precincts" that certainly soon required "administrators" to manage governmental affairs. These governmental affairs required "learned men" who could read and write, and any who could do more than that were usually voted into one or more offices to help guide local affairs. Very few men who held public office in North Carolina, even in the very early years, were not fairly well educated.

With no formal schools of any type found in the Albemarle Region prior to 1700, these "learned men" realized that they would have to send their children - mostly sons, but a few did include their daughters - back to England for a descent education. They usually had family back in England who could look after their children while they were in school, but if not, there were others willing to do so for a small fee. Some, including some "small-time," farmers brought along "indentured servants" who were given "room and board" for several years in exchange for them tutoring the farmers' children. Many of these "indentured servants" were brought along to work as laborers or to become skilled artisans in some particular field, and only a very few were educated enough to be useful tutors. Others were specifically hired as tutors from the home country and did not have to serve as indentured servants, but these were only hired by the more wealthy to tutor their own families. In very rare instances did these hired tutors teach children from more than one family.

In 1693, the College of William & Mary was founded in Virginia, not very far north of the Albemarle Region. While this Author has not delved deeply into the early records of this fine institution, one can reasonably expect that within a few years there were students at William & Mary from the Albemarle Region - again, mostly from the fairly wealthy families. It is possible that some of the wealthier families in the Albemarle Region sent their children to other colonial colleges, such as Harvard (in Boston since 1636) or King William's School (in Baltimore since 1696).

Few families had any books other than the Family Bible. It is no wonder that much of the early educational opportunities along the many small rivers and creeks in the Albemarle Region focused on "the teachings of the Bible." Although there were no churches built in North Carolina prior to 1700, families did gather frequently to listen to "itenerant preachers" and to expose their children to the spiritual side of man. As the population slowly grew, more families immigrated directly from England/Wales, and some of these newcomers brought more and more books with them. Many traded books with each other to help educate their children. But, it was not until after 1700 when the first true "library" was created in North Carolina. It would be even longer before the first true "school" was created.

1700s >>

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