Home > Lesson Plans > North Carolina History Lesson Plans from the Southern Appalachian Archives > North Carolina Era 5: Antebellum - 1836 - 1860: Rip Van Winkle in contemporary writing lesson plan

North Carolina Era 5: Antebellum - 1836 - 1860: Rip Van Winkle in contemporary writing lesson plan

Rip Van Winkle

LESSON: Rip Van Winkle in contemporary writing
UNIT: Era 5 – Antebellum – 1836 - 1860


  • Learners will recognize the use of Rip Van Winkle as a designation for North Carolina
  • Learners will understand irony in the timing of the writing
  • Learners will engage in analysis of a primary source document
  • LEARNING TARGET: I can explain what Rev. Marsh meant by the Rip Van Winkle State
    in his letter.

TEACHER PLANNING: This lesson needs to take place after teaching the political parties of the early to middle 1800s (Republican rule – Rip Van Winkle state, Whig rule, Democrat rule)

Time needed: overnight assignment and 10 minutes in class


  • Upload pages 1 and 2 of J.B. Marsh journal to Moodle or other site – this can enable students to manipulate the size of the writing
  • Question sheet to fill in while reading the letter


  1. Assign students to read the letter as homework and fill in the question sheet as they read.
  2. In class, ask the students to review why North Carolina was once called the Rip Van
    Winkle state.
  3. Go over the question sheet as a class.
  4. Go over the following:
    • Why is the use of the phrase ironic in the letter? [The Rip Van Winkle period was from about 1800 to 1835. The letter is dated 1855.]
    • Students may have noticed that the last sentence seems disconnected. This letter is part of a journal that is most likely recording letters as written to donors for the American Sunday School Union. Missionaries were required to respond to donors
      by reporting on their mission work in the field.
    • J.B. Marsh was the second president of Mars Hill College (from 1858 – 1861). Several other activities will be devoted to the Rev. Marsh in later eras.


  • Question sheet should be complete.
  • Class discussion


Southern Appalachian Archives – Rev. J. B. Marsh Material Collection

American Sunday School Union:


Lesson Materials:

North Carolina Era 5: Antebellum – 1836 - 1860: Rip Van Winkle questions can be found here.

J.B. Marsh Journal can be found here.