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March 13, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Education in Buckingham: 1861-1865

Buckingham_Female Collegiate Institute

Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute

Among the Buckingham County-related manuscripts held at the Library of Virginia is a speech given in 1937 entitled “The Contribution of Buckingham [County] to the Confederacy.”  Delivered before the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the manuscript is unsigned and attributed to William Shepard.

In it, Shepard is candid about the state of public education in Buckingham as it entered the Civil War.  “The outlay of public funds for education, or free schools as they were contemptuously called, was the magnificent sum of $480 per year.”  Yet private education was supported by the landed gentry.  In addition to Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute, Shepard mentions Physic Springs Academy for Boys and Maysville High School for Girls. The High School offered a ten month session.  The Classical curriculum was provided for $30.00, Music for $25.00, English curriculum for $20.00, and board at the school was an additional $120.00.

The county also maintained the Buckingham Literary Academy, a sort of Literary Society.  According to Shepard, it was organized by William Evans who lived at Merioneth at the south-eastern end of Willis’ Mountain.  The Literary Academy assembled regularly “in various parts of the county for the purpose of discussing books, current topics and poetry.”

He closed this part of his speech saying, “At the conclusion of the formal affairs of these organizations, brandy of local manufacture was usually served to assist the assembled guest[s] to digest some of the indigestible prose and poetry of local authors.”  This would not have included the very popular prose of William Evans’ grandson, Dr. George W. Bagby!

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