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February 19, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

East Farm Female Seminary

Slate River Ramblings_John_Hartwell_Cocke

Gen. John Hartwell Cocke

In about 1845, John M. Harris and his brother and neighbor, James Harris, purchased 781 acres on Marrs Creek, adjacent their properties. Previously the residence of George M. Payne and family, John M. Harris proposed a new school which he advertised in the Richmond Whig:


It is contemplated that this newly instituted Seminary, as a Boarding and Day School, under the government and instruction of Rev. G. C. Chesley of the Presbyterian Church, will go into operation on the 1st of February, and close the 1st of November. The buildings recently occupied by Morton Payne, Esq. and located in Buckingham county, 7 miles below Scottsville, will be fitted up for the accommodation of a number of young ladies. In regard to society, health, &c. of the neighbourhood there can be no objection. All branches usually embraced in the thorough English course will be taught here; also, Music and French, if required. The government and discipline entirely parental. Col. John M. Harris, the present owner of the buildings, residing a few hundred steps from the institution, will accommodate boarders. — Boarding may also be had with the Principal.

TERMS, per session of 10 months:

Board, including tuition in an English course, $100

Music and French — On reasonable terms.

References — Gen. John H. Cocke, Geo. P. Holeman (sic), M.D., Hon. Nath’l H. Claiborne, Rev. E.D. Sanders, &c. &c.

Gen. John Hartwell Cocke lived across the James River at Bremo in Fluvanna County. His wife, Louise, attended Trinity Presbyterian Church with the Harris family. Dr. George Payne Holman lived nearby on the old Jordan plantation and was an elder of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Just two years later, in 1847, the Harris brothers announced the sale of these 781 acres. Did the Seminary close at the same time?

Coming next: Ridge Farm


Leave a Comment
  1. Harry Stuart Holman / Feb 23 2015 5:33 pm

    Dear Reader,

    This must have been a first-class school looking at the endorsers. First, we find it was endorsed by Gen. J. H. Cocke.of “Bremo,” Fluvanna County. He worked along with the Hon. Sen Joseph Cabell and the great Jefferson in founding The University. Secondly, it was endorsed by Dr. George Payne Holman–a Yale graduate, who was the physician of this neighborhood, having lived in the northern part of Buckingham County. Both were widely known in this part of Virginia as men of education and learned accomplishments.

    The fate of the school seems to be a mystery.

    Harry Stuart Holman

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 23 2015 5:48 pm

      Dear Harry, Many thanks for describing the endorsers of John M. Harris’s school, East Farm Female Seminary. I agree, for the moment, the fate of the school is a mystery.


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