Historic Hillsborough Excursion Day

Historic Hillsborough Excursion Day

On Saturday, June 25th, the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, together with Hillsborough’s local historic sites, is hosting the first ever Historic Hillsborough Excursion Day! The Alexander Dickson House, the Burwell School, the Orange County Historical Museum, Ayr Mount, the Occaneechi Village, and more, are coming together to showcase Hillsborough’s historic significance. This will be a day full of reenactments, exhibits, tours, and family-friendly fun. Events are taking place throughout the day, so make sure to stop by each site and see what’s going on! Join us to learn more about our cool little town and to take pride in our historic roots.

Continue reading to learn more about the events taking place at each site, and visit www.historichillsborough.org for more information. 


Alexander Dickson House: 150 E King St

The Dickson House, built around 1790, belonged to farmer and businessman Alexander Dickson. In April of 1865, Confederate troops stayed at the Dickson Farm while negotiating the surrender to General Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham. The farmhouse and office were moved to the current site in 1983. 

Events at the Dickson House will take place from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and include interpreters on site, as well as the Welsh Fusiliers and other colonial soldier reenactors doing firing demonstrations, marching drills, and talking to visitors.


Occaneechi Replica Village: E Margaret Lane, near the market shelter along the Riverwalk

The reconstructed 17th century palisaded Occaneechi Village is located on the banks of the Eno River, close to where the original village stood more than 300 years ago. Come to Occaneechi Town, meet The People, and tour the village from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. 


Masonic Lodge: 142 W King St

The Masonic Hall is an impressive Greek Revival brick temple. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was constructed in 1823-1825, designed by state architect William Nichols and built by local craftsmen Samuel Hancock and John Berry, likely using a construction crew of free and enslaved workers. For nearly 200 years, the building has been the home of Eagle Lodge #19, making it one of the oldest continuously used masonic buildings in the United States. From 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, experience Life in the 19th century with a pop-up history exhibit: Peek into the Past, view local artifacts, images, and more! 


Orange County Historical Museum and Old Town Cemetery: 201 N Churton St

The 1788 NC Constitutional Convention met at St. Matthew’s Church which was originally located on this site. In 1934, a new library was built on the site as a U.S. Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. In 1983, the Museum moved from the Old Courthouse to this location.

10:30 am – 11:15 am: Ken Ostrand, the resident expert on the Old Town Cemetery, will give a brief tour discussing the Cemetery’s history and interesting features while pointing out some of the site’s most well known burials.

1:30 pm – 2:15 pm: Michael and Hilary Bouton-Verville of Verville Preservation, LLC (www.vervillepreservation.com) will lead a preservation-focused tour of Hillsborough’s Old Town Cemetery. They will discuss typical monument materials and styles, common preservation issues and hazards, as well as some of the repairs they have made in local cemeteries. Additional issues covered may include proper cleaning methods and materials, finding and resetting footstones, how to know what you can do to maintain family monuments and when to call a professional.

This tour is free, though registration is required to ensure the safety of participants and the monuments. 

Register at https://www.orangehistorync.org/events


Bonus: Ghosts of Hillsborough

Although normally hidden from sight, the ghosts of six people who lived in Hillsborough have agreed to talk about their lives… and deaths. From 4-6 PM on Saturday, June 25, visitors can stop in at the Orange County Historical Museum to listen to these ghosts’ stories.

Included in this dramatic presentation will be Eno Will, Jane Doe, McDowal Alves Hogg , Henry Richards, Sr. , Daniel Morrow, and Margaret Nelson.

This tour will start in front of the Orange County Historical Museum, and wind along the Old Town Cemetery next door. We suggest registering ahead of time, though walk-ups will also be welcome.

Tickets are pay what you can!


Burwell School Historic Site: 319 N Churton St

The Burwell School Historic Site is a gem of historic Hillsborough, NC, located at the northern edge of the town’s famed Historic District. Restored and open to the public, the early 19th – century house and outbuildings bring history alive for visitors of all ages! Learn about the antebellum girls’ academy which was operated here from 1837 – 1857 by Anna and the Rev. Robert Burwell, who lived here with their 12 children. Discover the stories of more than 200 girls who came from near and far to study here. Be inspired by the life of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly, the former Burwell family slave who secured her own liberty in 1855 and became a witness to history as the accomplished and sought-after dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln.

On Saturday, June 25th, experience life as a child in the 19th century. Stop by the Burwell lawn for fun and games, from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.


Ayr Mount: 376 St. Mary’s Rd

Ayr Mount, home to the Kirkland Family for 170 years and restored by Richard Hampton Jenrette, will be open for tours from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Archaeologists will be onsite to talk about the archaeological research that has taken place along the Eno, and children will be provided an opportunity to perform their own dig in the sand.


St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church: 210 St. Mary’s Rd

The General Assembly of North Carolina originally constituted St. Matthew’s Parish in 1752 as the established church in the County of Orange. The parish was reorganized in 1824, and the present church building was begun in 1825 and completed in 1826. It was consecrated by the Right Reverend John Stark Ravenscroft, the first Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina on May 21, 1826. As St. Matthew’s approaches the bicentennial celebrations of these events with a fresh reconsideration of its shared history with the Hillsborough community and a renewed commitment to future engagement, we invite visitors to our Church and Churchyard from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM to find out more. A guided tour of the church will be offered at 11:00 AM. 


Moorefield’s: 2201 Moorefields Rd

Moorefields, a 1785 house and 70 acres of gardens, fields and woods maintained as a wildlife refuge, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open by appointment to the public. The Friends of Moorefields, a locally driven nonprofit, administers the site to pursue the artistic, educational, environmental and historical goals of the board. From 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, we will share information for the tour on the conservation easement we are finalizing with the state, county and Eno River Association as part of Orange County’s Lands Legacy Program.



We hope to see you at Hillsborough’s various historic sites on Saturday for a wonderful Historic Hillsborough Excursion Day!