Silent Sentinel of Stone:  Old
Hill Cemetery
Sections A-B
Sections I-IV

Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies

The University’s Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies were the first to establish burial plots. Set in the middle of section I, the plots are enclosed by a wrought iron fence and represent the Victorian era. Until the 1870s, all students were required to join one of the organizations. Since sending home the body of a student who died while at school was not practical; the societies provided burial plots in the Old Chapel Hill cemetery.

The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies have seperate plots in the cemetery. The Philanthropic section is 15 x 30 feet and has 6 monuments enclosed in the Gothic gates. The Dialectic section is the same size and has 5 plots enclosed including an engraved tomb-table.

The Dialectic Society began in 1795, shortly after the university opened, but was called the Debating Club. The club’s motto was based on Virtue and Knowledge and had a set of strict rules. Some students thought that the rules were too strict and started their own club, then called the Concord Society. The clubs soon changed their names to their Greek equivalents, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies. These groups were very competitive and until the 1870s, all students were required to be a member of one or the other. Students from the eastern portion of the state belonged to the Philanthropic Society and those from the western portion to the Dialectic Society. "Dismissal from the Society meant expulsion from the University, and the University's baccalaureate diploma was a Society document. In 1875, the societies reorganized and compulsory membership ended. In 1886, they merged their extensive libraries into the University holdings."

The two groups promoted the intellectual climate of the school by building libraries, holding lectures, and adding more academic departments to the school. They provided literary and oratorical training, and each had their own student government, honor code, and other UNC traditions such as The Yackety Yack and The Blue and White. For more information on the societies consult The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies.