As always, click the pic for full size

The Davis School, Winston, NC, c. 1892. At the rear, the two main buildings are at the right, next to the chapel…the barracks at center and faculty housing at left. The railway line to Mocksville runs across the center of the scene past the Davis School depot at the extreme left. In front of that building stands an old log storage building and barely seen is a bit of the Brookstown/Bethania Road (now Reynolda Road), with at lower left the bridge across Peter’s Creek. Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

In October, 1886, Colonel A.C. Davis opened the Davis School in La Grange, NC. It was a military high school for young men. After the 1889 Christmas holiday, the school was swept by an epidemic of “grip” (flu), and classes were suspended in early February, 1890. It was expected that the school would be reopened in the fall. But other forces were at work.

At that time, Trinity College in Trinity, NC, which had a chronic money problem, was looking for a safe haven. And the location of a new Baptist Female University was also up for grabs. The Davis Military School got sucked into the sweepstakes. By March, it appeared that Raleigh might get all three schools. But Raleigh only won one, the Baptist school, which was renamed Meredith College in 1909 after John Meredith,  the founder of the “Biblical Recorder”. Buck Duke got busy and lured Trinity to Durham, where it would eventualy become Duke University. Winston lawyer and newspaper publisher John W. Alspaugh, a Trinity grad who had rescued the school more than once from collapse, was bitterly disappointed that Trinity did not come to Winston, but ended up settling for the Davis school.

Ruger & Stone’s 1891 Birds-Eye view of the Twin City gives us another look at the Davis School, including the twin bridges above the parade ground leading to the military training area of the campus…Library of Congress…

By June, with the enthusiastic participation of Winston business leaders, a suitable tract of land on the Old Town Road near Peter’s Creek had been purchased, the contractors, Porter & Goodwin of Goldsboro, were hard at work on the residences and barracks, and Philadelphia architect J.D. Daugherty had completed plans for the campus’s main building. The school opened in September with nearly 200 boys in attendance.

Some baseball action…pitcher at left…the batter is wearing a hat, tie and vest…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

By the turn of the year, the school had become an integral part of the community. On February 27, 1891, the lads came marching down Main street in double file to a drum cadence and turned in at the Gymnasium Hall to be entertained by the young women of the Salem Female Academy in a program of songs and piano solos. Two and a half hours later, they marched away to the air “The Girl I Left Behind Me” played by their brass band and the sighs of the academy ladies. These would become regular events looked forward to by the students of both schools.

A football game at Davis…note the more rounded rugby ball…the forward pass was still illegal…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

Their annual spring athletics day, consisting of mostly track and field events, became a popular entertainment…the newspapers hinted that they were especially enjoyed by the local shop girls. The most popular event was the tug of war, in which teams competed ferociously to win the ribbon.

The annual May Day dress parade on the courthouse square was a highlight every year…this one in 1894…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

And on May Day each year, they put on a grand dress parade at the courthouse square, marching to the tunes of their own brass band, and performing close order drill and other military maneuvers, under the direction of First Lieutenant W.E. Shipp of the 10th US Cavalry, who had been assigned to the school by the US Secretary of War. The school was delighted with the city and the city was delighted with the school.

The faculty of the Davis School…Colonel A.C. Davis is seated at the right, next to his father, who was a physician…his brother Jeff is at the left…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

For some time there had been a good bit of confusion over the name of the school. The original charter from the state General Assembly had been simply the Davis School. But sloppy journalists and overeager marketers had used a variety of different names, including the Davis Military Academy and the Davis Military College, which it was not. In 1893, local legislator Cyrus Watson petitioned the General Assembly to change the name to the Davis Military School, which was done.

James Edward Peterson, Jr., of Salem, was one of the many local boys who attended the Davis School…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

But that same year, the US economy went into a tailspin. A year later the gross national product was down more than 10%, spending was down about the same amount and capital was extremely hard to come by. All indicators began a fairly rapid recovery, but certain areas of the economy, which most definitely included boarding schools, would struggle for several more years. Suddenly, without warning, in early November, 1897, a statement appeared in the local newspapers. The Davis Military School had gone into the hands of a receiver. A number of local leaders, the most vocal of which was P.H. Hanes, called for the rescue of the school, but that was not forthcoming. In December, Superior Court judge Darius Starbuck decreed that the receiver should auction off the private property of the school. That was done on July 16, 1898 and the Davis Military School was no more.

The property stood abandoned for several years. In 1900, a fire destroyed two of the barracks buildings. And two years later, the remainder of the campus burned to the ground and all traces of the school were gone. In 1909, the land was acquired by the Methodist Church and eventually became the North Carolina Methodist Children’s Home. That story will be dealt with in another post.

Early days of Children’s Home, c 1915…the buildings are, left to right, the dormitory for large sized boys, the dormitory for middle sized boys, the dormitory for small sized boys and the dormitory for middle sized girls. The brick building in the distance was the Cornelius Building, dormitory for large sized girls. In between, behind the horse and obscured by trees was the original dining hall. That story coming soon to a blog near you…Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection…

Meanwhile, that same year, a new military school came to Winston. Professor J. W. Tinsley of Havre de Grace, Maryland, announced that he was looking to establish a military academy somewhere to the south. Immediately, the local Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce jumped on the bandwagon. Even though the local newspapers insisted on spelling Professor Tinsley’s hometown as Harve, in a trice, the deal was done.

The Barber Printing Company had just moved into their new quarters on Third Street, leaving their early 1890s building at 214 West Fourth Street available. The local boosters promised full support and spent something over $1,000 sprucing up the building, which would become both the home of Professor Tinsley and his family and the campus of the new military institute.

But when the Tinsley Military Institute opened in the second week of September, 1909, only a handful of cadets were on hand. The local newspapers, the “Journal”, the “Sentinel” and the “Union Republican” for once found common cause in attacking the boosters for failing to provide the promised support. A committee was appointed to correct this problem. Local lawyer H. Montague, who could always be counted on to support education, offered to finance a scholarship for the school. That became the solution…if the children of the wealthy would not enroll at TMI, then local boosters would provide scholarships for the children of the poor.

Tinsley Military Institute cadets on parade, c. 1912…hand colored postcard…

That worked for a while. In its second year, TMI moved to the former Salem Boys School building on South Church Street. And the cadets began to assume a similar role to that of the former Davis School boys in the community. Prominent Salemites pronounced that having TMI so close to the Salem Academy & College campus could not fail to produce positive results. A number of joint programs between the two schools were produced. But there was something, never mentioned publicly, wrong.

In May, 1913, TMI and the Salem Academy and College held their annual commencement ceremonies, with a good bit of crossover between the events. Earlier that month, the towns of Winston and Salem had at long last officially joined to become the city of Winston-Salem. That would lead to many complications as the assets of the two communities were reallocated to suit the common good. Among those complications was the promise of a new Central School to accommodate Salem students. But because funding was already committed to the new Fairview School in north Winston, Central would have to wait for a couple of years.

TMI occupied the 1896 Salem Boys School building from 1910-1913…Old Salem Museums and Gardens…

Suddenly, on May 24, in the middle of the two commencement celebrations, and with no prior public discussion, the new city government and the elders of the Salem congregation announced that the former Boys School building would become a part of the new joint school system for at least two years beginning in the fall of 1913. No mention was made of the fact that the Tinsley Military Institute was already using that facility. And when reporters tracked down Professor Tinsley, he seemed not to know anything about the new arrangement.

Nothing more was said on the subject until August, when Professor Tinsley announced that he had made arrangements to use the second floor of the former Salem Town Hall and that a new school, minus the military aspect, focused on business courses and adult night school classes, would open in the fall. Of course, that never happened. And Professor Tinsley literally vanished from the earth.

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