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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: 



I was at Samarcand 1967-1971 & I don't know what possessed me to even look up that place on the internet but I am glad I did. I've spent the last 50 years thinking something was wrong with me that I was not good enough & I was this terrible person no one could love that if my parents did not want me who would. All that was in my head & the people that knew me before Ssmarcsnd & the people I felt responsible for sending me there are all passed away now. I remembered being this happy outgoing active kid who excelled in school acted in the neighborhood community drama classes & musical talent shows I played short stop on the neighborhood baseball team. My only crime, I was assaulted twice before I was 12 years old & I began to act out. My parents did not have time to even notice that their baby girl had changed & definitely did not take the time to find out why. When I finally came home my dad apologized to me he said if he'd known they were going to keep me he would never have let my mom take me to the court system. I never put much stock in his apology until I read some of the comments posted by some of the girls. My judge also used the phrase sentenced to an "unlimited" time. At 12 i did not even know what that meant. Reading everyone's comments brought me closure. I had spent so many years trying to block out those years that it left a void in my memory I just had 4 years that were just gone & everyone living now that knows me thinks the rumors they heard about me when I was a kid are true & there is no one still living that can dispute those rumors that I was this bad kid. I am truly a good person was married 20 years until I realized I did not need anyone else's validation of my worth so I walked away. I have children who I never allowed to truly bond with me cuz I was afraid I'd disappoint them too scared to be responsible for them cuz I thought I'd fail as a parent cuz no one ever showed me how to be one. Turns out I have great kids contributing members to society. I did a good job & thanks to all if you & your post I'm finally free of that place in my head. I was right it wasn't my fault now I can go on with life. Now I get to live life.


Bless your heart good for you wish I would have known you !! 1966 graduate here


its ok.. we all went thru 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.


I was there at that time and in the choir also. I loved Ms. Alpert.


I was there from dec 1868 until June 1970 along with my sister Sylvia Drummond, also for skipping school and a lot to do with being one of 11children of a poor single mother who was going through a real depression after losing her youngest child. I was 12 years old when I got there. Sylvia was 15. We were in the same cottage for a short while. It may have been Carroll. It was the first one they took you to before you got assigned somewhere. We planned to escape and then backed out. I actually managed to sneak under the "hall" guard's bed to go to my sister's bed to wake her up. I was also in the choir. The teacher was Jewish and appeared to be strict but she really cared. And she knew what she was doing. I remember people requesting our choir at places and traveling off campus. That's when I realized how stupid we'd have been to try to escape. There was Nothing out there! We did learn a lot. I also still hitched across the country after dropping out of school. I did go back later and even went to college. I now have 4 children and 4 grandchildren. My oldest daughter is s lawyer (which amazes me) and my children are well rounded adults, who by the way, want me to write a book. Maybe I will.


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

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