National Park and Recreation Month: Davidson College Arboretum

Green brochure front with a cluster of leaves in the center, "arboretum" typed across the top, "Davidson College" written just below the leaves.

Arboretum Brochure, Front Page

Since 1985, the National Park and Recreation Association (NPRA) has promoted July as National Park and Recreation Month. As part of these efforts, the NPRA encourages people to appreciate the importance of parks and recreational facilities to STEM education, community gathering and engagement, wild life preservation, and public health – among others.

In recognition of this celebration, we invite you to learn more about the Davidson College campus, which is also a nationally recognized and protected working arboretum.

The campus earned this designation in 1982 when then college president Samuel Spencer received a letter from Henry Cathey, the director of the National Arboretum, requesting the grounds of the college be used as a working arboretum. With the addition of a generous donation from the estate of forestry enthusiast Edwin Latimer Douglass, Physical Plant led an aerial photography and mapping project of the campus to facilitate the preservation of the space.

Four men surround new aerial image of the college campus.

Four men surround new aerial image of the college campus, 1991

But how did the college’s landscape become so unique that it merited this recognition?

The first mention of intentional grounds planning occurs in the first volume of The Meetings of the Board of Trustees of Davidson College. The minutes for February 28, 1855 state: “A communication was read signed by a few ladies of Davidson College, earnestly requesting the Board to take into consideration the propriety of enclosing the college campus, and a general remodeling of college grounds.”

Feb 28, 1855 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees. Discusses tree plantings.

Feb 28, 1855 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees

 

This is followed up in the Annual Faculty Report of 1860 – 1861 which commented: “During last spring, the students, at the suggestion of the faculty, undertook to set out each a tree for the embellishment of the campus.” By 1869, reports indicated that such plantings would deliberately attempt to replicate the general forestry and botany of the state and region.

 

June 22, 1869 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees discussing how the plants should reflect local botany.

June 22, 1869 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees

 

Today, the college arboretum includes five tree species which were extinct on the North American continent sometime between 2 and 50 million years ago. Since their re-planting in Davidson, they have survived several hurricanes, ice storms, and campus landscaping alterations.

 

Descriptions of five extinct species in arboretum brochure, including Cunninghamia lanceolata, Koelreuteria paniculata, Metasequoia, glyptostroboides, Zelkova serrata, Ginko biloba.

Descriptions of extinct species in arboretum brochure

 

Umbrella Tree Poem from the 1909 Quips & Cranks, picture of the tree on top of the vertically oriented text.

Umbrella Tree Poem from the 1909 Quips & Cranks

 

Student relaxing against tree after Hurricane Hugo

Student relaxing against tree after Hurricane Hugo

 

So the next time you enjoy the shade provided by our carefully constructed and maintained landscape, stop and look for a small metal plaque where you will find information about the tree’s name and history. Want more information? The Archives holds several copies of the Elm Row Newsletter – a campus publication once dedicated to stories about the college grounds and distributed by campus staff.

1997 Elm Row newsletter, front page. Columns describe campus plants.

1997 Elm Row newsletter, front page

 

Related posts:
25th Anniversary of Hurricane Hugo
Campus Maps 

Guest Blogger: Hunter Murphy, “Take Me Out To The Cat’s Park”

My name is Hunter Murphy and I am from Cincinnati, OH. I am approaching my junior year at Davidson and I am majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Chinese Studies. I am ecstatic about working with Archives this summer as the JEC Archival Assistant and I cannot wait to see what history lies uncovered in the files at the Archives.

I was helping moving some files to south storage the other day when we came across a box a old sports equipment where we found these baseballs dating back to as early as 1921. I was especially interested in the two older looking balls that said, “Dav-5 Duke-0” and, “The Last One”. I did some research an although I didn’t find anything on the baseball that said, “Dav-5 Duke-0” I did find that the baseball saying, “The Last One” was the game ball from the final game of the 1927 season between Davidson and Furman, Davidson winning 16-5. All of the players signed the baseball commemorating the 1927 season.

1927 baseball from the game between Davidson and Furman with the palyers names on it and, "Last Baseball of My Last Game for Davidson" and the score inscribed, "Davidson 16 Furman 5"

“The Last One” Baseball from the last game of the 1927 season with the names of the players and the score written on it.

A baseball with "To Davidson - 100 Great Years of Baseball" and signatures of past players on it.

A baseball with “To Davidson – 100 Great Years of Baseball” and signatures of past players on it.

Baseball from a game against Duke, "Dav-5 Duke-0" written on it

Baseball from a game against Duke, “Dav-5 Duke-0” written on it.

 

It is crazy to think that the sports being played now started over a hundred years ago and how much the game of baseball has evolved over the years. The baseball saying, “To Davidson-100 Great Years of Baseball” is right. It shows how far baseball at Davidson has come, which is why I am going to give a little bit of history on Davidson baseball.

The first mention of baseball was back in 1870 when two clubs (the Mecklenburgs and the Red Jackets) were in existence. Every Saturday morning the members were excused form the literary society meetings t

Baseball from 1921 with, "Davidson Baseball 1921" written on it.

Baseball from 1921 with, “Davidson Baseball 1921” written on it.

o take part in a game. However, they were not allowed to play other schools. It was not until 1902 that intercollegiate baseball was founded at Davidson and was then allowed to play other collegiate teams. Since then they joine1892 baseball teamd the Southern Conference from 1947-1988, left the Southern conference to become independent from 1989-1991, back to the Southern Conference from 1992-2014, and finally joined the Atlantic-10 in 2015 where they currently play their games. They’ve sent multiple individuals to MLB organizations, most recently Will Robertson, drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and Durin O’Linger, signed a free agent contract with the Box Red Sox organization. Davidson made its way to its first A-10 Conference Championship just a year after joining in 2016 but fell short. The year after Davidson rallied back and won the 2017 A-10 Conference Championship and went on

Davidson baseball game, image of the Davidson catcher diving to tag out a U.N.C. Chapel Hill runner at home plate.

Davidson baseball game, image of the Davidson catcher diving to tag out a U.N.C. Chapel Hill runner at home plate.

to beat U.N.C. Chapel Hill to win the Regional Championship sending them to the first ever Super-Regionals in college history. Davidson  Back in 1990

Davidson traveled to play the Miami Hurricanes, the number one team in the nation, and won 3-2! Then again in 1994 Davidson beat Georgia Tech, the number 1 team in the nation, and won 6-4. Davidson went from not being able to play other college team to winning a Conference Championship and going to the Super-Regionals. Davidson baseball has come so far, I cannot wait to see what the future holds in store for the Cats.

#CATSAREWILD

Digitization and Historical Context: Analyzing Trustee and Faculty Minutes

The archives hold several bound volumes of minutes from the meetings of the trustees and faculty of Davidson College. The trustees met at irregular intervals throughout the nineteenth century, beginning in 1836, as they discussed monetary issues, student deportment, lack of students, faculty turnover, and the strain imposed by Civil War drafting and rationing. The trustee meetings initially took place at local churches, with several of the trustees representing the various presbyteries that supported the nascent Davidson College.

Though Davidson College classes officially began in 1837, no faculty meeting minutes were kept until 1845. Members of the faculty met weekly between 1845 and 1921 and discussed issues similar to those of the trustees. In 1921, the meetings moved to monthly sessions, meaning there are significantly fewer volumes found for later years.

The first volume of Faculty Minutes for Davidson College also contains the minutes of the Trustees of the Western Carolina College between May 1821 and June 1824. The North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of a college in 1820, subsequently appointing trustees to oversee its development. These trustees met for three years, but were ultimately unable to raise sufficient funds for the effort—though this later gave way to the establishment of Davidson College.

The trustee and faculty minutes contain information about college assets, personal finances, student grades and conduct, curriculum development, and admissions policies. For this reason, minutes taken at these meetings typically have some restrictions to protect the privacy of those involved. Davidson’s trustee minutes have access restrictions for 75 years. There are no restrictions on nineteenth century faculty minutes. The Archives & Special Collections department is making a concerted effort to digitize these volumes, beginning with meetings that shed light on Davidson College’s relationship to and within the slave system, as well as systemic racial discrimination.

One of the most enlightening faculty minutes accounts dates to December 27, 1853, stating:

                “The Faculty having heard that a fight had occurred on the 26th inst., at the lower store, between some of the students and some men from the country, proceeded to investigate the facts in the case. They found as follows:

                That there was a wagon near the store, and several negroes, together with two young men by the name of Washam, near it. Two students, Robert A. H. Neagle and H.T. McDugald, in passing the wagon, accosted some of the negroes, telling them to take off their hates, and on their declining to do so, Neagle knocked off the hat of one of them; these two students then passed on into the store, where they met more negroes whom they accosted in the same way and McDugald, with a stick in his hand, knocked off the hat of one of them.

                The two Washams followed them into the store and asked them if the store belonged to them, and repeated the question when, after some dispute and rough language between the parties, the students came back upon the College Hill to get help and several other students went down and among them, J.T. Kell, who, when he entered the store before the other, enquired for the man (or as some would have it, the negro) who would not take off his hat.

                 One of the Washams came out of the counting room, and replied to him. Neagle and McDugald came in after Kell, and after some words passing between the parties, one of the Washams hit Neagle and then a voice was heard from outside of the door to Kell – “hit him,” and he knocked down Washam with a club which he had brought with him, and Neagle either jumped on him or kicked him in the side, when the other Washam attempted to interfere, but the parties were separated.”

The three named students responsible for the degrading altercation were suspended from the college by the faculty for the remainder of the term the following month.

 

This image is a scan of the first page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853, continued.

 

There were also several recorded instances of blackface during the Civil War period. One of these instances was discussed by the faculty on February 19, 1863:

               “Mr. W.H. Scott (pupil in the preparatory department) had been seized by Messrs. Moore, Knox, Glover, Troy, and Watts, and blacked and otherwise insultingly treated by them, and Mr. H.W. Scott, brother of the aforesaid Scott, had been beaten by Mr. Troy for resenting the treatment that his brother had received.

                The two messrs. Scott being called before the Faculty, H.W. Scott was found to be very much bruised about the face, and had evidently been very seriously beaten. Mr. W.H. Scott testified that he went into Mr. Glover’s room on Wednesday night, and having been there a very few minutes, he was seized from behind by Mr. Moore and thrown on the bed and held there by Moore, Knox, Watts, and Glover, and that Mr. Troy blacked his face with soot and tallow. That after he was released, an attempt was made by the same students to make a negro boy kiss him.

                H.W. Scott, being asked the cause of the fight between himself and Mr. Troy, said that he was not present when his brother was so much insulted, but that he went to Mr. Gibson’s room immediately after he heard it, and that Mr. Troy was there’ that Mr. Troy said to him “You ought to have been around to see us black Heathly,” and that he replied that if he had been there it would not have been done without a fight, and that we would cut anyone with his knife who attempted to black him. That Mr. Troy then called him a “damned South Carolina son of a bitch,” and that he (Scott) struck him, and the fight ensued.

                Mr. Troy was called before the Faculty and frankly acknowledged all that he had done and said, which was substantially the same testimony given by the Scotts; and said moreover, that the Scotts had been guilty at various times of stealing wood and other things, and that the blacking was intended to drive them out of the West Wing. That he could prove that they had been guilty of theft, though he had not seen them himself in the act, that could mention those who had, and that he was ready to prove it.”

 

This image is a scan of the first page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863, continued.

               

In this case, the students were not initially suspended or expelled from the college for their behavior, but they were publicly admonished. Nearly one month later, on March 10, 1863, the faculty voted on a proposition to make “any student who disguises himself by blacking his face, altering his dress, or by any other means, guilty of a serious offence liable to immediate dismission from College.”

Although these striking accounts occasionally seem vague, we can learn a lot from what language is used, from what information is left out, and comparing these accounts to other records left from the period in question. Making these primary sources publicly available allows researchers to make those comparisons and bring often untold stories to light, while also revealing the historical roots of modern discrimination.