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Caldwell Institute

by Jerry L. Cross, 2006

The Caldwell Institute, originally located in Guilford County, grew out of the determined effort of the Presbyterian Church to establish a school providing a classical education imbued with Christian principles. In 1833 a committee appointed by the Orange Presbytery selected Greensboro as the site for the proposed institution, but not until 21 Jan. 1837 did the General Assembly ratify the charter of incorporation for the Caldwell Institute. The name honored Joseph Caldwell (1773-1835), the first president of the University of North Carolina, whose distinguished career in education spanned more than four decades.

The Caldwell Institute's school year consisted of two sessions of five months each, with one-month vacations in April and August that coincided with the planting and harvesting seasons. The trustees chose not to construct a dormitory on campus because they believed that living in homes under family restraints would offer fewer temptations to students. Everyone attending the institute was required to attend public worship on Sundays and to spend time Sunday afternoon reciting from the Bible and Westminster Catechism.

The Caldwell Institute flourished for eight years, and, according to local tradition, attracted students from surrounding states as well as North Carolina. An outbreak of typhoid fever in Greensboro in 1845 prompted the trustees to move the school to Hillsborough, where classes were held in the recently repaired and enlarged Hillsborough Academy building. The Caldwell Institute, under the continuing leadership of Alexander Wilson, thrived for three years, reaching a peak enrollment of 100 in 1848. The next year attendance dropped back to 68, and in 1850 the trustees voted to discontinue the school.


Ethel Stephens Arnett, Greensboro, North Carolina: The County Seat of Guilford (1955).

Ruth Blackwelder, The Age of Orange: Political and Intellectual Leadership in North Carolina, 1752-1861 (1961).

Bettie D. Caldwell, Founders and Builders of Greensboro (1925).

Charles L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1840: A Documentary History (1915).

Additional Resources:

Alexander Wilson, NC Highway Historical Marker G-65:


Origin - location: 



Has anyone documented an image of the school? I have found maps and verbal descriptions of the building, but have never seen an image. The original Greensboro building was destroyed before 1879.


I found a photo of the Caldwell Insitutue in the margin of an 1891 map of Orange County, NC available here:



I would like to know if Caldwell Institute did include any Deaf students while there was no North Carolina School for the Deaf after the bill was proposed in 1827 by Caldwell (as claimed to be founder) and was with the Bible Society to push for NC School for the Deaf to be established but failed and its bill died, I guess.

Let me know- thank you.

Kathleen Brockway


Hi, Kathleen.

Thank you for this very interesting question. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information regarding the inclusion of deaf students at the school. Among the places where I was able to review information about the school was the Documenting the American South site:

Beginning on p. 518 at

Also, here is the formal act establishing the school in Hillsborough:

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library



My grandmother attended the Caldwell Institute and was awarded a diploma on May 9, 1900. The signatures of both "Principal" and "Secretary" are Thomas T. Candler and "President of Board" appears to be Rob't Hall, Jr. I'm puzzled that the school was voted to be discontinued in 1850, but her diploma post-dates this by 50 years. Any thoughts?


Dear Ms. Brown,

Thank you for your question. My best guess is that your grandmother attended the Caldwell Institute in Caldwell (Orange County). Both Candler and Hall are mentioned here:

See also

I hope this helps answer your question.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


My grandfather, William Thomas Taylor attended Caldwell Institute when it was in Hillsborough.

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