1902 Article: Washburn Seminary, Beaufort, NC

By Principal D.B. Rowlee 
Included in The American Missionary in 1902
At age 56, during his 7th year in Beaufort, 

Burdett Dalton Rowlee died in 1903.

Should one traveling by the coast line desire to see this eastern section of North Carolina, he has only to leave his train on reaching Goldsboro, secure a ticket over the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad to Morehead City, where a launch is waiting to bring to bring him to Beaufort, one of the oldest towns along the coast. Here he will find a quiet, healthy place, where he can secure relief from tired nerves or business cares. Fish, oysters and clams will be among the articles of food set before him to tempt his appetite. If it be the right season of the year, and he be so inclined, he can venture out with gun or fishing-rod and bring back with him, as a result of his expedition, at least a good appetite.

He will find a town of about twenty-five hundred inhabitants (about equally divided between the two races) that draws its sustenance mostly from the water. The stores supply the need of the people in the immediate surroundings and also wholesale to the stores along the sound.

In the days of long ago the town was begun on this peninsula that cuts out into the sea. Some say that it was started by the notorious Captain Kidd. The education interests of the children are now well provided for by the schools which have been established for the races. Here the Freedman's Bureau early started a school that later passed under the care of the American Missionary Association. Since its founding it has seen days of prosperity and adversity. The past few years it has been moving forward, gaining the confidence and receiving the support of the people. While many of them are very poor, they are willing to make sacrifices to keep their children in school.


Washburn Seminary on Cedar Street (1902 photograph)
The burning if the school-building several years since led to the erection of the present one. This is two stories and contains seven rooms and a chapel. The cupola supports a staff from which, on pleasant days, flies a 12-foot flag that may be seen for miles around both from land and sea. Besides the school-building is the shop where the boys are taught carpentry, and on an adjoining lot is the Congregational church. The home for the teachers is a very comfortable two-story building, situated in a very pleasant part of the town, about three blocks from the school.

The literary work of the school is divided into four departments, primary, intermediate, grammar and normal, with courses of study as near like those in Northern schools as circumstances will permit.

In the sewing department the girls have to begin by learning to hold the needle, wear a thimble and make straight seams. They then pass on from this, step by step, until in the higher grades they cut, baste and fit garments. All work below the normal is done by hand, the sewing-machine not being used until they reach that department. They take great delight in this work and are anxious for the sewing hour to come. Learning to sew has to them, also, a money value. They not only do their own sewing, but are able to secure work from others. On visiting at a home, one of the girls was found cutting and making a dress for a little sister. The mother acknowledged that she could not do it, but rejoiced that the girls were learning that which make them such helps in the home. Other mothers have told how much help has come to them through this department.


The Shop on Cedar Street (1902 photograph)
For the boys, the shop is one of the important departments of the school. They are here taught the use of tools, to make drawings and then to work from them. The whole aim is to makes of them self-reliant men and women, able to go out and help themselves and others.

The graduates of the school are making records for themselves. One has charge of the carpentry department of the school, some are teaching, one is in business with his father, and two are working in Yale College and attending night-school. Some of the older pupils are now in Shaw University, and one who was graduated from Livingston College is now in the public schools.

The amount of school-money is so limited that in the small towns and in the country districts the length of the school year is only a few months. Notwithstanding Governor Aycock's assurance that there should be no school for white or colored where there was not a four-months' term, there have been schools with only two to three months' session. With so short a time given to school the progress must of necessity be slow, many even forgetting before another term opens what they learned the last. At present there is a movement on foot to consolidate the smaller districts and improve the system generally.

The passage of a law requiring an educational qualification as an essential to exercising the elective franchise has inspired some with a desire to obtain the necessary education. On the other hand, there are those who, if they give it any thought, receive no inspiration that leads them to try to rise to meet the requirements.

Numbers of the pupils take advantage of fair days and right tides to go clamming and oystering to earn money to pay tuition, buy a pair of shoes or needed clothing. It goes without saying that this retards their progress. One old grandmother goes down on the shore, gathers oysters from the rocks, opens and sells them to pay her grand-daughter's tuition. The location of the town is such as to make life too easy to develop one's energies. Many who can go down to the water and get their dinner of fish, oysters or clams are not disposed to worry much about where tomorrow's dinner is to be obtained. Again, they are not thrown into the way to brush against the world's moving throng.

The town is well supplied with churches—perhaps too many—to look after the spiritual needs of the people. All the work of the school is done with the one aim of developing Christian character. We feel that if we fail in this the great object of the school has not been accomplished. The desire is to send out young men and young women with the purpose to do something, who can, under the Spirit, meet temptations, overcome them, and train others to stand against them. The Thursday evening prayer-meetings have been the means of developing the spiritual nature in many of the pupils.