From the earliest years of the County, the education of his sons wag one of the first interests of the settler. Having known himself, or observed in his friends, the limitations due to youthful privation, it naturally became his anxiety and pride to provide advantages for his sons. To the best of his ability this was generally done. (The daughters of the period were carefully trained for the duties of the home, and became notable managers and housewives, but an intellectual woman, during these first decades, was the exception.)
A few school-houses were built at an early date. It was customary for the Colonial clergyman to add to his usefulness-and his salary-by teaching. Thus, the Rev. James Fontaine Maury, resident rector of Walker's Parish, (1754-1769), conducted a classical school on the borders of Albemarle and Louisa, the log building in which he taught having been situated in a corner of the lawn at Edgeworth, later the home of Gen. Wm. F. Gordon. Among his pupils were Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. This school was continued by the founder's son, the Rev. Matthew Maury (died 1808). About the same time, The Rev. Samuel Black of Pennsylvania, who had first entered Virginia as a Presbyterian missionary, conducted a school on Mechum's River, below the present Miller School. Other early teachers were a James Forbes, who in 1760 bought land on the head of Ivy Creek, and a Wm. Coursey, Jr., who taught in the northern part of the County.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
Woods' History of Albemarle"> Such small and scattered academies, however, were not the only, nor indeed the chief, source of instruction.
It has been said that the schools in early AlbemarIe were as many as the plantations, and it is true that there are few of the old places which have not at some time sheltered a little group of tutor and pupils. It was usual for one family to secure a teacher, who resided in the household, and to whom the neighboring boys were sent, either as day or boarding pupils. In many cases, this would of necessity be a temporary arrangement, and after a few years the tutor, or his successor, would shift to a near-by plantation.
These early teachers were either graduates of William and Mary, from Princeton or Yale, or of English or Scotch origin, the Scotch being especially sought after because of their superior char- acter and deportment. Lively anecdotes have survived of an English tutor at ~ the home of the Pages, whose powers of mimicry and flowing wit made him for a season the social sensation of the County. It is stated that upon one occasion his conversation at a supper table threw a young negro maid into laughter from which she died. Unfortunately, a closer acquaintance with this hero disclosed traits not in harmony with his profession, and his stay was brief. A teacher of a far different calibre was the Scotchman John H. Robertson--father of the late Judge Wm. J. Robertson-who for some years conducted a school in Albemarle, and whose will, on record in the Clerk's Office, disposes of what was perhaps the most complete classical library in the State. After the opening of the University, these tutors were quite generally drawn from her Alumni.
A number of these plantation schools developed, in succeeding generations, into highly successful preparatory schools, with a more than local reputation. Among these were Brookhill, under Charles Minor, Keswick, the home of Dr. Mann R. Page, and Bloomfield, under Broun and Tebbs. From about 1848, until the outbreak of the Civil War, one of the most prominent schools, with extended patronage throughout the South, was that taught by Franklin Minor, first at The Rigory and then at Ridgway. Another of the best-known was the "Brookland School" at Greenwood, which was conducted by the Rev. William Dinwiddie in the decade before the War. At the time of its closing it had enrolled about 100 pupils, of whom some sixty were boarding pupils from widely scattered States. An idea of the quality of its instruction may be gained from its faculty, which contained among others T. E.-afterwards Bishop-Dudley, James M. Garnett, later Professor at The University of Virginia, A. K. Yancey, afterwards President of Hardin College, Mo., and the writer widely known as "Porte Crayon." Writing in the forties of these schools, Dr. Wm. S. White says: "Albemarle far exceeded any other County in the State in its literary advantages.
In 1836 Mrs. Jane Nicholas Randolph, wife of Col. T. J. Randolph and daughter of Goy. Nicholas, established at Edgehill a school for the benefit of her daughters, and those of her relatives and friends. This was one of the first boarding schools for girls in the State and was the beginning of the famous school which for long held a unique place in Southern life.
There were also, from early days, numerous schools in Charlottesville, including several for small children. Of these, the best known was probably that taught in the fifties by Miss Lizzie Poore on Park St. Music was a feature of the curriculum, and the number of pupils averaged about twenty.
There were numerous boy schools in Charlottesville-- "Classical and mathematical schools, amirably conducted and liberally supported." Dr. Woods states that in the twenties there was a Charlottesville Academy for Boys, taught by a Mr. Gerard Stuck. Allen Dawson also taught, first on his farm on the Scottsville Road, then on Main St., and finally on Park St., on the lot now occupied by the residence of Mr. Wm. J. Rucker. Near the east end of Main St. a small brick building was used as a school, the teachers being successively George Carr, Thomas W. Maury and the Rev. Mr. Hatch.
In 1820 the Charlottesville Female Academy was opened, on the southwest corner of High<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2
At this period, and until after the Civil War, this street was named Maiden Lane."> and Third Sts., with a succession of prindpals, the first being a Mrs. George. In this building, a little later, a school was conducted by the Misses Wydown, daughters of an English clergyman. (One of these ladies, as renowned for her beauty as her culture, became the wife of Mr. Alexander Rives.)
Perhaps the most successful girls' school in the forties was the Presbyterian Academy, founded 1838. It was conducted for ten years by the Rev. Wm. S. White, a brilliant and much loved man, who during his life in Charlottesville did much for the welfare of the community. A building for this school was erected on North Second St., now the Preshyterian manse. The attendance reached almost one hundred, and averaged seventy, of whom about one-half were boarders.
In many of these early schools the instruction, as far as it went, was solid, and the character-- forming influences were of the higliest. But for the man desiring a wider education there were, before 1825, only two alternatives-a northern college, with its disadvantages of expense and differing standards, or William and Mary in Virginia. This institution was the Alma Mater of a great majority of the prominent men of the State, including Jefferson, and was widely influential; but being at that time under Church influence, it was unsuited to the needs of the large non-conformist element in the State, and was otherwise hampered in development.
From early manhood Jefferson had written and worked for successive educational schemes. After his retirement from political life in 1809 this interest was renewed. An Albemarle Academy for boys had been long planned and chartered, but had not materialized. In 1814 Jefferson was appointed a trustee, and at once seized the opportunity to develop his larger plans. The Academy was merged, before opening, into Central College, and the corner stone for this institution-now the Colonnade Club at the University-was laid Oct. 6th, 1817.
By the next spring. and before Central College had begun to function, the political activities of Jefferson and Joseph C. Cabell resulted in legislative action in favor of a State University. Commissioners were appointed, one from each Senatorial district, to meet in Augrist of that year at the tavern Mountain Top,<a href="#3" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 3
Destroyed some years ago by fire. The site, visible from the highway, is marked by a few cottages and a pool on the Dooley estate above Afton."> to select a site and organize a University. Those present were Thomas Jefferson, Creed Taylor, Peter Raudolpli of Dinwiddie, William Brockeubrough, Archibald Rutherford, Archibald Stuart, James Breckenridge, Henry E. Watkins, James Madison, A. T. Mason, Hugh Holmes, Philip C. Pendleton, Spencer Roane, James M. Taylor, John G. Jackson, Thomas Wilson, Philip Slaughter, W. H. Cabell, N. H. Clalborne, W. A. G. Dade, and William Jones. Four Commissioners, representing the section of the State most interested in William and Mary, failed to attend.<a href="#4" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 4
Bruce's History of the University of Virginia.">
Only three places were seriously considered, Central College, Staunton and Lexington. The vote stood two for Staunton, three for Lexington, and the remainder for Central College. In Jan. 25, 1819, the charter of Central College was converted into that of the University of Virginia.
Jefferson then, with all the zeal of youth, entered upon his double duties as Rector of the institution and architect of its boildings. For seven years he wrote, interviewed and counseled, thus shaping the spirit and policies by which the University is still animated. At the same time he was procuring funds, assembling materials and workmen, drawing plans, and actively stiperintending the multitudinous details of his great undertaking. Though feeble in health, he rode in daily, and from an arm chair gave personal supervision to overseers and workmen. A telescope placed on a terrace at Monticello enabled him still further to oversee the building.
The inhabitants of Charlottesville and Albemarle generally subscribed to the University fund, many of them making their payments in material, food for the hired slaves, or oats for the horses. Dr. Bruce tells us that W. D. Garth furnished lumber, Reuben Maury and Garland Garth large quantities of farm products, J. H. Terrell corn, and Dr. J. C. Ragland medical services. Perhaps the greatest quantity of lumber was purchased from the Hydraulic Mill,<a href="#5" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 5
Sold, soon after, to Mr. Nathaniel Bumley."> then owned by John M. Perry, who was at this time a prominent contractor. Transportation was one of the large expenses, for though the fundamental materials were procured in AlbemarIe, much else came from a distance, and lines of wagons were regularly in use between the University and Richmond whenever the roads permitted. The heavier goods were shipped by river, and either poled up the Rivanna to Milton, or unloaded on the bosy wharves at Scottsville. The marbles for the columns, which had been procured at Carrara, Italy, were shipped in sixty-one cases, weighing from three to five tons each, and were sent up from Richmond to Scottsville in batteaux, and from there hauled by wagon to their destination.<a href="#6" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 6
Bruce's History of the University of Virginia."> This was a difficult and anxious task, ancl was much talked of at the time. The cost of the complete institution is calculated to have been less than $400,000.
The selection of the first faculty of the University was one of Jefferson's chief anxieties. Being determined that they should be of a quality that would mark the rank of the institution, he in 1824 advised the Board of Visitors to send abroad an agent to make personal choice among European scholars. The man selected for this responsible duty was one of Albemarle's youngest and most brilliant sons-Francis Walker Gilmer, of Pen Park. Having died early, his name now is only a pathetic echo, but by the distingtiished men of his day he was acclaimed with surprising enthusiasm, and through the promise of his great endowments he was widely known as "the hope of Virginia." Five men were brought by him from England, and three more were secured in America.
Upon March 7th, 1825, the first session opened with forty students. By its close in September, one hundred and forty had matriculated. We are told that "in these early days the students wore a uniform. It consisted of a suit of grayish cloth, called Oxford mixed, specially imported from year to year by John Cochran, the coat braided on the collar, and the pantaloons striped at the sides. This badge of distinction gave rise to an extensive industry in Charlottesville. From a hundred to a hundred and twenty journeymen tailors were engaged in its manufacture, and the firm of Marshall and Bailey, Shoemakers, employed from thirty-five to forty hands in their business."<a href="#7" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 7
Woods' History of Albemarle"> The following extract from an old farm-book gives the expenditure of the son of a wealthy planter of Louisa, who matriculated in January, 1826:
|A/c of expenses|
|By advance to Warner Minor<a href="#8" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 8
One of the original six hotel-keepers, or "hotel faculty" as Jefferson designated them."> for 1/2 a year.
|By matriculation fees||23.00|
|By fees to two professors||60.00|
|By Taylor's bill for making coat & panta's...||17.50|
|By pocket money||6.00|
|To buy summer clothes &c||20.00|
|To pay Mrs. Blackborne for making clothes||1.83|
At the same time the father paid nine dollars for a hat for himself, and five for having a clock cleaned.<a href="#9" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 9
Loaned by Mr. Thomas S. Watson. From the unpublished Bracketts papers.">
The influence of the University soon was felt profoundly by the entire community. Business was stimulated and the tone of society was raised and refined by the intercourse between faculty and town and County families; and social life was diversified-if sometimes agitated-by the presence of so many, and such animated young men. In the interesting pages of Dr. Bruce's History of the University of Virginia we obtain an extraordinary impression of these early student years, and of the recurring riots which down to 1842 were a source of mortification and alarm to the University's friends. An outbreak in 1836, which lasted for three days and nights, required the grand jury, the Sheriff and a military guard to restore order; and in 1840 there occurred the tragedy--shocking in its unprovoked and callous character-of the murder of Professor John A. G. Davis, chairman of the faculty, by an enraged student. With true magnanimity, tile family of the victim requested that there should be no prosecution, but the criminal-a young man from the far South named Semmes-was apprehended. Being released, however, on twenty-five thousand dollars bail, he escaped, and was never recaptured.<a href="#10" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 10
The Davis family at length heard-through a source considered trustworthy-that young Semmes had committed suicide in Paris, and that through the forfeiture of bail his family were reduced to poverty."> In time, these excesses brought their natural reaction, while the inestimable advantages to the community of this great institution have grown with its growth.
Authorities A Huguenot Family; Mead, Homes of the Southwest Mountains; Woods' History of Albemarle; Randall's Life of Jefferson; Bruce, History of the University of Virginia.