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The Saxe Schoolhouse
"Preserving The Heart of a Southside Virginia Community "
compiled and submitted by Onie Mae Colgate Weston Ellington, November
I am writing this history of Saxe School because I am the only person
left in Saxe who remembers ... This is the only original school left
in the county that is still being used in its antiquated state. It still
has the same big black wood stove with the horses on the side and the
original stage. This history will hopefully enable the children of Charlotte
County to truly appreciate the schools of today, as well as, the hardships
many of their ancestors endured to receive an education. I will cover
the history of the building, and how we dressed, played, lunched and
The land for the school was donated by Elizabeth Jeremy and Walter Crews,
to revert back to Mr. Crews if the school ever closed. Before the school
was built, the students attended school in private homes. My brother
and sister attended school in the house in which I now reside in the
room upstairs that is now my bedroom. Mrs. Mabel Crews lived there and
taught the children in the village. In 1913, a one-room school was built
and in 1923 the school moved to its present location adjacent to Southall
Memorial Methodist Church. I received my first formal education in the
one room schoolhouse at age five. Later on two more rooms were added.
children in the village were very fortunate in that they could quickly
walk to school and go home for lunch each day. Students who lived outside
the village often walked two or more miles, even in bad weather. During
extreme weather conditions, the pupils stayed at home. In 1940, the
time of the big snow, we were out of school for two weeks.
Our school day began with the ringing of the big brass bell to signify
that all students needed to promptly enter the building and be seated
to begin the day. We began the day with devotional readings, The Lord's
Prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, and a song. The teacher
played the piano for to accompany us in our singing. It was a wonderful
and uplifting way to begin each day.
all schools of that time, our building was heated with wood. The boys
brought the wood, built the fire, and kept it going all day. If it was
severely cold, the pupils in the back were periodically rotated to the
front of the building to keep warm, and the front students were moved
to the back. This went on all day long to keep students from "turning
Water for the classroom was brought from the well across the road in
buckets. We used a dipper or a cup made from tablet paper for drinking.
Some lucky students had little collapsible cups they brought from home.
biggest "hang up" was the outdoor toilets frequently referred
to as the "johns." There was one on one side for the girls
and one on the other side for the boys. Sears Roebuck catalogs were
used for toilet tissue. Trust me, these toilets were not pleasant places,
and I was deathly afraid of spiders.
for us back then was a totally different experience, too. Students from
outside the village brought their lunch in a tin molasses bucket with
a lid or in a cigar box or a paper bag. They brought whatever they had
left over at home. There was no loaf bread, snacks, or potato chips.
We ate two at a desk with a girl on one side and a boy on the other
We dressed very simply. The boys wore knickers or bib overalls, heavy
wool jackets, and brogue shoes. The girls wore ankle length cotton dresses,
long black stockings, long underwear, and brogue shoes almost like the
boys. All of the girls wore heavy, long black cloaks which made it very
difficult to play at recess time.
all looked forward to recess when we played games like "In and
out the Window," "Drop the Handkerchief," "Hide
and Seek," or my favorite, The Farmer in the Dell." The boys
and girls also enjoyed "Stick Ball." We had a morning recess
and an afternoon recess, which was very relaxing and fun.
was no problem. You did what you were asked to do when you were asked
to do it. We were taught respect at school and at home. We said "Yes
Mam and No Mam and "Yes Sir" and "No Sir" at all
times. We also said "Please and Thank you." If you were punished
at school you automatically knew that you would receive disciplinary
action at home. The teacher was a highly respected individual, and there
was a close relationship between the home and school.
grade teacher was Miss Kate Barksdale, a very devoted primary teacher.
Our room had a long blackboard that extended all the way across the
front of the room. A great deal of our work was done on the chalkboard.
Miss Kate spent hours trying to change Lucy Scott's left handed writing
practice to that of being right handed. Lucy spent hours writing the
word "come" on the board over and over again with her right
Miss Kate won over, but Lucy always fussed about Miss Kate making her
change. Studies were simple. We had a Primer, learned the alphabet,
and learned phonetic sounds to help us learn to read We loved our kind,
third, and fourth grades were taught in this same room. The older children
helped the younger ones, and amazingly, the children were successful.
I suppose the older children helped the teacher survive. In any event,
we all moved ahead, day by day.
In the fifth grade I moved over to the other room with Miss Maggie Layne,
a spinster. She had a pump organ, and every morning in our opening exercises
she pumped that organ and we sang. Her favorite hymn was "Dwelling
in Beulah Land." My favorite was "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
Our studies consisted of history, geography, spelling, arithmetic, English,
and science. We had very few books and no library. We studied Locker
style handwriting, and I continue to use this style today. One of our
favorite activities was our spelling bees. We formed a long line and
took turns spelling; if a student missed a word he had to go to the
back of the line. We also had arithmetic bees for number facts and multiplication
tables. I still think this is a great way to learn this knowledge.
seventh grade I had another new teacher, Mrs. Herman Hamilton from Drakes
Branch. Everyday she brought her dog, Lady, to school with her. One
day Lady had a fit behind the stove. The building cleared out in one
minute. None of us had ever seen anything like that before. That year
Mrs. Hamilton failed the whole class except Louise Tate and me. Boy
were those boys mad! They deserved it though. They had put tacks in
her chair and mirrors on their shoes so they could look up her dress
when she came around the room.
In 1943 the high school closed, and the students rode the bus to Drakes
Branch to school. We all had mixed emotions about losing our school
in Saxe, but we had to move on with the demands of the changing times.
Louise and I were the first two students to be transported to high school.
I got up that morning too excited to eat breakfast. Going all the way
to Drakes Branch to school seemed like a really big adventure back then.
Unfortunately, I didn't like the bus or the smell of gasoline, and I
fainted the first day I went there. I had never seen so many people
in all of my life. I hated it. Some of the school personnel had to bring
me home. I braced myself the next day and weathered the storm again.
I was a proud graduate in June of _____.
the building was auctioned by Mr. Crews. We quickly organized a community
group and bought the building for $1,250. We didn't know how to begin
to restore it. Every window had been broken due to the youngsters balls
and BB guns. We had no money, so we asked Mr. Edward Moon, a prominent
citizen and businessman, to make a monetary contribution to help this
worthy cause. He refused and said we did not need the building. Mrs.
Debbie Jeremy Lipscomb had attended school with J. J. Newberry, of Philadelphia,
Pa., the owner of Newberry, Inc. She decided he would be a good prospect
for a donation. She promptly wrote to him and asked for his financial
help. He responded by saying that if we would raise $ 1,000 he would
donate $2,000. We went to work and raised that thousand dollars. His
check arrived, and we hung his portrait on the wall. All summer and
fall we met every night with the heat and mosquitoes to work on the
building. The men took out the window sashes and the women replaced
the panes. Community spirit was great then. A lot of work was done by
local citizens which saved a tremendous amount of money that would have
been spent for labor. We decided to use the original room for a meeting
room for community and church affairs and the side room for a nice sitting
room. The middle corridor-like section was converted to a kitchen area.
We dug a well, put in two bathrooms, and finally had a comfortable building
for our citizens and church members to enjoy. We redecorated the rooms
and painted the roof and exterior walls. We were pleased with the results.
We had Open House in the fall of 1951 with every aspect of our renovation
completed. A large crowd attended, and we favored our guests with all
kinds of momentous with "Saxe Community Building' printed on them.
Memorial Receives Deed
In 1975 the building was deeded to Southall Memorial United Methodist
Church. This structure has been a great blessing to the church and the
community. We are now in the process of once again doing maintenance
restoration, and we have already raised the money to cover the expense
of painting the interior and exterior parts of the building and replacing
forty window panes. It has recently been registered as a historical
landmark in Virginia; we will have a dedication ceremony to acknowledge
all of the former students who attended the school who are still alive
and present the history of the building.
7, 1998, we had Homecoming at Southall Memorial United Methodist Church
and served lunch to over one hundred attendees in the old school building.
We also recently held a community fall celebration for the young people
of several area churches and approximately seventy-five people attended.
I hope future generations will treasure and appreciate the heritage
that this building represents and continue to use it for the glory of
God and the good of the community.