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The establishment of the nation's first state university was called for in the state's first constitution of 1776. The original bill to request a charter from the North Carolina General Assembly was written in 1784 by the Reverend Samuel E. McCorkle, after whom McCorkle Place is named. The General Assembly chartered the University on December 11, 1789. When the University opened its doors in 1795, there were two professors and 41 students during the first term. By 1797, enrollment reached 100. At its first commencement on July 4, 1798, seven young men earned their diplomas.

One of the notable features of McCorkle Place is the Davie Poplar. The Davie Poplar is a large tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) at the South end of McCorkle Place that is said to have already been a large tree in 1792 when the first plans for locating the campus were made. Legend has it that the Revolutionary War General, William R. Davie, personally located the University land around the tree after having lunch underneath it on a warm summer day in 1792, but the legend is not true. The name was assigned to the tree by Cornelia Phillips Spencer to commemorate the tale almost a century after the University was founded. Perhaps the most contemporary myth associated with the tree is that if you kiss your sweetheart under it, the two of you will marry. In 1918, a shoot, Davie Poplar Jr., grafted from the parent tree was planted for fear of the Davie Poplar dying after it was struck by lightening. Later, Davie Poplar III was planted from a seed of the original tree. Why try so hard to preserve this tree? Well, the columnist Tom Collins once wrote that the tree "is now chock full of cement, which with some cables is all that's holding it up. But it shall not fall before America does."[34] [35].

McCorkle Place Davie Poplar Bench Beneath Davie Poplar


The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill

All Text and Photos © 2004.