The African-American Schools of Louisa County

Shelfar School

The following account of the Shelfar School is taken from Pearlie Askew's autobiography.  Mrs. Askew was respected throughout Louisa County for her dedication and leadership.  She held a B.S. from Virginia State University and a Master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  

The next day, I began teaching in an old unceiled one-room school...  I tried to improve the building by whitewashing it outside and inside.  Agnes Cook and Eva Cook helped me with the whitewashing in the evening after school and on Saturdays…I was told that Shelfar School was named after the Post Office.  It was a league school rented by the Louisa School Board.  The County was given a lease on the land and building as long as it was used as a school.

With no teaching materials but textbook, I had to make work sheets for all seven grades…To pay for these supplementary exercises for the classes, the parents cooperated with me in fundraising projects.  This would help pay for the materials I needed to enhance the teaching.  My supervisor, Mrs. Zelda C. Morton, was a source of help in securing educational materials.

The facilities improved through the years during my tenure as teacher and principal of Shelfar School.  The County gave the parents and children an old two-room school that was discarded by the white schools.  With that building, I applied for and was able to get a hot lunch program.  Willing students were the cooks and I served as supervisor.  The students received free lunches for their service, and so did I.

The Parent Teacher Association joined other small schools, consolidating Shady Grove, St. Mark, Spreaded Oak, Thompson Cross Road and Shelfar into one complex...With much hard work and meetings with the school board, we finally realized our goal.  So in 1963, the new five-room Shelfar Elementary School was completed and we moved in with me as the Principal with a staff of four teachers. 

This modern brick structure consisted of five classrooms, a multiple purpose room, office, library, teachers lounge with lavatory, kitchen and storage room as well as modern facilities.

My tenure there was cut short because of the integration of the Louisa County System.  I was the first teacher asked to teach in a formerly all white school.  It was the Apple Grove Elementary School...  My relationship with the faculty was professional, polite, and cordial at all times. 

The next year, the Apple Grove School and Shelfar School were combined into the Apple Grove-Shelfar complex, and I was moved back to the Shelfar Building where I taught fifth grade until my retirement in 1975.



The photo on the left is of the 1918 school in the Gays community just across the South Anna river.  When white schools were consolidated in 1940, their schoolhouse (which had already been moved once from the Dongola Church area to replace the one shown in the photo) was moved again to Shelfar.  The photo on the right was taken at Shelfar in 1956.  Photos courtesy of The Louisa County Historical Collection and Evelima Thurston. 

Please help us gather more information about the Shelfar school. We are seeking first person narratives, photographs and written accounts about the school. If you have information to share, please contact the
Louisa County Historical Society. Email:

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Funding for this project was provided by The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and
The Louisa County Historical Society