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  • Schools of the Blue Ridge, Reminiscences


    The editors are trying to piece together a history of the schools of the Blue Ridge. We've been able to collect a few items and would like to enlist the help of all our readers in this effort. The old schools are gone. There may be some few structures left that once served as "seats of learning", but by and large they've disappeared. Several are mentioned, The school in Silver Grove's School, Manning's School, The School at St Andrew's Community Center, Fairmount School and a school near Pine Grove in Va.

    The authors of the newsletter mentioned below obviously had information AND photos of some schools and pupils of yesteryear. Hopefully we or some of our readers can persuade sharing of information. The images included are scans of photocopies and leave much to be desired. But we do KNOW that photos existed at one time.

    We've included what little info we've had time to gather (to be honest the editors to which I refer consist of ME) and need a lot more help. "We" hope the stories below will engender some interest along those lines.

    Marianna Johnson Smallwood's Wonderful Narratives

    The following stories are from newsletters distributed by the Jefferson County School Board in March and April of 1976. They were edited by Mary Stocks. It's our understanding from Doug Perks, Director of the Charles Town Library, that this was part of a history project in conjunction with the Bicentennial of our country. We hope to get more information This material is too precious not to share.

    Our DEEPEST appreciation goes to the late Marianna Johnson Smallwood for writing her remembrances. Much more can be found in her book,
    Something about Kabletown, a copy of which has been for sale at the County Museum and is part of the The Charles Town Library's collection.



    According to information supplied by C.P. Marcum of Mission Road, the Fairmount school was located in the area of the Mountain Mission Park. It would have been near "left/center field" of the ball diamond now in place. See below.

    The first Fairmount School of the Kabletown District was built in 1876 on a lot purchased from an Evan Rodgers. It was located several miles back on the Mt. Mission Road. This school was destroyed by fire in 1___ but it was replaced by the second Fairmount School pictured in the top picture above.

    This picture of the later school was loaned to SCHOOL NEWS by Marianna J. Smallwood of Kabletown, a teacher at Fairmount for 10 years. Fairmount remained open until 1939 when it was replaced by Blue Ridge Elementary.

    In 1939 Nathaniel Gray purchased the school for $120. He tore it down and rebuilt it as a home in Charles Town. The rebuilt Fairmount School still stands today, the second house

    on the right toward Summit Point after the intersection of the Summit - Point-Middleway roads on Harewood Avenue.

    Even farther up Mt. Mission Road than Fairmount School was Pine Grove School. Very little is known about this school because there are no early Board minutes from the Kabletown District. Pine Grove operated until 1934 when it was consolidated with Fairmount. In 1934 Pine Grove was sold to a Ward Clipp for $52.

    Years ago, one of the highlights of the school year in many Jefferson County Schools was the May Day Program. These students pictured were students of Marianna Smallwood when she taught at Fairmount School. The students pictured are (front row): Jessie Masson - wreath bearer, Erma Gaynor - queen, Allen Howell - crown bearer, and (?) Mason - wreath bearer. (back row) - Louise Mobley - lady-in-waiting and Louise Brown wreath bearer.

    A Teacher Looks Back

    Mrs. Marianna Smallwood of Kabletown recalls in the following article her experiences as a teacher at both Mannings School and Fairmount School.

    Mrs. Smallwood taught at Mannings from 1924 to 1926. She boarded with a family near the school during the week and returned to Kabletown over the weekends. She taught at Fairmount from 1926 until 1932 and again from 1935 until 1939. In her early years at Fairmount she walked about two miles from her home in Kabletown across the fields to the Shenandoah River at Myers Ferry. She crossed the river at this point on her flat boat called "Leaping Lena." After crossing the river, she walked two more miles to the school.

    "Reminiscences" By Marianna J. Smallwood

    During the last week in August in 1924, I was told that I had been appointed to teach in the one room school at Mannings. This indeed was good news to me as I had borrowed money to attend Shepherd College during the past summer for a nine week course, thereby earning a temporary teacher's certificate which would entitle me to a $60 monthly pay.

    Can you imagine how I felt on the opening day of school to find the building locked, the window shutters nailed closed and weeds knee-high in the yard. Upon inquiry I found out who usually was responsible for opening the school for business. 1 contacted this person and asked for a volunteer to go with me throughout the neighborhood to notify the parents that school would begin the next day at nine o'clock. After covering about a four-mile tramp, and having stopped at the homes of children who usually attended the public school, I was a tired beginner teacher but not ready to give up. Yet, this was a disappointing first day experience.

    In the community there was located a thriving parochial school (Mt. Mission School) which had a large enrollment. As I later fount out, this school provided a haven for the public school pupils who differed with their teacher. This custom reversed likewise as those pupils of the parochial school who did not see eye to eye with their teachers often reported for enrollment at the public school.

    I would like to mention that I was eighteen years old at this time and several of my pupils were sixteen -quite large for their age. Yes, one actually later proposed marriage! This is how he brought it about. He had called several times at the home where I was boarding and one particular evening he proposed.

    "Miss Johnson, I'd like to ask you a question,"
    I replied, "All right if I can answer it.''
    Are you going to be Mrs.(his surname) or Miss Johnson when school closes in May?" he inquired.
    "I expect I'll still be Miss Johnson," I replied.
    Another incident comes to my mind. I had found tobacco on one of the pupils. The order of that day was to take the tobacco away from the child and follow with some form of punishment. Later in the afternoon after dismissal, I was stooping down to go under a wire which was a part of the fence when wham, I felt something hit on the cheek. Upon examination I found I had been struck with a pebble which had come from a sling shot. The tobacco bearer had had his revenge. Back into the school room we went for a session. The next day the boy's father sent me a note saying that Dr. Pittman had advised him to let his son smoke, as this would help his asthma! Can you imagine this!

    Another incident - one of the pupils went home at noon for lunch. On this particular day I was outside with the pupils when I noticed smoke in the vicinity of the Murrill Hill Church which was not far from the school. Upon investigation we found a brush fire was gaining headway. We took branches from pine trees and hastily beat out the fire, the job proving to be a dirty, hot byline to teaching. We later learned the pupils who had gone home for lunch had started the fire.

    A chore which became a weekly task was replacing the flag pole which had been damaged over the weekend by students swinging on the rope. One of the patrons usually brought us the pole from which the pupils removed the bark. After everything was lined up the pole was set. This happened many times.

    I want to tell about a unique way to cross the Shenandoah River. This was winter when winters were unusually cold. The river was frozen over and the ice unusually thick on Friday, when I planned to go home for the weekend. I went to the river expecting to walk the ice as I have done several times. Instead a man who operated a store in the neighborhood was waiting to meet a wholesale truck for groceries. He and the ferryman were going to push a canoe over the ice to the opposite side of the river. When they saw me, they called to me to hurry in order to ride in the canoe. Can you picture this - one man pulling while the other pushed the canoe with me riding in all my glory?

    Along with the above mentioned experiences and many others, the pupils and I managed to work with the 3 R's, cooperated with the church in presenting programs, and held indoor festivals several times during the year to raise funds to buy school supplies.

    After being at Mannings two years, I was appointed teacher at Fairmount School where I plied the trade for ten years. Besides teaching, I often was asked to cut the pupils' hair. I remember cutting the lobe of a little girl's ear. She didn't utter a sound but upon investigating to see if I had trimmed evenly, I saw the blood dripping from her ear. This was a precious blond six-year-old who several years later became the May Queen in a closing day program. Added to barbering were many other tasks such as delivering mail, purchasing articles, taking care of students' physical needs, and oh yes, preparing hot meals twice a week.

    I became upset when I saw that the pupils had nothing to eat for lunch every day except huckleberries and honey cake. The Charles Town Lions Club found out about the situation and donated $5 each week to purchase food for the children to have a hot lunch two times a week.

    I, of course, became the cook. I stayed after school to prepare the food for the next day. The old wood stove which provided our heat also served as the cooking stove. We used the recitation bench as a table and slabs of wood for chairs around it. As I recall, the children's favorite meal was kraut and dumplings.

    We had a very successful 4-H Club at Fairmount which one year met all requirements to become an outstanding one. By holding indoor festivals, we purchased a sewing machine and with assistance of one of the ladies of the community, the girls learned the first rudiments of sewing. Our PTA was enjoyed by the community as it was a social event in which we all worked to accomplish many things such as beautifying toe school and church yards, building picnic tables at a nearby spring and screening the school windows. I recall one of the ladies and I painted the interior of the school room in August in order to have it ready for the school year.

    Added to other experiences the children and I often spent a part of the lunch hour repairing the county road. Men hauling wood would get stuck in ruts, and as a result the roads would become almost impassable. Armed with hoes and buckets and boxes in which to carry stones and rocks, we filled many ruts. It was quite a contrast to the present Mission Road one travels over today.

    Note: the image of the Manning's school below contains a rough example of Mission Road's condition in those days.

    Besides having our playground equipment for recreation there was ''Ditch Day." Every Tuesday and Thursday during the last half hour of the lunch period, the children went to a ravine not far from the school where they would pole vault from bank to bank. Even the girls became experts. Would I vault with them? No, there was a tree stump nearby where I sat to watch them. "Ditch Day" was quite a treat for the children.

    In spring the children were delegated to hunt tea berry leaves, and oak balls. I soon learned I had to get a loud sounding bell and a whistle to use to let them know when it was time to return to the classroom. Often the older ones would venture quite a distance.

    I could could on and on with reminiscences of these days but this will do for this time. We had many happy experiences and often many former pupils come to see me now, some bringing their grandchildren to see Miss Johnson, as I am still called by them.

    Mannings School

    One of the earliest public schools erected in Jefferson County was the Mannings School built in 1857 on property purchased by the Board of Education in 1857 from a Nathaniel Mannings for $10. The school still stands today on a dirt road directly off St. Rt. 9 South across from the entrance to the Mt. Mission Road. The deed transfer in 1857 states that the school would have perpetual use of a spring located ''about 100 yards from the school house.'' The school was used until 1923 when it was replaced by the Mt. Mission School. Today (in 1976) Mannings School is owned by Mrs. Jesse Clevenger of Halltown, who rents it as a private dwelling.

    In 1928, the Board of Education rented the Mountain Mission School from the Episcopal Diocese for $40 a month to replace the Mannings School. Mt. Mission School had been built in 1904 as St. Andrew's Mission School and remained open as a parochial school until around 1926. As a public school, it was used for grades 1-8 until 1934 when pupils above the fourth grade were sent to Charles Town Graded School. The following year, there were so few students attending Mt. Mission that the Board decided that it was no longer practical to rent the building. Today the Mt. Mission School is still the property of the Episcopal Diocese and is being used as the Mountain Community Center.

    Thanks, Jenniffer
    CA 1976

    Starting in the 1935-36 school year, students above the second grade were transported to Charles Town Graded School and grades one and two were placed in a home near Mt. Mission. The home, now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Jock Engle in Murrill Hill, was used as Mannings School for grades one and two from 1935-1940. When Blue Ridge Elementary was erected in 1940, the building was no longer used.

    Silver Grove School

    The Silver Grove School, built sometime prior to 1889, still stands today in Pipertown on Hostler Road. The one-room school served students in grades 1-8 and did not close its doors until 1940. One interesting item of business concerning Silver Grove was handled by the Harpers Ferry District Board of Education in 1920, The parents of students of Silver Grove wrote a letter to the Board protesting the employment of a Catholic teacher on the grounds that the teacher "might not read the Bible and have the Lord's prayer in the morning exercises." The Board refused to dismiss the teacher, but she resigned at the end of the school year.

    Chestnut Hill School

    The Chestnut Hill School was built on what was then called Bithias Green in 1899. The school, located on Hostler Road, still stands today. It was a one room school used continuously until it closed in 1940 when the Blue Ridge Elementary was erected. Today the school is the property of the Chestnut Hill Methodist Church located across the road from the old school.


    Jefferson County School News is monthly publication sponsored by the Board of Education as a public service to Jefferson County residents.

    Superintendent: Harold L. Pickens

    President of the Board: Richard Neal
    Editor: Mary Stocks
    Special thanks are due to the following people who so willingly supplied information to the editor of this paper for this special publication:
    Mrs. Beverly Huyett, Mrs. Norval Johnson, Mr. James Ernest Watson, Mr. and Mrs. James Grantham, Mrs. Margaret Kilmer, Mrs. Caroline Wesco, Mrs. Virginia Burns, Mrs. Holmes White, Mrs. Nancy Sardone , Mr. Lyle Tabb, Mr. James Snyder, Miss Edna Farnsworth, Mrs. Gertrude Rowland, Mr. Charles Whittington, Miss Shirley Macoughtry, Mrs. Margaret Banks, Mrs. Georgia Timbers, Mrs., James Locke, Mrs. Louise Bradley, Mrs. James Strider, Mrs. Carrie Strider Lynn, Mrs. Marianna Smallwood, Mr. Howard Bush, Mrs. Doris Moten, Mrs. W. L. Barron, Mrs. C. H. Hamilton, Mrs. Edna Pifer

    NOW, Can anyone add anymore about the schools mentioned above? How about the missing schools; Silver Grove, Bithias Green, Pine Grove and others? Does anyone have any old photos or family stories about any of the schools? How about report cards, awards, or other mementos? The stories are just begging to be written or embellished RIGHT HERE.