Elon History

The town of Elon and Elon University have been interconnected since the 1880’s.

Before the 1880’s: The area is known for its location near Gibsonville and Burlington.

1881: The town received its own train depot.  Early on the North Carolina Rail Road system referred to the station as “Mill Point.”  This was to be a shipping point for the many cotton mills around the countryside.  Locals simply knew the intersection as “Boon’s Crossing.”

1888: The town built its post office in order to establish a more permanent municipality and solidified community.

1889: The N.C. Legislature issues charter for Elon College as a four-year coeducational institution.  This was founded by the Christian Church with William S. Long as the school’s first president.  Initial enrollment was 76 students.  Initial construction was a relocated school known as “Graham Normal College” put in a heavily wooded area full of large oak trees. The founders understood that “Elon” was the Hebrew name for oak; hence, Elon College.

1893: The Town of Elon College is formally incorporated.

1905: Emmett L. Moffitt (Elon University’s 3rd president) installs central heat, electricity, running water and indoor plumbing.  Electric lights are turned on for the first time on New Year’s Day, 1907.

1918: Senior class of Elon College shrinks from 46 to 30 as men enlist to fight in WWI.

1923: Fire destroys Elon College’s main building, including school records, classrooms, library and chapel; trustees immediately vote to rebuild; Alamance Building opens in Fall 1923.  Within the next year, Whitley Auditorium, Carlton Library and Duke Building open; citizens of Alamance County are active in fundraising for rebuilding efforts following the disastrous 1923 fire.

1930’s: In 1931, Leon Edgar Smith is named Elon College’s 5th president, beginning a 25-year term as the longest-serving president.  Enrollment declines to 87 students due to the effects of the Great Depression  By the mid 1930’s, the college faces the risk of financial collapse.  President Smith persuades creditors to accept partial payments, convinces faculty to compromise on delinquent salaries, and launches a new fund drive.

1943: 672 pilots are trained on Elon College’s campus for WWII duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps; their enrollment provides critical financial stability.  By 1946, WWII GIs increase enrollment to nearly 700 students.

1955: Elon College’s enrollment exceeds 1,000.

1961: Elon’s railroad station, once the primary means of transportation for students and faculty, is dismantled.

1969: Eugene E. Perry is the first African-American graduate; Elon awards its 5,000th degree.

1983: Elon awards its 10,000th degree ninety four years after its creation (1889).

1985: Martha and Spencer Love School of Business is established with the first $1 million gift in Elon history.

2000: The Phoenix is adopted as the new athletics identity (with sports programs no longer known as the Fighting Christians).  Elon awards its 20,000th degree.

2001: Elon Vision campaign concludes, raising $46.7 million; former President George Bush speaks on campus; Elon College becomes Elon University; Town of Elon College becomes Town of Elon; Rhodes Stadium opens.

2006: Elon University School of Law opens in downtown Greensboro, N.C. with a charter class of 115 students; the school is formally dedicated by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  The Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center opens; former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers Convocation for Honors address.

2010: Elon trustees approve the establishment of the 56-acre Elon University Forest (off of Power Line Road north of University Drive).  This property is one of the few remaining land areas with the trademark 100+ year old Oak Trees the school is named after.

2013: Elon celebrates its 125th anniversary year.

Historical information sources from Elon University’s website (www.elon.edu) and the town’s website (www.elonnc.com).