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Samarcand Manor

by Julian M. Pleasants, 2006

See also: Samarcand (Research Branch, NCO&H)

Samarcand Building, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: N_98_9_187. Samarcand Manor, officially the State Home and Industrial School for Girls, was a humane correctional institution for young women established near Eagle Springs by the North Carolina state legislature in 1918. The purpose of the school was to reclaim and train delinquent girls by providing a "homelike place where those who have fallen may find temporary shelter, and under a firm yet kind discipline, begin to live morally." The school, built on 230 acres in Samarcand (named for the Muslim city conquered by Alexander the Great that served as his empire's seat of learning and culture), was one of the first institutions of its type in the South. The original clients were young girls or women who had been convicted of being prostitutes, vagrants, or habitual drunkards or who were guilty of any misdemeanor suggesting that they were "not virtuous." There were no definite terms, but the clients could not be held more than three years and were to be released on good behavior.

"Our Three Youngest." Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call#: N_98_9_189.Agnes B. MacNaughton became Samarcand's first superintendent, and by 1919 more than 200 women between the ages of 10 and 30 had arrived. In the 1920s the daily program emphasized Bible study, manners, cleanliness, music, nature, and sports in addition to the regular academic subjects. The girls also received vocational training in sewing, weaving, canning, laundry work, and poultry and dairying activities. The program stressed self-reliance and pride in one's work. Between 1928 and 1930 a total of 296 girls were admitted, most between the ages of 12 and 16. By 1930 Samarcand had a hospital and an accredited high school.

In 1931, 16 Samarcand inmates set fire to two dorms and were charged with arson, then a capital crime. While awaiting trial, the girls burned their jail cells. Eight of the 12 involved were eventually sent to prison. Samarcand survived this notorious 1931 incident and other difficulties but was unable to withstand the financial strains of the Great Depression and the siphoning off of staff during World War II. In 1974 the state changed the name of the institution to Samarcand Manor and placed it under the purview of the North Carolina Department of Human Resources, Youth Division. Samarcand became one of five state training schools designed to rehabilitate delinquent children (both male and female) between the ages of 10 and 17. The school shifted its emphasis to treatment and therapy. In the early 2000s Samarcand had approximately 190 clients (40 females and 150 males) and 210 staff members.

References: "Playtime, children on the wagon." Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: N_98_9_188.

Ida Briggs Henderson, "The Work at Samarcand," The State (4 Apr. 1936).

Lisbeth Parrott, "Samarcand Opens Door of Hope to 1,000th Girl in Tenth Year," Raleigh News and Observer, 7 Oct. 1928.

Samarcand Manor: 50th Anniversary, 1918-1968 (1968).

Additional Resources:

State Home and Industrial School for Girls (Samarcand, N.C.). Biennial report of the Board of Directors and Superintendent of the State Home and Industrial School for Girls, Samarcand Manor, Samarcand, N.C. Samarcand, N.C. [N.C.]: The School. 1926-1938. (accessed May 24, 2013).

Samarkand Manor. GoogleMaps.

"Samarcand." N.C. Highway Historical Marker K-34, N.C. Office of Archives & History.

McLaurin, Melton Alonza, and Russell, Anne. The Wayward Girls of Samarcand: A true story of the American South. Wilmington, N.C.: Bradley Creek Press. 2012.

Steelman, Ben. "Review - McLaurin, Russell write a gripping yarn." StarNews Media. July 8, 2012.

Gilkeson, Florence. "Samarkand Makes Case to Stay Open." September 24, 2009.

Image Credits:

Samarcand Building, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: N_98_9_187.

"Playtime, children on the wagon." Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: N_98_9_188.

"Our Three Youngest." Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call#: N_98_9_189.

Origin - location: 



My Aunt was sent to Samarcand sometime between 1958-1961. Her name was
Nancy Jane Bowman then. Does anyone remember her?


I was there from 1965 to 1967. I was at Carrol Hall, Gardner and New cottage. Good times and bad. Strangely I remember mostly good. Even though sometimes we were on silence and couldn't say the word boy, shining floors. Half day of school then assignment. I had sewing, dinner cook, ice plant. Learned a lot.


I was there for 1year 68 to 69 I was put a the sort cottage there forgot the name now as you went to the front in
Intake it was on the right I believe it was 3. Stories . all you had to do to be was think to yourself about running and locked you in a room from 7 to 30 days with only PJs to wear and one bed and a huge window with super thick wire on them. I was there for 7mos. Then transferred to Holland hall. Were girls put there mattress on each bedroom door and all exits at night. We cit grass in the fields with swing blades once a snack crossed over my foot I flipped out and because I won't go back out there I was locked up. When you hair got to long they wold make you cut or get a perm that made your hair were yo could barely get a com thru it. There was once a month family was allowed to visit if they brought you candy you had to eat at the visit you had to throw it away. You had to were old timely blended shirts button up shirts. Once we got a shipment of Jackson boys scool shores and we had to west them. We called them bragains . I worked in the girls Hall kitchen and got my honor pin so I could walk around by myself. Never made it to honor girl with escort which would mean I could take other girl with no pin around . once when I worked in the kitchen I use to put ice in the girls milk at dinners cause the milk was cows milk and would be put on the table a hour or on the tables before the food was served. It was so nasty I've made it bit better. Once I wsd suppose to be able to go off campus with my folks for 3hours but no more than 50miles away. Instead they got me eating a Cook if saved after lunch they took my honor button away on Tuesday cause on Wednesday I was suppose to go off campus then on Thursday they gave it back.
I went in on June 1968 I go out in may 1969
. my time there was not a happy one


I learned something's from that place. But all that learning didn't help once I was released I hitched hiked across the country back when it was safe to do it. Not a chance in hell I'd do it today. I was a heroin addict in the strip in Atlanta from 1970 to 1972 saw allot of my friends overdoze and a few died. Starting smoking pot at the age of 16 and not stopping til 2014. I went thru every drug there back then . just not the crack or coke thing. Do I regreat all the drug use YES . Do I regreat hurting my folks YES. Running away from home , not going to school, not getting a education was a big thing I did to myself was the biggest thing I retreat . I had a child a daughter at 19 she is 43 today and I couldn't be more proud of her she got her education and is now a director of a doctors office and had 2 girls. That's the one thing in my life that went right. Alone with my marriage to pat husband now of 30 years. Samarkand manor was just a place I went to on all my many travels in life. I'll never forget it.


I was at Samarcand from the beginning of 1960 thru June 1963. Miss Reva Mitchell was there at that time. I feel I was fortunate to have been placed there. It made me the person I am today. I don't recall being mistreated (as I was when I was in an unnamed ohanage). We did cut grass with a sling blade and learned how to can, sew, type, work in the dairy and kitchen. I missed my sister and brothers who were in an orphanage. Samarkand made arrangements for me to see my siblings on two occasions and made arrangements for me to have mass once a week. I feel fortunate to have been there.


You were in the choir the same time I was! I would love to talk to someone who was there at the same time. Miss Rowe at Ireland hall scared me too death! She was so mean! The last cottage I lived in was new cottage! One of the most horrible times of my life!


I was Jo Ann Pullen at the time and my sister was Faye Pullen. We were there in 1967 and stayed 1 and 1/2 years.I was in Caroll Cottage. Cam't remember all the counselors name other than Mrs. Nance. She a nice lady. I hated every moment of being there. Ms. Mitchelle was a mean woman and you better not do anything that caused you to go see her. Someone added my name to a rum away plan and I was moced to Leonard cottage where I stayed until went home. Ms. Hull was also a mean woman too.


I was surprised at the variance in comments from many people regarding their time spent here. I think it depends on the time frame one was there as to their memories. I was sent there from 1966-1968, along with two of my friends, because we skipped school and like others had no legal representation, we were sent there for an "unlimited" time. I remember shining the floors, being placed on silence, having to count sheets of toilet tissue, being unable to say the word boy and other such things. When I was there, we had to work half a day and go to school half a day. Your work assignment could be anything from farming, cooking, sewing, working in the cannery etc. It was a very structured environment. At the time I was there, I thought it was the worst place in the world. However, looking back I realize that the lessons I learned there were valuable to this day. It was NOT a "camp" with singing and playing as someone suggested but there were times when we had fun. I too was in the choir under Ms. Alpert's direction and therefore was allowed to leave campus to perform at functions arranged by the school. We were allowed to go to camp while I was there also. For anyone who may remember me, I was Barbara Bradley at the time and I was in the New Cottage then transferred to Ireland Hall.


Barbara I don't remember you however my memories of samarcand are some what fuzzy. I was in the choir soprano soloist my name was Doniese & I was there in 1967-1971. I left after 2 years then was sent back. I am a black female. I had the honor pin & was able to escort girls around campus. I learned some valuable lessons while there also but it also stunted the natural processes that all young people should go through like making friends building bonds. All those skills most kids learn by growing up in their natural family environment because as you know making friends was forbidden. To this day I have no friends I can not allow people to get too close to me. I've never gotten over the cruelty of being locked up for no reason and to this day I will insist I did nothing for such a harsh punishment. My best memory there; returning after the choir did an off campus concert & looking at the stars in the night sky as we drove back. Nice to know you all are out there


Do you remember me Barbara. My name is Rose. I worked at Miss Mitchell's house. I wore the gold student counselor button. Traveled with the choir. Sang solos also Carol did. Red hair. I use to have to ride with Miss Mitchell at night with thr men in trucks looking for runners. It was scary. I loved. Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Albert were nice to me. The whole thing was like adream. It needs to be made into a movie. No one would bekieve it. Bye Rose


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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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