The Heart of NC Insider

Raising It in Randolph: How Trinity Became the Birthplace of Duke University

Original Brown’s Schoolhouse Building January 12 th , 1841 Building Beginnings             Brown’s Schoolhouse was its first name. The second was Union Institute Academy. Then Normal College. Then Trinity College, and finally, Duke University. Duke University sounds familiar as it is famous for a variety of things and is known to be a prestigious institution. However, when we look back through those names again, one may also sound a little familiar, Trinity. Before the School Trinity has existed since North America was settled by Europeans from 1763-1776. It exists in the north-western corner of Randolph County. The town was incorporated in 1869 with a charter from the state. This charter was later rescinded in 1924. The city was then incorporated once more in 1997. By this recent re-instatement, Trinity is the “newest” municipality in Randolph County. There is less new about Trinity as well, like the farmlands around the town. The majority of Trinity began as farmland. Much of the land was granted to different families by the state after America gained its independence from Britain. While farms are still very prevalent, of which you can frequently pass going from place to place, the town has grown to include shops, restaurants, more residences, and even a small park called Trinity Community Park. The last class graduating from Trinity College in Randolph County before the move. January 21 st , 1891 Bringing Education to Trinity While farm labor put the community in place, education oriented the community’s direction. Education is a large part of the history of Trinity, with many schools existing throughout its lifetime. A group of people sought educational opportunities for their community, so they lead a movement toward establishing a school, which they were successful at, establishing Brown’s Schoolhouse which is believed to have been established either at or before 1838. Over time, different buildings were constructed, transitioning from a small school building to larger structures for a college. The name of the college was changed a number of times after it began. From the Union Institute Academy chartered in 1841, to Normal College in 1851, then Trinity college in 1859, until it was named Duke University in 1924, which is how we know it today. Duke University began in the town of Trinity as Trinity College and later moved to Durham in 1892 where it currently resides. Beckons From Before There are marks of this history on the town, such as the gazebo (pictured above) in front of what was once Braxton Craven Middle School. The columns of the gazebo are original to the school that once stood on those grounds and the bell originates from the chapel within the college. The houses around Braxton Craven Middle School are houses that were occupied by the professors at the school. Students also lived in the houses nearby, lodging with families who lived there, as there were not any dormitories, and traveled to school. Braxton Craven Middle School was named after the principle and later president of the Brown Schoolhouse and, after some time, the college that once stood there. Braxton Craven resided during the transition from the smaller schoolhouse to a college. He is buried in the nearby cemetery on Rockford Drive. Back in the Present Braxton Craven Middle School was a school for sixth grade students who would later attend Wheatmore or Trinity High School. It has been retired since the completion of Trinity Middle School that hosted its first class of students in Fall 2022. This new middle school houses students heading for Trinity High School. Students bound for Wheatmore High School attend what was once Archdale Trinity Middle School, now renamed Wheatmore Middle School. Braxton Craven Middle School is still standing while plans are made about what should happen to the building and property. On the side of the gym there is a mural illustrating the history of the college and the people involved with it over time. With the many structures around the town that have historical significance there is a lot of opportunity to see into the past, but for those who are interested and looking to see more time-period items, the Trinity Museum, located at 7524 NC-62, Trinity, NC 27370, contains many artifacts from the time that the college existed in Trinity. This museum is maintained by the Trinity Historic Preservation Society and is also known as the Winslow House .  If you are interested in more material online, the hyperlinks through this article will take you to different reference materials used to write this piece. Beyond the Books It can be said that the past has left its mark on Trinity in physical and emotional ways. While the town is growing, there are still artifacts from long ago to be seen. There are road names referencing the college that are being lined with new businesses, old homes are occupied by new residents, and strong school rivalries still reign supreme. If you have a chance, you should visit the town that is built around history, Trinity…

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