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Plans developed to rebuild Randolph- Macon College

South Boston News
The Randolph Macon Main Building
SoVaNow.com / October 12, 2011
The Virginia Methodist Historical Society Board came to Boydton to discuss plans to rebuild the original Randolph Macon College Main Building, found near the intersection of Jefferson Streets and Highway 58 in Boydton. Randolph Macon is the oldest continuously existing Methodist College in America, and was located in Boydton from 1832 until 1868.

The Old Brunswick Circuit of the United Methodist Church only recently reacquired the property containing the remains of the Main Building of Randolph Macon College and one other building. It was sold in 1879 to a Boston minister who established the Boydton Academic and Bible Institute – a school for former slaves, which operated until 1935.

Stephen Mansfield, president of the Virginia Methodist Historical Society said, “We usually meet in Richmond, but felt it was important to support the Brunswick Foundation and its restoration efforts,” which includes the original Randolph Macon campus.

The Brunswick Foundation was formed to identify, preserve, and interpret historic sites in the old Brunswick Circuit, including Randolph Macon, Mason’s Chapel, one of the earliest Methodist churches in Southside Virginia, and the first Methodist school established in America, Ebenezer Academy.

The Brunswick Circuit is called The Cradle of Methodism” because it is the oldest Methodist circuit under continuous appointment in America. Originally, it included 14 Virginia and 2 North Carolina Counties.

Local attorney Walter Beales led the discussion about the Randolph Macon project and screened a video giving the history of Randolph Macon from its beginnings until it moved to its present location in Ashland, Virginia. After the video, Society Board members toured the Randolph Macon site with the ruins of its Main Building.

Over time, the Randolph Macon campus grew to nearly 400 acres with several buildings, including the Main Building with its classrooms, administrative offices, library, student dormitories, and chapel, the Steward’s Hall, where meals were served, the President’s House, and several faculty residences.

A number of these buildings are still in use today, including the President’s House, currently a private home, Steward’s Hall, also a private residence, and three faculty residences. These buildings are found on both sides of Highway 58 not far from ruins of The Main Building.

Beales explained, “The current owner of Steward Hall restored its facade nearly to its original look.” However, the three faculty residences “have been significantly altered.”

Boydton was selected as the site for the Randolph Macon for several reasons, according to Beales. First, the College needed to be located away from metropolitan areas, “so students were not distracted by the worldly influences of city life.” Second, the residents of Mecklenburg County, which at the time was one of the wealthiest counties in the State, pledged $10,000 toward the founding of the school. Third, the area had large, inexpensive tracts of land, some of which were cleared, but most of which were wooded - thus providing timber for heating the school buildings.

The “primary factor,” Beales said, for choosing the Boydton site was the location, close to the geographic center of the Virginia Conference, which included North Carolina as well as most of Virginia. The founders believed students and donations from North Carolina and Virginia congregations would support the College.

Members of The Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation are undecided about future uses for the Randolph Macon Campus. Their immediate goal is to raise enough money to stabilize and then restore the remaining parts of The Main Building.

Beales asked Board Members of the Virginia Methodist Historical History to “brainstorm and suggest the highest and best use” of the 12- acre site, and two historical buildings.” He offered that the site is served by a 4-lane US highway, and high-speed fiber optic cable.”

The Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation is a 501(C)(3) corporation open to anyone interested in the preservation and interpretation of the sites in the “cradle of Methodism.” Anyone wanting more information or to join The Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation should write to The Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation at PO Box 385, Lawrenceville Virginia 23868 or go to the website at http://www.oldbrunswick.org.

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