Gone But Not Forgotten: The Fading Legacy of Yadkin College

By Antionette Kerr

For longtime resident and property owner Florence Greene, the deteriorating brick walls of the original Yadkin College building and the unoccupied historic homes remind her of what was once a thriving intellectual and self-sustaining community. Nestled along the banks of one of the state’s longest rivers, the community named for the Yadkin established institutions of higher learning, and had farms, factories, brick stores, a post office, a barbershop, a blacksmith shop, and a jail called “the calaboose.” On the eve of what would have been her fifty-fifth anniversary at Yadkin College, Florence, the widow of native Rhett Edward Greene, spoke nostalgically of bustling streets, wooden sidewalks, and a promising community.

“History is beginning to deteriorate as time goes on,” said the retired educator. “I don’t know of another community in Davidson County that has changed so drastically from where it was.”

From a little college on the river to High Point University

Sometime before 1775, Pennsylvania German settler Casper Walser and his wife, Margaretha, purchased 629 acres on the eastern side of the Yadkin River. Later, their son, Frederick, married and helped to establish the community. In 1822, Davidson County was formed. By 1852, the Walsers were well established in leadership when one of Casper’s descendants, Henry Walser, decided the region needed an institution of higher learning to train ministers as well as their own sons. An ardent member of the Methodist Protestant Church, Henry’s determination led to the establishment of a college.

Henry presented a plan to the Methodist Protestant Conference to establish a school, known as Yadkin College (aka Yadkin Institute) and proposed how to furnish the land. The proposal was met with a lackluster response by the conference, so Walser offered to build the college at his own expense if no others desired to join with him.

A postcard of the 1881 building was one of the most outstanding college buildings in the state.  Designed and built by H. Bentley Owen at a cost of $7,000.  Photo credit Lexington Library of Genealogy Department
A postcard of the 1881 building was one of the most outstanding college buildings in the state. Designed and built by H. Bentley Owen at a cost of $7,000. Photo credit Lexington Library of Genealogy Department

Walser’s offer was accepted. It is said that he was aided by David Michael, another Methodist Protestant, to the extent of $50 to purchase hardware. Henry donated land worth $500 and set to work building a kiln and making bricks. The college opened in 1856 as Yadkin College, a Methodist institution, and Henry proceeded with the construction of a very large brick and stucco building suitable to the times in which it was built. Its doors were opened only to young men.

Named for the nearby river, Yadkin College was one of the area’s first colleges and was, for years, a primary establishment of higher learning in the area. In addition to construction of the classroom facility, Henry Walser bore the expense of constructing the first dormitory for one of three institutes of higher education sponsored by the Methodist Church in North Carolina. The school was re-chartered as Yadkin College by the legislature in February 1861.

This opening celebration did not last long as more than three-quarters of the students volunteered for the Confederate Army. Shortly after opening, the school closed and was used as a storage house for tobacco. The empty school was vandalized during the war years, but it was later restored by the community.

The Ciceronian Literary Society of Yadkin College met on Friday nights to debate issues important to the era.  At commencement, metals like the one pictured, were awarded.
The Ciceronian Literary Society of Yadkin College met on Friday nights to debate issues important to the era. At commencement, metals like the one pictured, were awarded.

When classes resumed in 1867 under the leadership of Professor H.T. Phillips, sentiment grew for young women to be accepted. By 1868, Yadkin College became the first coeducational institution in the south. The school began to offer collegiate courses in 1873 under President Shadrach Simpson.

Leadership believed the growing student body and the promise of future development of the Yadkin area called for the construction of a new three-story brick building with a five-story mansard tower overlooking the bluff. In 1881, the college completed an impressive new building including a five-story tower, 92 windows, classrooms, auditorium, and a library.

The new building was one of the most outstanding college buildings in the state. Designed and built by H. Bentley Owen at a cost of $7,000, its construction was said to create an embarrassing debt. The college and church administrators could not dissolve its financial burdens for the building. Those burdens began to take a toll on the school and in 1924, Yadkin College closed, suffering from low attendance as a result of the establishment of public schools in the state. At that time it consolidated with what is now High Point University, and the structure was declared unsafe by the county and demolished. Professor W. T. Trotten faithfully headed the college until it shut down in 1924 when High Point College (now High Point University) assumed the Methodist Protestant educational responsibility.

Historians point to the legacy of the 1924 merger that formed High Point College, which opened as a cooperative venture between the Methodist Protestant Church and the city of High Point. The campus consisted of three partially-completed buildings, nine faculty members, and student enrollment was 122. Today, the university has 122 buildings, is attractively landscaped, the full-time faculty numbers nearly 300, and approximately 4,600 students are enrolled.

A distinguished legacy of students traces its roots back to Yadkin College. This includes descendants of Henry Walser, who served in several elected offices. The 1879 graduate Zeb Vance Walser was elected to the state house of representatives, and in 1890, to the state senate, where he was minority leader. Walser, also a grandson of the founder, is quoted in “Pathfinders Past and Present: A History of Davidson County,” as follows: “It was one of the great schools of the state; in fact, it came near being the greatest school in the state. Many leaders of Davidson County, as well as other sections, were educated at the college. It contributed more than any institution to the pulpits of the Methodist Protestant church in North Carolina and High Point College.”

The Once Incorporated Town of Yadkin College

Contrary to the name, Yadkin College is not part of Yadkin county. Currently, the unincorporated town of Yadkin College remains in rural Davidson County approximately nine miles northwest of Lexington. Its history begins with Casper Walser, who came from Pennsylvania in 1770 and developed a farming tract on the westward loop of the Yakin River along with other early settlers. Farming became the chief industry with a focus on tobacco. The growing community of churches and educational opportunities by the river attracted residents from across the county. Ferries took families across the river to the town of Davie. Soon, there was a push for incorporation of the small area that once held the promise of becoming a major port.

The movement to incorporate the town was accomplished March 10, 1875 with corporate limits that extended one-half mile in each direction of the college. The town was incorporated with approximately 150 permanent residents. Many fine homes were built in the Yadkin College community. Henry Walser served as the first mayor, followed by his son Gaither Walser, then J. Sandford Phillis, H. Bentley Owen, W.L. Thompson, and Edward L. Greene.

CollegeBuildingBy 1910, the population had only grown to 250, with a mayor, treasury, and post office. A telephone company, stores, a boot repair shop, photographers, saw mill, churches, physician, manufacturing plants, and Green, Rea & Co. tobacco factory were also available. However, after Greene’s death in 1949, no new organization was established for leadership of the town. Accounts of the day blame the failed promise of building a major port nearby for its demise.

Some of Davidson County’s Most Significant Historic Properties

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Yadkin College’s small district is dense with historic properties including 23 principal buildings and 23 outbuildings, five structures, and four sites. The contributing buildings are the 1856 college building, one antebellum house, 11 houses built between 1870 and 1890, and an 1886 church. The noncontributing buildings are nine houses built after the end of the period of significance.

The site is marked by a large granite and brass monument erected in 1940 by Yadkin College Alumni. The first Yadkin College building still stands while the grand brick building on College Hill was demolished.

Architectural records show about 15 large homes built between the 1850s and 1870s still standing, with half abandoned and in need of restoration. As of summer 2017, all the homes are in private ownership. Two families, descendants of Henry Walser and E.L. Greene, are working to protect and preserve what remains. According to the register listing, “The nine houses built during the two decades after the Civil War represent unusual prosperity during the Reconstruction Era, when little construction occurred in North Carolina. These houses reflect the economic rewards of reopening following the War.”

Historic homes include the Benson-Taylor House, ca. 1870 and the Gaither Walser House (I), built before 1875. According to historic designation, “The two-story frame house is an ambitious example of Italianate Revival design, with a two-story pediment portico projecting from the center bay, a one-story pediment entrance porch, and one-story shed porches across the flanking bays of the main block. The exterior end chimneys are framed by pediment end gables, and brackets adorn all eaves.”

In 1879, the Walsers sold this house and soon after built the Gaither Walser House (II), directly across the way. The simpler home is said to have unique massing with a central projecting block. Design and construction is attributed to H. Bentley Owen, the local builder who built the grand second college building in 1881. On the interior, however, the second Gaither Walser house has understated features except for the grained woodwork and an unparalleled grand central staircase with an overhead balcony. The home is currently owned by the family of descendant David “Tonte” Craver and is used for the making and selling of pottery.

Latin inscription still displayed on the second story in the old college building.
Latin inscription still displayed on the second story in the old college building.

Another visually striking house in the district, and the only building in the district with gothic revival traits, is the E. L. Greene House that appeared on the cover essay for “Historic Resources of Davidson County” and is deemed “the closest example to the pattern book ‘Gothic Cottage’” in Davidson County.

Also of historical significance is the Yadkin College Methodist Protestant Church, built in 1886. It is typical of traditional rural North Carolina churches, with a rectangular gable-front form and a belfry projecting from the front peak.

Approximately 25 outbuildings survive on the grounds of the contributing houses in the district. Nearly every house has at least one outbuilding, typically a smokehouse, barn, or well-house, illustrating the importance of self-sufficiency in small-town as well as farm life.

Looking To The Future  

tobaccoMuch of the area includes rental property and several of the historic homes are unoccupied. Greene points to the lack of knowledge and the loss of many of the families who owned the property for the decline over the past 15 years. Both the Craver family (descendants of Walser kin) and the Greene family are holding on to their land and history. They consider it valuable despite the talk of industry and ships never happened. “It wasn’t really the town that people thought. All that went away when things didn’t turn out the way people thought it would. It was going to be a different place,”  said Greene.

Craver has committed to placing his land in a trust for future generations of Walsers. “My children and one day my grandchildren will be able to see where their ancestors grew up,” Craver said. “They will know the sequence of events and how it was. I don’t see it going back; that is why I am glad there has been a lot written about the Yadkin College community.”

Although the promise of big industry has come and gone, the Yadkin River is as beautiful as ever and the original school built by the hands of Henry Walser remains a symbol of one man’s determination for all of Davidson County.


See Abilities, Think Possibilities: ARC of Davidson County

By Teresa McKeon


In the early 1950s, life was very different for people born with a developmental disability. It was common for doctors to recommend institutionalization for someone with a low IQ or a diagnosis of Down syndrome. However, a group of parents in Davidson County refused to accept this as a standard of living for their loved ones and in 1951 began meeting in the basement of the old courthouse to form a local chapter of The Arc.

Self-Advocates Tevin Barnes and Pam King accept the proclamation for March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month from Mayor Newell Clark
Self-Advocates Tevin Barnes and Pam King accept the proclamation for March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month from Mayor Newell Clark

The Arc of the United States had been formed the year previously to advocate with and for people of all ages with a developmental disability to secure equal access and opportunities. Today, The Arc is the largest grassroots advocacy movement in the nation, continuing to work alongside people with developmental disabilities. The Arc of Davidson County is an affiliated chapter with The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States.

“Developmental disability” is an umbrella term that includes intellectual disability as well as others including autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and spina bifida. Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) occur before age 22 and are considered lifelong. With appropriate support, people with IDD can and do lead fulfilling lives within their community.

Serving as advocates with and for people with IDD remains the foundation of The Arc of Davidson County. Over the decades, the agency has expanded to offer direct services in response to the growing and changing needs expressed by people with IDD and their families. In addition to providing resource, referral, and advocacy support, the agency manages four group homes for 23 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The people living in these residences live very active lives: some attend DCCC, some have competitive community employment, and some enjoy volunteer opportunities.

Other individuals living in the community can access additional services, including Respite, Community Living and Support, and Community Networking. These services are provided by one-on-one staff to assist with maximizing independence, while others can be offered in a small group setting.

This is the seventh year The Arc has partnered with Davidson County Parks and Recreation to provide an inclusive summer camp opportunity. Located at Davis-Townsend Elementary School, typically developing children play alongside children with IDD, some of whom have never had the chance to attend a summer camp. The Arc hires trained staff to supplement county staff, ensuring that children with complex disabilities have the same opportunities to enjoy camp as do their typically developing peers. The hope is that children will recognize we are all more alike than we are different.

Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, presents self-advocate Felicia Hamby with the Victor Hall Leadership Award, accompanied by Bard President Libby Samuels.
Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, presents self-advocate Felicia Hamby with the Victor Hall Leadership Award, accompanied by Bard President Libby Samuels.

The Arc staff is often asked to assist families with their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, providing resource, support, and advocacy to ensure that each child is afforded what is required by law – a free and appropriate education. Working with all three school systems, The Arc facilitates a spring Community Resource Fair at DCCC, bringing together dozens of providers who offer valuable information for families.

Since 2013, The Arc has worked with three other chapters to offer a statewide Self-Advocates Conference. Planned in large part by adults with IDD, the conference has brought hundreds from across the state to learn more about housing, employment, rights and responsibilities, and other elements of life and independence.

Wings for All provides a chance for individuals to make a “test run” through the airline experience. Held at PTI Airport, children and adults alike who have never experienced air travel follow the path from check in to baggage check to actually boarding the plane and circling the airport. While the plane does not go “wheels up,” the experience is a training ground for families wishing to take a plane trip, and their loved ones can benefit from this mock opportunity.

The voices of self-advocates and families continue to shape the mission, vision, and direct programs of The Arc. People are encouraged to share their dreams and have become actively engaged in their community by speaking on local radio programs, appearing before city and county councils, and addressing middle school and college students on what it is like living with a disability.

The Arc of Davidson County is accredited in Person-Centered Excellence by the Council on Quality and Leadership. Through this rigorous accrediting process, the agency commits to ensuring that people, not the agency, define what they deem as their best life. With that comes the dedication to having supports in place so that people can reach for and achieve the goals they define for themselves.

As a non-profit agency, The Arc of Davidson County relies on community support for successful outcomes for people and programs. Triad Taste, the signature fundraiser established in 2016, is an evening of food and fellowship. Local restaurants provide samplings of their food and beverages for the enjoyment of attendees. A silent auction offers items as diverse as a framed Bob Timberlake print to passes to Walt Disney World. Although Triad Taste is held in the spring, community members and businesses can sponsor the event, offer a donation to the silent auction, and become members of The Arc throughout the year.

“Membership to The Arc of Davidson County includes membership to both The Arcs of NC and U.S,” said Executive Director Teresa McKeon. “Over 140,000 people are members of The Arc of the US, numbers advocates can leverage when working to protect the rights of people with IDD.” She added, “While we rely on the financial contributions received through membership, the benefit of strength in numbers if not to be underestimated.”

Annually, The Arc recognizes people making a difference in the lives of people with IDD. Over the past several years, many of those individuals have gone on to be recognized statewide at The Arc of North Carolina’s Annual meeting in such categories as Teacher of the Year, Self-Advocate, Employer, and Inclusive Community. The Arc of Davidson County has been annually recognized as a Distinguished Affiliate, and last year, the Award for Executive Excellence was given to their Executive Director.

“People with developmental disabilities continue to face many challenges, based on society’s perceptions of what they can accomplish,” said McKeon. “While many doors have been broken down since our founders first met over 75 years ago, being fully included members of our community is still a dream for too many people.” McKeon added, “The Arc will continue to be the go-to support, joining our voices with self-advocates to ensure that all people have the opportunity to choose and realize their goals of where and how they learn, live, work and play.”

For more information, contact The Arc at 336.248.2842.




Beat the Heat

Bernard Fote, MD, Chief of emergency services for Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are highly preventable with a little precaution and an awareness of the warning signs.

As the temperature rises, so does the incidence of heat stroke. From 1999 to 2010, an estimated 7,415 Americans died of heat-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There were more than 480 emergency department visits due to heat-related illness during one week in June across North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly three-quarters of people stricken by the heat were adult men between the ages of 25 to 64.

“When there’s a rapid weather change and it gets suddenly humid and hot, we see the spectrum of symptoms from dehydration to heat cramps and occasionally heat stroke,” said Bertrand Fote, MD, medical director of emergency services for Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center.

As the mercury rises, people should take several measures to protect themselves, he said. Rising temperatures can cause high body temperatures, organ and brain damage as people’s bodies struggle to cool themselves. Normally, the body’s natural cooling mechanism, sweat, evaporates off the skin to cool the body, but in extreme heat that evaporation might not be enough to cool you off.

footballheat2Dr. Fote said an abrupt change in humidity – more than a rise in temperatures – will affect the body’s cooling mechanism.

Some people are more susceptible to extreme heat than others. Those most at risk to heat-related conditions include the elderly, children, poor or homeless people without access to air conditioning, workers or athletes who are outside for long periods of time, and people with chronic medical conditions.

“The elderly are most susceptible to classic heat illnesses or heat exhaustion because they have trouble adjusting to significant changes in temperature,” Fote said. “People with high blood pressure using medication to manage that condition are also at risk because the drugs affect the fluid levels in the body.”

Exertional heat illness can affect athletes who try to maintain their normal fitness routines but haven’t yet acclimated to a rise in humidity or heat, he added.

What’s the difference between heat stroke and exhaustion?

The difference between these two heat-related conditions is in the symptoms and severity.

According to the CDC, symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • A pulse that is either too fast or too slow
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting


Heat stroke can manifest in other ways, including:


  • A body temperature higher than 103 degrees
  • Skin that feels hot, red or moist to the touch
  • A quick and strong pulse
  • Unconsciousness


“People can appear confused or they may be delirious or suffer hallucinations,” adds Dr. Fote.

When symptoms of heat exhaustion are present, experts suggest seeking a cooler location, loosening clothes, lying down, and drinking water. Also, applying cool, wet cloths to face and body can help cool you down. If you are vomiting uncontrollably, you should seek medical attention.

With symptoms of heat stroke, the CDC says to call 911 right away. As with heat exhaustion, the person should move to a cooler spot and have cold compresses applied to the body. The agency says not to drink fluids.

Preventing heat-related illness

To stay healthy during a heat wave, the CDC recommends the following preventive measures.

Keep your body cool by staying in an air conditioned environment. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, find a public shelter where you can. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Take cool showers.

Because it’s easy to quickly become dehydrated when it gets really hot, it is important to drink more water than usual and not to wait until you feel thirsty to do so. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.

Dr. Fote said replenishing electrolytes is important, too. Sports drinks like Gatorade or an electrolyte-infused water like Smartwater help replenish lost electrolytes.

The doctor said people should make sure their elderly neighbors stay safe and have working air conditioning. “If you’re working outside or exercising, remember to take a break and cool off,” he stressed.

The CDC also recommends checking in on vulnerable neighbors in the community, never leaving a child or a pet unattended in a car, and bringing pets in from outside. For more information, visit Novanthealth.org.


Lick Your Chops Tailgate Wings

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. paprika

½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. dried thyme

¼ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

3 lb chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats



¼ c. butter

¼ c. hot sauce, Louisiana Style

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce



Rub: In a small bowl, mix together baking powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Rinse chicken wings and pat dry with paper towels. Place wings in a large bowl and sprinkle on rub, tossing to coat evenly. Set a wire rack inside an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Arrange wings in a single layer leaving a little space between each wing. Place baking sheet with wings in refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.

When ready to cook, start smoker or charcoal grill with lid open until fire is established (4-5 minutes). Preheat with lid closed, 10 to 15 minutes. Smoke wings for 30 minutes or grill directly on grilling surface. After 30 minutes, increase temperature to 350 degrees F and roast for 45 to 50 minutes. If grilling, remove from grill once cooked through. Transfer wings to a large bowl. Add sauce and toss to coat wings thoroughly. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with carrot sticks, celery sticks, blue cheese, ranch, or  other desired dipping sauces. Enjoy!