Reading Matters

Among Mecklenburg’s early settlers number of sophisticated readers

Valentine Cameron Prinsep

Many over the decades have struggled to prove that Mecklenburg’s early settlers were not a bunch of chaw-chewing chumps. Rather, that many were educated, refined and – get this – well read.

Here’s substantial proof.

Robin Brabham, former head of Special Collections at UNCC’s Atkins Library, recently announced a gift to the Special Collections of a book published in 1656. That book – one of the most impressive the library has ever held, says Brabham – was once owned by Mecklenburgers Elizabeth Alexander Sample (1746-1822) and her father James Alexander (1695-1779) and had been in their family since at least 1763.

(Mecklenburg settler Hezekiah Alexander, who built a stone house that still stands, was a son of James Alexander and a half-sibling to Elizabeth.)

The 1200-page book, 3-1/2 inches thick, is a compilation of works by Puritan theologian William Fenner. The lead title is “A Treatise of the Affections: or The Souls Pulse. Whereby a Christian may know whether he be living or dying.”

I once had a neighbor who belonged to the Alexander clan. They are an upright bunch, she told me. Learned, industrious, God-fearing and, she emphasized, a clan who frowns upon lolling around in bed due to illness.

We can thank Betty Sample for this important gift. Her husband, Frank Sample, was a great-great-great grandson of James Alexander.