Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The first public schools in Virginia began on January 1, 1870. The state superintendent was Dr. William Ruffner of Lexington. Dr. George Washington Dame, the Episcopal rector of Danville, was named superintendent for Pittsylvania County.

During the Civil War, Dr. Dame ministered to the federal prisoners who were confined in Danville. One of the soldiers came back in the 1880s and took this photograph of Dr. Dame on the front porch of his house on Colquhoun Street.
Dr. Rev. George Washington Dame lived on a three-acre tract on Colquhoun Street not so far from what became the National Cemetery after the Civil War. Dr. Dame prepared wooden markers for federal prisoners who died while being held prisoners of war. He is largely responsible for preserving the identity of more that 1,300 soldiers who remain buried in the cemetery on Lee Street.

The first trustees of the Chatham School District were John Gilmer, Hezekiah Pigg and Col. William Sims.

John B. Lowry is said to have been the first teacher employed for the Danville public schools. John B. Lowry was born about 1802 and his wife Mary born about 1809. He was teaching in a private school in Danville in 1860.
Danville, Virginia census record for 1860. John B. Lowry was born in 1802. Ten years later, John B. Lowry was still teaching in Danville.

By the end of 1871, there were 3,047 public schools in the state, and by 1874 there were 3,902। In 1871, there were 3,084 teachers making an average of $29.86 a month. By 1874, in the 99 counties there were 3,625 schools, with 3,962 teachers with an average salary of $32.64.

In 1874, Pittsylvania County, including Danville, expended $18,519.78 on students who were from five to 25 years old. There were 54 white and 20 colored schools for a total of 74. There were 75 teachers, including one male and one female colored teacher. The total cost of operation for the year was 92 cents for each pupil enrolled.

The 17 schools in Pittsylvania included three graded schools, two of which were white and one colored. There were 50 log buildings, 18 frame and three brick structures. Three of the schools had out houses. It appears that this luxury corresponds with the brick buildings. It appears that the others had only a path. There were a total of 80 rooms; all of the 71 schools had blackboards.

In the 1870s, The Danville Female College closed because of financial difficulties. There were several lawsuits involving the college and the buildings on two and a half acres at the corner of Ridge and Loyal Streets. These legal matters were settled in 1877.
The corner lot was 150 by 238 feet. The large school building was on the adjoining lot.

The Town of Danville bought these two lots on 25 October 1877। The Town paid J. D. Arnold, Jr. the sum of $12,000. A map prepared that same year show a large “L” shaped building about 75 by 100 feet with two small buildings on a large lot on Loyal Street.

When the Danville High School was built on Grove Street in 1915, the Loyal Street School building was torn down and this Robert E. Lee Junior High School Building was built here in 1880. In 1956, this building was torn down and Sears Roebuck and Company built new building here.

In 1879 Richard M. Tuck, who was born about 1830, was principal of the old Loyal Street public school.
The 1879 directory listed these public school teachers:
(1) Mrs. S. R. H “Sue” Cheatham lived on Wilson Street. In 1880, Sue was living with her 70-year-old mother Sallie W. Lucas.
(2) Mrs. M. L. Grasty, wife of Philip L. Grasty, lived on Wilson Street.
(3) Miss Mary Lacy lived with Thomas Law on Wilson Street.
(4) Miss Celestia S. Parrish lived with Peter Law on Patton Street.
(5) William D. Tucker, schoolteacher, lived on Washington Street opposite Washington (sic, probably Claiborne). At this time North Danville was not a part of Danville. It is not shown where Tucker taught, but there was an early school in a building opposite Church Street.
(6) Davis M. Wood, schoolteacher in the White public school resided with William Tucker above.
(7) Miss Mary Lyon, schoolteacher, lived on Baugh Street in North Danville.
(8) Charles W. Jones was principal of the “Monument Hill School.”

Monument Hill was due south of the Richmond and Danville depot where Monument Street was cut after the Civil War। There was a large 30-building Confederate hospital complex here during the War.

The seven largest buildings of the 30-building complex were up to 151 feet long and 53 feet wide. One of these buildings was a school for Blacks after the War ended in 1865.

In 1865, the federal government confiscated these buildings and property because they were built with public “enemy” funds. A school for freed slaves and free Blacks in part by the Friends church. This area is variously called Dan’s Hill, Dance Hill and Monument Hill.

With White principal Charles W. Jones, the 1879 public school teachers listed as “Colored” in 1879 probably taught at the Monument Hill School:
(1) Dyson Jones resided on Holbrook Street.
(2) William H. Jones resided on Union Street
(3) Sidney Mills lived on Monument Hill near Lynn Street.
(4) Frank Young lived on Union Street.
(5) Levy Richmond, who resided on the public school grounds, was probably a janitor.

Teachers from the White Danville public schools listed Roll of Honor students for the week ending May 30, 1884:

(1) Miss Bessie Herndon’s School: Lisa Rice No. 3, Willie Wright No. 1, Lula Pruitt No. 2., Preston Smith No. 1, Nellie Lewis No. 1, Gilbert Rosser No. 2, Martha Harvie No. 1, Albert Perkinson No. 1, Jimmy Oyler No. 2.
(2) Miss Kate P. Ballou’s School: Irene Murrie No. 1, Lillian Cox No. 1, Ollie Johnson No. 1, Gracie Mack No. 1, Alice Coleman No. 1., Mollie Pairo No. 1, Irvine Jordan No. 1, Brancom Jordan No. 1, Hunt Coleman No. 2, Eddie Moore No. 2.
(3) Miss Rainey’s School: Katie Townes No. 3, Mary Armistead No. 1, Annie Pollard No. 4, Willie Overby No. 2, Bertie Patro No. 4, Archie Keen No. 2, Sue Hickey No. 1, Walter Ferrell No. 3, Annie Gravely No. 1, Walter Flieshman No. 3, Lillian Chapel 1.
(4) Miss S. T. Holt’s School: Josie Cole No. 1, Lula Cooper No. 1, Rosa McCully No. 1, Richard Jones No. 2, Eddie Graham No. 4.
(5) Miss Janie Abell’s School: Ida Rosser No. 2, Lizzie Does No. 4, Mentra Jordan No. 4, Willie Norman No. 2, Eddie Graham No. 4.
(6) Miss Edmonia Slaughter’s School: Clara Walker No. 1, Maxie Hart 2, Lelia Bass No. 2, (?) Jack No. 1, Burtie Oyler No. 2, Lizzie Patterson No. 4.
(7) Miss Blanch M. Leversedge’s School: Harry Slaughter No. 4, Walter Noel No. 3, Rosa Robertson No. 2, Lula Saunders No. 3, Mollie Brewer No. 4.
(8) Miss Mary L. Lacy’s School: Walter Hancock No. 4, Mary Wheatley No. 2, Carrie Moore No.4.
(9) Mrs. S. R. Cheatham’s School: Ida Apt No. 4, Mattie Moore No. 3.
(10) Mrs. E. B. Brown’s School: Anna Apt No. 2, Rowena Flynn No. 2, Josie Hirst No.2.
(11) Mr. H. C. Slaughter’s School: Lizzie Wood No. 1, Gabe Wade No. 1, Eva Withers No. 1, Lita Townes No. 1, Dolly Thompson 1, Fanny Rosser No. 1, Blanche Herndon No. 1, Fanny Frankfurter No. 1, Imogen Clement No. 1, Alice Bennett No. 1, Julian Meade No.1, Edmund Meade No. 1. (Julian Meade, born 4 Nov. 1865, was later a lawyer in Danville. His brother Edmund Bayliss Meade, bron 3 December 1867, was a banker in Danville.)

Clara Read operated a private school at this time, but this is very interesting and was during that same year.. “Gleaner’s Fair. The young ladies will give a Doll Fair at Miss Clara Read’s Academy on Friday the 19th, 1884. Doors open at 7 o’clock p.m. A prize will be given for the prettiest doll; also to the ugliest. Every girl who enters the list is expected to bring her doll and pay 10 cents. A great variety of dressed dolls and fancy articles will be offered for sale. Supper – oysters, jelly, cake, &c. The public generally is cordially invited to attend.”

Reported in the Danville Register May 31, 1884:
“The examinations of the schools being over, which were credible alike to the teachers and students, the people of North Danville, assisted by the Board of Trustees, made a new departure in the direction of closing exercises by adjourning Friday afternoon to the beautiful grounds of the new grounds of the new school house (The Old Claiborne Mansion), where was displayed in the large “old parlor” beautiful and tastefully arranged tables laden with good things for the children.”
“The pupils having assembled in the “upper hall” received from their teachers prizes for scholarship, deportment, &c, which they enjoyed with that child-like relish that is felt by those who having done their duty receive their reward. A most pleasing feature of the event was the handsome present given by the pupils of Mr. Tyree’s school to him their teacher.”
“These exercises over the children by schools were invited to “ice cream, cake &c, where a scene was presented and enjoyed in a way that is seldom witnessed upon such occasions. The teachers, trustees and lady friends of the children made one and all feel perfectly at home in their enjoyment of this elegant feast. Besides the patrons of the schools were present the board of trustees and the Supt. Of Schools who expressed themselves highly gratified at the manner in which everything was conducted.”
This photograph was taken in 1888 by a former Civil War prisoner in Danville. The large building at the top is the old Claiborne Mansion. This is the earliest known photograph of the skyline of North Danville.

David Tyree and wife Hannah lived on Claiborne Street in North Danville। In 1870, he was 63 and she was 60 years old। There son William P। Tyree is single and “at home” at that time। In 1880, William P. Tyree is still living with his father and is shown to be a teacher. The school may have operate in the Tyree home before moving to the Claiborne Mansion. The Town of North Danville was established by an act of the General Assembly in 1877. The town owned a two-acre non-taxable “Claiborne Schoolhouse,’ which was deeded from T. A. Watson. This area became Neapolis in 1894. A non-taxable three-acre lot called the “Keen Street School” was listed for the Town of Neapolis in 1895. In 1896, Danville annexed Neapolis. The old Claiborne mansion was town down and Bellevue School was built by Danville in 1898 at the cost of $47,823.

All text and photographs copyright 2010. Do not print or use online without permission. Robert D. Ricketts.