Sunday, May 17, 2009


The following information came from The Beginnings of Public Education in Virginia, 1776 - 1860, by A. J. Morrison, Issued by the State Board of Education as a Report Introductory to the Series of Annual Reports of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1917.


An act incorporating trustees for establishing and conducting a seminary of learning, at the town of Fincastle, in the county of Botetourt:

"Whereas it is the interest of all wise, civilized and free govern'* ments, to facilitate as much as may be, the diffusion of useful knowledge among its inhabitants: And whereas to this end sundry persons of the county of Botetourt have given considerable donations, for the purpose of endowing and supporting a seminary of learning, at the town of Fin- castle, in the said county, and have represented to this present general assembly, that their designs would be much accelerated were a law to pass incorporating them into a body
politic, etc., etc.

The said president, wardens, and directors, or any seven of them, shall have full power and authority to meet at such times as they shall think proper, and determine in all cases where a greater number of poor and indigent apply for admissioa than the funds ean support, (to whom the preference shall be given) and to continue those so admitted for
such length of time as they, or a majority of them, shall think necessary, having regard to
the genius and capacity of the students, and of directing the study of such to any branch of
.literature, to which in their opinion the genius of the student is best adapted. . . . The
treasurer, previous to his entering on the duties of his office, shall give bond, with security
to be approved by the corporation, in the penalty of three thousand pounds.'1

This act of incorporation was amended and re-enacted in 182*4, provision being made for
a new board of trustees (as if the institution hact lapsed); the powers of the new board were the same as those of the old. Botetourt Seminary, as planned was an institution of extraordinary designs.

Martin's Gazetteer gives the town of Fincastle an academy in 1834. This may or may not
have been the seminary, for in their first report to the second auditor, the trustees of the
seminary state that the institution "opened in May 1837," with forty students, the Rev. Thomas Brown, principal, and that there were fifty to sixty students in sight. This report may be taken to mean that Botetourt seminary had been closed for some years before 1837. The next report of the trustees gives the seminary fifty students, a principal and assistant, supported by the tuition fees, plus an appropriation of $500. Apparently the
guaranteed salary was from endowment. In their report for the year 1841, the trustees give the number of pupils as fifty-seven. Major Joseph W. Anderson (b. 1836), was a pupil at Botetourt seminary about 1845: "When not yet ten years old, he was sent to the Botetourt seminary, then under the charge of a graudate of the Virginia Military Institute."

It is regretted that more information is not to be had regarding this interesting foundation.*

In 1838 the James River Academy, Botetourt county, was incorporated.

Hening, Statutes at Large, XII, 201.
Acts of Assembly, 1824, p. 75.
Martin, Gazetteer of Virginia, p. 328.
Doc. No. 4, in Journal and Documents, 1839, 1841-42, 1842-43.
Johnson, The University Memorial, Baltimore, 1871, p. 3S3.

No comments: