Charles B. Aycock was born into a simple, rural home in 1859. In 1900 he was elected governor of North Carolina and dedicated his life to improving public education in the state. An 1893 one-room schoolhouse, moved to the site of his birthplace, underscores Aycock's commitment to education. This typical 19th-century family farm includes the main house, separate open-hearth kitchen, corn crib, and smokehouses.

"Equal! That is the word! On that word I plant myself and my party — the equal right of every child born on earth to have the opportunity to burgeon out all there is within him."

— Charles Brantley Aycock

Early Years

In northern Wayne County, near the town of Fremont (then called Nahunta), Charles Brantley Aycock was born on November 1, 1859. From 1901 to 1905 he became known as North Carolina's "Education Governor" because of his commitment to improving the state's public education system.

His parents, Benjamin and Serena Aycock, moved into their home sometime in the 1840s. By 1870 Benjamin had the seventh wealthiest household in the township, owning more than one thousand acres. The youngest of ten, Charles Aycock respected the work of farmers but was more interested in his father's involvement in local politics.

 

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1880, he opened a law practice in Goldsboro. Aycock had established himself as a skillful orator in college and used that talent to make a name for himself in the Democratic Party.

Governor Aycock

Aycock was elected governor in 1900. His ability to inspire people to support education locally stimulated the construction of approximately eleven hundred schools in North Carolina--one for every day he was in office. By the end of his term, enrollment had increased, school districts consolidated, and teacher training improved.

Though only 45 when he left the governorship, Aycock assumed the role of elder statesman in the Democratic Party of his state. He became an influential advisor, moderator, and harmonizer. The former governor opened up a new law partnership and continued to work for educational progress, travelling widely to speak on the issue.

Charles Aycock announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in the year 1911 but died April 2, 1912 while delivering an address on universal education in Birmingham, Alabama. His final words were: ". . . sometimes on Sundays they would ask me down to the churches to talk, and I always talked about education." Forty-seven years later his boyhood home was dedicated as a state historic site.

The Historic Site

Plowing the fields at Aycock Birthplace, just like the family did in the 1800's.

Found off the beaten path, two miles south of Fremont, the historic site features a mid-19th-century farmstead, including a house, kitchen, and outbuildings. The house is furnished with pieces from the period.

A corn barn and stables recall the days when men worked the land. Sheep and fowl, a field crop, and a three-season kitchen garden bring the farm to life.

A one-room schoolhouse (1893) moved to the site represents the grassroots educational revival that became statewide after Governor Aycock's election in 1900.

An accessible visitor center features exhibits and an audiovisual program.


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