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Home North Carolina Guilford County City of Greensboro Historical Markers David Schenck 1835-1902

David Schenck 1835-1902

Battleground Avenue, Greensboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 7' 12.3438", -79° 50' 31.6284"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Founder, Guilford Battle Ground Company, 1887. Led effort to preserve battlefield. His grave is 200 yds. northwest."
      David Schenck, lawyer-turned-battlefield preservationist, is considered the “father” of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. Born in 1835 in Lincolnton, Schenck studied law with Richmond Pearson. He began a practice in Gaston County in 1857 and in 1860 became Lincoln County solicitor. During the war he served the Confederacy as a moneys receiver.

      Elected judge of the Ninth District in 1874, Schenck resigned his post in 1881 to become general council of the Richmond and Danville Railroad (later Southern Railway). The railroad moved the Schenck family to Greensboro. Shortly after the move, Schenck became immersed in local history, especially the Guilford Courthouse battle. He traversed the ground with locals, inquiring as to the specific pieces of property associated with the 1781 engagement. Schenck foresaw that, if the battlefield was not protected, it would be lost to encroachment. In 1886 he recorded in his diary that he decided to buy the land “to redeem the battlefield from oblivion.” That same day he purchased thirty acres of the field.

      The following year Schenck organized the Guilford Battle Ground Company “for the benevolent purpose of preserving and adorning the grounds on and over which the battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought” and the “erection thereon of monuments, tombstones, or other memorials to commemorate the heroic deeds of the American patriots who participated in this battle for liberty and independence.”

      Although Schenck died in 1902, his organization carried on and, through their actions, the battleground was donated to the Interior Department, which in 1917 organized it as the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, the first Revolutionary War battleground to be protected by the Federal government. The Guilford Battleground Company, as it is known today, continues to purchase property associated with the battlefield and donate it to the National Park Service, and is currently leading an effort to obtain a monument honoring the British soldiers who fought at Guilford Courthouse.

      Until the late 1990s, the interpretation of the battlefield, as accepted by locals and the NPS, was based on Schenck’s knowledge of the fighting as well as what land he was able to purchase. Recent archaeological and historical investigation, however, has demonstrated that the previous interpretation was inaccurate, and the NPS since has begun a more accurate reinterpretation of the field and the engagement. Nevertheless, without Schenck’s early work, the site of the battle might never have been saved.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V (1994), 295-296—sketch by James R. Leutze
Thomas E. Baker, Redeemed from Oblivion: Administrative History of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (1995)
Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (2009)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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David Schenck 1835-1902 Historical Marker Location Map, Greensboro, North Carolina