Mt. Airy School

In June 1880 Levi Gochenour deeded a one-acre lot to Shenandoah County Public Schools for the purpose of building a schoolhouse for the families of the surrounding community. It is believed he provided this particular lot, located a half a mile from his home, so that a schoolhouse full of noisy children would not be built near his home as originally proposed.

Captain John H. Grabill, the first Superintendent of Shenandoah County Schools, recorded in his diary that he visited the school in 1882. This school building was a simple affair with a single privy for both sexes and shiplap siding. Later dual toilets, running water, a tin roof, and a large vestibule were added.

For almost sixty years the schoolhouse was the center of the community, not only providing two generations of students with an education, but also serving the community as a Drunkard (Brethren) Church and a gathering place for socials, dances and cultural events such as plays.

The children took turns carrying buckets of water from a nearby spring to the school. Later, the Federal Government’s Works Progress Administration funded the digging of a cistern that is still present near the entrance of the school building.

Older boys would arrive early during the winter to start the stove which sat in the middle of the schoolroom. Linden Coffman tells the story of how one day the boys decided they wanted to have a day off, so the boys overheated the stove. When the teacher arrived and saw the red hot stove, she was so scared that she called off school.

Miss Pearlie Fravel who began her teaching career in 1923 at Mt. Airy, was one of the first teachers in Shenandoah County to have a 2-year teaching certificate from Harrisonburg Normal School (James Madison University). This caused problems with the superintendent who did not like the idea of paying her more because she had a degree. She introduced a new subject to the curriculum, physical education.

Mt. Airy’s provided an education to children through the seventh grade. Afterwards, they could pay tuition to attend High School in Woodstock if they could afford to the transportation to town.

After the completion of the 1938 school year, Mt. Airy closed. The schoolhouse property reverted to the heirs of Levi Gochenour. It was last used to shelter sheep by John Reynolds, a great, great grandson of Levi, and now sits vacant.