The Names of the Enslaved People who Built the University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in the midst of a slave society by slaveholders. Enslaved people were present on campus from the laying of the cornerstone of Old East in 1793 until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Enslaved people built the earliest structures on the campus, many of which still exist. Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, South Building, Steward’s Hall, Person Hall, Smith Hall, and the original President’s House all took shape under the skilled hands of enslaved people owned or hired by the University’s trustees, employees, students, architects, and the townspeople of Chapel Hill. Enslaved people made repairs, provided supplies, and attended upon students and faculty as servants. This post is part of a series looking more closely at records documenting slavery at UNC. Explore all of the posts here.

The joint efforts of researchers, archivists, historians, students, and administrators has resulted in the identification of more than 100 enslaved people who built and labored at the University from 1795 to 1865. Students in History 398, an undergraduate seminar on slavery taught by Professor Jim Leloudis in Fall 2017 contributed significantly to this research.  The list of 119 names enumerated below is neither exhaustive nor complete, and it is certain that countless enslaved people who built, worked at, and contributed to the University will never be identified. Enslaved women and children are likewise largely absent from this list, but it is hoped that future work will uncover more information about their presence at and contributions to the University. While we only have brief glimpses into the personal lives of the enslaved people who built and sustained the University, their places within the broader contexts of the University and the Chapel Hill community allows for some understanding of their experiences, and most importantly, their humanity.

Note: Some names are repeated several times or have slightly different spellings, and may indicate multiple mentions of the same person; however, in a number of instances, men with the same name had different owners, and so the names are kept separate for the sake of accuracy and clarity. Additionally, there are several sources that mention unnamed enslaved peoples’ work, which have been omitted here for clarity. We are in the process of preparing, and will soon share, a spreadsheet with full citations to the records that mention the people listed below.

Name Occupations and Labor on Campus
“John Hoggs man” or John Hoggsman Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
[Mason’s] Tony Sawyer; repairs to Old East about 1823
Abel College servant hire in 1830
Abraham Repairs to South Building in 1837
Adams Labor on Old West in 1823
Albert Plasterer on additions to Old West in 1846; Brother of plasterer Osborne
Aldeman Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Allaman Labor on Old West in 1823
Allan Labor on Old West in 1823
Allan Labor on Old East in 1824
Allman Repairs to Old East foundation, taking down old gable, cleaning bricks about 1823
Anderson or Andson Sawing work on Old East and Old West in 1823
Austin Labor on unspecified buildings 1825-1826
Ben Servant hire at President’s House, 1850
Ben Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Benny Labor on observatory, digging pits in 1832
Bill Carpenter labor on Old West in 1823
Bob Labor on observatory, digging pits in 1832
Bob Labor on Old West in 1823
Bob Bricklayer on Old West in 1823
Bob Repairs on Old East about 1823
Cad Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824; May have run away from the university in 1825
Calvin Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Caplen Labor on Old East about 1823
Ceaser Labor on Old West in 1823
Charles Construction of Old West in 1823
Charles Labor on Old West in 1823
Chester Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Cicero Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Clayton Quarrying rock, making brick, repairs for the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry in 1826
Clayton Building Gerrard Hall, known as the New Chapel, in 1826
Clinton Labor on Old West in 1824
Clinton Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824
Clinton Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Daniel Hired by William Nichols for unspecified labor in 1822
Daniel Quarrying rock, making brick, carpenter on repairs for the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry in 1823-1824, 1826
Dave Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
David Barham College servant hired from William Barham by Professor James Phillips in 1830
Davy Construction of Old West in 1823
Dick Brick work on Old West 1823-1824
Dick Building Gerrard Hall, known as the New Chapel, in 1826
Edmund College servant; Improvement of grounds in 1848
Emmeline Washerwoman, seamstress for students in 1846
Ephraim Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Evans Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Frank Apprentice to Harry on unspecified labor in 1826
Gee Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
George Unspecified labor in 1826, included on list of hires for work on the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry
Glasgow Brickmaker on repairs to President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry
Harry Unspecified labor in 1826, had an apprentice named Frank
Harry Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Harry Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Henderson Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Repairs to Old East about 1823
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Smith College servant
Isaac Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824
Isaac Construction of Old West, labor on Old East in 1823
Isaac Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Isom Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Jack Labor on Old West in 1823
Jacob Carpenter work on Old East and Old West, 1823-1824, 1826
Jim Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Jim Labor on Old West in 1823
Joe Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
John Labor on Old West in 1823
John Sawyer on Old East, unspecified labor on Old West in 1823
Jonathan Waiting on masons “while at window sills” on Old East; assisting in hauling sand and rock about 1823
Jorge Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Jourdan Master workman and carpenter, construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Jourdan Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Lewis Labor on Old West in 1823
Lewis Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Lewis Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Luke Labor on Old West and Old East 1823-1824
Luke Repairs on Old East about 1823
Luke Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Luke Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Luke Hired for unspecified labor in 1825
Moses Labor on Old West in 1823
Ned Labor on Old West in 1823
Ned Labor on Old East in 1824
Ned Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Ned Peek Brickwork on Old West in 1823
Nelson College servant hired from Elizabeth King by Professor James Phillips in 1830
Nelson Repairs on Old East about 1823
Nelson Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
November Caldwell College servant in South Building and Old East for 30 years; wood collection
Osborne Mortar work and plasterer on additions to Old West in 1845; brother of plasterer Albert
Peter Repairs to Old East, President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry in 1824
Peter Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Peter Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Peter Labor on Old West in 1823
Peter Labor on Old West in 1823
Philip Hired by William Nichols for unspecified labor in 1822
Phillips Carpenter work on Old East and Old West, 1823-1824, 1826
Ransom Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Redin[?] Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Sam Hired for unspecified labor in 1826
Sam Labor on Old West in 1823
Sam Carpenter on repairs to Old East, President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry in 1824, 1826
Sam Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Sam Morphis Hired himself out as a hack driver, dates unknown
Sim Fred College servant; Improvement of grounds in 1848
Stephen Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Sterling Sawyer laboring on Old West, repairs to Old East in 1823
Stewart Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Thomas Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Tom Hired out at university for cutting wood in 1820
Toney Bricklayer laboring on Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, Steward’s Hall, and South Building belfry 1823-1824, 1826
Will Sawyer laboring on Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, Steward’s Hall, and South Building
Willis Rock work for improvements to college grounds in 1848
Willis Labor on South Building and Gerrard Hall in 1826
Wilson Caldwell College servant
York Construction of Old West 1823
Young Rock work for improvements to college grounds in 1848
Zack Hired for unspecified labor in 1826

 

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4 Responses to The Names of the Enslaved People who Built the University of North Carolina

  1. K. Galloway says:

    I just discovered this blog post on Facebook. Thank you for this blog series and especially for revealing the names and occupations of these enslaved individuals. I am the descendant of those who were taken , sold away, or migrated from NC. I am curious to know more about the lives of these individuals pre and post emancipation.

  2. Kristen Wilson says:

    Thank you.

  3. mb says:

    Provide surnames of owners of slaves, please. Need this info for identification.

  4. Reginald R McNair says:

    This is not the only connection of slave with University of NC Carolina. The estate of John Calvin McNair provided an endowment for the University from funds from the sale of slaves. Those funds had been held in an interest bearing escrow until the passing of his mother.

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