August 1856. Lemuel Benbury's account.
Lemuel Benbury, a student from Edenton, NC, describes what he saw on the night the old belfry burned. From his window he saw sparks but supposed they were from "the ball which had lodged on the top" and not from the belfry itself. The ball he refers to was a fireball-tightly wound rags doused with alcohol or kerosene and set alight. It was not uncommon for some students to entertain themselves by throwing fireballs. Benbury went to investigate, but when he could not convince those present to do anything about the fireball atop the belfry, he returned to his room. He recalls that "coming up the steps, I met a negro, and asked him where he was going, to which he said he had been sent by some of the young men to put out the fire, I then told him to go on and if he could not succeed to inform Dr. Mitchell." (connect to finding aid #40005)