History - Lunenburg County Public Schools
The Lunenburg County Public School System is pleased to be able to offer LUNENBURG'S PUBLIC EDUCATION HISTORY FROM 1870 - 1970, written and posted here in installments by Mrs. Shirley Robertson Lee. We will post a new installment during each 9 week grading period. These installments will continue through the summer as well. We hope you will enjoy this historical account, and we thank Mrs. Lee for helping us with this unique project. Please click here for more information about our author, Shirley Robertson Lee.
A NEW CENTURY DAWNS
The turn of the twentieth century led to many changes. Lunenburg County had evolved into a different place with the arrival of the Virginian Railway. The schools became more standardized, better managed, and far more numerous. In 1900, a Uniform Examination for Teachers’ Certificates was created at the state level for white and colored teachers in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1905, Claude August Swanson was elected to the governorship in Virginia. He expanded Montague’s efforts in education and road building with the appropriation of state funds to match local contributions. This was revolutionary and thus, the passage of the Mann High School Act in 1906. By 1909, the state had 345 high schools. Some students elected to go on to high school, but there was no strict requirement to do so.
There were significant increases in teachers’ salaries, length of school term, and per pupil expenditures under the aggressive administration of Joseph D. Eggleston, Jr. The state took control of the College of William and Mary and established three new normal or teacher education schools for women. School consolidation and school privy requirements were instituted as well.
Isham Trotter Wilkinson was born (circa 1884) on a farm between Kenbridge and South Hill known as “The Wilkinson Place.” He, his parents, and five siblings attended Antioch Church south of Kenbridge, Virginia.
Wilkinson became the second superintendent of Lunenburg County Public Schools in 1906. At age twenty-two, he was youngest of the superintendents in Virginia at the time.
In spring 1908, Superintendent Wilkinson created “Our Schools” on behalf of the School Board. This publication contains a note from the superintendent to teachers and students, 37 letters from school children, a history of the rural schools, and a description of the conditions of schools. Student enrollment and daily average attendance was getting much larger. Lunenburg County had three frame school buildings at the time. All others were constructed of logs. There was a two-room school, four grade schools, and one high school. School officials developed plans to erect a high and grade school in the districts of Lochleven, Rehoboth and Pleasant Grove, and a joint school between the districts of Lewiston, Brown’s Store and Columbian Grove. Wilkinson wrote, “Our school system is recognized as being far behind those of surrounding counties, but meritorious work that is now being done by our energetic trustees warrants a bright future in the educational work of the county. We are glad to note the deep interest that many of the patrons are taking in the schools. The financial conditions will be greatly aided by the revenue from the Virginian Railway.”
(left to right) seated: Hardy Gaulding; Nannie Johns; Betha Powell; Lena Gaulding; Grady Hart;
standing: Dudley Digger; Temmie Arvin; Armpie Fowlkes; Neblet Crymes; Simmie Arvin; Guy Bruce;
Professor Paul S. Blandford, teacher. These students may have been members of the graduating class.
The Virginia Daily Attendance Register and Monthly Grade Records (1918-1925), and Virginia Department of Education Survey of Public Plants (1943-’44) archived by the Lunenburg County School Board list other small schools in operation. These schools include Asbury, Bethany, Camp, Cheatham, Cherry Hill, Cool Spring, Davis, Dillard’s Siding, Dundas, Fletcher’s Chapel, Fort Mitchell, Friendship, Gary, Gill Hill, Holbeth, Kenbridge High, Kenilworth, Lanes Mill, Lochleven High, Lone Oak, Love’s Mill, Lunenburg Courthouse, Lunenburg Training, Macedonia, Marshalltown, Memorial, Mosses, Mount Bethel, Mount Level, Mount Olive, Mount Olivet, New Grove, Nonintervention, Nutbush, Oak Grove, Oral Oaks, Plantersville, Pleasant Grove, Pleasant Oak, Reedy, Rosebud, Roysdale, Rubermont, Russell, St. James, Traffic, Trinity, Union Central, Union Ridge, Unity, Varick, Victoria Grade, Victoria High, Wattsboro, Williams, West End, West Hill, Wilkes, and Woodrow.
Isham T. Wilkinson ended his tenure as school superintendent in the spring of 1919. However, he continued working with his friend, Thomas W. Ozlin. Together, they were co-owners and publishers of “The Free State News,” the county’s weekly newspaper. The Spoke and Handle Factory, renamed Railway Handle Corporation, was purchased by Wilkinson in the early 1920s and later sold to six long-time employees. He also served as mayor of Kenbridge for a while. Wilkinson became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1934, remained for two terms until 1937, but declined a third term due to health reasons. In 1953, Isham T. Wilkinson was identified as a “Weaver of Yarns” by Hamilton Crockford, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, because of Wilkinson’s previous experiences as a school chief, weekly publisher, mayor, legislator, and a handle manufacturer.
Selected sources: Our School, South Hill Enterprise (1908); Virginia Daily Attendance Register and Monthly Grade Record (1918-1924); Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 21, 1953; Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch, December 3, 1937; State Department of Education, Survey of Public Plants, Virginia State Planning Board (1943-1944); Kenbridge Chamber of Commerce, Our Town, October 1983; Gay W. Neale, The Lunenburg Legacy, Brunswick Publishing Company, Lawrenceville, Virginia (2005); Ronald L. Heinemann, John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent, Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion ~ New Commonwealth, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press (2007); Stephen S. Israel. Kenbridge, The First Hundred Years 1908-2008 (2008); Isham T. Wilkinson photo courtesy of the Wilkinson Family; Ledbetter School photo courtesy of Amy McClure. NOTE: This review is based on available information and may not include all facts related to public education in Lunenburg County from 1870-1970.
Lunenburg High School Recognized with Historical Highway Marker
On Friday, September 4, 2015 a highway marker was unveiled recognizing the location of the Lunenburg Training School and Lunenburg High School. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources approved and the Virginia Department of Transportation placed the marker there at the site. Lunenburg Training School was established in 1920 for African Americans because they did not have educational facilities at that time. This school later became Lunenburg High School. This marker became a reality through the appropriations of the graduates and friends of Lunenburg High School and the Alumni Committee, headed by Reginald S. Davis, President of the Lunenburg High School Alumni Association.
To commemorate this occasion, a program was held at The Peoples Community Center at 10:00 a.m. The Honorable Constance T. O’Bryant, Retired Federal Administrative Law Judge, Class of 1964, gave a moving speech. “The Lunenburg Training School and Lunenburg High School brought hope to a hopeless people and was a bridge from a place of despair to a place of hope.” She also went on to say that because of the education she received there, she was able to test out of quite a few of her courses at Howard University.
Many residents, alumni, state, and local officials attended the celebration, and the group road Lunenburg County School buses to the marker site. At the site, the marker was unveiled by Reginald S. Davis. Mr. Davis was assisted by the following, Mrs. Annie H. Holmes, Class of ’39; Mrs. Laura C. Sanford, Class of ’39, Mrs. Elloise Callahan, Class of ’41 and Charter Member of the Lunenburg High School Alumni Association; Mrs. Bernice S. Charlton, Class of ’42; Mr. James Craddox, Class of ’54; and Mr. Cecil A.W. Andrews, Class of ’69. The group traveled back to the People’s Community Center for a wonderful reception, where many memories were shared and some delicious food was enjoyed.
Lunenburg County is located in the beautiful countryside of South Central Virginia, historic Lunenburg County meets all with a warm, friendly welcome.
Family and community are central to the everyday lifestyle in Lunenburg County. Our purpose is to develop and maintain a society where we can enjoy our families, employment and retirement. Lunenburg County strives to provide a peaceful, safe atmosphere with plenty of family-friendly activities.
Our County works together to offer business and employment opportunities, friendly service from local citizens in area businesses and various recreational attractions.
We have an accredited school system, youth sports, two municipal parks, community events, low tax rates, beautiful countryside, quaint communities and friendly people.
Whether you want to make Lunenburg your home, locate your business here, or spend some time visiting, you'll be glad you came!
Information from Lunenburg County Va.