OLD BRUNSWICK CIRCUIT FOUNDATION SITES
Original Randolph-Macon College, Boydton Virginia
The original Randolph-Macon College was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1830 in Boydton, Virginia. This is the original site of the oldest Methodist-affiliated college, still operating in the United States. The college was named for Congressman John Randolph of Charlotte County, Virginia, and Nathaniel Macon of Warren County, North Carolina. It opened on October 9, 1832; however, in 1868, largely due to economic difficulties caused by the Civil War, the college was moved to Ashland, where it operates today. The vacated buildings later housed a freedman’s school to educate recently emancipated slaves and later the Boydton Academy and Bible Institute that operated until the mid-1930s.
Remains of the Main Building located .1 mile east of the intersection of U.S. Route 58 and Jefferson Street (at Triangle Grocery). Entrance between two brick pillars on the north side of Jefferson Street. Historical markers are nearby on U.S. Route 58.
Open visitors 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. [or dawn to dusk.]
In order to preserve this historic site, The Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation purchased 12.5 acres of the original nearly 400-acre college campus containing the remains of the four-story “Main Building” and the headmaster’s cottage of the later Boydton Institute. Only the walls of the old Main Building remain and are deteriorated beyond restoration for occupation. Plans are to remove the brick wall height down to the top of the first story which will show the heart of the building’s use including its chapel and will allow for historical interpretation.Interpretation will explain the history as a nineteenth century college in the South, its evolution pre Civil War through wartime to Reconstruction into the early 20th century. Exhibits will explore effects of slavery on the institution and vice versa; life in 18th century college; college’s impact on education in US by following alumni’s careers; explore college/school’ impact on the life of African-Americans post war.
Ebenezer Academy was established sometime between 1783-1793 by Bishop Francis Asbury, head of the Methodist church in 18th century America, and is thought to be the first Methodist school established in America. It passed out of the hands of the church but remained an important school for many years.
Entrance driveway is on the east side of U.S. Route 1 in Warfield, Virginia, 6.8 miles north of its intersection with Route 46 (Christanna Highway).
Ebenezer Academy Park is open visitors 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The school building no longer stands; the site is a quiet commemorative interpretive park. The school building outline is marked by the foundation stones with a memorial obelisk at its center. Plans are to provide more extensive interpretive signage. Funds and information are needed. Further research is desired on former students, the building appearance, and additional information on the Ebenezer Greys a local infantry unit of the Confederate Army.
Edward Dromgoole House, circa 1786.
Edward Dromgoole (1751-1835) had emigrated to America from Ireland in 1770 and had been converted from Catholicism to Methodism. While preaching on the Brunswick Circuit, Dromgoole met, converted, and married Rebecca Walton, daughter of wealthy planter, John Walton. As a wedding present, Rebecca was given 200 acres of land in southern Brunswick County on which they built “Canaan” their home and the home of their family for generations [until the 1920s]. Through the years Dromgoole acquired extensive lands in the Valentines area and operated a thriving plantation and a store, named “Sligo” which was the name of his home town in Ireland. He was also a magistrate and a member of the County Court for 45 years. He rode the circuit until 1784, then took over the ministry at Woolsey’s Barn, later called Mason’s Chapel which eventually became Olive Branch Methodist Church in Gasburg. Dromgoole was devoted to the cause of freedom. During the Revolutionary War, Dromgoole read the Declaration of Independence from the courthouse steps in Halifax, NC for the benefit of those who could not read.
The Dromgoole home was frequently visited by the American Bishop Francis Asbury. It was at Canaan that Bishop Asbury, Reverend Peter Pelham and Dromgoole met to organize Ebenezer Academy, which was the first Methodist school in America. Canaan was also the birthplace and home of Edward’s youngest son, George Coke Dromgoole, who served in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate; in the US Congress for 9 years where he was serving at the time of his death in 1843.
2578 Christanna Hwy, Valentines, VA
The site is located .5 mile east of Route 46 (a Virginia Scenic Byway) .8 mile north of its intersection with Route 626 (Gasburg Road).Open by appointment only. Call ________ or email______________.
In 2008, in order to preserve this architectural and historical gem, the Foundation purchased the Rev. Dromgoole house and 16 acres The long term goal is to preserve and restore the house and grounds and to add a structure for meetings and retreats in this quiet natural setting. The house will serve as the focal point and visitors will be able to watch progress as the house slowly undergoes restoration. The house reconstruction and research into the life and times of the Dromgoole family can serve as a tool for teaching and study.