WILLISVILLE Colored School, Mercer District
Data as of 5/18/2016
- The first school for African-Americans in Willisville was built in 1868 by the Freedmen’s Bureau for the cost of $150. Source, essay by Eugene Scheel. For a photograph of the school and Ms. Anna Gaskins taken about 1905, see The Willisville School in Howardsville by Kevin Dulany Grigsby, (2008). Self-published. (page 281). The school then burned down on June 1, 1918. (school Boxes: Circuit Court of Loudoun County, June 19, 1920).
- The next structure was constructed in 1920 as a one room frame structure for a cost of $1200. For a contemporary photo of the second structure see The Willisville School in Howardsville by Kevin Dulany Grigsby, (2008). Self-published. (page 286)
2) Instructors: (More than one in some years. One of the problems with one-room school houses was that up to seven grades had to be taught at the same time; but Willisville was given an additional room in 1931, thus allowing for two sets of grades to be taught at the same time in separate spaces.)
- 1919/20-1950/51: Anna Gaskins, born October 26, 1890 (alternate data is proposed to be 10/17/1881), Died November 3, 1956. Sources. Teachers Record: LCPS (Records Office, Round Hill Center) Loudoun County, Virginia, Loudoun Times Mirror Staff. (1930, June 12). School Board Holds Its Regular Session. Loudoun Times Mirror, p. 1. Willisville Schol in Howardsville by Kevin Dulany Grigsby, (2008). Self-published.(p 288-289)
- 1934/35: Flossie Furr
- 1942/43: The instructors were Anna Gaskins and Mildred B. Gray (also known as Boyde) who served from 1935/36 through 1942/43 academic year. Source: Teacher Records, LCPS Archives, Times-Mirror Staff. School Board, Loudoun Times Mirror, April 16, 1942. Pages 1 and 2. “Colored” teachers were listed on page 2. See section 18 in A History of Conklin Village, Loudoun County by Larry Roeder, (Conklin Press, 2015). As early as 1918/1919 academic year Anna also instructed at St. Louis. She also studied at Virginia State College and acquired at least 20 1/2 hours. Her husband Lucien was a cook and personal servant. I don’t think she instructed as early as 1910, based on the US Census records.
- 1943/44 – 44/45: Louise V. Jones. Source: Term Reports, LCPS Archives.
- 1945/46 – 1950/51: Emma E. Oldes. (Mrs. L. Thomas) Born Oct 14, 1916. Home was Norfolk and she was educated at Virginia State College. Sources: Teacher’s Records and Term Reports, LCPS Archives.
- 1950/51: Mrs. Agnes Morse
- 1951/52 – 1957/58, then moved to Banneker until 1965: Ethel R. Stewart Smith. Born May 27, 1927. Graduates from Douglass High School in 1946 and then Storer College in 1950.
- 1956/57: Mary C. Jackson
- 1956/57: Edna James Brinkley (Mrs. Lawrence), born Dec 24, 1930. Graduated from East Suffolk High School (1949) and St. Paul Polytechnic Institute (1953). Home was Hobson, Virginia.
- 1957/58: Ann J. Jones
- 1957/58: Ethel S. Smith
- Sold in 1959.
- 1923/1926: Insured by LCPS system in 1923/26 as a “colored” school in Mercer District. Source: LCPS Staff. (1924-1936). Insurance Record. Purcellville: LCPS. (Found in LCPS Records Office, Round Hill. Black Book with Red Spine and Corners) Page 24/25.
3) History of Willisville:
The earliest official education for African-Americans in Loudoun following the close of the Civil War included private efforts like Willisville where the land was obtained from farmers for the benefit of local “colored youth” to be educated during the week and to pray during the weekend, whereas the actual school house was paid for by the Freedmen’s Bureau, and I suspect the teachers were also paid by Freedmen’s, with help from the local community, which was common.
Life could be hard at the school, as documented by a petition by the patrons in September, 1930. “We, the patrons of Willisville, feeling and knowing the danger which will befall our children in case a wind storm or some other catastrophe strike the already damaged building, petition the School Board of Loudoun County to give some close attention at once and venture aid by looking after the school building and bracing it to take some other preventative measures to correct further damage to the lives of our children.” 1930 Petition by Willisville (Location: Petition Folder, LCPS Archives) The building, as noted in insurance files, was originally constructed in 1921, so it was only nine years old at the time of the petition.
Evidently some relief did occur, according to a follow up petition of February 5, 1931 to the School Board and O.L. Emerick.
“We the patrons of the Willisville School take this opportunity of thanking the Board in answering our petition; straightening up our building and securing more seats thereby relieving our children of a little of their uncomfortableness. But we are not satisfied; we are still desirous of somethings. This has been brought to bear upon us by the steady increase, overcrowded conditions. We realize that some re-adjustment is necessary and it must be made if any benefits are to be derived for our children.
1. The crowded condition of the school room makes it unsanitary, unhygienic. Think of each individual child breathing the breath of the others regardless of whatever disease germ. This condition permits the spread of contagious disease which is already claiming too many of our people daily.
2. The crowded condition makes for disorder. Think of 3 and 4 people crowded on each seat cramped, boring together each other for elbow room; proper spacing always makes for better order.
3. There is also a loss of interest on the part of the child for study, the teacher crowded for time, not being able to give the child the necessary information to interest him for real study as a child should. We are willing and do send our children to school; we want them to study; to learn, to grow to be useful men and women, good citizens but we know that the best result cannot be obtained in the unsanitary, unhygienic atmosphere of a close and crowded school room.
Therefore, we as patrons are asking the board that Mrs. Gaskins, our faithful teacher, be released of a part of the heavy burden she has carried for years with an increase this year; an enrollment of 76 pupils average daily attendance 70 or more.
4. That the Board will for the coming term 1931/1932 build us a larger school or an additional room to the old building and supply us with a new teacher for the same. Making our school a two-room school; one that is much needed one that will be greatly appreciated by patrons, teacher, and children.
We are willing to do our part; to do our best, and we are asking the school board, if it will give this matter (most vital to us) the best consideration and give our children an equal chance to learn in the best possible environment.
We shall be pleased to have an early reply that we may get lined up with our share.
Respectfully submitted, Willisville patrons.”
Signed by twenty patrons. Willisville Petition of of Feb 5, 1931 (The petition is the LCPS Archives in the petition folder) Perhaps the school board agreed to the second petition as well because an addition was constructed by 1934.
— We have also found an undated document, which 23 suspect was 1945, showing the list of children to be transported from the “colored” community of Howardsville to Willisville. Three African-American families settled the hamlet of Howardsville in the 1870s, including the Reid family which was represented on the document. Location: LCPS Archives, Transportation Folder. Howardsville to Willisville Transport. For research on Howardsville, see also Loudoun County African-American Historic Architectural Resources Survey, created by History Matters, September 2004, and sponsored by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors & The Black History Committee of the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library Leesburg, VA. In addition, consider, HOWARDSVILLE: The Journey of an African-American Community in Loudoun County, Virginia by Kevin Grigsby, self published September 2, 2013. We suspect that the memo might be from 1945 because another memo from the County-Wide League on the Consolidation of Schools dated March 20, 1945 spoke of the need to move Howardsville Community students with transportation to Willisville; (see page on Willisville) but this is just a guess.
The schools used coal and wood for heat, which wasn’t always easy to acquire, as seen in a plea in January, 1956. The instructor had no coal and noted that all she did have was dirt “that doesn’t half burn. Source: Round Hill Center Records Office. (Box labeled Union Street. Folder Marked Coal Deliveries (1948-1956).
The school was finally sold in 1959 and the children were transported to Banneker. The sale itself was done at public auction on Saturday, April 4, 1959 at noon on the steps of the Loudoun County Court House. Structure was described as a two room frame school house. The school board’s title was held in Deed Book 9K, Folio 410, which is held in the Archives of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Leesburg. Source: Poster for Public Auction, Schools Box #2, Archives of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Leesburg.
The following is a draft history of Willisville School from the Reconstruction era to its sale. I fully anticipate more issues. Willisville. Note: Even though the school was not in Upperville, that was the post office used for mail in the 1950’s.
Photo By Thos E. Sims, Jr. Source: Insurance Analysis and Permanent Record – Property of Loudoun County School Board: Garrett Insurance Company (Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company), Leesburg, Virginia. October, 1940. Source: (Blue Insurance Binder, Edwin Washington Archives, Round Hill, Loudoun, Co., Va.)
Edited by Larry Roeder, MS, Contact. (c)