Stephen Beauregard Weeks, considered the first professional North Carolina historian, was born on February 2, 1865, near Nixonton to James E. and Mary L. Weeks. His parents died at an early age and Weeks was raised by his father’s sister and her family.
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Weeks attended the Horner Military School in Henderson before entering the University of North Carolina. After graduation in 1886, he continued at the university, earning a master’s degree and then a doctor of philosophy degree in English, the first such degree offered by the school.
In 1888, Weeks entered Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under Herbert Adams, the leading exponent of historical inquiry in the “German school.” The method of academic research involved the stringent analysis of primary sources and strict historical objectivity. After receiving his doctorate in history from the university in 1891, Weeks joined the faculty of Trinity College where he organized the Department of History and Political Science and established the Trinity College Historical Society. Two years later Weeks moved with the school to Durham but resigned soon after in order to pursue a fellowship at Johns Hopkins.
Weeks then joined the Bureau of Education in Washington, D. C., as an educational historian and editor of the bureau’s annual report. He remained in the position for five years before being diagnosed with severe lung problems. Hoping that the dry climate of the southwest would boost his health, Weeks took a teaching position at the Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Soon afterwards he accepted a superintendent position at a school in Arizona.
In 1907, Weeks returned east, and took a position as an editor with Charles L. Van Noppen’s publishing house after Noppen had seen Weeks’s entries in Samuel A. Ashe’s Biographical History of North Carolina. Two years later Weeks took a position as a public school teacher in Randolph County. He rejoined the Bureau of Education in 1911 and remained in Washington, D. C. until his death from heart and kidney complications on May 3, 1918. He is buried near Bahama in Durham County in the Mangum-Weeks cemetery, now part of Hill Forest.
Weeks married Mary Lee Martin shortly after receiving his first doctorate. They had two children, only one of whom lived to adulthood. After Mary’s death in 1893, Weeks married Sallie Mangum Leach, granddaughter of Senator Willie P. Mangum. They produced two children.
A prolific writer, Weeks produced nearly two hundred books and articles. In addition, he avidly collected material related to North Carolina, amassing a library of over 9,000 items. At his death, the University of North Carolina purchased his collection forming the special collections now housed in Wilson Library. The Raleigh News & Observer editorialized his death: “There is little reward of a financial kind in ransacking old libraries and musty correspondence files to establish the facts of history. But few men have wrought more capably and helpfully for the State than he did and the heritage of duty faithfully and efficiently rendered is more to be prized than great riches.”
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 152-153—sketch by H. G. Jones
William S. Powell, Stephen Beauregard Weeks: A Preliminary Bibliography (1965)
H. G. Jones, “Stephen B. Weeks: North Carolina’s First ‘Professional’ Historian,” North Carolina Historical Review (October, 1965): 410-423
Stephen B. Weeks Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina