Byron C. Smith’s article, “Where is the Grave of Samuel Kercheval? And Other Matters Relating to the Life of the ‘Herodotus of the Valley,’” Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society Journal, (2015), makes known that Stephensburg Academy was the first formal school in Stephens City. The article informs that in December 1808, the Virginia General Assembly recognized Samuel Kercheval along with twelve other prominent men from the Stephensburg community as trustees of the Stephensburg Academy. When in September 1809, and again in December of the same year, Kercheval wrote as the Secretary and a Trustee of the Academy to Thomas Jefferson requesting money to support this new community school, Jefferson politely declined.
Old Public Schools Report of Frederick County, VA, undated, compiled by James V. Hutton, Jr., cites the following; “prior to the establishment of public schools in Frederick County in 1870 pursuant to the act of the Virginia General Assembly of 1869-1870, there were many private, subscription and community Old Field schools.”
As early as 1846 a state law passed allowing Virginia counties the option of establishing “free” schools, however local voters opposed them in both 1847 and 1856. In the pre-war years and throughout the nineteenth century, many citizens preferred to minimize state involvement regarding the education of children. They believed education for all was not a function of government. Instead, they maintained such training came within the scope of the home as a family responsibility. On the family farm, parents needed their children for planting and harvesting crops, tending farm animals and a multitude of other survival chores.
In Thomas Kemp Cartmell’s book, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants, Chapter XXX, Educational Developments, published in 1909, Cartmell cites “When the Civil War closed, the changed conditions of the State, with her new Constitution, provided for a free school system through special taxation. We may endorse freely the principle, though we condemn much of the mismanagement, throughout the State; but in late years the subject has received more careful attention by our legislators; and rapid strides are now being made in this laudable work.”
The James V. Hutton, Jr. document cites, ”the first public schools placed in operation in 1870—1871 are not known. It is known that by the spring of 1871, the district school trustees of Stonewall, Gainesboro, Back Creek and Opequon (Shawnee had not been formed yet) established about seven free schools per district.”
Most, if not all, were private schools converted to public use, primarily small one-room buildings, built with brick and later rusticated concrete block. The first three in the Opequon District nearest Stephens City were Canterburg, built in 1879 on Route 522 near Nineveh (conveyed by James H. Canter and wife), Painter Hill, built in 1886 on south side of Marlboro Road 2 miles west of Stephens City (conveyed by Lemuel Painter and wife) and Deerfield, built in 1888 on Marlboro Road, 4 miles west of Stephens City (conveyed by Harvey A. Richard).
During this time period, citizens of various communities had constructed many of these schools without tax monies from general county funds. Frequently land had been loaned by the owners with the understanding that it was to be used for educational purposes, reverting back to the owners if use was discontinued. Back then before busses and improved rural roads, the schools themselves had to be scattered out within walking distance of the students’ homes or they did not attend school. These community-based schools contributed to the small village cohesiveness and allowed students of farming families to travel to school by foot.
A Rosenwald elementary public school for African Americans in Stephens City was built on the northeast corner of Grove and Martin streets in 1921. The school was destroyed by arson on December 26, 1939. African American students then attended class at the St. John’s Baptist Church on the south end of Main Street until a replacement school was built at the same site in the early 1940s. Students who finished the seventh-grade then attended Douglas School in Winchester, built in 1927, which had upper grades (up to 11th grade by 1941) and was the only African American higher-grade school in Frederick County. The Douglas school closed after Winchester schools were integrated in 1966.
According to the first annual Frederick County Public School Report, the average monthly teacher’s salary in 1871-1872 was $27.30. By 1885, the teacher’s salary had increased to $30.00 per month and in 1921 the monthly salary was $55.00.
An 1874 First Grade Teaching Certificate for the Commonwealth of Virginia required proven ability in the subjects of spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, gramma and geography. The teacher would need to furnish satisfactory evidence of professional ability, zeal, experience and good morals and general fitness.
Byron C. Smith, Executive Director & Curator for the Newtown History Center, provided insight about local oral tradition. Tradition maintains there was a time in the late 1800s, through 1920 when children attended school buildings that served more than just students and teachers. In the rural Opequon School District which included Stephens City, churches and even private homes doubled as classrooms. One of the earlier buildings leased by the Stephens City Academy, was a brick house that once resided where the Methodist Church now stands on Main and Locust Streets. Known in the period as the old Captain Joseph Long Tavern, it was a brick Federal-style house built and licensed as a tavern in 1835. Like many hotel buildings at the time, it was used by local militia and magistrates and by town trustees for frequently scheduled meetings.
“The Joseph Long Tavern served as a private school from approximately the 1870s until 1913,” Smith said. This building was demolished to make way for the current Methodist Church which was completed in 1915. “Oral tradition also maintains that in the time between the demolition of the old Joseph Long Tavern School building in 1913 (to make way for the Methodist Church) and the opening of the Stephens City elementary/high school (5516 Main Street), students were spread out around town in different houses and buildings that leased space for classrooms,” Smith said.
One of them was at 5381 Main Street (Thornton McLeod wainwright building) where the upstairs room on the brick side of that house (warehouse space) was used as a classroom. Smith continues with local lore. “At one time there was an exterior stairway that ran up the south gable of the brick side of that house. At the top of that stairway was a door that opened into that room on the second floor. Today there are louvered shutters covering that doorway on the outside. This is the one known occurrence for buildings used as classroom space between 1913 and 1916. There could be others but we do not have any written or oral traditions about them.” It would not surprise Smith if the churches here in town served as temporary classroom space during that transition period between the demolition of the Long Tavern and the opening of the Stephens City School.
At Vaucluse just a few miles south of Stephens City, a second-floor room of the train station functioned as a public-school classroom (approximately 1900 through 1920) for children of that neighborhood. Smith recalls a Sessions Oak Cased Drop Octagon “Schoolhouse” clock which was donated by a former Stone House Foundation board member, David Powers. Powers received the clock from the Claude Strickler estate. Powers informed Smith that both Claude and his bother Harry Strickler attended school on the second floor of that railroad station. Claude and Harry spent many afternoons watching and anxiously waiting for that clock to signal the end of the school day. Claude became a collector of railroad antiques and rescued the clock from the Vaucluse Station before it closed.
Compulsory school attendance laws were first passed in Massachusetts in 1852 and invariably spread to other sections of the country. Virginia passed its first compulsory school attendance laws in 1908. The first high school in Stephens City was built in 1916, however, children had to acquire their own transportation in order to attend. Since Frederick County was an agricultural area, many children completed their education, received their certificates at the end of 7th grade and went to work on the family farm.
During the early 20th century, the school was in session just seven months a year. Even so, attendance remained a serious problem; parent cooperation, integral to getting children to attend school, was less than robust. The state responded to the problem in 1922, when the General Assembly enacted legislation requiring student attendance and providing for the distribution of textbooks. Although mandatory attendance in Frederick County schools was not initially imposed, by the 1920s the idea of sending one’s child to school rather than to work not only was legislated and implemented but also was promoted and voluntarily accepted by increasing numbers in society.
The Later School Years
Kim Begnaud, a resident of Middletown explains how her families attending Frederick County Schools reflect their gradual evolution through the years. Her grandmother Mildred Luttrell Christian grew up in Shockeysville, Virginia and attended the Salem School (built in 1889) near Timber Ridge. The building closed in the 1930s. Her dad Jerry Christian was raised up on Cedar Creek Grade and attended Mt. Airy School until it closed in 1950, then finished up at Stephens City School. Kim lived on Perry Road and attended Stephens City Elementary until it closed in 1975, then moved on to Bass-Hoover Elementary, then Aylor Middle and James Wood High (both Amherst and Ridge Campuses), graduating in 1983. These days Stephens City students attend Sherando High School, opened in 1993.
Randolph-Macon Academy’s English 7 Students Dive Deep into Myths
Unraveling Myths: From Ancient Tales to Modern Interpretations.
Last week, the main hall of the Middle School building at Randolph-Macon Academy transformed into an arena of tales, legends, and myths, thanks to Mr. Malinconico’s English 7 class. With enthusiasm, creativity, and a profound sense of inquisitiveness, the young students set out on a journey to unravel the mysteries of myths from across the globe.
At the heart of this “Mythology Showcase!” were essential questions carefully crafted to guide students into a deeper understanding of myths. Questions such as “What are myths?” and “How can myths assist people in making sense of the world?” sparked the flame of curiosity. The age-old practice of telling and preserving myths was delved into, along with exploring the essential lessons and morals these stories might impart to their listeners.
The physical manifestation of this study was a series of tri-fold display boards, each carefully created by the students. The center panel offered a definition of myths, their purpose, and a retelling of an assigned myth. The left invited onlookers into a realm of imagination with students’ original myths. Meanwhile, the right panel provided an analytical touch, contrasting the assigned myth with its Greek or Roman counterpart.
Beyond academic insights, this showcase was a stepping stone for students to hone their public speaking and leadership skills. The act of crafting an original myth, juxtaposed against the backdrop of time-tested legends, allowed these young minds to exercise their creativity. Such endeavors speak volumes about R-MA’s ethos. Both educators and learners here don’t merely focus on traditional learning. They seize every day as an opportunity to mold excellence nurturing academic and life skills.
In the heart of this mythology tapestry lies a bigger narrative. It underscores that myths, ancient or new, not only entertain but also foster understanding, build bridges, and inspire excellence in multiple dimensions of life. It reminds us all to keep stories alive and, in doing so, keep the vibrant spark of humanity glowing.
Learn more about Randolph-Macon Academy https://rma.edu/
Warren County Builder’s Association Hosts Candidate Forum – Wednesday, September 27, 2023
An Insightful Gathering for the Upcoming Elections.
On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, Warren County will be abuzz with political fervor as the Warren County Builders Association (WCBA) takes center stage at the Government Center on Commerce Ave. Scheduled for 6:00 p.m., the forum promises to be an informative evening dedicated to presenting the visions and policies of candidates for the forthcoming local and state elections.
As election season heats up, the need to create platforms where the public can gain insight into the thinking of their potential representatives becomes ever-crucial. A candidate forum, like the one being organized by the WCBA, provides an essential space for candidates to articulate their positions on a gamut of issues, ranging from infrastructural development to educational reforms.
For the upcoming elections, several local and state office positions are being contested, attracting a myriad of candidates. The Front Royal Town Council has Glenn Wood, Skip Rogers, Melissa DeDomenico-Payne, and Connie Marshner vying for positions. The Warren County Board of Supervisors will see Rich Jamison, John Stanmeyer, Cheryl Cullers, and Nicole Wanzer making their cases to the public. Additionally, the Warren County School Board has Kristen Pence, Leslie Mathews, Amber Mabie, and Melanie Salins on its candidate list. Other significant roles up for election include the Clerk of the Court with Angie Moore, the Warren County Treasurer with Janice Shank and Allison Ross, VA Delegate District 31 with Steve Foreman, Delores Oates, and Grace Morrison, and the Warren County Sheriff’s position, for which Crystal Cline is running.
With such a diverse pool of candidates, the community eagerly anticipates an evening full of engaging discourse, insightful discussions, and a clearer vision of the future that each candidate brings to the table. To ensure that those unable to attend won’t miss out, the Royal Examiner’s camera crew will be present to capture every moment of this pivotal forum.
The WCBA, as a non-profit trade association network, has always been at the forefront of community-building initiatives. Their commitment is seen in their efforts to bring together builders, professionals, suppliers, and trade employees with a shared dream of sculpting a better community. Through such events, they further their objectives of promoting responsible growth, updating members about crucial industry developments, and influencing policy and regulation at the local and state levels.
In the whirlwind of election season, having informed choices is imperative. Thanks to endeavors like the candidate forum by WCBA, residents of Warren County will have a better understanding of the individuals who wish to represent them and shape their community’s future.
Safety First: ACES Drives Initiative to Protect Pedestrians on West Criser Road
Push for High-Visibility Flex-Stakes Aims to Secure Prominent Front Royal Routes.
In Front Royal, the ever-busy West Criser Road plays a pivotal role for pedestrians, cyclists, and students. Recognizing the road’s prominence and inherent dangers, the Advisory Committee for Environmental Sustainability (ACES) is spearheading a crucial fundraising campaign. Their objective? To install high-visibility flex-stakes, enhancing the road’s safety and ensuring a secure passage for all.
West Criser isn’t just any road in Front Royal; it forms an integral connection between Eastham Park and the esteemed Skyline High School, creating a widely frequented loop. Cyclists, joggers, and walkers often use this scenic route to revel in the town’s natural beauty or engage in daily exercises. Moreover, the pathway is indispensable for students traveling to and from Skyline High and Skyline Middle School.
However, the increasing foot and vehicular traffic warrants a closer examination of the road’s safety features. The proposed flex-stakes, with their high-visibility feature, are specifically designed to draw attention to the pedestrian shoulder, offering a clear and safe boundary. This installation is not only expected to shield pedestrians and cyclists but also act as a reminder for drivers to slow down, particularly in this densely populated zone.
ACES’s commitment to environmental sustainability has always been evident in its various initiatives. With this campaign, they extend their dedication towards ensuring that Front Royal’s natural beauty can be enjoyed safely by all its residents. This fundraiser isn’t just about installing stakes; it’s about building a more secure community, one flex-stake at a time.
As ACES pushes forward with its mission, community support becomes paramount. Donations, both big and small, can play a part in safeguarding the residents of Front Royal and enhancing the overall safety of West Criser Road. With collective effort and community backing, these high-visibility flex-stakes will soon become a reality, offering peace of mind to many.
Please consider donating to help make this section of roadway safer for everyone to use.
Adverse Weather Can’t Dampen Spirits at Celebrate Kids Day
As dark clouds loomed and Tropical Storm Ophelia made its presence felt on September 24th, the Warren Coalition’s 10th annual Celebrate Kids Day proceeded with a vigor and energy that the storm couldn’t dampen. A change in venue to the Health & Human Services Complex did little to deter hundreds of families from partaking in this beloved event.<br><br>
The popular inflatable rides found a new home at the 15th Street Gym, thanks to a quick-thinking reorganization plan. Nearby, Diversified Minds from Warren County Public Schools offered their conference room for local agencies to set up shop. The sheer number of attendees highlighted the event’s significance: rooms brimming with activities, face painting sessions in the “band room,” and games galore.
Though the pony ride vendor had to cancel, the rest of the outdoor activities, like the pitch burst and petting zoo, stood their ground. Nearly a thousand visitors, both young and old, made their way through the attractions, enjoying everything from a T-ball challenge to inflatable rock walls.
Inside, organizations like the Salvation Army, St. Luke’s Community Clinic, and the Department of Social Services, to name a few, had tables set up, offering a range of activities and information. As children flitted between buildings, taking in all the fun, some were drawn to the pitch burst. There, brave volunteers sat poised for a splashy surprise, all in good fun and for a charitable cause, raising over $6,000.
Thanks to generous sponsors like Front Royal Dental Care, Fraternal Order of Police, and City National Bank (which covered the entire petting zoo’s expenses), the event’s price remained a mere dollar per child. Local businesses, from Horton’s Nursery and Garden Center to Martin’s, also chipped in, showcasing a heartwarming communal spirit.
Reflecting on the day, Christa Shifflett, Executive Director of the Warren Coalition, remarked, “This is a testament to our community’s resilience and togetherness. Everyone, from sponsors to parents, played their part, ensuring that Celebrate Kids Day was a roaring success, even in the face of unpredictable weather.” The Warren Coalition, a beacon for health care and substance abuse awareness since 1994, remains dedicated to fostering a safe and nurturing environment in Warren County.
Shenandoah Rail Trail: An Ambitious Vision On Track
Stitching Towns and Nature Together with a 50-Mile Thread.
A broad coalition of elected officials, economic development leaders, business owners, nonprofit partners, and state legislators gathered last week in Front Royal to discuss progress on the proposed Shenandoah Rail Trail. This ambitious 50-mile multi-use trail would convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a shared-use path connecting nine towns and three counties along the Shenandoah Valley.
The meeting provided an opportunity to update Senator Tim Kaine on the status of the project and emerging funding opportunities. Kaine has been a longtime supporter of the trail, noting during the discussion that he’s an avid cyclist familiar with the region’s trails. “When I first heard about plans for the Shenandoah Rail Trail, I thought it would work great, and it’s exciting to see the progress made,” he said.
Kaine emphasized the value of demonstrating successful trails to gain local buy-in, saying, “The more model trails are up and running, the more small towns can see the benefits and want to get on board.”
The diverse group highlighted how their coordinated efforts are building momentum for the project. Natasha Skelton of The Conservation Fund, which is negotiating the acquisition of the corridor from Norfolk Southern, said: “We have strong localized support up and down the corridor, with all nine towns and three counties in agreement that this is what they want to do with the vacant rail line.”
The newly formed Friends of the Shenandoah Rail Trail will spearhead private fundraising efforts. The trail partnership is also pursuing federal funding through a $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. At the state level, $35 million has been allocated so far from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Proponents emphasized the potential economic benefits of the trail for tourism and small businesses focused on outdoor recreation. “We see this as an asset that businesses can build off of,” said Joe Petty, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Economic Development Authority.
Others highlighted community engagement progress, including a series of public meetings that collected input on trail preferences from over 700 residents. Outreach to diverse populations, such as non-English speaking poultry plant workers who could use the trail to commute, is also underway.
The scenic value of trail bridges slated to cross rivers and rail lines was noted as iconic attractions for visitors. Local connections via trails and greenways linking to the main corridor will also help residents access the amenities.
Senator Kaine’s visit gave the partners a high-profile platform to share their vision and progress. With strong local alignments, funding pursuits underway, and engagement efforts to spread awareness, the Shenandoah Rail Trail initiative appears to be building unstoppable momentum.
Behind the Badge: A Day in the Life of a Warren County Sheriff’s Animal Control Officer
Protecting the Animal Kingdom, One Day at a Time.
At first glance, Deputy Greg Long of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office may look like any other law enforcement officer. But, his daily encounters with animals of all kinds, from snakes to stray cats, set him apart.
Deputy Long serves as the county’s primary animal control officer. This role sees him overseeing the annual statistics of received animals, ensuring that the training requirements for the animal control division are up to par, and liaising with the general public about animal-related matters.
Not just limited to domesticated pets, Deputy Long’s responsibilities also extend to inspecting commercial kennels twice a year and managing the dangerous dog registry. These dogs, once identified as ‘dangerous,’ are subjected to yearly checks to guarantee public safety. Even hybrid animals, which surprisingly find their homes in the county, aren’t exempt from these periodic checks.
Despite what some might think, animal control isn’t a one-person job. The department also employs several animal control officers who aid in handling various situations. These situations range from dealing with livestock to answering calls about injured wildlife. Their collaboration with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ensures that injured wildlife, such as deer or birds of prey, receive the proper care they need.
When asked about the necessity of having deputies handle animal control, Deputy Long explained the intricate legal framework surrounding animal control. Officers go through rigorous training, amassing 120 hours of comprehensive learning. This training educates them on first aid for animals, recognizing different species and breeds, and even discerning potential rabies cases.
One of the many commendable initiatives under the purview of the department is its emergency sheltering plan. Echoing the challenges faced during hurricanes in states like Florida and Louisiana, where animals were left stranded due to inadequate shelter provisions, Warren County’s response involves a fully equipped trailer. This trailer, loaded with essentials like cages and ID tags, aims to ensure that no pet is left behind during natural or man-made disasters.
The vehicle that Deputy Long operates may appear ordinary, but it’s specially adapted for animal transport. Designed with the comfort and safety of the animals in mind, it boasts air-conditioned cages, ensuring animals aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures. From dogs to ducks, this vehicle can transport a variety of animals safely and comfortably.
One challenge that Deputy Long highlighted is the issue of stray cats. While many might think that animal control should handle these felines, the reality is more complex. The shelter’s policies allow them to accept cats only under specific conditions.
At the end of the day, whether it’s assisting a neighbor distressed by a barking dog or untangling a dog that’s gotten itself caught up, Deputy Long and his colleagues are committed to serving both the human and animal residents of Warren County.