York Collegiate Institute


The York Collegiate Institute in Alexander County was founded in Rocky Springs in 1856 by Richard Brantley York. York arranged the opening of the school and left it under the direction of Professor Edwards and R. W. York. He returned to York Collegiate Institute in 1865 and taught there until 1872.



Richard Brantley York was born 3 January 1805 in Randolph County NC on a small stream called Bush Creek, some six miles north of Franklinsville. At that time one of the deepest snows ever known in that section of the state had fallen some two weeks previous to his birth, its average depth being about thirty-six inches. He was named for a Baptist preacher, the Rev. William Brantley, of Chatham County.  He was a son of Eli and Susanna York and the 7th of nine children — five sons: Harden, Hiram, William, Brantley, and John Wesley — and four daughters: Polly (Mary), Hannah, Sallie, and Jemima.

A self-taught educator, Methodist minister, and author of a series of English grammars, Brantley York (1805-1891) was asked by Methodist and Quaker farmers in rural Randolph County to help provide education for their sons and daughters. He organized Union Institute Academy at Brown’s Schoolhouse in Randolph Co., N.C., in 1838, and met with instant success, having to build two new buildings within a year-and-a-half. Though gratified at his accomplish­ment, he worked extremely hard raising money, and he began to go blind working late at night preparing recitations in subjects he had not adequately studied. In fact, he recorded in his diary a statement saying he considered his years at Union Institute to be “truly onerous.” York, however, had found his life’s work at Union Institute and though completely blind by age forty-eight, he lived until eighty-six & founded half-a-dozen schools. Union Institute evolved into Normal College and then was later renamed Trinity College, and even later the college moved to Durham, where it is known today as Duke University.

York also wrote an English grammar, as well as several other instructional textbooks. The Brantley York Records and Papers contain correspondence, a grade book, certificates, manuscripts, and published works. Modern materials were added to the collection; these include York family genealogical information, as well as clippings about York and his activities. Major subjects include the early history of Union Institute, Normal College, Trinity College and Duke University; education in North Carolina in the 19th century; and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  [Source: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina]

His eyesight began to fail in 1842 and he was totally blind before he organized York Collegiate Institute in 1856. Brantley York was buried at Rocky Springs United Methodist Church Cemetery in Alexander County on October 10, 1891.     photos of marker