"How well do l remember the night before my ﬁrst day in school. I remember the night before because my mother washed my little white coat and today l can see it hanging on the line in the kitchen. I had been told that I was going to school the next day.
The ﬁrst day in school l don't remember, but one day soon thereafter I could not ﬁnish eating my apple at recess. The recess was one hour long. Mrs. Otelia Robinson, who was our teacher, let me sit in the back of the room to finish eating the apple."
Myrtle Pryor Brown
The land on which the Piney Branch School is situated was purchased in 1878 by trustees of the adjacent Piney Branch Baptist Church for the sole purpose of educating area children who were also members of the church. One of four one-room schools for African American children in the Chancellor District, it provided an education through the seventh grade.
The school, under the jurisdiction of the Spotsylvania School Board, operated five months during the academic year. It was officially named "Piney Branch" in the 1919-20 Spotsylvania School Board minutes; prior to that time it was referred to as "the colored school in Screamerville."
As African American one-room schools began to consolidate into the John J. Wright School, enrollment at the Piney Branch School decreased. No longer sustainable after 65 years of operation, the Piney Branch School was purchased for $280 on June 4, 1945 at public auction by the trustees of Piney Branch Baptist Church. It is still owned and maintained by the church.
According to research conducted by former student, Lillian Robinson Pryde (b. 1922), 168 children matriculated through the Piney Branch School. Among those students were her parents, James Henry Robinson (1883-1937) and Clara Dean Brooks (1882-1961). ln addition to Mrs. Robinson (above), our confirmed list of educators who taught there were:
Annie Crump · Myrtle Johnson · Grace Travis
Edna Bradford · Minnie Lawson · Martha Tyler
Florence Branch · Evelyn Lewis · Lillian White
Elizabeth Ennis · Edith Ramsey · Rosa White
Carrie Golden · Helen Reid · Virginia White
Maria Howard · Elmore Thurston
(upper left) Myrtle Pryor, c. 1925
(center) Above is the second school building constructed on the site. It was built c. 1903.
(upper right) Right: Otelia Upshaw Robinson (1895-1935) was the wife of Albert Walter Robinson and mother of 10 children (7 boys, 3 girls), all of whom attended the Piney Branch School.
Born in Bowling Green, Caroline County, Virignia, to Tarlton and Eugene Upshaw, she earned her teaching degree from the Virignia Normal & Industrial Institute in 1914.
The African American Heritage Trail is supported in part by a Preserve America grant administered by the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. This product is based upon work assisted by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.