05/11/06 — Class will recognize 'forgotten' governor

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Class will recognize 'forgotten' governor

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 11, 2006 1:48 PM

A 19th century North Carolina governor often overshadowed by another state leader who came along at the turn of the century is getting some overdue recognition, thanks in part to members of the 2006 class of Leadership Wayne County.

Curtis Brogden served as governor from 1874 until 1877, but history concentrated more on the accomplishments of Wayne's other governor, Charles B. Aycock, who served from 1901 to 1904. Aycock's gift for oratory and his sudden death while still a public figure, however, did leave an indelible mark on the state, local historicans say.

The fact that Brogden was a Republican during a time when the South was chiefly Democratic also didn't help his legacy.

The class, which has spent the year learning about various aspects of life in Wayne, decided to correct at least part of the disparity. Members, with the help of several donors and other volunteers, arranged for a new historical marker along U.S. 13 that corrects a misspelling of Brogden's name. Brogden was born in the Mar Mac area.

The class also has cleaned up Brogden's gravesite in Willow Dale Cemetery and a family cemetery near the homestead where he was raised and returned to live out his life. The class also has put up memorial markers at both places. The family cemetery is located on the old Goldsboro-Fayetteville Stagecoach Road about a mile from the homestead.

The class also is putting up signs that will include Brogden's homeplace and grave on the list of historically significant sites in the county. Previously, they have not been included.

History buff Dean Sauls is vice president of the Leadership Class and has helped guide the work.

Class President Charlotte Trepoy credited Sauls with the research that led to the decision to make the improvements. The class will hold a ceremony Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Brogden's gravesite inWillow Dale to unveil the new work.

Brogden was a champion of the rights of blacks during the Reconstruction era, Ms. Trepoy said. That did not leave him with much of a local legacy in a segregated Wayne County, she added.

She said class members discovered that Brogden was "pretty much written out of the history of Wayne County."

Brogden, who was a school teacher before he entered politics, was once very wealthy, Sauls said, owning thousands of acres of land. But he sold most of it to help finance Republican candidates and back Republican causes and died in relative obscurity in 1900 at the age of 84.

When he died, Sauls said, all that appeared in the local newspaper was a two-inch obituary. Brogden never married and left his homestead and what was left of his land to his nieces and nephews.

But before he died, Brogden helped guide the state through its rebuilding after the Civil War and persuaded the state legislature to fund and reopen the University of North Carolina, despite the devastated condition of the state's post-war economy. He also convinced lawmakers to set aside money for a land grant college for black students.

"He accomplished a lot. He just never got the recognition," Ms. Trepoy said.