Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yanceyville Female Academy (Yanceyville, North Carolina)

The Yanceyville Female Academy apparently dates from the early 1830s (but Katherine K. Kendall says late 1820s) and existed in some form until at least 1900 (and possibly beyond). It seems to have offered classes in one or more buildings. See the excerpts below. It appears that several of the early Yanceyville schools were somewhat distant from the town center.

Part of the Yanceyville United Methodist Church cemetery apparently was the site of the Yanceyville Female Academy. The property was sold to Julius Johnston in 1909 (Caswell County Deed Book 64, pg. 7). The parcel subsequently was sold to H. F. Brandon and his wife, who in 1920 sold it to B. S. Graves. In 1941, B. S. Graves sold it to the Yanceyville Methodist Church trustees (with an agreement that the church move a pack barn that would be  on the property line). From information in those deeds, and another referenced when the land was purchased for the Yanceyville Female Academy (Caswell County Deed Book CC, pg 119), the Yanceyville Female Academy parcel appears to have been adjacent to (and possibly surrounded by the Yanceyville United Methodist Church property). The lot in question was originally sold by Paul A. Harralson to Azariah Graves, Dr. Allen Gunn, and Dr. Nathanial Roan Commissioners of the Yanceyville Female Institute.

On March 21, 1817, Allen Gunn purchased 243 acres on Moon's Creek from James and Eleanor Davis, Eleanor Davis being the widow of Thomas Gunn, deceased. The land was adjacent to that of James Burton. Allen was listed as the head of a family on the 1830 U.S. Census for Caswell Co., NC. He lived near John Gunn. Allen Gunn was apparently a physician. In 1834, he helped build a female academy in Yanceyville, Caswell Co., NC, in order "to promote and encourage female education." Allen Gunn died June, 1848 in Caswell Co., NC, at 59 years of age. In the 1840 U.S. Census, Allen was living alone in Caswell Co., NC. Allen never married and had no children. Accordingly, his large estate was divided among his brothers and sisters, and among the children of those brothers and sisters who had predeceased him. The voluminous court record paper trail has helped further prove the relationships of the extended Gunn family. Allen's wealth apparently was at least partially created from slave trading, as it appears that he and partners were so involved.

Source: Thomas Gunn, Jr. (c.1738-1800) Ancestry.

Our female School is declining, & I am afraid that it will not last long - Winkler has gone to Hillsboro to teach music - We have got a Scrub School master here by the name of Anderson with only 12 Scholars in the male academy, & not many more in the female. In fact ____ ____ ____ ____ Yanceyville. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____. But we have no preaching and not much intercourse in any way, except in the gatherings & crowds about Jerry's pukery.

Source: Paul Haralson Letter 10 February 1839.

As far as known Thomas D. Johnston never sought public office but his name appears on many boards such as trustee of Yanceyville Female Academy in 1836 and in 1839 on a commission to "rebuild the old jail and add a kitchen and smoke house."

Source: Thomas Donoho Johnston entry in the Caswell County Family Tree.

Miss Eliza J. (Lizzie) Lowndes (1850-1940) apparently at one time operated (and/or taught at) the Yanceyville Female Academy.

The following is from The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 331 (Article #411, "Albert Yancey Kerr" by Mary Frances Kerr Donaldson):

Albert Yancey Kerr was born February 28, 1878 in Yanceyville, the son of John Hosea McNeill Kerr and Eliza Catherine Yancey Kerr. he was named for his grandfather Dr. Albert Gallatin Yancey. His early schooling was at the Yanceyville Academy located near the old Methodist Church where his most effective and remembered teacher was Miss Lizzie Lowns.

"There were private schools [in Caswell County] after the Civil War, of course, just as there had been before, and many children received a good foundation for their education in schools for which tuition was charged. Several of the pre-war academies continued to operate for some time afterwards. Most notable of these was the academy in Leasburg operated by the Rev. Solomon Lea for boys and for girls. Business directories for various years between 1867 and 1884 list the Somerville Female Institute conducted by Lea and his daughters, while the Leasburg Male Academy of which Lea was principal was listed in 1867 and 1869. The Yanceyville Female Academy under the direction of Miss Lizzie Lowndes was listed in 1872, 1877-78, and in 1884, while the Dan River Institute, also in the county seat and under the direction of Joseph Venable, was listed in the 1869 directory. . . ."

Source: When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 395.

The 1893 Report of the North Carolina Superintendent of Education listed the Yanceyville Female Academy. Its head was Ella Slade, with seventeen white students (both female and male).

It was only a hop, skip , and jump from there to the home of Cora's father, Squire Samuel S. [Satterwhite] Harrison, on his 1200A. farm where Purley is now located. The house, built early and added to ca. 1850, was on the Yanceyville-Danville Plank road and was kept painted a "pearly white," thus giving Purley its name, so legend has it. It was a stage-stop and post office also. Cora had attended school at Yanceyville Female Academy and Greensboro College and being in mourning for her lost sweetheart did not finally say "yes" to "Capt. Zeke" until May 24, 1870.

Source: Entry for Cora Ann Harrison in the Caswell County Family Tree.

If government was the town's business, education was close on its heels. In 1802 the Caswell Academy was built on the land of Solomon Graves and near the present Civic Center. It was first for boys but in late 1820's girls could attend. The Female Academy was organized in late 1830's and was near the Methodist cemetery. There were two buildings, one called a music hall, where Eliza Gould in 150 gave her music concerts. Her husband Benjamin Gould was the schoolmaster who came from New Hampshire. From 1880-1910 this school was used as school for boys and girls. Miss Lizzie Lowns was its most famous teacher.

Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 75 ("Yanceyville" by Katherine Kerr Kendall).

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