Sunday, July 20, 2008

Burch's School

As I suspected, the School Commissioners' sale of surplus lands--mostly school lots--provided the location of that African American school that Washington Burch and others initially established. I was surprised: the school was southeast of town and not due east, and it was about 9 miles south of La Plata!

The reader will recall from my last two postings that William and Ann Matthews had conveyed a small lot (about 0.40 acres) to Washington Burch and four other trustees, all African American men. Those trustees later conveyed the parcel to the Board of School Commissioners of Charles County. On January 23, 1912, after a period of more than twenty years of uninterrupted use as a school house lot, the commissioners sold the parcel to Pere Wilmer, Jr., having abandoned it as a school site. Wilmer had purchased a portion of the surrounding tract, variously called Glasva and Glasvar, from the Matthews in 1884 (Land Records BGS 7/10). Glasva extended eastward from modern day US 301 along Budds Creek Road to Allens Fresh. A more precise location cannot readily be deduced from the land records. Perhaps one day we could find it and conduct some archaeological testing to learn about the lives of the students, teachers, and the surrounding community.

The research has not uncovered explicit information as to why the School Commissioners opted to abandon the site. It may well be that enrollment had dropped below the 10 or so students needed to cost-effectively operate the school. It is evident that, unlike many one-room school houses in Maryland, it did not fall victim to consolidation...the establishment of multi-room schools serving large areas made accessible by motor vehicles. Consolidation does not appear to have begun in earnest in Charles County until 1927, 15 years after the closure of the Glasva school. Between 1927 and 1931...a period of five years...the County closed 30 schools. By way of comparison, the School Commissioners sold 64 properties (mostly abandoned school sites) between September 1899 and November 1934, a period of 36 years.

There were schools in Port Tobacco, one of which we reported on (the existing school house on the north side of town). We'll write about the others as our research develops.


No comments: