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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: 

I was there for 1year 68 to 69 I was put a the sort cottage there forgot the name now as you went to the front in
Intake it was on the right I believe it was 3. Stories . all you had to do to be was think to yourself about running and locked you in a room from 7 to 30 days with only PJs to wear and one bed and a huge window with super thick wire on them. I was there for 7mos. Then transferred to Holland hall. Were girls put there mattress on each bedroom door and all exits at night. We cit grass in the fields with swing blades once a snack crossed over my foot I flipped out and because I won't go back out there I was locked up. When you hair got to long they wold make you cut or get a perm that made your hair were yo could barely get a com thru it. There was once a month family was allowed to visit if they brought you candy you had to eat at the visit you had to throw it away. You had to were old timely blended shirts button up shirts. Once we got a shipment of Jackson boys scool shores and we had to west them. We called them bragains . I worked in the girls Hall kitchen and got my honor pin so I could walk around by myself. Never made it to honor girl with escort which would mean I could take other girl with no pin around . once when I worked in the kitchen I use to put ice in the girls milk at dinners cause the milk was cows milk and would be put on the table a hour or on the tables before the food was served. It was so nasty I've made it bit better. Once I wsd suppose to be able to go off campus with my folks for 3hours but no more than 50miles away. Instead they got me eating a Cook if saved after lunch they took my honor button away on Tuesday cause on Wednesday I was suppose to go off campus then on Thursday they gave it back.
I went in on June 1968 I go out in may 1969
. my time there was not a happy one

Comment: 

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.

Comment: 

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!

Comment: 

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.

Comment: 

My aunt went there probably in the late sixties early seventies. Katherine Jones

Comment: 

My mom Patricia (Pat)Belcher was at Samarkand from1960to1965,she is looking for anyone who remembers her from that time period. She would especially like to hear from Sandra Locust.

Comment: 

When I was there in 85 to 86 it wasn't fun at all until I got to Ireland cottage I had a nice staff mr McCoy mr moody and mr Bronson mr Wiley they taught me a lesson I my points and got out I got wrote up sometimes

Comment: 

I just came across these stories, and I was floored, by some of these claims from the 60s. While my time there, it was like attending private boarding school, I was never mistreated or abused, I went to school, went to my assignment and evening had music,sports, movies, cooking, setup dining halls,Cleaning your rooms or other areas, shining the floors, with drop clothes, not on your knees. removing wax was by machine, whatever I was assigned to do. I especially like music from Miss.Alphert. We had birthday parties with gifts, summer vacation to camp. My teacher use to love to read stories to us, stuff that I still love today, my favorite was Little Womens. I was not on the honor system but I was allow to go places without an honor person. I remember I was at Tuft Hall and Garner Hall Cottage. I met a lot of girls that was there for many reasons, runaways, drug, fighting, can't get alone at home or abused by family members. I recall this one Counselor that was a little off beat, Mrs, Cox was a favorite, but other than that, my time there help mode me to who I am today. I now live in Ct, if I had not been placed there, I don't know what my life would be like today. So maybe there was behind the scenes things that I didn't know about in my two years there, I must have been gone by the time the dental/medical assignments. These seen like two different places. This is where I learn to like to cook and listen to Classical music.

Comment: 

First of all I want to thank you for your post. My mother was in Samarkand Manor and possibly in the same Hall with you...She mentioned the same counselors and Tuff Hall when discussing with me her stay there. She also spoke of her time there as educational and not abusive. Thank you for pointing out that not all those in this home were there because of being a delinquent; she requested the court to place her there verses another foster home. I am having so much difficulty in locating any information regarding her childhood. Did you know Betty Barnes? Do you have any idea on how to find records for her stay here?

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/

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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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