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Samarcand Manor

by Julian M. Pleasants, 2006

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: 

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.

Comment: 

My mother said she was placed here because she didn't have a home to live in when her mother abandoned her. She said she felt like a slave. She said the kids that didn't have anyone that cared about them was mistreated. She said she has to use a sling blade.

Comment: 

My name is Martha.. I was at the school in 1962 -1964 and am looking for my friend Jane Gainey. We were in the school all these years together.. Please look me up in Sevierville, TN.. as for now I am a Watson..I have thought a whole lot about you over the years... This place taught me how to live my life without trouble.

Comment: 

I was at Samarcand Manor in 1971. At the time I lived in Hillsborough, N.C. I realized years ago, being there helped me be the person I am today. I am very thankful for being put there. The court system was not on my side. I was wrongly put there as many other girls. I must defend Samarcand. It was not run as concentration camp. I remember quite well the white table cloths with napkins, excellent food, prayer before meals, two week vacation to beach, fishing, swimming pool, cookouts, my own room, most of all the gracious and caring staff that took time to listen to you after they clocked out. I was on the honor roll the full year. People stereo type Training Schools as to what they have seen on TV. In looking back Samarcand was similar to a resort. But with out family and friends. There were plenty of bad apples such as the person above at Samarcand. I am positive the issues above was caused by that person alone. If anyone was locked up so to speak, they were in a big room with large window. One person need not be allowed to disrupt the lives of others due to their own ignorance. Dental work was done only when needed. So all of you who spent time there please think of the good things and times we had. Don't down grade a good thing. I was in cottage B when I left. My only regret
I feel Samarcand should have turned into a museum.

Comment: 

This article needs to be totally re-written it was no finishing school but a hell on earth for many young girls.

Comment: 

You are so right, My sister was there in the 60's and still has bruises on her knees from being made to scrub all wax off floors every week. in the time she was there I saw many many girls mistreated, If you even looked at someone else they would take you and put you in THE HOLE is what they called it. y sister has a lot of mental issues from being in that place. I just hope that the ones responsible for the mistreating of those girls have gotten their just rewards.

Comment: 

i was at samarkand manor in 1995 and 1997 and i'm also a 31 year old black woman now i will say honestly that i was not mistreated did i want to be there no but i can't speak for anyone else

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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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