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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. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll9/id/4894 (accessed May 24, 2013).

Samarkand Manor. GoogleMaps.

"Samarcand." N.C. Highway Historical Marker K-34, N.C. Office of Archives & History. http://www.ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?sp=Markers&k=Markers&sv=K-34

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. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20120708/articles/120709845

Gilkeson, Florence. "Samarkand Makes Case to Stay Open." ThePilot.com. September 24, 2009.  http://www2.gosandhills.com/stories/20090925/news/local/20090925Case.html

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: 

Comments

Comment: 

Samarcand under the rule of Agnes MacNaughton was anything but humane. She and her underlings oversaw decades of neglect, mistreatment, and bizarre punishments that were a disgrace to the state's history and a horror to the girls who had to live through it. In short, the early phase of this institution was scandalous. Please read <The Wayward Girls of Samarcand : A True Story of the American South> by Melton McLaurin and Anne Russell. Another source for this information is <Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Cornelia Battle Lewis, 1893-1956> by Alexander S. Leidholdt. Two online sources with brief reviews of the Samarcand book are: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15861191-the-wayward-girls-of-samarcand and http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20120708/articles/120709845.
For more information about the forced sterilization of girls by the State of NC, you can reference <Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare> (2006) by Johanna Schoen and the online article "Breaking the 'Wicked Silence'" by Jonathan Michels in "City Beat" June 18-14, 2014, available here online: http://triad-city-beat.com/breaking-the-wicked-silence/

Comment: 

I was put in Samarkand Manor in the 60's it was work half a day and go to school. we used sling blades to cut the grass, mopped and waxed the floor on our knees...we could not talk when put on silence...it was very strick and you did the best you could to stay out of trouble. or you would loose what little privileges they had.Mrs. Mitchell was the head of it we were all scared of her...I remember one of the cottages I was in a Ms. Butani from India worked there. I spent the best four yrs of my life there, just because I told my mother I was not old enough to take care of my sister who was four. I lost my teenage life. sigh I heard it does not have a lot of girls these days and I am sure it has to be better than it was in the 60's..I am not 67 yrs old...but I will never forget that place in the middle of no where..sigh My name is Patricia Helms Cox I now live in Michigan

Comment: 

Iwas there in 1959 to 1961 and it was for not going to school.So was my cousin Doris Ashby, we came together but they placed us apart in different halls.Back then you worked half a day and school the other half.I worked on the farm, laundry,sewing , kitchen.They checked your rooms and drawers on spot checks and if they found anything wrong you polished the halls on your knees until you got blisters.If you didnt eat the sousemeat or tomato aspic then you got locked in a room that had a comode, iron bunk, ans little window at the top of room so you could not see out and they slipped your food tray through a holke in door. The only time you got out was bto cut grass with a sling tell you had bloody blisters.That place was something else!!!but if you was good you got to see a movie at the school matbe once a month.almost 3 years there and God I was so glad to get out even tho I was going to a boarding school in ashville which was anotrher hell hole.

Comment: 

I remember Shanta K BHUTANI and she was at Mitchell Hall or Leonard...it was beside Carroll hall....I was there 1963 until I graduated 1965...I AM 66...IT WAS A NIGHTMARE AND i still dream of it sometimes.....I WAS LOCKED UP FOR 28 DAYS FOR SOMETHING i DID NOT DO....and I remember the floor shining with rags too. My parents both died and i kept running away from the orphanage and that is why I was there...my name is Bettie Williamson Conley. I learned to sew there since we had to make all the clothes. Miss Rowe was at Ireland hall and MRS. Phillips was at Gardner.

Comment: 

Patricia I was there in 66-67 and 68. It was terrible. I rem wednsday movie nite. you couldn't say the word boy. couldn't wear your hair flipped up and I hated working in that dam ice house. I hated garner hall. and counting the sheets of toilet paper when you went to the bathroom. 2 years of hell. I am 62 now went in there when I was 14.

Comment: 

I was there the same time you were. I remember alot of things you do. I'm also 62. Some of the horrible times I remember like it was yesterday.

Comment: 

I was there then also!

Comment: 

I was at Samarkand also in the 60s. One the most horrible experiences of my life!

Comment: 

I recently moved to North Carolina and like to read true history of this state. But judging from the reviews, you don't know what to believe.

Comment: 

i am a male and i was there in 92 for 4 months. no beatings, weird trips to the dentist, no slave activities, and anyone who compares it to a concentration camp obviously is a moron. i learned a lot and am a better man now.

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Copyright notice

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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