Guest Blogger: Alice Sloop, Sr. Staff Assistant, E.H. Little Library, “Davidson From Day One – The Sloop Family”

Alice Sloop has been employed in the E.H. Little Library since 2000.

What does a gentleman born in 1771, a table circa 1834, an 1860 Davidson graduate, dozens of Alumni, a Davidson College Trustee, and a current Davidson employee have in common?  Answer:  a single family heritage.  The Sloops have been an integral part of Davidson College since the very beginning of the idea to start our beloved school.

Our family historian, Dr. Robert Felts Sloop, Jr. (b.1934-) documents the beginnings of the Sloop family interest in education in North Carolina with his 3rd great grandfather “Colonel” James Jamison (b.1771-d.1846).  Back in 1834 when the Concord Presbytery met in James Jamison’s home near Prospect Presbyterian Church (located near Mooresville, NC), resolutions were drawn up on his table to “establish a school for young men to educate them for the ministry and other occupations”.  This school would become Davidson College. This table on which these resolutions were signed now sits in the Smith Rare Book Room at E.H. Little Library.

Sloop Family Table, Alcove, Smith Rare Book Room

The story of the family’s donation of this table to Davidson College is a funny one according to Dr. Sloop. Colonel James Jamison died in 1846 and is buried in the Prospect Presbyterian Church cemetery. His son, Franklin (Frank) Jamison inherited the table and when he died, it was purchased “for a dear price” by Mrs. Agnus C. Jamison Bailey, our 2nd great aunt.  Subsequently, at another Presbytery meeting in Mrs. Bailey’s home in Back Creek, a Dr. Monroe learned about the history of the table and suggested that it be given to Davidson College.  Mrs. Bailey stated that she paid too much for it and was unwilling to give it away! Some time later John Jamison (another son of Colonel Jamison) had a daughter named Sally Kerr Jamison who banded together with sisters Minnie and Eugenia and bought the table from their sister Agnus.  So then, Sally, Minnie, and Eugenia donated the table to Davidson College.  Dr. Walter Lingle, President Emeritus, would later write a thank you letter to the family.

Letter October 8, 1947 Walter Lingle, President-Emeritus Davidson College to Mrs. J.W. Johnson

This story is only one of many fascinating Sloop family stories related to Davidson College. 

The E.H. Little Library – Rare Book Room

The Smith Rare Book Room
The Smith Rare Book Room

 On the second floor of the E.H. Little Library, in the north corner toward the College Union, you’ll find two paneled wooden doors with lettering above them reading, Smith Rare Book Room.  What’s behind those doors?  And, what is the history of the room?  The room was named in honor of four brothers, all Davidson College graduates, Dr. Henry Louis Smith (President of Davidson College, 1901-1912), Dr. Egbert Watson Smith, Dr. Charles Alphonso Smith, and Dr. Hay Watson Smith. It houses the rare books and manuscripts belonging to the college, as well as some artifacts, with materials dating as early as 1250 BC and as recent as last year.

The Smith Brothers
Grey Memorial Library
Grey Memorial Library

The original Smith Rare Rook Room was located in the Grey Memorial Library, and was dedicated on May 9, 1964.  It was sometimes referred to as the “Treasure Room” since it housed many books which were considered “treasures” by the college including The 35 volume mid 1700s French Encyclopédie edited by Denis Diderot; a first edition of  John Milton’s Paradise Lost, published in 1668; nearly 100 works from the Golden Cockerel Press, donated by Dr. Harold Marvin; an incunable, printed in 1492, of the Works of Seneca; a manuscript Horae (or Book of Hours) made in France around 1500; and a Bible, printed in Arabic in 1811, and owned by Omar Ibn Sayyid. Many of the early acquisitions for the Rare Book Room were donations, often personal collections of the donors. 

The materials in the Rare Book Room are often used for research, either by students or by independent scholars, and the space, newly renovated during the summer, has been the location for special events, including the annual “Ghost Stories in the Library.”

Ghosts in the Library
Ghosts in the Library

There is a display case that houses a rotating display of items in the collection.

Although currently we are unable to invite classes into the Rare Book Room, we’re looking forward to doing that again soon!