Wednesday, April 22, 2020

William Graham Quackenbush - Christian, Scholar, Philanthropist

The three simple frame houses standing side by side along Caledonia Road on the eastern edge of tiny Laurinburg, North Carolina, had once been the classrooms and dormitory of Laurinburg High School. A private institution, the school was presided over for twenty-one years by William Graham Quackenbush, an orphaned and crippled Virginian who had opened the doors to as many as a hundred students a little more than a dozen years after the end of the Civil War and taught them Latin, Greek, geogaphy, history, math, spelling, English grammer, and music.

Until the school closed in 1901, a year after Laurinburg became the county seat of the newly created Scotland County, Quackenbush and his school had been a source of intense pride for the independent Scots who had settled the lands between the Yadkin and Cape Fear Rivers more than a hundred years before. Indeed, Laurinburg throught so highly of their professor that after his death in 1903 a monument was raised in his honor and placed in front of the courthouse on Main Street. Virtually every county seat across the South had a monument in the square, usually one topped by a musket-toting soldier facing north. Few, if any, memorialized an educator. "Christian, Scholar, Philanthropist," the chiseled inscription read. "His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world this was a man."

Nearly two decades after Quackenbush's school gave way to classrooms operated at public expense, the buildings were still in use. The largest of the three, the two-story with dormers on the front that had housed boarding students and Quackenbush's office, was the home of the Butler family. Next door, in a smaller, storyand-a-half version with a plain front and a broad front porch, where the dusty road sloped to meet the crossing of the Seaboard Air Line Railway, the Sanfords--Cecil and Betsy and their three children--lived in an identical classroom turned residence.

Source: Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions by Howard E. Covington, Marion A, Ellis (1999)

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