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Oak Ridge, Military Prep School in Guilford County

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 01:00

On April 7, 1850, citizens in northwestern Guilford County met and appointed a board of trustees to erect a schoolhouse. The school would eventually become Oak Ridge Academy, the first coeducational military high school in the nation.

Three years later the school opened with a traditional curriculum and 63 male students. In 1861 and 1862, the entire student body and faculty enlisted in the Confederate army. The loss necessitated the school’s closing. Set to reopen in September 1865, the school’s main building burned the night before classes were to resume. The school was moved to nearby cabins and private homes.

Many senior students volunteered for service during World War I, and the U.S. Army began recruiting graduates for service as officers. In 1926, the Army organized a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps there.

The school changed its name to Oak Ridge Military Academy in 1971, and that same year the school became the first military academy in the United States to admit females. Women had attended the school’s secondary courses since about 1929, but never in a military capacity.

In 1983, the 101-acre campus became a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Surfers Catch a Wave in Wrightsville Beach, 1909

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 01:00

On April 7, 1910, the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser published a letter that Wrightsville Beach resident Burke Haywood Bridgers had written to the national magazine Colliers Weekly requesting information about building surfboards.

Bridgers wrote to Colliers in response to Alexander Hume Ford, founder of the Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club in Hawaii, who penned an article for the magazine the previous year encouraging readers to try the sport.

Bridgers wrote that people in Wrightsville Beach tried out surfing during the summer of 1909 without great results. The Lumina Pavilion, then one of the area’s premiere attractions, hosted a “surf board riding contest” over Labor Day, in fact.

Bridgers went on to describe the kinds of boards that the locals were using and the nature of the Atlantic Coast surf. The surfboards he described were built with local juniper wood, a traditional favorite of boat and ship builders, as it is resistant to wood-boring worms.

It is impossible to claim a “first” in East Coast surfing, but Bridgers’ experiments certainly would have been among the earliest appearances of surfboards in the Atlantic Ocean. The surfing that occurred in the Wrightsville Beach area in the early 1900s is the earliest documented in the state of North Carolina.

Recently Wrightsville Beach was named as one of the top 20 surfing towns in the world by National Geographic.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.