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



Marker Text:

     Samuel E. McCorkle (1746-1811), Presbyterian minister and educator, served as pastor of Thyatira Church for over thirty years. A prominent supporter of education, he taught at a variety of academies and founded Zion Parnassus Academy, west of Salisbury. McCorkle was also an original founder of the University of North Carolina, and an important figure in the Orange Presbytery.

     Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was born and raised in a Scots-Irish community near present-day Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was already well educated when his family moved to Rowan County in 1756 and settled on a 300 acre farm fifteen miles from Salisbury. McCorkle was educated under Joseph Alexander, Reverend David Caldwell, and at the College of New Jersey (present-day Princeton University). Following his graduation in the fall of 1772, McCorkle worked as a teacher in Delaware and western Virginia before returning to North Carolina in 1776.

     McCorkle was ordained on August 2, 1777 ministry at Thyatira, his home church, and preached there until his death, espousing moderate Calvinism focused on education. While preaching at Thyatira, McCorkle continued to teach, helping to move Charlotte’s Liberty Hall Academy to Salisbury after it was forced to close because of the Revolutionary War. In 1784, the school was chartered again as the Salisbury Academy, with McCorkle operating as president of the Academy until it closed in 1791. Also in 1784, McCorkle petitioned the state of North Carolina for the creation of a university, but it was rejected.

     When the University of North Carolina finally was chartered in 1789, McCorkle was appointed to its original Board of Trustees, along with fellow Presbyterian, William R. Davie. The men helped to develop the University’s campus and curriculum, and McCorkle was the speaker at the initial bricklaying in 1793. McCorkle continued his involvement with UNC until 1801, when he resigned from the board, objecting to what he viewed as was corruption of the leadership by the developing trend of French deism.

     Although Zion Parnassus, opened in 1794, operated only for a short while, it was seen as a preparatory school for boys hoping to attend the University, as well as serving as a normal school for potential teachers. The academy supported McCorkle’s ideals of religion combined with education. McCorkle lived as an invalid at his home, “Westfield,” from 1801 until his death in 1811.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 128-130—sketch by William Randolph Enger and Thomas T. Taylor: online at
James S. Brawley, The Rowan County Story, 1753-1953 (1953)
Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County, North Carolina (1983)
Emery Elliot, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography, XCVII (1985)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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