Just Who Was Horace Williams Anyhow?
Most Carolina people have heard the name Horace Williams mentioned frequently in recent months. I think I heard the name back in the time when I was in Chapel Hill ('55-'58), but I can't remember in what context it was used.
So, I decided to see if I couldn't find out more about Horace Williams and now that I have, I thought I would share it with you. Fortunately the Daily Tar Heel recently ran an article on Mr. Williams and I have drawn on that article for some of the information I have used.
Horace Williams was a native North Carolinian but I have not been able to determine exactly where he was born. I do know that his father was in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War because an incident that occurred at that time, later had a dramatic effect on Williams and what we now call the Horace Williams tract. Williams' father had his herd of cattle confiscated by Union forces shortly after the conclusion of the Civil "War. This, in all likelihood, gave rise to the desire of Horace Williams to have a large herd of cattle on the tract. Williams interest in livestock was so great that he was the butt of many jokes in Chapel Hill for his devotion to his animals and his undying desire to add to his collection of livestock. It was once said that he gave his wife some pigs as a birthday present. This story only added to William's reputation as the town eccentric. He resisted connecting to the town sewer system and did various other things that caused the townsfolk's to label him as anti-social.
Williams apparently attended Harvard as an undergraduate, but was the first person ever to obtain a master's degree from UNC. He eventually established the Philosophy Department at UNC and qualified as an eccentric in that setting also. He once gave an A student a F on the grounds that that "one can't go through life without struggling a bit." Boy, he wouldn't get by with that today without winding up in court.
Horace Williams' house on Rosemary St. houses the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, and I hope to visit the house in the near future because I find that I have an intense interest n the history of Chapel Hill. I want to find out if the Director can help me determine the role that University Station, located where Allen and Son BBQ is located today, played in the history of Chapel Hill. Is this where students would disembark from the train when they arrived initially or after a visit home. I guess I think more of the incoming students because, if this is true, it must have been some scene with all the baggage and everything, like unfamiliarity with the region and practices. Would there be people with horses and wagons who would transport the students to Chapel Hill? What was the reason for a train line being laid from University Station to Carrboro? Did this have anything to do with the University or was it related to commerce ( the textile mill ).
One other fact that I find interesting. There is a gentleman still alive at the age of 89 who remembers Horace Williams coming into the grocery store at CH's main intersection where Spanky's is now located. Even though this gentleman was very young at the time, he would always wait on Mr. Williams and HW would always expect a vanilla cream sandwich cracker (Nabisco) to have been saved for him. Mr. Sheldon White, the store clerk, was interviewed by TDT for their article.
It would be nice if we could go in to a long sleep and awaken in 50 years when the plan for the Horace Williams tract will have been completed in accordance with the University's 50 year plan. If it goes the way they are planning it, the area will be called the North Campus ( similar, I suppose to N.C. State's Centennial Campus ) and will probably have free bus transportation to the main campus like they have had from the East to the West Campus at Duke for years. I'm sure they plan for it to be a self-contained community complete with residences for employees of UNC pretty much like the concept at Duke where faculty members and top administrative staff are permitted to purchase land in Duke Forest for a much lower price than would be the case elsewhere in Durham. Who knows. After the traffic tie up prior to the Miami game, there may be pressure to eventually relocate the basketball facility or even Kenan Stadium to the North Campus where parking and traffic will not be so difficult. 50 years is a long time and 963 acres is a lot of land. It will be exciting to watch this expansion as it takes place. Chapel Hill ain't the sleepy little village it used to be.