What is evil? Is it a place, an action or a person? Evil is everywhere and it presents itself in many forms. Sometimes, we may not know that evil is staring us in the face as it can be so very, subtle. This is what worries me concerning young folks, that it can be difficult to recognize evil when it is staring you in the face.
My husband and I visited a very interesting shop during our travels. It was very inviting inside. It was cozy and softly lit, everything was sparkly in the lighting.. Everything came together to create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. The shop owner was very friendly and talkative, luring me into a sense of relaxation and safety. After about twenty minutes he asked us if we would like a “reading” at no charge, of course. I immediately, with somewhat of a bold and confident voice (which is unusual for me) said No! My husband asked if it was a palm reading or tarot cards and he said no. We both said no and then we quickly left the shop. I really didn’t think much about the visit until the next day when I was studying my Bible and my daily devotional…”In the Crucible with Christ”. I read that as Christians, we must never forget that we are in the midst of a cosmic drama. The great controversy between Christ and Satan is unfolding around us. The battle takes many shapes and is manifested in many ways. I realized that the shop owner was an agent of Satan trying to lure me into his realm of spiritualism, Satan’s world. When I answered the shop owner no, that was not me that was the Holy Spirit! He was right in the middle of it all, protecting us! This was all very subtle and that is how Satan works. Each of the elements in my story seem innocuous enough but if you put them all together it paints another picture.
I have been exposed through my photography more overtly evil then the story I previously shared. I visited the Stonewall Jackson Reform School located in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in 2014. It was a school where boys were sent that needed to be “reformed”. It was eventually shut down due to the abuse and atrocities that went on at the school. My dad and cousin had heard about it when they were growing up. I visited the site in 2014 when the campus was still accessible by the public. Driving past the oak lined campus with its Georgian style stately buildings you can see the beauty, feel the southern hospitality, even in its deteriorated state. People were jogging along the main campus road enjoying the crisp, fall air. It was a cold and windy November day l when I visited. As I wandered through the campus and walked closer to the buildings, a sense of dread and unpleasantness overwhelmed me. Walking around the campus and viewing into the abandoned dorms and buildings, I could just feel the evil… the abuse and the punishment of the residents just overwhelmed me.
In the late nineteenth century, young people, regardless of their age, who were convicted of crimes in North Carolina received punishments as adults. James P. Cook, editor of a Concord newspaper, the Standard, witnessed a thirteen-year-old boy receive a three year and six-month sentence on a chain gang for petty theft in 1890. Determined that such a system was unjust, Cook devoted the next seventeen years to campaigning for a state training school and correctional facility for young male offenders.
With Cook’s help, a benevolent society known as the King’s Daughters persuaded the state legislature through public meetings and newspaper articles to build such a school in 1906. Success came only after a party of Confederate veterans sponsored the bill that supported the school’s construction. Supporters offered to name the institution after Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Confederate icon. The act that established Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School became law on March 2, 1907. A similar school for girls, Samarcand, was founded in 1918 in Moore County.
Governor Robert B. Glenn appointed James P. Cook to the school’s first board of trustees. The board then elected Cook chairman, a position he held for the next two decades. In September 1907, Cabarrus County citizens formed a committee to raise funds and purchase land for the institution. Two months later, with land and funds acquired, the trustees chose Walter Thompson, superintendent of Concord city schools, as the first principal.
Male offenders under the age of eighteen were remanded to Stonewall Jackson Training School in lieu of prison time. Peak population reached nearly 500 students. At the school, the young men lived in a series of dormitory style buildings and received an academic education as well as learning a trade. Students worked in industries including shoemaking, printing, barbering, textiles, and a machine shop. Many of the young men worked on the school’s farm, learning modern agricultural techniques, and maintaining the fields and cattle herds that supported the school. The print shop produced a small newspaper called The Uplift.
By the 1970s, North Carolina judicial policy had shifted and incarceration for young men charged with truancy and minor crimes became less prevalent. As a result, the school’s population began to decline, and by the early 2000s, the school, by then referred to as the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center, held only 150 young men. The individuals currently held at the school tend to be much more violent offenders, with the majority being related to drug and weapons-related offenses. A fifteen-foot-tall fence presently surrounds the sixty-acre complex, which consists of over twenty buildings.
In 1999, a fifteen-year battle between the school’s administrators and historic preservationists over several of the institution’s buildings ended. School administrators agreed to help preserve some of the oldest campus buildings if allowed to demolish other derelict buildings on the property.
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Charlotte Observer, January 13, 1999
(Concord) Independent Tribune, June 19, 1996; January 13, 1999
S. G. Hawfield, History of the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School (1946)
North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention website: http://www.ncdjjdp.org/department/department_history.html
Another atrocious historical fact associated with this place is that in the 1940’s after World War II, the state wanted to prohibit “feeblemindedness” and to improve the state’s population pool. Six teenage white boys were sterilized against their will by vasectomy at Stonewall Jackson Reform School. At the time North Carolina had a state eugenics board. It was a board created after the passage of a house bill to sterilize persons that were “mentally defective”.
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