Woodstock "Colored School," 1867-1937

Between 1867 and 1937 a school for Woodstock’s African American population was held on this property.

In 1865 the Freedman’s Bureau, a Federal Agency, opened the “Lincoln School” in Woodstock for African American Students. The location of that original school is unknown, but in 1867 Mt. Zion Methodist Church opened and the school moved into that building.

Enrollment for the Freedman’s School varied between 15 and 60 students between 1865 and 1870. Teachers were Rev. D.A. Miles (1865), Mary J. Knowles (1868), Missie E. Ovrette (1869) and Rev. Carter (1870). Typically, the school opened in January and closed its session in either May or June. Courses included reading, geography, arithmetic, writing, and history. A Sabbath School was also sponsored to increase educational opportunities and held every Sunday. An 1868 report noted there were an average of 25 students in that class during the year.

In 1870 Virginia’s new “Underwood” Constitution was enacted and required the creation of a public school system for white and black students. Educational opportunities for grades 1-7 were provided free of charge under the new system. The Freedman’s Bureau held the last session of the “Lincoln School” that year.

Presumably a new public school opened in Woodstock’s Mt. Zion Methodist Church in the fall of 1870, but no record exists indicating its location or the dates of its term. Emma Dorster was listed as the “Colored Teacher” in an April 1871 edition of the Shenandoah Herald. In November 1875 Shenandoah County Public School Superintendent John Grabill wrote the “colored” school occupied the church building and the teacher “takes a commendable interest in his school seems to be improving.

Things were not necessarily easy in for this segregated school. Funding was limited and support from the general community was typically lacking. Textbooks and supplies were typically hand me down from the white schools. Teachers were paid less and had less formal education. Money for building upgrades, paint, utilities, etc. was often lacking. Parents and members of the African American community often conducted fundraisers to make up this difference.

The local African American population advocated for construction of a school house. At the time, building and maintaining school buildings was under the auspice of the Woodstock School Trustees, a group appointed and funded by the Woodstock Town Council. The council had funded the purchase of a building for the white students in 1871, but would not fund the construction of a school for black students until 1882 following several years of lobbying by the African American population and the county school system.

This one room, wood frame school was constructed to the rear of Mt. Zion Methodist Church on property owned by the congregation. The land was provided free of charge and funds for the school were shared between the community and town council. This provided a single class room for the students. Educational activities, such as plays, assemblies, etc. continued to be held in the church.

In 1924, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company showed the school on their fire insurance map. At the time it was a single story, wood structure, 15 feet in height and heated by a wood stove with no electric lights. It still offered classes for grades 1-7. No high school for African Americans existed in the county and students wishing to pursue their education had to travel to Manassas Virginia until a school was constructed in Winchester in the 1930s. In contrast, the Woodstock School on Court Street, utilized by white students, was a three story, brick structure, with electric lights, modern conveniences, and classes for grades 1-12.

The wood frame “Colored School” would be utilized until 1937 when it was replaced by a new structure on Water Street. After this time the property was sold and the school demolished.



The site of the school is currently located on private property behind Mt. Zion Methodist Church and is not open to the public.