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Home North Carolina Alamance County City of Swepsonville Historical Markers Alexander Wilson

Alexander Wilson

NC-54 at NC-119, Swepsonville, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 1' 40.1016", -79° 20' 45.024"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Teacher in Piedmont area from 1819 to 1867; operated own school in Alamance County, 1851-67. Home is 1 mile, grave is 3 1/2 miles northeast."
      Alexander Wilson, educator and Presbyterian minister, was born near Belfast, Ireland, on February 1, 1799, the descendant of Scots who had settled in the northern half of the country. Little is known of Wilson’s early life, but it is traditionally assumed that he received a good education, and that he came from a fairly prosperous family.

      Wilson came to America in 1818, arriving in Baltimore, where he remained for nearly six months. The following year Wilson moved to Raleigh, where he found employment as a teacher in the Raleigh Academy headed by William McPheeters. Three years later, Wilson moved to Granville County where he became principal of Williamsborough Academy.

      After sixteen years at Williamsborough Wilson took a post as head of the classics department of Caldwell Institute in Greensboro. When the school moved to Hillsborough in 1845, Wilson went as well, but he left the academy in 1850 upon deciding to open his own school in Alamance County. He purchased a tract near the small community of Burnt Shop, later renamed Melville. Upon the tract, he built a home for his family, a three-room school building, and a dormitory. He spent the remaining sixteen years of his life as the principal of his small private academy.

      In addition to teaching, Wilson also practiced theology. While teaching at Williamsborough, Wilson began prayer meetings for his students. In 1830 the Orange Presbytery, convening at Hawfields Church, licensed him to preach despite his lack of theological training. His first and only church appointment was as minister of Spring Garden Church in Granville County, where he presided for four years.

      Wilson died on July 22, 1867, survived by a wife and five children. Buried at Hawfields Church cemetery, Wilson is memorialized by a nearby public school that bears his name.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 224-225—sketch by J. Isaac Copeland
Ruth Blackwelder, The Age of Orange (1961)
Charles L. Coon, ed., North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1849 (1915)
Greensboro Daily News, April 29, 1928
Josephine Scott, “The Wilson School,” State Normal Magazine, VIII (1904)
Herbert Snipes Turner, Church in the Old Fields (1962)

Alexander Wilson Historical Marker Location Map, Swepsonville, North Carolina