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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Liberty Hall

by Stewart Lillard, 2006

See also: Private Education

Liberty Hall, an eighteenth-century academy of higher learning in Mecklenburg County located in the former Queen's Museum building in Charlotte, was the product of Hezekiah Alexander and Waightstill Avery's efforts in the Halifax Convention (1776) to provide for the instruction of youth through direct public support. North Carolina's constitution committed the state to the public support of education. The General Assembly's May 1777 term saw the approval of a bill to create Liberty Hall, but the fledgling state government was unable to provide funds for public education during the Revolutionary War.

Of the trustees who met in Charlotte on 3 Jan. 1778 for their first organizational session, five had served as trustees of the earlier Queen's College (1771-73): Thomas Polk, Abraham Alexander, Thomas Neal, John McKnitt Alexander, and Waightstill Avery. Isaac V. Alexander served as president; additional trustees were Ephraim Brevard, John Simpson, Adlai Osborn, James Edmonds, Thomas Reese, Samuel E. McCorkle, Thomas H. McCaule, James Hall, and David Caldwell. The trustees elected a local scholar, Robert Brownfield, as the school's first president for one year. The president's salary was set at £195, and additional town lots in Charlotte belonging to Col. Thomas Polk were sought for expansion. At first, Liberty Hall provided education for men too young for combat and for older men whose service was no longer needed.

During 1779 Alexander MacWhorter, an "eminent preacher of the gospel" and "ardent patriot," was persuaded to relocate from New Jersey to the dissenter stronghold in Mecklenburg County and serve as pastor of Sugar Creek Church and president of Liberty Hall. Liberty Hall closed its doors as an academy in September 1780 when Lord Charles Cornwallis moved troops into Charlotte. After the British withdrew, the institution, which had been used as a hospital during the occupation of the city, did not reopen. In 1784 trustees reported that the buildings were in ruin and decay. The trustees petitioned the legislature to move the academy to Salisbury and change its name to Salisbury Academy.


Norris W. Preyer, Hezekiah Alexander and the Revolution in the Backcountry (1987).

D. A. Tompkins, History of Mecklenburg County, vol. 1 (1903).

Additional Resources:

"An Act for incorporating the president and trustees of Liberty Hall, in the county of Mecklenburg." Collection of the private acts of the General Assembly of the state of North Carolina: from the year 1715, to the year 1790, inclusive, now in force and use. Newbern :Francois-Xavier Martin, 1794. p. 75. (accessed September 17, 2012).

Leland,  Elizabeth. "Princeton of the South." Our State.  July 2010. (accessed September 17, 2012).

Haywood, Marshall Delancey. "The Story of Queen's College or Liberty Hall in the Province of North Carolina." The North Carolina Booklet 9. No. 3. January 1912. p. 169-175. (accessed September 17, 2012).

Beaty, Artie. "Liberty Hall Monument." Charlotte. (accessed September 17, 2012).

Coon, Charles L. North Carolina schools and academies, 1790-1840, a documentary history. 1915. p. xix. (accessed September 17, 2012).

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