Bingham Military School
Wilmington, Mebane, and Asheville, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina has placed a digital copy of the 1903 Sword and Rifle online. This yearbook contains a history of the school to that point. House of Dreams by Marie Brenner provides information on the Bingham family. The seal (right) came from Etsy.
UNC describes Bingham School as a series of classical preparatory schools. What later became Bingham Military School was begun at Wilmington by the Reverend William Bingham, an Irish Presbyterian minister and educator. Upon his death in 1825, his son William J. Bingham operated the school until his death in 1865. To have time for his experimental farm, he limited enrollment to 30 select students. In 1857 his sons William and Robert joined him at the school, improving facilities and again raising enrollment. In 1862 Bingham School received a 30-year state charter for a military school. Robert Bingham raised a company and served with Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. William Bingham operated the school until his death in 1873, when Robert returned as headmaster. After losing a lawsuit against William’s widow over the school name and financial interests, Robert Bingham began to operate another Bingham School at Asheville in 1891, continuing as head until his death in 1926.
Bricks and Mortar
The Bingham schools occupied four different locations. In 1816 Reverend Bingham moved to Mount Repose, northwest of Hillsborough, operating his school in a log cabin. In 1844 his son had moved the school to Oaks, southwest of Hillsborough. In 1864 the school moved yet a third time to Mebane. In 1891 Robert Bingham moved the school to a 250 acre site overlooking the French Broad River outside Asheville. The new campus featured the first gymnasium and swimming pool exclusively for a school. After the death of Robert Bingham, his heirs divided the campus into building lots and sold these off. The last lot was used by the Gorham Silver factory for a time.
Team name: Cadets
Colors: Blue and Gray
Bingham School was keen on athletics. But with a team made up of teenagers who averaged 142 pounds, they had difficulty in competing in football against the college teams on their schedule. The Sword and Rifle shows that the 1902 team lost four games to Furman, King, Davidson and South Carolina. The last two games were on the road on consecutive days. The team’s only victory came over the state Deaf and Dumb school.
The Sword and Rifle shows BMS teams in baseball, tennis, and gymnastics. The Mebane campus also fielded teams in football, track and tennis.
Bingham typically play a schedule consisting of such big time schools as North Carolina, smaller four-year schools such as Maryville and Catawa, reserve or freshman teams from Tennessee or North Carolina, and the local Asheville High School. But the biggest games were prep championship contests against Mooney School (TN), Porter Military Academy (SC), Riverside Military Academy (GA), or Horner Military School (NC).
The Sword and Rifle shows BMS teams in baseball, tennis, and gymnastics.
The 1902 BMS football team. Two professors were among the players. (The Sword and Rifle <archive.org/stream/swordrifleserial1903bing#page/54/mode/2up) accessed 1-22-2017
Mandolin Club. Image from The Sword and Rifle https://archive.org/stream/swordrifleserial1903bing#page/46/mode/2up Accessed 3-3-2018.
The Sword and Rifle shows a student body of 156—14 Seniors, 49 “Old Boys,” and 93 “Rats.” More than a third of the students came from Texas; Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alabama all furnished more than 10 students. In addition to the three military companies, there were three social fraternities—Kappa Gamma, Delta Theta, and Alpha Phi. All students were members of the YMCA. Less formal student organizations were based on interest, state of origin, or proclivity. One more formal group was the Mandolin Club. The nine-member faculty taught classic language, mathematics, and science courses in addition to military science. Robert Bingham ran the school with an iron hand, wielding “Dr. Black and Dr. Brown,” his favorite straps.
A newspaper article on May 25, 1928 indicated that BMS had outgrown its buildings and so would open in a new campus at the same location. By September newspapers reported that the school would not open.