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Mrs. J. S. Claypoole, "The Torch Leads On: 175 Years of New Bern School in Historic Review", Historical Celebration and Evening Pageant, 4 May 1939

Over time, Lawson’s image was reinvented. One form that it took was in the first act of a 1939 pageant celebrating the 175th anniversary of the founding of the first public school in New Bern, North Carolina. In the pageant, Lawson is portrayed as a glowing but accurate promoter for the glories of the Neuse River region.

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Cover Page of The Torch Leads On, Historical Celebration and Evening Pagent, Comemorating the 175th Aniversary of the Founding of the New Bern Public School
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[Page 6]

Historical Pageant





"Old Hundredth"


Song, "New Bern"




Place: New Bern.

Time: 1700-1764.


INDIANS- Hubert Tyson, Ben Hill, Albert Jowdy, Jeff Rhodes, Langell Watson.

HUNTERS AND TRAPPERS- Irvin Weatherly, Dalla Waters, Robert Duffy, Wallace Beeton.

SETTLERS- English: Gerald Jones, Jean Comins; French: Zan Harper Jr., Camilla Griffi; German: John Agent, Sara Mann; Swiss: James Lowery, Sara Poole Wadsworth

OTHER SWISS SETTLERS- Eloise Gower, Bessie Land, Jean Prior, Mary E. Gaskins, Mary E. Henderson, Virginia Bunting, Virginia Daughterty, Isabel Small, Julia Ann hancock, Mary Ann Bass, Hyacinth Willis, Frances Gray.

CHILDREN OF THE SETTLERS- English: Tommy Gooding, Horace Hill, Lamar Sledge, Marie Fulcher, Mary Smith, Robert McLure; French; Florence Hanff, Hugh Swan, Guy Rose, Harry Jacobs, Joyce Land; German: Caroline Bunting, Hubert Tolson, Julia Fisher, Billy Vendric, Billy Jones; Swiss: Nancy Venters, Christine Register, Ed Gorham, Cyril Edwards, Neil Patterson, Ann Baucom.





Baron Christopher deGraffenreid JIMMY PARKER


Scene: Out of doors. The characters appear in the order named, and leave the stage in the same order.

Line drawing of water and town from page 6 of The Torch Leads On, Historical Celebration and Evening Pagent
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[Page 7]

Reader: The aim and purpose of this historical pageant is to portray one hundred and seventy-five years of New Bern Schools and to honor that great host of trustees, teachers and pupils who have gone on. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints."

Our story begins in the year 1707 when a colony of French Huguenots sailed up the Neuse River to the confluence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. These Huguenots - spurred on by dreams of rich and fertile soil for their planting, more freedom for their religion, and better opportunities for their children - were seeking a land of health and plenty described so glowingly by John Lawson, an English explorer who had visited the country several years before.

As pictured by Lawson, Surveyor-Ceneral of the Carolinas, the Neuse was indeed a gateway to Shangri-La for the travelers, weary of the Old World and eager for the New. "A delicious country," he had written, "being placed in that girdle of the world which affords wine, oil, fruit, grains and silk, with other rich commodities, besides a sweet air, moderate climate, and fertile soil - these are blessings (under heaven's protection) that spin out the thread of life to its utmost extent, and crown our days with the sweets of health and plenty, which when joined with content, renders the possessors the happiest race of men on earth."

To Lawson everything seemed to come by Nature, the husbandman living almost void of care and free from those fatigues which were an inseparable part of life in the Old World.

When the Huguenots arrived they found, on the tongue of land between the Neuse and Trent Rivers, an Indian village called Chattawka and the new colonists formed two settlements, one above the village on the Trent River and the other below on the Neuse.

With the Huguenots opening the way there soon followed other colonists - English Quakers, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and still later Swiss under the leadership of Baron Christopher deGraffenried. One of the earlier settlers was Furnifold Green, who came with his young wife, Hannah, to take up land on the North side of the Neuse River.

When deGraffenried and the Swiss came up the Neuse they found most of the land surrounding Chattawka already occupied by the earlier settlers and so in 1710 deGraffenried purchased the Indian village from King Taylor and founded the city of New Bern.

Lawson's enthusiastic pen had not written too glowingly. It was indeed a land of plenty and opportunity for the new settlers and they stood their ground although there were but a handful of colonists in Carolina, seated at great distances from one another, amidst a vast number of Indians of different nations.

In September, 1711, Lawson was tortured and killed by the Indians. Three years later Furnifold Green was murdered. He, with one son, one white servant and two negroes, were killed and another son was shot but recovered. "Why do you ask how long had he lived? He has lived to Posterity."

Before deGraffenried returned to Switzerland he made a treaty with the Indians which left the town or New Bern unmolested during the savage Indian wars raging in the surrounding country.

Line drawing of building from page 7 of The Torch Leads On, Historical Celebration and Evening Pagent
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[Page 8]

In these early days there was little effort made for public education. Poor boys were apprenticed and were taught reading and writing as well as trades. The more prosperous and cultured people employed private tutors for their children, and then sent the boys to England for higher learning. The advantages of practical education are evidenced in the handwriting of that day, the purity of the language, and simplicity and beauty of style In all their written documents.

(Reed enters, and settlers begin to move back, and very gradually stage is emptied except for Reed.)

Reader: With the hope of arousing the people to the need of it Public School, the Rev. James Reed, rector of Christ Church Parish, appeared before the Assembly here in 1762, and preached a sermon urging the people to take steps to establish a public school to educate the youth of the Province. This sermon was printed here by James Davis, and dispersed throughout the counties.

Mr. Richard Cogdell and Mr. William Cray sponsored the bill in the Assembly to establish the first School House in the Town of New Bern. Governor Tryon tried repeatedly to get assistance from England. and he encouraged the movement all he could.

A Society was formed to raise money for the school, and the subscribers made their notes payable to Rev. James Reed. He had great faith in the earnestness of these people, and their desire to have their children educated. So he started to build a "large and commodious School House, 45 feet long and 30 feet wide". This structure was put on the site of the present school.

These lots were later disallowed by His Royal Majesty King George III, but the Trustees had already erected their building and Parson Reed had a flourishing school under his supervision. His Majesty's wishes were disregarded.

(Parson Reed alone on the Stage.)

Reader: The subscriptions gave out before the building was completed and James Reed, being a man of great faith and great hope, "preached and begged until he was weary", but to no avail. He could not raise the money from those whose benefit would be greatest. So out of his small stipend he sent a Bill of Exchange for his half year's salary to New York to purchase bricks for the chimney and buy other needed equipment, to realize the fulfillment of his dream.

Line drawing of horse and carriage from page 8 of The Torch Leads On, Historical Celebration and Evening Pagent
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Citation: Claypoole, Mrs. J. S. [Frances Broadfoot Claypoole]. "The Torch Leads On." Historical Celebration and Evening Pageant. New Bern, NC: n.p., 1939. 5-22.
Location: North Carolina Collection, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858 USA
Call Number:NoCar Ref F264 N5 H575 1939   Display Catalog Record

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Page Updated 02 September 2004
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