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March 24, 2014 / Joanne Yeck

1856: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute

Buckingham_Female Collegiate Institute

Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute

In 1856, something was stirring in Buckingham County.

A significant number of valuable Buckingham farms and other businesses were advertised for sale in the Richmond newspapers.  Did sellers attempt to take advantage of a strong market?  Did they anticipate a dip? Was the climate in Buckingham shifting towards increasing industry, making those properties more valuable? Did the political battles over the Kansas Territory concern Buckingham County slaveholders?  Was it just coincidental?

Among these advertisements was a personal ad placed by William N. Page, indicating that the Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute was at the end of its financial rope.  “Pecuniary necessities” threatened to force its closing in December of 1856.  Page’s ad read:

SITUATION WANTED. – The subscriber, who has had some thirty years experience in teaching, and for the last four years and a half been a Professor in Buckingham Female Institute, on account of its pecuniary necessities, according to the records of its Board of Directors – desires a situation as Principal of a Female Seminary, or a professorship to some Female College.  An elder in the Presbyterian Church himself, he would prefer a place where his family could enjoy gospel ministrations with brethren of his persuasion. His success in teaching is deemed sufficient reference.  For terms &c address

Wm. N. Page, A.M.

Gravel Hill P.O. Buckingham County, Va.

Whatever the situation was in 1856, the Institute did not close that December.  According to Buckingham historian William Shepard, “it seems that most of the students were removed from the school by 1862.”  Indeed, on the 1860 census, Rev. John C. Blackwell was enumerated as President of Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute, along with other teachers, a Steward and a Matron.

For more about Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute see “At a Place Called Buckingham.”


Leave a Comment
  1. RENA GANAWAY / Jun 24 2019 3:43 pm

    What role did the Gannaways have in the establishment of this female institute?

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 24 2019 3:52 pm

      Theodoric C. Gannaway was an original trustee of Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute, along with Alexander Rives and Beverly A. Brown. For much more about the Institute search Slate River Ramblings and see my book, “At a Place Called Buckingham.”

  2. Fran Harris-Hill / Mar 24 2014 5:01 pm

    Another grand structure lost to Buckingham. Wanting a local female school, the citizens of Buckingham County found a location and solicited funds in 1831 to build such an Institute. The Virginia General Assembly officially incorporated the Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute on January 13, 1837, making it the first college for women in Virginia, maybe even in the US. I just heard that a fire destroyed the main building in the early 1900s but the President’s House remained. This house was built about 1853 and I remember reading that it was very grand compared to other homes of college Presidents. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the last standing piece of history associated with this Female Institute. Unfortunately, in 2010, this was torn down. Many of us including HBI sent letters begging as the APVA had offered lots of options but the owners wanted it down; I believe for more pasture. Pictures were taken and we passed them around and the image was horrifying. Very sad day for Buckingham County.

    • Joanne Yeck / Mar 24 2014 5:37 pm

      Fran, Thanks for adding your thoughts. They are much appreciated. Joanne


  1. Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1856, Part III | slate river ramblings . . . .

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