Davidson College Commencement, 1850
During the mid-19th century, graduation exercises at Davidson College used to be quite a spectacle. People across the region came to enjoy the beautiful town and hear the scholarly declamations. A report published in the Charlotte Journal on August 14, 1859 paints a lively picture of the festivities:
“The Anniversary of Davidson College, on the 7th and 8th inst., has made a most favorable impression on all classes. This is the most rural, social, unaristocratic and happy of all the great gatherings in North Carolina. The absence of great Hotels brings to a level the accommodations of every house for miles around; and the family carriages fill the groves, and spread the feast far beyond the rapid succession of loaded tables.
“About fifty Pastors of the Churches, and many other professional gentlemen were present. The assembly of Ladies was uncommon; especially of that class, whose liberal education appreciates the attainments of scholars, and admire genius and eloquence…Mothers and sisters spread over the assembly their own hallowed affections for filial and patriotic youth to put in motion. The graduating class of fourteen have done great honor to their Alma Mater…The gentlemanly bearing of the Students, the erection of two Society Halls with architectural taste, the President’s house, the election of the Rev. E.F. Rockwell, graduate of Yale College, to a new Professorship, and the action of the Board, all indicate the rising fortunes of the young College.”
Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.