In 1771 the N.C. Assembly and Governor Tryon authorized Queen’s College, the first publicly supported college in the South. An all male institution, it was actually supported by a tax on rum.
The school, which was established under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, was in conflict with royal authority and the Church of England.
Gov. William Tryon believed that the school’s charter would show his appreciation to the Presbyterians who aided him in the ongoing conflict with the Regulators. The British government determined that it would not be appropriate for the crown to approve a Scots-Irish institution that could perpetuate anti-royalist views in the colony, and the charter was revoked by King George III in 1782.
This should have discontinued the institution's operation, but the citizens didn't give up so easily.
The trustees continued to apply for a charter and operated the school under the name of Queen’s Museum. During the Revolution, school trustees sympathized with the colonial cause and many future leaders, including William R. Davie and Andrew Jackson, were educated there. After independence was declared, through a bill approved by the NC General Assembly, Liberty Hall Academy was created, and the Queen's Museum institution was essentially renamed. Though the institution was approved, the fledgling state government was unable to provide funds for public education during the Revolutionary War. At first, Liberty Hall provided education for men too young for combat and for older men whose service was no longer needed.
Liberty Hall was used as a hospital for soldiers on both sides during the Revolution but closed its doors as an academy in September 1780 when Lord Charles Cornwallis moved troops into Charlotte. After the British withdrew, the institution, which had been used as a hospital during the occupation of the city and the Battle of Charlotte, did not reopen. In 1784 trustees reported that the buildings were in ruin and decay. The trustees petitioned the legislature to move the academy to Salisbury and change its name to Salisbury Academy.
The institution we know today as Charlotte’s Queens University (with no apostrophe in Queens, unlike the original) carries on the name of this early school, but had a completely different origin, originally founded much later in 1857 as the Charlotte Female Institute.
A bronze plaque commemorates the location of the original Queen's College on the Liberty Walk (shown below).
The school was located between S. Tryon and College St. and 2nd (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) and 3rd St (current location of Wells Fargo Bank). The school occupied the northern half of the block between S. Tryon and College St. In 1897, when excavations were done at that site for the fourth Mecklenburg County Courthouse, the bones of British soldiers were found.
Until next week!
"Charlotte Liberty Walk," Mecklenburg Historical Association
"Liberty Hall/Queens Museum/British Cemetery," Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
"Liberty Hall," by Stewart Lillard, NCPedia, 2006.
"The Original Queen's College in Charlotte," North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, January 15, 2016.
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