Birth of an Institution

Writer: 
November 30, 2004
Trinity College: the campus, 1883

 Trinity College: the campus, 1883, above; The faculty, 1878-1879, with President Craven, first row, center, below

 
The faculty, 1878-1879, with President Craven, first row, center

The Duke of today had its birth in 1838, when the residents of rural Randolph County formed Union Institute Academy. The school was first led by Brantley York. Braxton Craven succeeded York in 1842 and directed the institution until his death in 1882. In 1851 the state chartered the school as Normal College, for the training of teachers. Eight years later, the school became affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and its name was changed to Trinity College. Under Craven's leadership, the school became well known, drawing students not only from central North Carolina, but also from other Southern states.

With assistance from Washington Duke, Trinity College moved from Trinity, North Carolina, to Durham in 1892. Duke's son, James Buchanan Duke, created The Duke Endowment in 1924 to fund Trinity's expansion, and it was renamed Duke University in honor of the family.

As part of his efforts to become familiar with Duke and its roots, President Richard H. Brodhead and his wife, Cynthia Brodhead, visited the site of Trinity College last summer.

A gazebo, made from columns of the college building, houses the old school bell and serves as a memorial to the college. A short distance away is the Trinity cemetery, where many of the school's leaders and faculty members are buried.