Halifax, Virginia   •  Historic District
Mountain Road Walking Tour
Halifax Academy

The News & Record - Halifacts, by Kenneth Cook

(The following article on Halifax High School is reprinted from a clipping dated April 26, 1926, name of paper not known. The copy was provided by Albert R. Via Jr.)


School has made
much progress

Halifax is one of the oldest towns in the county. Named for the Earl of Halifax, it dates back to the early days of our country, and is therefore invested with an air of historic interest and romantic tradition. ...some of the landmarks of the early days still remain. Many associations cluster around the Courthouse, the Masonic Temple and old St. John's Church, but of all the historic spots in the village, none perhaps has a more interesting story than the building situated off from Main Street which is now known as Halifax High School.

The main part of this building was erected about 1830 by Dabney Cosby, who also built the Courthouse, the Masonic Temple and St. John's Church. The school was then known as Davies Institute. Mr. Davies the author of "Davies Arithmetic," was the first teacher. In 1836, the school was incorporated by the General Assembly as Halifax Academy. The trustees were Richard Logan, James C. Bruce, John R. Edmunds, Thomas Ballow, John Wimbish, William Bartley, Thomas H. Averett, John L. Llewellyn, William Holt, John B. Carrington, and Thomas L. Spraggins. Other trustees were appointed from time to time by the General Assembly.

Mr. Davies was succeeded by Mr. Smith of North Carolina, father of Egbert, Alphonso and Henry Louis Smith. Egbert is a leader in the Presbyterian Church of the South; Alphonso, who died just a few years ago, was widely known as a writer, speaker and educator. For several years he was professor of English at the University of Virginia and at the time of his death he held the chair of English at the United States Naval Academy. He was the author of several textbooks, biographies and other forms of literary work. It is interesting to note that Dr. Smith's grammar is now being used in our schools. Still another son, Henry Louis, is now president of Washington & Lee University. We feel sure that Mr. Smith, the father of such a family, must have left an impress upon the school in the early days.

Mr. Merriwether Lewis, a descendant of the Lewis who went on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, followed Mr. Smith, and he in turn was succeeded by Mr. Joseph James Averett.

This brings us to the sixties when Mr. John Henry Powell took charge of the building on the hill and opened up a private school for boys. Judging from the account given by some of the oldest citizens of our town, Mr. Powell must have been a splendid teacher and a most unusual man. Boys came from all over the county, sometimes walking several miles to receive the benefit of his instruction. Some of the students who attended the Academy at that time were Judge Barksdale, Howard Cosby, Craddock Owen and William Howerton.

It seems remarkable that Mr. Powell was able to keep the school going during the trying years of the Civil War when other educational institutions had to be closed on account of lack of funds and pupils. It was not only kept running, but actually had a part in the war. Just as the cadets of V.M.I. won fame for themselves at the Battle of New Market, so the boys of Powell's school won a name for themselves at the Battle of Staunton River Bridge. The records tell us that 150 boys and three men under Mr. Powell defended Staunton River Bridge against 3000 Yankees.

After the war, Mr. Powell went to Richmond and established a school for girls which became famous.

Halifax Academy was rented to the Presbyterians who conducted a private school in the building, but on account of losing money soon gave it up.

The school building was used as a residence, at which time it was occupied by Mrs. Wauhop, Mrs. Borum and Mrs. Chastain.

Several years later the Academy was opened again and taught by Mrs. Armstead.

She was succeeded by Mr. L.C. Watkins in 1874. The building was again used as a private school for boys. Among the number enrolled we find the names of A.B. and L.L. Kinsolving, J.H. Wimbish, Frank Willingham, J.E. and P.C. Edmunds, J.D. Clay, R.H. Haskins, Willie Clay and J.D. Noel.

In 1894, since property was decreasing in value, the land around the school building was sold by order of the trustees to Mr. J.R. Edmunds, Wood Bouldin and R.W. Watkins, the building and three acres on which it stood being reserved.

The following succeeded Mr. Watkins: P.H. Carpenter, Captain May, Granville Terrell, Nat Coles, Howard Terrell, Miss Ann Crews and Miss Marion Forbes. The school first became a public school under Mr. Carpenter. Next came Mr. J.A.C. Chandler who is now the president of the College of William and Mary.

Those succeeding Mr. Chandler were: Mr. P.D. Lipscomb, E.S. Ligon, C.E. Bowry, J.S. Lambert, W.D. Cox, C.W. Moomaw, Miss Champe Douthat and J. Easley Edmunds.

In 1912 Miss Ellen Bouldin became principal. At this time, only 56 pupils were enrolled in the entire school, and these pupils were not thoroughly graded. Miss Bouldin's first task therefore was one of classification. By degrees, this work was accomplished. At the same time the number of pupils gradually increased, conditions improved, and work of a higher standard was done. In 1914, due largely to Miss Bouldin's untiring efforts, the school was added to the list of accredited schools in the county. On account of the large enrollment, the building was remodeled and a new room was added.

In 1919 Mr. Hal Meridith succeeded Miss Bouldin. It was in that year that the Wilson and Perihelion Literary Societies were organized.

Mr. Meredith was followed by Mr. R.L. Lacy, who did a great deal toward the upbuilding of the school. Through his efforts a library and athletic room were added to the building. In 1921, Mr. Lacy organized the Athletic Association and succeeded in arousing among the students a real interest in athletics.

Since 1923 the school has been under management of Mr. W.S. Newton. In 1924, two new rooms were added, making room for the 185 pupils now enrolled. The trustees at present are Mr. J.W. Johnson, Mr. E.S. Lacy and Mr. John Martin.

In looking back over the years, we find that our school has had a varied experience. It has had many great leaders and many men and women who have gone out of its doors have made a name for themselves in the world. Although it is small, it has a large place in the hearts and lives of those who know it, and we feel that we can truly say, as Daniel Webster did in the famous Dartmouth College case, "It is, as I have said, a small school. And yet there are those who love it."

Newspaper clipping provided by Audrey Hazelwood, current owner.

From the Academy return to Mountain Road. Facing the road is the Masonic Lodge..

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