North Carolina blog
Here’s an Early State Records riddle: how are alligator-infested swamplands related to public education in North Carolina?   As the Early State Records demonstrate, the connection between the two is apparent only if you have examined various North Carolina reports.    In LLMC # 21341, an 1838 report from the Committee on Education and the Literary Fund examined whether the fund was entitled to merely the proceeds of the swamplands, or had full ownership of same.  Ultimately, the committee concluded that under the law establishing the Literary Fund to finance common schools, the fund was entitled to both the proceeds and the ownership of vacant and unappropriated swamp lands.  Following this decision, one could suppose that the system of public education could be instituted and funded.  
However, as demonstrated in a December 30, 1844 bill in the North Carolina Senate to consolidate and amend various acts regarding the common schools, sometimes you had to convince the citizenry that education was important.   While this bill set the procedure to be used to establish and fund the common schools in districts, the bill also required that the voters approve a common school before one might be established in that district (LLMC # 21455).    Unfortunately, history demonstrated that some districts were uninterested in the concept of public education for its white children.   A cursory review of various annual reports of the Literary Board noted blanks in certain counties, presumably as no schools were established (see, for example, LLMC #21333-1844).
But as these annual reports also made clear, not all the money in the fund was used for education.  Over the years, the fund listed a number of state bonds, loans to the state, bank and individual bonds in its financial statements, which far exceeded the distribution of money for common schools.  For example, in 1859 and 1860, the total amount was $180,850.08 (#21333-1860, page 3) for education, while $440,326.12 was held in bonds and other securities.  Focusing more on these outside investments limited the fund’s ability to provide educational money; that same report indicated that the swamplands only provided $1,321.50 since 1859.   
However, at times, there were attempts to resolve some of these financing difficulties.  In 1848, for example, the Senate amended prior acts on common schools and levied taxes in support of the common schools in each county, as well as withholding money if a County Board of Superintendents failed to perform its duties.    (See LLMC #21356, and 21494 for other examples of financial difficulties and possible fixes).
But support for education did exist in North Carolina.  For example, on the cusp of the Civil War, the Chairman of the Committee on Normal Schools proposed a plan in 1860 (LLMC #21896, page 34-37) which would allow equal access for both sexes (white only) for an education, supported by taxes determined by six or seven districts in the state.   The various districts would then improve and expand the common school system to a higher level of development for its students. 
Ultimately, however, too many loans and too few assets doomed the Literary Fund, which collapsed at the end of the Civil War in a sea of unpaid bonds, debts, and Confederate money.  It would take a new system to develop the common schools of North Carolina, past the documentation in the Early State Records. 
Early State Records is one of LLMC’s most substantial initiatives, thanks to the patronage of several libraries which are listed *here*.  In Phase One, LLMC is digitizing 1028 reels from the Library of Congress’ microfilm collection, containing the records, treatises, newspaper accounts and other legal or related documents from pre-colonial through early statehood of the 15 Atlantic Coast states as well as Native American tribes.  At the time of this article, LLMC is completing the 100 North Carolina reels.  Applying advanced digitization post-processing and value-added metadata  to these primary and secondary sources which were held in numerous state, federal and foreign libraries, historical societies, archives and legislatures, LLMC’s LLMC Digital online service will make many rare and little seen documents, such as the broadsides, available to researchers and society as a whole.  
Written by Joyce Savio Herleth, Saint Louis University School of Law