north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



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     The Bingham School has the distinction of being the first military school in the state of North Carolina. Once located in Vance County near Williamsborough, the academy sometimes has been confused with the nationally famous Bingham School. Both were private classical institutions that educated many elite North Carolinians in the 19th century.

     Capt. D. H. Bingham founded his Bingham school, formed to offer military training, in 1826. The institution was created to satisfy the need for more accessible education for aspiring military officers. A contemporary North Carolina newspaper, The Star, recorded, “The want of such an institution in the Southern States must be apparent to all, when the difficulty of obtaining admission into the Academy at West Point, from the number of its Students being restricted, and the distance . . . are taken into consideration.”

     The military and science academy opened in January 1827 and, according to the Raleigh Register, offered courses that included history, English, Latin, astronomy, geometry, as well as military law, navigation, artillery engineering and tactics. Bingham acted as the school’s superintendent and the head instructor was Capt. Partridge, an officer who had served with the French Army. The institution’s presence in Williamsborough was short-lived, as it was moved to Littleton in 1829. By the end of that year it moved again to Oxford.

     The Star would grow more critical of the Bingham School over time. The paper criticized the academy in its February 17, 1831 edition, determining that it was unfit to provide appropriate and classical education to its youth. “The Oxford Academy is unquestionably destitute of all those opportunities and advantages indispensable to afford a good education. As regards resources, it is not worth one single cent beyond the proceeds of the Cadets. It has no libraries, scarcely any apparatus and not sufficient buildings for the comfortable accommodation of a large number of persons.”

     The paper went on to imply that the connection to the qualified Captain Partridge was nominal at best. “He perhaps makes a flying visit to Oxford once a year, and the Cadets are scarcely warmed by a solitary ray from this sun of science.” The Star also described the four main instructors as unfit to educate the students, as three were too young to be good leaders for students. It was rationalized they did not have enough life experience to truly educate as mentors to other younger men.

     Bingham announced the academy’s move to Raleigh in the Raleigh Register in 1831. However, in 1833 Bingham himself left the school and the state, being offered an engineering position on the Dale Town, Woodville and Greensborough Rail Road in Alabama. The military school was taken over by Col. Carter Jones who taught light infantry tactics and cavalry movements. Three years later he moved the school to Wilmington where it operated briefly.

Charles L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1840 (1915)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Robert I. Curtis, “The Bingham School and Classical Education in North Carolina, 1793-1873,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1996): 328-377
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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