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Principals of the Union Institute

Brantley York, 1855

Brantley York, 1855

Principal of Union Institute, 1838-1842
A largely self-taught educator, Methodist minister, and author of a series of English grammars, Brantley York (1805-1891) was asked by Methodist and Quaker farmers in rural Randolph County to help provide education for their sons and daughters. He organized Union Institute Academy in 1838 and met with instant success, having to build two new buildings within a year-and-a-half.
Though gratified at his accomplish­ment, he worked extremely hard raising money, and he began to go blind working late at night preparing recitations in subjects he had not adequately studied. In fact, he recorded in his diary a statement saying he considered his years at Union Institute to be "truly onerous."
York, however, had found his life's work at Union Institute and, though completely blind by age forty-eight, he lived to be eighty-six and founded half-a-dozen schools, lectured over 8,000 times, and taught more than 15,000 pupils.
Braxton Craven

Braxton Craven

Principal, Union Institute, 1842-1851
President, Normal College, 1851-1859
President, Trinity College, 1859-1863, 1866-1882
Braxton Craven's (1822-1882) connection with the school began at age 19 when in 1841 he was asked to enroll both as a student and assistant teacher. He succeeded York as principal and until his death in 1882 the history of the institution is largely the biography of Braxton Craven. Well versed in educational theory, in 1851 he had the school chartered by the state as Normal College to train teachers for the state’s common schools. An ordained minister, he later turned to the Methodist Church for support with the resulting change of name to Trinity College in 1859. Under his leadership the school became well known, drawing its student body mostly from central Carolina, but it also drew consistently from all Southern states including some students from as far away as Arkansas and Missouri.

The break in Craven's presidency from 1863 to 1865 was caused by divisions in the Methodist Conference over his management of the school that led to his resignation. Professor William Trigg Gannaway was appointed president pro tempore. Unlike many Southern schools, Trinity managed to operate during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Classes were suspended for a few months in 1865 because of the disruption of college life when the campus was occupied by retreating troops, but there was little question that the college would reopen. Craven was persuaded to resume his office. A highly respected educator, though not an uncontroversial leader, Craven concurrently served as President, and Professor of Ancient Languages, Mental and Moral Science, Metaphysics, Rhetoric and Logic, National and Constitutional Law, and Biblical Literature.