north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      Brantley York, Methodist clergyman and educator, was born in 1805 in Randolph County, one of the Eli and Susannah York’s nine children. As a child, Brantley often worked to support the family’s income, resulting in his only spending thirteen months in school. Despite having such little formal education, York became an avid reader, joining the Library Society of Ebenezer Church, the place of his conversion at a camp meeting in 1823.

      At age twenty-six, York began teaching at Bethlehem Church in Guilford County, and two years later gained a license to preach. In 1838, York took a teaching position at a small private academy called Brown’s School House. Shortly thereafter, York helped develop the Union Institute Academy, an educational school based on Methodist and Quaker foundations. The institute changed its name to the Normal School, then Trinity College, and after its move to Durham reorganized as Duke University in 1924.

      Education remained central to York’s life. Despite suffering complete blindness in 1853 at age forty-eight, York continued to found schools in North Carolina. He organized Clemmonsville High School in Davidson County (1842), Olin High School in Iredell (1851), York Collegiate Institute in Alexander (1856), Ruffin-Badger Institute in Chatham (1869), and New Salem and Randleman High School (1881) in Randolph County. From 1873 to 1877 he served as an English professor at Rutherford College.

      York also published a series of works including York’s English Grammar (1854), Common School Grammar (1860) and High School Grammar (1862). While the majority of his works focused on the use of the English language, York also produced The Man of Business and Railroad Calculator in 1873.

      An advocate for social as well as educational reform, York strongly supported prohibition. He was president of the Randolph County Temperance Society in 1853, and played an important role in the statewide prohibition campaign of 1881.

      Preaching remained an important part of York’s life as well. Although never formally the leader of any particular church, York served as an itinerant minister, preaching in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Arkansas. Rutherford College awarded him an honorary D. D. degree for his efforts.

      At his death in 1891, York’s family estimated that he had lectured and preached nearly 8,000 times and had taught nearly 15,000 pupils. He left a wife and eleven children. Buried at Rocky Springs Methodist Church near York Collegiate Institute, York was memorialized by former students with a monument honoring “the unique nineteenth century educational circuit rider.”

Charles Mathis, ed., The Autobiography of Brantley York (1910; revised and edited 1977)
Nora C. Chaffin, Trinity College, 1839-1892 (1950)
William S. Powell, Higher Education in North Carolina (1968)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 293-294—sketch by William E. King
Brantley York Papers, Manuscript Division, Duke University Library
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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