Chapel Hill's stone walls

Published June 16, 2022

By J. C. Knowles

Over the year I don't know how many times I visited Chapel Hill. I remember seeing many stone walls, however I really never gave to much thought about them.

I found out that the walls are most important to Chapel Hill. The walls were originated by Dr. Elisha Mitchell who came to Chapel Hill in 1817 as  Chair of the Department of Mathematics. This Dr. Elisha Mitchell is the one that Mount Mitchell is named for in the Western part of the state.

The streets around the few houses and buildings were surrounded by muddy streets, with no sidewalks. He noticed there were piles of stone all around town. These stones came from the gardens and lawns in town. Upon seeing so many, Dr. Mitchell got a bright idea - lets build stone walls. Most of the stone walls were built with slave labor.

It is believed the earliest wall was built around the home of Dr. Frank Porter Graham, President of the University. Following the Civil War and the freedom of slaves, they continued building the stone walls but as free men.