In the fall of 1899, a typhoid epidemic swept the campus. One of the most tragic stories to emerge from the epidemic was that of Sarah and Evelyn Bailey. The girls were the only children of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bailey of Mocksville, North Carolina. Thomas Bailey, an attorney, banker, and philanthropist sent his daughters to the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) for their education. The sisters were very close and were constantly together. Both girls were exemplary students and were members of campus literary societies and religious groups. Sarah was the eldest and was described as a fine girl, one of the brightest in her class. Classmates found younger sister Evelyn quieter and dependent on her older sister. In her application letter to the school, Evelyn requested only that she room with Sarah.
In early November of 1899, over one hundred students living in the two campus dormitories fell ill; Sarah and Evelyn were among them. Soon after, the school mourned the death of Linda Toms, a student from Shelby. Campus physician, Dr. Anna Gove, reported the cause of death as typhoid. At least forty-eight cases of typhoid would eventually be diagnosed at the school. Sarah’s condition quickly deteriorated and she died on November 29. Thomas Bailey took Sarah back to Mocksville for burial on Thanksgiving Day. The Baileys were careful not to tell Evelyn of her sister’s death as they feared it would impede her recovery. Sadly, five days before Christmas, Evelyn also succumbed to the disease. In the end, thirteen students and one dormitory matron were dead. It was eventually discovered that the epidemic was the result of drinking well water contaminated by a defective sewer line that ran under the Brick Dormitory, the location of the college’s early dining hall.
Mr. Bailey remained loyal to the school after the death of his daughters, even agreeing to be on the Board of Directors. He created a scholarship in their names and when the Students’ Building an was constructed on campus in 1902, he was one of the major contributors. Bailey donated the funds for a beautiful memorial room which had large stained glass windows that faced College Avenue. He also commissioned portraits of his daughters to hang in the memorial room. It is generally believed that William George Randall, a North Carolina artist who had created portraits of the school founders, painted the oval portraits of Sarah and Evelyn, probably from photographs. These portraits are now part of the University Archives collection.
Article by Kathelene McCarty Smith