This Month in History – Two Brothers Honored on One Memorial Stone, January 30, 1917

In 1911, Samuel Bear, Jr. donated money to the city of Wilmington to build a school in honor of his beloved brother, Isaac Bear (1852-1911). Samuel and Isaac were in the dry goods business together for decades. Both were unmarried, they lived together, and they were very close. Isaac’s obituary spoke of “the devotion, the remarkable friendship and love that existed between” the brothers.

After Isaac died of a lingering illness, Samuel gave New Hanover County a school building in his memory. The Isaac Bear Memorial School opened in 1912 on Market Street, between 12th and 13th streets. It began life as an elementary school. Later, it was an annex to New Hanover High School. It then became home to the precursor to the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), which opened in 1947 as Wilmington College.

Although named after Isaac, when Samuel died in 1916, the school was listed as one of Samuel’s accomplishments by his friends: a memorial to him in the paper declared, “He gave the Board of Education of New Hanover County a handsome school building, known as the Isaac Bear Memorial School, located on Market street, not only because of his love for his deceased brother, but because of a like devotion to the children of the city of Wilmington.” The article continued, “He was modest almost to a fault and disliked any publicity as to his acts of charity and benevolence.” Despite his friends knowing Samuel disliked publicity, after his death, a tablet was dedicated at the school on January 30, 1917 which acknowledged both brothers.

According to the Wilmington Morning Star, the unveiling was a “simple but impressive” event. There was music, including a specially-composed “Bear Memorial March,” and there were speeches. One of the speakers, Woodus Kellum, Esq., declared effusively “…public schools were in need of friends and patrons, and that a better use of money could hardly be made by any one than that of diffusing education among the boys and girls of today and of the future.”

When UNCW moved to College Road, the original Isaac Bear school building was torn down. The plaque that was unveiled in 1917 was subsequently moved to Bear Hall at UNCW, where it can still be seen today.

View photos and objects from Isaac Bear in the Museum’s collection.

Previous Columns

December: Holiday Gifts
A nurse comes home from war
Wartime football takes the bases by storm
Circus Day
Motorboat Racing
Celebrating Independence Day at the Beach
Wilmington Turns 200, June 21, 1939
Laura Grace Cox graduates from Tileston
Saint Marks Turns 100, April 1969
March: Troops Return Home, March 29, 1919
February: Black History Month turns 40
January: Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell are seized, January 8, 1861

Isaac Bear School building
About 1960
CFM 1997.043.0193
Gift of Barbara M. Marcroft
814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382