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Archives Meredith History: Land History

College Archives

Meredith Land History

In 1899, what is now Meredith College opened its doors to the first students in a grand Victorian style building on Blount Street in downtown Raleigh. Known then as the Baptist Female University, it educated young women there for 27 years. In the spring of 1926 the college moved to the much more spacious present location at Hillsborough and Faircloth Streets. Meredith's land is rich in history, as is the rest of the city of Raleigh. In addition, the boundaries of the college have changed a number of times. This report details what is known about the history of the land on which Meredith sits.

The land on which Meredith sits is known historically as the Tucker Farm, or, more completely, the old Tucker Waverly Farm in House's Creek Township. The property was put together from several different parcels purchased in 1922 and 1923. Most of the property was from the estate of Rufus Sylvester Tucker, a wealthy landowner who owned over 5,000 acres in Wake and surrounding counties. Although some of the Tucker property had passed to the Baker family before Meredith purchased it, the area was still known as the Tucker Farm.

While there is no direct evidence that Native Americans occupied Meredith's land before the arrival of Europeans, research of nearby areas suggests that it is a possibility. According to Historical Research Report, Polk Prison Property, by Dennis F. Daniels of the N.C. Division of Archives and History, archaeological work in nearby western Wake County has revealed evidence of Native American activity as early as the Paleo-Indian Period, before 8,000 B.C. [39] In this area, archaeological surveys have identified artifacts "in wooded uplands north of Crabtree Creek and east of Ebenezer Church Road," "in the floodplain of Richland Creek" between I-40 and US 70, and "on a hilltop overlooking Crabtree Creek and Richland Creek." [40]

Wake County was formed in 1771. In the years between 1776 and 1799, most of the land in the county was granted to individuals by the governor in parcels of several hundred acres. A map of early Wake County land grants [41] indicates Meredith's land was originally deeded to Joel Lane. Lane, born in 1740, was a prominent Wake County legislator, Revolutionary War lieutenant colonel and planter. [42] At one time, he owned thousands of acres in Wake County. According to the Markham map, he was given the land on which Meredith sits in 1779. Joel Lane's will indicates that the Meredith land was given to his son James Lane upon his death. The will states, " ...I give and bequeath to my son James Lane his heirs and assigns forever four hundred and ninety five acres of land lying on both sides of House's Creek." [43] Houses Creek is a short distance west of Meredith's property.

It is possible that the portion of the northern edge of the Meredith property originally across from Ridge Road belonged to Nathaniel Jones, not Joel Lane. There is some uncertainty about original ownership because it is difficult to identify with certainty Meredith's current boundaries on the Markham map. Nathaniel Jones does not appear in any of the standard reference sources for North Carolina historical biography.

No information is available on the ownership of the land between the time James Lane inherited it from his father in 1795 and its purchase by Rufus Tucker, probably in the 1850's.

In 1861, the lands now comprising the eastern State Fairgrounds, N.C.S.U. Faculty Club, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and north to the North Carolina Museum of Art were combined to form Camp Mangum, a training facility for Confederate soldiers. It was named after Lt. William Preston Mangum, who died at the First Battle of Bull Run, and William Person Mangum, a former U.S. senator and father of Lt. Mangum. [44] While most of the Meredith land remained part of the Tucker Farm during the Civil War, the western edge was part of the camp.

After being returned to Tucker after the Civil War, the western edge was used for agriculture again until World War I. In 1918 it was incorporated along with the other Camp Mangum lands into Camp Polk, a tank training camp. In 1919 it again returned to the Tucker Farm.

The type of agricultural activity on the Meredith College part of the former Tucker Farm is not known. A 1956 N.C Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service map shows alfalfa being grown on the part north of Wade Avenue, and alfalfa, pasture and unspecified crops on the land just to the west of Meredith. There is a photograph in the N.C. Division of Archives and History that is strong evidence for cotton growing in the area between the library and I-440. [45] This photograph bears the caption, "Tower #688, Yadkin River Power Co. , 100 K.V. line, Durham Method Section. Young Cotton on Tucker Estate near Raleigh, N.C." The workers are standing under a transmission tower, and old maps show a transmission line running across that part of campus. The topography and flora in the photograph are very similar to that area. The Polk Prison property research states that Tucker's farm produced cotton, hay, cattle, rutabaga, corn, wheat, oats, peas, cattle, hogs and sheep. [46] Shaffer's 1887 map of Wake County [47] shows a body of water called Tucker's Pond at the approximate location of the N.C.S.U. Faculty Club, indicating that Tucker's land extended at least that far west.

The original property did not include the part north of Wade Avenue. This section was added in 1964 and 1968. It also did not include the western side of campus extending from the road behind the library to what is now I-440. That section was added in 1936. The original property included a triangular shaped parcel from south of Hillsborough Street to the railroad, and bounded by Elizabeth Street on the east (just west of Gorman Street) and Method Road on the west. That section was sold in 1941. [48]

There are a number of other changes that have been made on the Meredith grounds over the years. Among these changes are:

  • A 1945 city of Raleigh map prepared by the Department of Public Works shows a railroad spur track coming off the railroad line across Hillsborough Street. This spur went due north in a line past where the back of the library is now, then curving to the east and ending at a 100,000 gallon water tank that was directly behind the dining hall. The railroad spur was used to bring coal to the Meredith power plant; the water tower supplied Meredith with water.
  • The same 1945 map shows the Raleigh city line at the same spot as the railroad spur mentioned above. This indicates that the western side of the College was outside the city limits, while the rest of the campus was within the city.
  • A 1918 map of the area of Camp Polk shows the boundaries of the Tucker Estate. A road called the Old Durham Road cuts through the center of the campus. The road goes in a straight line at the southeast corner and exits at the beltline, approximately behind the Gaddy-Hamrick Art Center. This road extended up to what is now called Reedy Creek Road. Remnants of this road can still be seen on an aerial photo published in a 1960 soil survey by the U.S.D.A.
  • Shaffer's 1887 map of Wake County shows a body of water called Tucker's Pond at the approximate location of the N.C.S.U. Faculty Club, indicating that Tucker's land extended at least that far west.

Works Cited

Daniels, Dennis F. Historical Research Report, Polk Prison Property. Raleigh, North Carolina: Research Branch, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2001.

Land Grants to Early Settlers in Wake County. Map. Durham, N.C. : A.B. Markham, 1978.

Reid, Elizabeth Davis. Joel Lane." Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Ed. William S. Powell. Vol. 4. Chapel Hill, N.C. : The University of North Carolina Press, 1988. 12.

Shaffer's Map of Wake County. 1887.

Wake County Registry. Book 1946. 42.

Will of Joel Lane. Feb. 7, 1798. <http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~bowers/lane/joelwl.htm>

Young Cotton on Tucker Estate. 1923. Photograph in the CP&L Collection, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Black Workers Picking Cotton Near Raleigh, N.C. 1923. Photograph in the CP&L Collection, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

 

Other Sources Used in the Report on Land Use

All of these sources are available in the Meredith College Archives.

Vaughan, Carolyn. An Architectural History of Meredith College. Raleigh: Self Published, [1983?]

Camp-Polk State's Prison Farm, Raleigh, N.C. Map. State of North Carolina Department of Administration, State Property Office. 1938.

Map of the City of Raleigh. Raleigh Department of Public Works. 1942, rev. 1945.

Subdivision of Meredith College Lands on South Side of Highway. Map. Wake County Registry. Book 1946. 42.

City of Raleigh. Map. Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. 1959.

Map. N.C. State Highway Commission. 1968.

Maps 48, 58, and 59. Soil Survey, Wake County, North Carolina. Washington, D.C. ; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1970.

ADC's Street Map of Raleigh, North Carolina. Alexandria, Va. : ADC of Alexandria, 1994.

Map of area around Meredith College. Wake County Geographic Information Services. Downloaded from http://www.wakegov.com/county/propertyandmapping/gis.htm>. Sept. 4, 2001.

[39] Daniels, p.1

[40] Daniels, p.2

[41] Land Grants to Early Settlers in Wake County

[42] Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, p. 12

[43] Will of Joel Lane, p. 1

[44] Daniels, p.9

[45] Young Cotton

[46] Daniels, p. 33

[47] Shaffer

[48] Wake County Registry