The African-American Schools of Louisa County
Former African-American Schools
in Louisa County, Virginia
St Mark School

Around the turn of the century, St Mark School began as a local community funded school on the property of The St Mark Baptist Church in Dabneys, Virginia, on Factory Mill Road. The original building was a long narrow structure.

The building and funding for the teacher were provided by church members and parents of students. The school was furnished with old pews from the church; students did their lessons without the benefit of desks or tables. An early teacher was Mrs. Ophelia Mickie, a member of St Mark Church who taught at the school during the 1920's. During that period, most teachers were young adults who had completed at least the 7th grade; which during that period was mostly women, as boys had to quit school to work on the farm. Some of the young teachers who taught at St Mark from the 1920's through 1950's included Ms. Fannie Thompson, Gertrude Johnson, Queen Coles, Sally Lewis, Miss Burrell, Sallie Ann Harris, Irma Anderson Britt, and Miss Mary L. Dabney. Miss Dabney taught at St Mark in the early 1930s, left for a number of years, and then returned to teach there during the 50's and 60's.

For reasons unknown, the original St Mark School was closed and demolished around 1926. For several years afterwards, students were taught in private residences. Some of the students attended classes in a vacant home owned by Mr. Harvey Mickie. Others attended classes in the home of Mr. Phil Hicks.

Around 1930, a new school was built about 150 yards from the original school. The front door, which faced Factory Mill Road, was in the center of the building; there were no windows on the front.

The teachers taught students in the 1st through 6th grades in the one room school house.

Typically, the upper class students assisted the teacher in teaching the younger students reading and writing. The textbooks provided to students were typically used books collected from the all-white schools. The building was heated with a tin woodburning heater in the center of the building. Wood was provided by the county and stacked underneath the school to keep it dry. A hand operated pump in front of the school provided water for drinking and hand washing. A small counter in the rear of the building held the water bucket and wash basin. The water in the bucket would sometimes freeze solid over night during the winter. There was blackboard on each side of the front door, which was in the center of the building. The teacher's desk was in front of the blackboard on the right side. In the left front corner was a cupboard that students used to store their lunches. Occasionally, a mouse would make its home in the cupboard and sample some of the lunches before noon recess.

Outside, in the rear of the building, well-worn dirt paths led to separate boy and girl toilets; these were typical slab wood outdoor privies with two holes over a pit.

St Mark Elementary School closed its doors permanently in 1962 when the newly constructed Shelfar Elementary School opened in Orchid, VA. Nearly all of the St Mark students and Miss Dabney were transferred to Shelfar.

Oral history extract from Josephine Robinson Fleming

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