Guest Blogger: Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology “Historical Archaeology and the Enslaved of Beaver Dam”

This is the first of five posts from Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) summarizing the results of their preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation in Davidson, North Carolina.

The role of archaeology is to study societies of the past by examining their material record and the landscapes they inhabited. Historical archaeology juxtaposes the written record to these evidences to gain an even richer understanding of past societies. This written record may come from archives or can literally be found on the artifacts found during excavations. In this, historical archaeology has two incredible advantages as a social science: (1) it offers a rich type of evidence that is unavailable to non-historical archaeology and (2) offers a vast amount of material culture while paying attention to landscapes in ways that are typically evacuated from strict historical lenses. Historical archaeology can thus fill-in the many blind spots of the historical record, which tends to be written by the powerful or literary elite of the past; in this, historical archaeology can be framed as “anti-history” (Lee-Dawdy 2016). In other words, this anti-historical power can shine a light on past realities which were either erased or muted by history; those of past people suffering from intersectional inequities.

For decades, historical archaeologists have documented the lives of people whose stories were muted. This approach has had great success in studying the socioeconomic context, personal practices, challenges, and violence which characterized the lives of the people who were enslaved by plantation owners in the USA and beyond. More recently, historical archaeologists have also studied the realities of the post-emancipation life of African American households (Franklin et al. 2020). This broad research field is known as African Diaspora Archaeology and is spearheaded by members of the Society of Black Archaeologists, who are actively encouraging accomplices to contribute in steering the discipline towards an antiracist future (Flewellen et al. 2021).




A view of the Beaver Dam Plantation house from the hypothesized location of the historical cemetery used by the enslaved (photo by the author).

In this series of blog posts, my four students – Mandy Muise, Paul Mullinax, Isabel Nowak, and Sara Wilson – from the Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) and I summarize the results of our preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation. This past semester, we studied the archival record, the landscape, and the potential for a community-engaged archaeology project at the site. The remaining estate is a small park – located at 19600 Davidson-Concord Rd – owned by Davidson College and currently leased to the Town of Davidson. Our work has identified important features of this landmark which have been effectively muted from its history and contemporary landscape: namely, the probable locations for the homes and cemetery of the enslaved who lived and labored on these grounds in the 19th century. This project has antiracist roots and goals: it aims to redress history through a historical archaeological program to give back the voices to those who’ve been muted by history.

The design of this project was influenced by experienced historical and community-engaged archaeologists and by the rich and recent literature on the Archaeology of African Diaspora and Community Engaged Archaeology (Agbe-Davies 2017; Atalay 2012; Battle-Baptiste 2017; Colwell 2016; Dunnavant 2014; Engmann 2019; Flewellen 2017; Flewellen et al. 2021; Franklin 2019; Franklin et al. 2020; Fryer 2020; Joseph 2016; Kawelu 2014; McAnany 2020; McDavid 2007; Odewale 2019; Ogundiran and Falola 2007; Reeves 2004; Shackel 2013; White 2016, 2017).

We, the five members of this project, are white. We’ve strived to use our various privileges to position ourselves so that we may launch a small, ethically-grounded project seeking to collaborate with the local Davidson community to identify and achieve antiracist goals. In fact, any future research as part of our project will be developed in collaboration with members of the Davidson Community. The powerful lenses of historical archaeology and our preliminary findings give us confidence that this project could transform Beaver Dam into a place of positive historical awareness that would benefit the broader community.

Funding for this project was provided by Davidson College’s Stories (Yet) to be Told program.

Bibliography

Agbe-Davies, Anna

2017    Where Tradition and Pragmatism Meet: African Diaspora Archaeology at the Crossroads. Historical Archaeology 51:9-27.

Atalay, Sonya

2012    Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Battle-Baptiste, Whitney

2017    Cruise Ships, Community, and Collective Memory at Millars Plantation, Eleuthera, Bahamas. Historical Archaeology 51(1):60–70.

Colwell, Chip

2016    Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology 45:113–27.

Dunnavant, Justin

2014    Rehistoricizing African Archaeology through the Archives: The Intellectual Life of William Leo Hansberry. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 29(2):34-49.

Engmann, Rachael A. A.

2019    “Archaeo, That Useless Subject”: Excavating the Past through Autoarchaeology and Community Outreach Education. Ghana Studies 22:173-190

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade

2017    Locating Marginalized Historical Narratives at Kingsley Plantation. Historical Archaeology 51(1):71–87.

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade, Justin P. Dunnavant, Alicia Odewale, Alexandra Jones,

Tsione Wolde-Michael, Zoë Crossland, and Maria Franklin

2021    “The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist”: Archaeology in the Time of Black

Lives Matter. American Antiquity 1-20 .Online Article.

Franklin, Maria

2019   Enslaved Household Variability and Plantation Life and Labor in Colonial Virginia. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24:115-155.

Franklin, Maria, Justin P. Dunnavant, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, and Alicia Odewale

2020    The Future is Now: Archaeology and the Eradication of Anti-Blackness. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24(4):753–766.

Fryer, Tiffany C.

2020    Reflecting on Positionality: Archaeological Heritage Praxis in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 31(1):26–40.

Joseph, J. W.

2016    Marks from the Past, Signs of the Future—the Dikenga of Historical Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 50(3):5–23.

Kawelu, Kathleen

2014    In Their Own Voices: Contemporary Native Hawaiian and Archaeological Narratives about Hawaiian Archaeology. The Contemporary Pacific 26(1):31–62.

Lee Dawdy, Shannon

2015    Anti-History. In Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, edited by Geoff Emberling, pp. 328-342. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

McAnany, Patricia

2020   Imagining a Maya Archaeology That Is Anthropological and Attuned to Indigenous   Cultural Heritage. Heritage 3:1-11.

McDavid, Carol

2007   Beyond Strategy and Good Intentions: Archaeology, Race, and White Privilege. In An  

Archaeology of Civic Engagement and Social Justice, edited by Barbara Little and PaulShackel, pp. 67-88. AltaMira Press, Lanham.

Odewale, Alicia

2019    An Archaeology of Struggle: Material Remnants of a Double Consciousness in the

American South and Danish Caribbean Communities. Transforming Anthropology 27(2):114–132.

Ogundiran, Akinwumi, and Toyin Falola

2007    Pathways in the archaeology of transatlantic Africa. In Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African diaspora, edited by Ogundiran Akinwumi and Toyin Falola, pp. 3-45. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Reeves, Matthew B.

2004    Asking the Right Questions: Archaeologists and Descendant Communities. In Places in

Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology, edited by Paul A. Shackel and Erve J. Chambers, pp. 71–81. Routledge, London.

Shackel, Paul

2013    Working with the Difficult Past: Examples from the University of Maryland. Annals of Anthropological Practice 37(1):57-71

White, William A. III

2016   Creating Space for a Place: The River Street Archaeology Project. Arizona Anthropologist 27:69-82.

2017    Writ on the Landscape: Racialization, Whiteness, and River Street. Historical Archaeology 51(1):131–148.

Guest Blogger: Anna Avinger, Davidson Senior Biology Major, “Growing Community”

Anna Avinger is a senior biology major on the pre-medicine track. This article stems from her independent study on community gardens. Fellow senior Ethan Landen and Anna became interested in this topic after their semester abroad in Australia, where they studied sustainable agriculture and ecology.

As the global pandemic rages on, community gardens in Charlotte continue to thrive. Here is a list of three community gardens that each have a different strategy for success. While they all have their own objectives and strategies, they share similar ideas: provide more access to food, increase sustainable efforts, and build community. 

Wilmore Garden

Wilmore Garden

The earliest community garden in Charlotte – Wilmore Garden – is one of many gardens within the organization, Charlotte Green. This organization has started several small gardens in urban neighborhoods all over Charlotte. Within each of them, community members can claim a small plot of land to plant and harvest their own crops. The gardeners learn from each other and grow in relationship with each other as they work. Board member, Cissy Shull, says that people are always at the Wilmore Garden working. When I went to Wilmore Garden, it was raining, but there were still people there, cleaning up the communal shed and organizing tools. The gardens provide people with something to do, something to be proud of, and something that brings the community together.

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden was founded in 2010 by Eddie and Connie Beach as a part of the Davidson United Methodist Church. This garden is communally managed and harvested. Volunteers from all over Davidson come together on Saturday mornings to help out. Most crops are delivered to the food pantry at Ada Jenkins, a local non-profit. Eddie Beach emphasizes the impact of the garden on Davidson’s strong sense of community. “A story that I really like is that there was a grandmother who had the responsibility of getting her grandson to Davidson Elementary School, and he didn’t want to go. But he did like the scarecrows in the community garden, so she would get him out of the house by saying, ‘we’re going to the community garden to see the scarecrows.’ So, he’d get over here and look and be happy, and it was just a way to get him to go to school,” Beach said. “That is the kind of thing that really adds another dimension to the garden.”

Smithville Community Garden

Smithville Community Garden

Built on her grandparents’ land, Smithville Community Garden holds a special place in Natalie Mayhew’s heart. She explains that the garden was founded to bring people into the community. The founders wanted people to know about Smithville. Mayhew described the history of Smithville: Her great great grandmother worked for the Smith family picking cotton as a slave, and the family gave her and many other black slaves land to call their own. That’s how the community was born. Recently, as one of the remaining historically black communities, Smithville has been trying to fight gentrification efforts. In doing this, the Smithville Community Coalition, which runs the garden, works to emphasize the sense of pride and historical influence of the community. The garden has been a success. It gives people a place to come together and learn about Smithville, and it provides a wonderful place for rest and relaxation.

Through my research, I learned that the overwhelming emphasis of these gardens is to build community, which means different things for different gardens – whether its individuals working side-by-side on their own plots, families coming together for a common service project, or bringing in people from outside the community to raise awareness. There’s always more to it than planting seeds and harvesting produce.

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part Three)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Trapped in a subordinate position within society, Mary Lacy took pride in controlling the slaves within her household, using it as a way to forge her own identity. Women, such as Mary Lacy, were merely viewed “as a unit of production and reproduction under men’s dominance,” as they were denied the ability to form their own opinions or ideals as a whole.[1] The normative for women in society was to succumb to coverture: a concept that a “married woman had neither independent minds nor independent power.”[2] In an attempt to distinguish her place in the patriarchal realm, “[to] encompass [a] feeling of identification,” Lacy derived “principle and practicality” by believing herself to be an “owner” and “manager” of the slaves. In her letter to Bess on January 2 of 1857, she writes: “I had set my mind upon a little girl” to buy as a slave.[3] Disregarding the objectification set upon the child, Lacy’s use of “set my mind upon” infers that she finally felt like she was in control of something and had the “upper hand” to a decision made in the household—a rare find in a world where women’s traditional role operated completely separate from one of “work and politics.”[4] Lacy turned a trivial pursuit for a new worker in their household into an “almost universal dilemma,”[5] as ‘ordering’ these slaves served to be the one way in which she, as a slave-holder’s wife could exert her power where typically she would be “alienated from [her] own society,” trapped in a bubble within their household.[6] This dehumanizing treatment to those “racial[ly] inferior” of the white bourgeois class revealed in the language of Lacy’s writing served as a “feminine guise” to mask the desperation a woman felt to hold a place in society as a slave-holder’s wife.[7]

Screenshot of text from January 2, 1857 letter from Mary Lacy
Text from January 2, 1857 letter where Mary Lacy expresses her interest in acquiring a young girl as a slave. View the whole letter here.

Mary Lacy’s letters not only reveal the atrocious behavior of the slave-holding women at the time towards the slaves which occurred nearly every day in the 1860s in North Carolina, but they also have a strong tie to Davidson College which are unbreakable. As wife to a previous President at Davidson, her baneful acts are coincidentally elusive, as they are not actively publicized by the college. This contradicts the slogan embodied by the college, “#DAVIDSONTRUE”, one which according to the college marketing website is defined by “deep sincerity, unquestioned integrity, and fundamental decency.”[8] If truth at the college is such an “elusive” concept, then why must students excavate to uncover the racist actions committed by the former President’s family?[9] Mary Lacy’s letters serve as an important reminder that we, as Davidson students, bound by the Honor Code which serves as one of the defining principles at the college, are entitled to this information and that it is imperative, that no matter which class we are enrolled in, we learn the truth about the college’s history.


[1] Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Black and White Women of the Old South.” Within the Plantation Household (The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 46.

[2] Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Williamsburg, Virginia: University of North Carolina Press, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1980), 152-153.

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 113; Laura F. Edwards, “At the Threshold of the Plantation Household: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Southern Women’s History.” The Mississippi Quarterly 65, no. 4 (2012): 578.

[5] Jones, 115

[6] Fox-Genovese, 53.

[7] Fox-Genovese, 50; Fox-Genovese, 51.

[8] Davidson College, “#DAVIDSONTRUE” (Davidson: Davidson College, 2020), https://www.davidson.edu/about/davidsontrue.

[9] Ibid.


This is the third post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part Two)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Mary Lacy’s letters demonstrate her extreme ignorance as well towards blacks as a whole. Lacy reveals her husband’s utter exhaustion to “living in this country,” as he must complete tasks, such as making fires and feeding the animals, unsuitable to his high ranking position as President of the college.[1] She expresses that they “must conform to the ways of the people and buy [their] own servants,” a job that proves to be much harder than it appears to the Lacy family, despite serving as a ‘necessity’ in their privileged eyes.[2] On August 6, 1856, Lacy’s referral to her family friend’s plantation as a “favorite resort of Davidson professors and Davidson students” further establishes her dehumanizing angle towards those who work for her and her ignorance of the atrocious acts on the plantation.[3] In February of 1859, Lacy described an ‘incident’ in which a Davidson student’s belongings were stolen. A black man was whipped for this, despite “confess[ing] nothing” and another for merely “having a pistol.”[4] Lacy flits by this fallible case, stopping only to highlight how “poor Barry never got back his things.”[5] Lacy’s lack of acknowledgement towards the central issue of blatant racism shows her utter disrespect towards black people. The way in which Mary Lacy, wife to the former President at Davidson, glossed over such events raises a critical issue of the absence of general education and respect at the college towards human beings as a whole.

The vast difference in Lacy’s treatment towards her own children in comparison to those enslaved serves as evidence towards her sole focus on being the quintessential wife of a slave-holder. In her letter on August 6, 1856, she expressed desperation as one of her slaves fell ill: “Aunt Maria must needs make herself sick….she is a hard old case.”[6] In choosing the word “must needs,” Lacy called Maria out, turning the slave into the one culpable for being sick, making the bourgeois life even harder. Lacy even went to question if her slaves were actually ill, denying them right to a doctor, claiming that her “black baby” was “getting well without any doctor.”[7] In reality, it was common for slaves to suffer “internal conflict and stress” due to long hours they were subjected to in the household.[8] Lacy’s interactions with her own children described as “fractious” vastly differed to those with the slaves who were chastised for no valid reason.[9] Lacy paid no mind to her young kids who would “keep [her] busy [trying] to keep them from killing each other.”[10] Lacy’s differences in reaction to when her slaves fell ill, compared to when her own children acted out, highlights her dependence upon slaves to provide her a path to be a proper slave-holding wife.


[1] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Carlina Green et. al, “February, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[5] Carlina Green et. al, “February, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[6] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[7] Carlina Green et. al, “July 15, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[8] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 111.

[9] Carlina Green et. al, “July 2, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[10] Ibid.


This is the second post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part One)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Forced to uphold an innumerable set of standards, an ideal Southern lady was sculpted by the patriarchal society that surrounded her. In the 1860s, almost one in three North Carolinians were white slaveholders.[1] Although labor-intensive cash crops still played a staple role in the economy, many slaves served in white households. Mary Lacy, born in 1816 to a family of higher education, married Drury Lacy at age 33.[2] In 1855, her husband became President at Davidson College for five years. To pass free time and communicate with her close family, Lacy sent letters to her step-daughter, ‘Bess,’ from 1856 until 1859. Mary Lacy dedicated her time “garner[ing] respect in the private and public sphere” at her husband’s plantation who owned a family of slaves.[3] Cast in their husband’s shadow, women of this time were expected to be “gracious, fragile, and deferential to men whose protection [they were] dependent [upon].”[4]  Southern housewives relied on slaves to uphold their bourgeoisie status in society during the 1860s. The objectifying treatment to the slaves, revealed in Lacy’s writing, attests to the ignorance and disrespect of these upper-class white women, the gender normalities of the time, and the role religion played in society. Although held to a high regard in the public sphere, the disrespect of the Lacy family to their slaves highlighted within this document, questions Davidson’s commitment to transparency through the honor code.

Portrait of Mary Lacy (Photo found on HIS 306’s “The Mary Lacy Letters” website, linked at the end of this post.)

Lacy’s complete disregard to treat her slaves with basic respect is showcased in her letters by the pejorative language she used towards them. Enslaved peoples who worked within the household were commonly assigned jobs such as growing, preparing, and storing food and sewing.[5] “Little value [was] placed on [job] specialization,” yet this did not stop the slave-holding wives to label their servants—”maid,” “cook,” “nurse”—to categorize them.[6] Throughout Lacy’s letters, she refers to one of her servants as “Aunt,” a term for those of older age commonly used by white slave-holder wives.[7] These disrespectful names assigned to the slaves, implicate Lacy’s view—“incompetent, worthless, untidy, indolent, wasteful”—towards those who worked for her and the way in which she used these to make herself feel more competent.[8] In her letter on July 2, 1856, Lacy expresses her desire for Bess to “send round & get [her Zack]” (another slave).[9] Her phrasing dehumanizes the man, objectifying him as a form of transportation. Lacy writes to Bess about the process of finding a child they “could have bound” for “more reasonable terms,” referencing them as if they were products for sale, devaluing them as people.[10] When disappointed with the little girl they “expected to get,” Lacy brushed it off claiming that they would just have to “hunt for [another]” as there were a “great many to hire.”[11] “Hunt” is a term primarily used for animals and “great many to hire” makes it seem like those in the slave market are ‘desperate’ to be “hire[d].” Lacy creates a false reality for herself by stripping the slaves of their identity, allowing her to rise above and claim her wealthy status.


[1] Jeffery J. Crow, “Slavery” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

[2] Carlina Green et. al, “Introduction.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “Slave Owning Women.” Mary Lacy Letters: (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Black and White Women of the Old South.” Within the Plantation Household (The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 104.

[5] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 29.

[6] Jones, 112.

[7] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[8] Jones, 113.

[9] Carlina Green et. al, “July 2, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[10] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[11] Carlina Green et. al, “December 12, 1858.”, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).


This is the first post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

“(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories” Week One Update

As mentioned in the previous blog post about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, Archives and Special Collections is proud to present the initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we aim to document the personal experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during the COVID-19 epidemic. We invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away.

We’ve had a wonderful start to this project and here are some highlights of the first contributions!

Wearing face masks to go outside and to go shopping has become the temporary new normal. Many people are wearing homemade masks as seen by contributions from Annelise Gorensek-Benitez (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry), Molly Kunkel (Digital Archivist; “Shopping Essentials”), and Ann Haley and Shaw Smith (Joel O. Conarroe Professor of Art History).

We are also delighted to see contributions of creative works, including a painting from community member Dr. Edward L. Boye and original poetry from Lisa Forest (Leland M. Park Director of E.H. Little Library) and Anthony S. Abbott (Professor of English Emeritus).

Painting of castle.
“Finding Your Castle” by Dr. Edward L. Boye

A huge thank you to those who have submitted thus far! If you would like to view more contributions or would like to contribute an item to the “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories,” please visit the site.

(Re)Collecting the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and COVID-19 in Davidson

On September 18, 1918, the fall term of the 1918-1919 academic year began at Davidson. Three weeks later on October 9, 1918, The Davidsonian reported that the college experienced “a severe visitation” of Spanish influenza. From the report of the first case, new cases began to emerge rapidly. The infirmary, although equipped with medical equipment and staff, quickly became overrun with patients. To more adequately attend to the sick, the Chambers building, the main academic building on campus (which also had two wings set aside as dormitories), was turned into a makeshift hospital. At first, only the first floor of the south wing was used to house the sick. However, cases continued to appear and the second and third floors of the wing were quickly repurposed as hospital wards (“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson”).

Chambers as built.
Old Chambers (Burned in 1921)

With an ever-increasing volume of cases, campus administration decided to suspend class for three weeks and to place campus under quarantine. To care for the sick, the entire Davidson community offered support. Nurses attended to the ill, the women of the Davidson Red Cross Chapter provided meals and necessary supplies, and Davidson professors took regular shifts to assist in any way they could. One individual, presumably a student (and possibly one of those infirmed) remarked about this extraordinary support offered by the community in the October 9, 1918 Davidsonian (“Editorial”).

The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918
The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918

These combined efforts worked. Remarkably, the next issue of The Davidsonian (October 23, 1918), reported that after three weeks of cases of the Spanish flu on campus, the epidemic was practically over. In total, over 200 cases of the flu were reported and those remaining were rapidly recovering (“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College”). However, one student, Daniel J. Currie of Defuniac Springs, Florida, did pass away from pneumonia, which was likely resultant from the influenza. Nurse Laura Rose Stevenson of Charlotte treated patients at Davidson and also died of pneumonia (“In Memoriam”).

While the college was rocked by the flu, the Town of Davidson was as well. The sick were treated in their homes, cotton mills and schools temporarily shut down, and the town was placed under quarantine. The October 23, 1918 issue of The Davidsonian included notices of townspeople affected by the influenza (“Town Items”).

The Davidsonian, October 23, 1918

Like in the case of the college, the Red Cross provided assistance to the Town of Davidson. In total, over 150 cases were reported in the town. There were at least five deaths from pneumonia, most of which were African American (“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved”). The next week, in the November 6, 1918 Davidsonian, it is reported that the town’s quarantine had been lifted and that mills had resumed work (“‘Flu Situation In Town Continues to Improve).

Although the events of the Spanish flu epidemic occurred over 100 years ago, we find ourselves in a very similar situation today with COVID-19. What can we learn by reflecting on Davidson’s response to the Spanish flu?

I think it is this: It takes all of us to get through it. In 1918, this was evident in medical personnel, townspeople, and the college community coming together to help one another. In 2020, we can see the same thing occurring. We are helping each other by tending to the ill, by donating supplies, by abiding stay-at-home orders, by offering each other emotional support. The list goes on and on. We are all trying our best to help each other get through it. And I think that is worth everything.

As Davidson adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are challenged to develop new ways to engage and interact with our community. Davidson College Archives, Special Collections & Community, which regularly collects, shares, and preserves the college’s and community’s unique stories, would like to document the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during these uncertain times. To this end, we are excited to present our initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away. To learn more about “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories, please visit the site.

Works Cited

“Editorial.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation In Town Continues to Improve.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 6 Nov. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181106.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 30 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181030.pdf.

“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

“In Memoriam.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

Guest Blogger: Tracey Hagan on “The Ladies Missionary Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

Written by Tracey Hagan, a student-athlete senior psychology major from Ridgefield, CT. Student in History 306: Women and Gender in US History from to 1870.  

Davidson College Presbyterian Church (DCPC) began as a small congregation of six women, two male elders, Robert Hall Morrison as the leader, and fifteen Davidson students in 1837.1 As the Church grew, it became more than just a place for worship. The Church developed into a social institution for its members, specifically for the women of the church.  

The Ladies Missionary Society Constitution was created in 1885. In its first year, Mrs. Dupuy was nominated president, Mrs. Knox was vice president, and Mrs. Vinson was secretary. The constitution contains a preamble and twelve articles. The articles provide the details about what was to happen at each meeting of the society. According to the constitution, they were to meet at a minimum on a monthly basis to discuss selected articles about other missionary works in America, Asia, and Europe or Africa. Generally, the meetings consisted of attendance, reading, singing, general business discussion, and the president’s appointment of the readers for the next meeting.  

First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885. Establishes the name and officer positions of the society.
First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885.

This three-page constitution alone shows that the white women of Davidson in 1885 had a much more hands on role in DCPC than what was expected from the Presbyterian Church norms of that era. Women’s roles in the Presbyterian Church in general were limited to leading Sunday schools, attracting new members, running women’s prayer meetings and church organizations, furnishing the church and raising her own family.2 Women were not to be active members in the church, or hold any leadership positions.3 Despite the General Assembly’s restrictions on women’s roles within the church, the Davidson women formed this society.  

They wrote the constitution and ran this entire group on their own. In this way, this society gave them a position of power outside of the traditional roles and domestic sphere to which the Church and societal traditions confined them. The society also served as a form of group education. The members were essentially given homework assignments to learn about other missionary works across the country, and across continents. In this way, this society served to empower its members. It is important to note that not all the women of the town were members. As outlined article 8 in the constitution, members were strongly encouraged to give monthly donations to the society. This monetary element of the society may have made it so only affluent white women in Davidson could be members. While this society certainly gave white women in Davidson some more power in their lives, it did not extend this opportunity to all the women of the town.  

Works Cited:

[1] Beaty, Mary D. A History of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church . Davidson College Presbyterian Church, n.d.

[2] Boyd, Lois A. “Presbyterian Ministers’ Wives—A Nineteenth-Century Portrait.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 1 (1981): 3-17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328155.

[3] Brackenridge, R. Douglas, and Lois A. Boyd. “United Presbyterian Policy on Women and the Church—an Historical Overview.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 3 (1981): 383-407. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328186.

Guest Blogger: Tommy Bohannon on “A Girl of the Seventies – Domestic Labor and Women at Davidson College in the Mid-Late 19th Century”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

Tommy Bohannon is a senior Biology major and History minor at Davidson College. He is extremely excited about working on this archival research in order to better grasp an understanding of the role women have played in Davidson’s history.

In order to contextualize the history of Davidson College in the mid-19th century, it is important to recognize that the town was very small and relatively isolated from populated urban locations. The relationship between the town and the college was extremely strong, and societal traditions were largely based on family units. When visitors came into town, they stayed with the families that lived there – no hotels were available to accommodate their presence. Women in these families were expected to be gracious hosts, and extensive pressure was put upon them to entertain visitors despite a general lack of resources to do so. 

The A Girl of the Seventies article in the Davidson College archives goes into detail about how women were forced to play the role of the hospitable mother and wife in the years between 1869-1875. According to the record, “there was no market,” but rather “one or two small groceries supplied the heavier items of food,” with items like “eggs, butter, chickens, fresh beef, mutton, or pork,” coming from local individuals with strong personal ties.1 To have a grand feast was a special occasion, one that women were pressured into perfecting. In one instance, a local woman apologized to a visiting Governor, believing that her food was “too simple for such a distinguished guest.” The pressure on Davidson women to prepare extravagant feasts for visitors was extremely high, especially given the lack of options in terms of food sources.  

Newspaper article titled "A Girl of the Seventies." The article goes into detail about dinner parties and lodgings provided by women in the town of Davidson in the late 19th century.

Article written by Lucy Phillips Russell and found in the DC0157s manuscript collection in the Davidson College Archives. The content describes conditions in Davidson in the late 19th century.

Guests were treated with the utmost respect and were typically welcomed even if they appeared unannounced. In one circumstance where a woman was noted to have objected unexpected guests, she told her husband that all she had for them to eat was “some mush and milk,” to which they obliged and ate with gusto.2 Visitors were polite, likely understanding the difficulties that women encountered in trying to assemble grand dinners. These difficulties were normalized in the town of Davidson, and women were expected to fulfill the role of being gracious hosts without complaining. 

This source will be extremely useful in noting the domestic labor of women in the town of Davidson. With descriptions of the roles that women played in acquiring food products and producing them for their families and occasional visitors, this source would inform my research on the role that women played in food production in the Antebellum South. The norm of women being subjected to domestic labor was extremely ingrained in the history of Davidson College, and this source is great for recognizing the extent of that subjugation. 

Works Cited:

“A Girl of the Seventies.” DC0157s Lucy Phillips Russell Collection. Davidson College Archives.

Guest Blogger: Tindall Adams on “Trailblazing Teachers: Davidson’s First Female Teacher”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

Tindall Adams is a current sophomore and prospective English major (with a History minor). She is involved with other organizations on campus such as Warner Hall and Planned Parenthood Generation Action.  

Today, a little over half of the professors at Davidson College are female; however, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1896, Eulalia Cornelius became the first female teacher at Davidson.1 Although she was not a regular, full-time faculty member, Cornelius was evidently well-regarded by the Davidson community for her musical talents and teaching.  

As a female teacher in the 1890s, Eulalia Cornelius was teaching during a unique and influential period of education history. In the late nineteenth century, society began to promote the notion that teaching functioned as an “extension of mothering”.2 Additionally, religious institutions also began to promote the idea that women were the “moral sex” in order to increase female church attendance and support of the church.3 During this period, the main function of school was to teach children moral values and women’s expected role was to raise children. Therefore, society increasingly viewed teaching as a natural and acceptable job for women.4 Specifically in North Carolina, where Eulalia Cornelius taught, southern Progressive men advocated for the higher education of women because they believed it could help spur economic progress in the post-Civil War South.5  

Program for a public recital led by Eulalia Cornelius. Features duets, solos, and instrumental performances.
Recital program from the manuscript collection, DC0324s.

The Davidson Archives currently has a program from a music recital given by Cornelius. Eulalia Cornelius not only gave private voice lessons to Davidson students, but to women who lived in the town as well. Therefore, all of her students were most likely white and were in a fairly well-off financial position if they could afford private music lessons. The program is nicely printed, and has a least ten different “pupils” performing at the recital. While there is no mention of this March 21, 1898 recital in newspapers from the time, there is mention of a Eulalia Cornelius recital in 1897 in the Statesville Record and Landmark newspaper. The paper highly praises Cornelius’ skills as a teacher.

Newspaper clipping from the Statesville Record and Landmark. Describes Eulalia Cornelius' music lessons.
Excerpt from the Statesville Record and Landmark, March 19, 1897. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection.

There is no mention of Cornelius in any Davidson College Faculty minutes from the late nineteenth century. Therefore, this recital program, which could initially seem trivial, brings light to an important part of women’s history at Davidson. Although she was not a full-time employee, Cornelius was one of the first women to teach at Davidson. This recital sheet, supplemented by many other newspaper articles praising her skills, gives her recognition of her success as a teacher.  

Works Cited:

Cott, Nancy F. “Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850.” Signs 4, no. 2 (1978): 219-236. 

Davidson Archives. “Active and Benevolent Ladies: A Short History of Women at Davidson College.” Davidson College Library. Accessed November 8, 2019. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/women/#staff

Hoffman, Nancy. “‘Inquiring after the Schoolmarm’: Problems of Historical Research on Female Teachers.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 22, no. 1/2 (1994): 104–18. 

Laud, Leslie E. “Moral Education In America: 1600s-1800s.” The Journal of Education 179, no. 2 (1997): 1-10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42741719

McCandless, Amy Thompson. “Progressivism and the Higher Education of Southern Women.” The North Carolina Historical Review 70, no. 3 (1993): 302–25.