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JGS to Visit the “Mother of Tennessee Schools”

June 27, 2017
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Salem Presbyterian Church was built in 1894 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style designed by nationally recognized architect, A. Page Brown, and funded in part by Mrs. Nettie Fowler McCormick. Photo by Chad Fred Bailey.

On Saturday, July 29, 2017, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society will visit Washington College Academy, 116 Doak Lane, Limestone, TN. This historic visit will begin at 9:30 am in Harris Hall, constructed between 1842 and 1846 and oldest building on the college campus, which was damaged during the Civil War when troops from both sides alternately occupied it for barracks and restored from 1866 to 1878, where the Jonesborough Genealogical Society’s Board of Directors will convene in a short business meeting.

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Construction on Harris Hall began in 1842, but was not finished until 1846 when slaves completed the interior plastering. Harris Hall is the oldest building on the campus. Photo by Chad Fred Bailey. 

At 10 am, members of the Washington College Board of Directors will provide a guide tour of the historic campus, which dates to 1780, when the Rev. Samuel Doak opened Martin’s Academy, named for the governor of North Carolina. Martin’s Academy was the first institution of higher education west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1795, the school name changed to Washington College, which has remained its name ever since. After the guide tour, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society will host a picnic on the grounds to those in attendance. The JGS asks that those who wish to attend RSVP by email chadfredb@gmail.com or by phone (423) 791-8295 by July 20th, so we can have a count for the tour and picnic.

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The Guest House or Foster House is believed to have been used as one-room school prior to 1920. Photo by Chad Fred Bailey. 

            Today, the campus is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places with many of the buildings listed as contributing to historical or cultural significance. One such building, the Guest House, is referred to as “The Little White House” in school documents. This building is believed to have been a one-room school prior to 1920 when grades four and five met in the building. The building was used from 1948 to the early 1960s as a house for Mr. Art Foster, vocational agricultural teacher, and his wife. By the 1980s, it was used as the Beta House. Another place of significance is the Old Salem Cemetery, which dates to 1780, and contains approximately 700 burials, of which approximately 500 are marked. The grave of the Rev. Samuel Doak and his two wives are buried in this cemetery. In addition, bricks in the cemetery, near the grave of Samuel Wallace Depue’s grave, mark the spot of Martin’s Academy.

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