Chapel Hill Historical Society

Past Programs and Events

    2021 Programs
February 21, 2021
Yésah: Journeys of the Occaneechi 
Virtual Tour by Tanya Day and Courtney Smith
Tanya Day (manager) and Courtney Soling Smith (program coordinator) gave us a virtual tour of the museum’s exhibit, “Yésah: Journeys of the Occaneechi.” The exhibit features artifacts created and loaned by members of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, and explores the many physical and cultural journeys made by the Occaneechi – from prehistoric times to the present. The exhibit examines the reasons they journeyed, where they went, how their lives changed, and how their traditions and values have endured. The exhibit is open until April 11.
The YouTube video of this tour is available here:
You can also explore the exhibit and artifacts on the museum’s website:
January 24, 2021
Orange County's Agricultural Revolution: 1900-1970 
Presentation by Peter Sandbeck
Orange County's Cultural Resources Coordinator, Peter Sandbeck, discussed this remarkable period of change in Orange County's agricultural history using historic photos. Farming and farm life was completely transformed in a few decades. Antiquated and inefficient practices were replaced through the implementation of scientific farming practices and marketing strategies, thanks to the efforts of newly-established state and federal programs. Social and technological changes helped bring an end to the destructive tenant and sharecropping systems. This period of rapid change in Orange County's rural heritage was documented by remarkable photographs taken by the state and federal agency staffers who played such active roles in educating farmers plagued by eroded land, depleted soil, poor transportation, racial inequity and their own reluctance to abandon their outdated ways of farming. 
The YouTube video of Peter's presentation is available here:
     2020 Programs
November 22, 2020
Community History Award Presentation to Mark Chilton
Richard Ellington, Vice President of the Chapel Hill Historical Society, introduced and presented Mark Chilton, Orange County Register of Deeds, with the Historical Society's Community History Award. Mark discussed his work to make records more accessible and searchable. This includes efforts to digitize and provide abstracts of handwritten deeds dating from 1752 to the 1870s. Part of this work has enabled people to search for records for enslaved persons to allow better and fuller research on this aspect of our history. As an example of areas warranting further research, he discussed records regarding an enslaved person who, in an attempt to secure his freedom, hid in the current Greenwood neighborhood to escape his captors. 
The You Tube video of this event is available here:
October 18, 2020
Ringing of the School Bell: Schools of the Carrboro Area from Jim Crow to Integration
Presentation by Richard Ellington
Richard Ellington discussed the history and differences between the two school systems, white and "colored", that existed side-by-side in Orange County at the beginning of the 20th century. He discussed how the county and city schools functioned during segregation and used a variety of photographs, maps and documents to illustrate the history and show how these local schools were integral to the communities. Among the schools highlighted were the Quaker Freedmen's School and the Orange County Training School, which later became Lincoln High School.
Richard was born in 1945 and raised in Carrboro. He is a founding member of the Lincoln High/Chapel Hill Community Service Grant Committee.
The You Tube video of Richard's presentation is available here:
September 20, 2020
Kings Mill/Morgan Creek - The Story of a Neighborhood
Presentation by Tom Jepsen
Beginning as part of Mark Morgan's farmland in the 1700s, the Kings Mill-Morgan Creek neighborhood continues to play an important role in the Chapel Hill community. Still largely wilderness in the early 20th century, the neighborhood was developed in the post-World War II era by UNC botanists W.C. Coker, Henry Totten, and William Lanier "Billy" Hunt. It became known as "Pill Hill" due to the many medical professionals who lived there after the building of the North Carolina Memorial Hospital in the early 1950s, and later became the home of many notable Chapel Hillians, including the legendary basketball coach Dean Smith and the singer James Taylor.
In 2014, neighboerhood residents began to compile a history of the neighborhood, its architecture, and its notable residents.  A preliminary version of their research was presented at a historical society program in September 2015. Tom Jepsen's online presentation brought this work up to date, and provided a preview of our forthcoming book on the neighborhood, to be published by the historical society later this year.
A You-Tube video of Tom's presentation is available here:
February 23, 2020
Archaeological Investigations in Hillsborough and on the UNC Campus
Presentation by Dr. Stephen Davis, Jr.
Orange County has a rich history of human occupation spanning more than 12,000 years, and for more than 80 years, archaeologists from UNC’s Research Laboratories of Archaeology have investigated many of the county’s archaeological sites through survey and excavation. Dr. Stephen Davis, Jr., Associate Director of UNC’s Research Laboratories of Archaeology discussed four of these sites – two on the Eno River near Hillsborough where the Occaneechi and ancestors of the Shakori tribe once lived, and two on the UNC Campus. Dr. Davis discussed how artifacts and notably the lack of glass beads, led researchers to conclude that the Wall Site, first excavated in 1938, pre-dated the Occaneechi and was likely from the late 1400s-1500s. The Fredrick Site, where excavation started in 1983, is the site of the Occaneechi village and was likely occupied from 1695-1705. Dr. Davis shared slides showing the excavation process and findings at both sites. Turning to the UNC campus, Dr. Davis discussed excavations conducted near the current Graham Memorial and Pettigrew buildings. The Graham Memorial site was the former location of the Eagle Hotel, run by Nancy Hilliard and home for more than 100 students in the 1850s. That building was replaced by the University Inn and Annex in the 1890s and destroyed by fire in 1921. The Pettigrew excavation revealed the remains of a fraternity house and, prior to that, the Poor House, one of several private lodging buildings for UNC students.
You can explore more about these four and other sites at the UNC Research Laboratories of Archaeology’s Ancient NC website at
Information on the UNC sites can be found here:
January 26, 2020
"Does it Come From Spain?" - The Influenza Pandemic Hits Chapel Hill
Presentation by Sarah Carrier
A full house enjoyed Sarah Carrier’s fascinating presentation on the impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic on the UNC campus and local communities. Ms. Carrier is the North Carolina Research and Instruction Librarian at the Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC. Drawing on archival materials from Wilson, Ms. Carrier shared first-hand narrative accounts and documents that told the story of what it was like for those living in Chapel Hill and at the university to fight on two fronts – World War I in Europe and the pandemic at home. Ms. Carrier shared newspaper articles and photos that documented actions that were underway at UNC to support the war effort, including transforming campus buildings to barracks, and students practicing digging trenches near the present day Gimghoul neighborhood. At the height of these efforts, the influenza pandemic hit the campus and town in early October 1918. Newspaper articles from that period illustrated the initial confusion and mixed reports regarding the severity of the pandemic. A written narrative by Annie Smith Cameron documented actions taken by local authorities, including Orange County’s creation of a Board of Health, which on October 7, 1918, ordered the closing of all churches, schools, and other public venues, including classes at the university. Other accounts documented the mobilizing force that women at the university and town played marshalling responses to the pandemic, from preparing masks for doctors to visiting and nursing the sick in the community. Ms. Carrier also shared a letter from a concerned parent to then UNC President Edward Kidder Graham, asking about the well-being of his son, and, poignantly, Dr. Graham’s response to a concerned parent written just days before Dr. Graham succumbed to the flu on October 26, 1918.
You can view Sarah Carrier's presentation here
   2019 Programs
October 20, 2019
Celebration of Howard and Lillian Lee
A standing room only crowd attended the October 20th, 2019 celebration of Howard and Lillian Lee and their many contributions to our community. Speakers, representing a cross section of political, social, and town leaders, shared how the Lees have made lasting impacts on our community, its institutions, and on their individual lives and careers. A series of videos, produced by Clayton Weaver, provided a historical context for Howard Lee’s career.In a thank you note, Howard Lee stated that it was one of the “best evenings of our lives being praised and honored by a host of friends.”
We thank Dr. Reginald Hildebrand who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, and th  program’s speakers and presenters:
            Richard Ellington                    David Price                             Jack Evans
            Marcus McFaul                       Walter Sturdivant                   Kenny Mann, Jr.
            Allen Buansi                           Angela Lee                              William Gattis
            Valerie Foushee                      Danita Mason-Hogans            Delores Bail
 Pam Hemminger                     Phil Ford                                 Jerry Neville
You can view video recordings of this event (Part 1 and Part 2) on YouTube, as well as a short video on Howard Lee's vision for the community.
A special thanks goes to Clayton Weaver, who developed and implemented this program. We also thank Binkley Baptist Church, Angela Lee, Mediterranean Deli, Mama Dip’s, and Karin Mills and Linda Bourne (aka “Trashy Women”) for their help with this event, and to Sarah Geer who was heavily involved in the earliest stages of planning and implementation of this project.
Howard and Lillian Lee with daughter Angela and granddaughter Jamie
Howard and Lillian Lee, with daughter, Angela, and granddaughter, Jamie. Photo courtesy of Earl Bynum
Additional photos available here
September 22, 2019 
The Campus at Chapel Hill: 225 Years of Architecture
Presentation by Elinor Allcott Griffith and JJ Bauer
John V. Allcott often referred to the UNC campus as a living museum of American architecture and used the campus as his outside lecture hall for generations of UNC students. His book, The Campus at Chapel Hill: 225 Years of Architecture, provides an in-depth look at the architecture of historic campus and is and is filled with fascinating photos, rare documents and Allcott’s colorful and whimsical sketches. His daughter, Elinor Allcott Griffith, shared memories of growing up in Chapel Hill, exploring the campus with her father, and his work on the book. Art historian and UNC professor JJ Bauer discussed her addendum to the new edition of the book and how some of the modern buildings on campus incorporate architectural features of older elements of the campus. Their discussion was part of the Chapel Hill Historical Society’s launch of the newly updated and expanded edition of Professor Allcott’s book. Copies of the book, shown below, is available for sale on our on-line book store.
June 30, 2019
Fire and Stone: The Making of the University of North Carolina Under Presidents Edward Kidder Graham
Presentation by Howard E. Covington Jr.
When Edward Kidder Graham became president of the University of North Carolina in 1913, he articulated an ambitious vision of excellence in teaching, research and service to the state that he would not live to see fulfilled. His death during the influenza pandemic of 1918 left others to implement and expand on those dreams. Graham’s successor, Harry Woodburn Chase, did just that, transforming the University from a small state institution to a major research university on the national stage. Howard Covington discussed the intertwined fates and legacy of Graham and Chase as he explored them in “Fire and Stone: The Making of the University of North Carolina Under Presidents Edward Kidder Graham and Harry Woodburn Chase.”

May 19, 2019

University Woman's Club: How it was founded, how it has changed
Presentation by Linda Haac

The University Woman's Club is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The club's historian, Linda Haac, talked about how the club came to be founded, how it has changed with women's evolving roles in our society and how the club has been part of The University of North Carolina and now includes the wider community, along with what the future holds. We learned how an influential women's organization responded to social change since its inception in the days of hats, white gloves, and tea parties. Linda Haac holds a Master's degree from the Department of Communication Studies at UNC with teaching experience at both Duke and the University of NC at Chapel Hill. She has been a writer and correspondent for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek.

April 28, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr. in Jim Crow Chapel Hill
Presentation by Mike Ogle

Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chapel Hill in 1960, two months after the Chapel Hill Nine took their seats in Colonial Drug Store to spark the local civil rights movement. King delivered four talks here over two days, tailoring his remarks to fit each audience's ears and his aims. Although Chapel Hill's liberal reputation had been entrenched for decades, Jim Crow was a significant part of its reality. King had to navigate that landscape -- and racism's deep roots here -- including opposition from one of Chapel Hill's most prominent residents. Mike Ogle is a journalist and former sports writer who has written for a number of national outlets, including the New York Times, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post.

March 24, 2019

Bayard Wootten:: Trailblazer for Women Photographers in the South
Presentation by Jerry Cotten

Bayard Wootten, perhaps North Carolina's best-known photographer in the first half of the twentieth century, was the subject of a presentation on March 24, by Jerry Cotten, author of Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten. Wootten embraced an artistic style of photography known as Pictorialism and operated studios in several NC towns, including Chapel Hill (1928-1954). Her landscape images and insightful portraits of Southerners, both black and white, resulted in numerous exhibitions, lectures, and books illustrated with her photographs. Wootten was known for her independence and determination as a woman and as a photographer. Her career was at its peak during the 1930s.

February 17, 2019

North Carolina's Oldest Roads: Geography, Physics, and Geopolitics Of Movement in Pre-Modern Times In the Old North State
Presentation by Tom Magnuson

What geographic factors determine where a path, trail or road wends its way across North Carolina? What physical factors dictated transportation and settlement patterns in Colonial times in the Old North State? This presentation touched on the geology and geography of pre-modern byways, the flora and fauna needed for travel, and the environmental and geopolitical factors determining where we live to this day. Tom Magnuson is the founder and CEO of the Trading Path Association (TPA), a non-profit organization committed to finding remnants of the Contact Era in the southeast and protecting them from accidental destruction. This presentation was made possible through funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council.


Programs from Previous Years