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Stonewall Jackson Manual Training

by Clarence E. Horton Jr., 2006Boys at the Stonewall Jackson Training School, ca. 1937. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library. Original photograph owned by H. Lee Pharr.

In late nineteenth-century North Carolina, young men convicted of criminal offenses were subjected to the same harsh sentences and punishments as hardened adult criminals. In 1890 James P. Cook, a resident of Concord and editor of the local daily newspaper, the Standard, witnessed a sentence of "three years and six months at hard labor on the Cabarrus County Chain Gang" imposed on a 13-year-old boy convicted of petty theft. Distressed at the sight of the lad taken from the courtroom chained to a convicted adult criminal, Cook devoted the next 17 years to a campaign for the establishment of a training school for boys.

Supporters of such a school, particularly the benevolent organization King's Daughters of North Carolina, finally convinced the state legislature to embrace their "radical" idea. A special committee of the King's Daughters in 1906 successfully campaigned for the school through public meetings, newspaper articles and editorials, and the dissemination of pamphlets describing the success of reformatories in other states. Success in the legislature was finally assured when sponsors of the bill gained the support of the Confederate veterans in the General Assembly, proposing that the new institution be named in honor of beloved Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who died during the Battle of Chancellorsville. The act establishing the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School in Concord became law on 2 March 1907.

Governor R. B. Glenn named James P. Cook to the school's first board of trustees. The board then elected Cook as its chairman, a position he held for almost two decades. At a public meeting in Concord on 30 Sept. 1907, the citizens of Cabarrus County appointed a committee to raise funds and locate land to be donated to the training school trustees to secure placement of the new school within Cabarrus County. The fund-raising effort was successful, and the school was located on a site that is now within the Concord city limits. In November 1907, the executive committee of the trustees named Professor Walter Thompson, then superintendent of Concord public schools, the first superintendent of instruction at Stonewall Jackson Training School.

From the beginning, school officials insisted that a quality education be offered to the young people committed to their care. The school was proud of its staff of certified teachers, its library, and its visual aids and resource materials. In addition to more traditional academic instruction, young men received training in a useful trade. Students worked in the shoe shop, machine shop, sewing room, print shop, barber shop, textile plant, and on the school's farm or in its dairy barn. For many years, students in the print shop published a magazine, called the UPLIFT, under the supervision of printing instructor Jesse C. Fisher. Young men learned modern farming techniques raising their food in school fields. Others helped tend the herd of dairy cows that furnished milk and ice cream for the school. "Big Buck," a prize-winning bull, presided over a large herd of Hertford beef cattle that furnished meat for the school kitchen.

Legislative policy eventually shifted away from the incarceration of juvenile offenders found guilty of "status" offenses such as truancy and undisciplined behavior. As a result, the Stonewall Jackson population had dwindled by the early 2000s to an average of 150 young men, from a peak population of 500 juveniles at the school's zenith. The crimes committed by juveniles confined at the school tend to be much more violent than 20 years ago; many are drug- and weapons-related offenses. Consequently, a fence has been installed to prevent students from leaving the grounds.


Samuel G. Hawfield, History of Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School (1946).

Additional Resources:

"Stonewall Jackson Training School." N.C. Highway Historical Marker L-49, N.C. Office of Archives & History.

"Youth Development Centers." N.C. Department of Public Safety. (accessed November 12, 2019).

Leland,Elizabeth. "Stonewall Jackson secrets: ‘Children against monsters’." The Charlotte Observer.  October 5, 2013. 

Origin - location: 



I was there Nov 1963 to Nov 1364 . I was in cottage #7 my cottage parents was
Mr. and Mrs. Harley Padgett. It was a bad place but it made me want to stay out of trouble. And I did. I hate to see such a beautiful in such disrepair. The state should have kept it up if nothing else to honor the boys who did the work. I went back in 1965 I think but I ran away and was never caught. at that time I only the 2nd boy to do that. They caught 3 of us smoking and was going to take us to the disciplinary committee so I ran. That was cruel and unusual punishment. But I'm glad I got that experience I think it made me a better man.


Thanks for any and all details of your experience. I am on this path due to family have worked there. A husband and wife from the 1930’s. They had a baby girl while there who was only one when they came to work at the Reformatory. Last name was Hobby. She the Mrs. Passed as did her daughter of such horrible issues with their brains at a very young age.
You in your telling if your Escape. Made me smile. I can read the exciting time it was for you.


I was in there in late 1997 - 1998, I was in cottage 17 and I got into a altercation with another inmate one night and my SPLEEN ruptured. The guards told me there was no nurse on duty and I would need to wait until morning. I was in so much PAIN and of course I didn’t know it was my spleen, I thought maybe a broken rib.
I was in my bed when this guard that wasn’t supposed to be there came in for some reason that night while off, he saw me laying there and realized something was wrong and he literally made some calls and he took me personally to the ER.
After arriving at the hospital it was clear something was wrong because I couldn’t stay awake do to the bleeding internally. The doctors managed to do emergency surgery and saved my life, they said it was a miracle I was alive because of the time that had past since the incident roughly 90 plus minutes.
I believe God sent that man in that night and I owe him a lot. I wish I could find that man Mr Robinson or Robertson if anyone knows him I would love to thank him personally for saving my life that night cold January night.


The razor wire added around each building is deplorable. Why not use the money to preserve or demolish? The razor wire is a total eye sore and waste of money and resources.


They wont even trim the grass between the fence and the building, looks terrible.


I agree with what you said. They could have at least preserved the Kings Daughters cottage since it was the first one built or demolished all the cottages and Cannon House and let Mother Nature have the property back. It could have been a small wildlife habitat but oh well. It’s funny though how they waited well over 20 years from the time it closed to finally fence all the property in, when they should have done it from the beginning.


As a former student (and victim) of SJTS, I want others to know that I am for removing all of the buildings except for two of them. The old buildings need to be torn down and replaced with one museum and the old chapel. The surrounding grounds should be a dedicated park for all who served time there, especially the ones who were victimized while there. Let it be a memorial to those who suffered at the hands of other students and some staff as well. Allow the horror stories to be told out loud and maybe someone will hear our cry. Remember the children you place there because "we are the leaders today and they are the leaders of tomorrow." What they are taught today will reflect on how they live tomorrow. Behavior is a learned reality and what the children learn from others(children and adults) will reflect on how their behavior will be tomorrow.


A great example of a great architectural era. Its really sad how the State of N.C. has let the buildings deteriorate without an iota of concern over the past 50 years. The state should raze the buildings but save at least one. I have always felt a sense of grief when I passed the complex. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I feel saddened due to the deterioration of such grand buildings, or the fact I have read so many stories of the deplorable conditions those boys endured. A concentrated and urgent effort should be made toward conserving the site before it's too late.


I was at stonewall jackson trainning school was a bad place. the bigger boys use tryed to abuse the smaller and younger boys. the school had cottage parents. the houses called cottages 1 thru 17 i was in cottage 17. went to school in the morning and worked in the afternoon. I worked in the plumbing we worked on things that broke down and fixed them. think his name that ran plumbing was called Mr burris.


I live just a short distance from the campus, and am interested in hearing from those who spent time there and the impact their time has had on their life thereafter.

I have made multiple trips for photo shoots, and the guards I have come across have all been very polite and accommodating when I make it clear that I am there to document the architecture, not to party or destroy things. Having said that, a strong word of caution follows:

There ARE signs up warning visitors that the campus is owned by the state and that trespassing is not allowed. Anyone wanting to visit it is strongly encouraged to check with the administration first to get permission.

The original buildings are in varying states of decay and have suffered a tremendous amount of damage from vandals, and are full of mold, broken glass, animal droppings, and rusty metal, so it is NOT safe to enter them. Keep in mind also that the modern detention center is directly attached to the old campus and is in full operation. In other words, the physical danger presented by the actual structures far outweighs any "thrill" of sneaking in or trying to "catch ghosts".

The only person who has EVER objected to my visits was a gentleman (I use that term loosely) who claimed to have been a former guard and accused me of lying when I said I'd already spoken to a Sheriff and been given permission to photograph the buildings. Aside from his abusive language and aggressive attitude, there was no indication he was actually ever an employee there - he offered up no identification, not even his name.

I know many people have posted on the 'Net that they were students who either benefitted from their time there or suffered abuse. Anyone who has stories to tell about their experience and is willing to be interviewed may contact me at, an email I have set up specifically for this purpose.

At some point I would like to publish a book on the history of the school, and any concrete and verifiable information I can accrue toward this purpose would be very useful.

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