Princeton Times

Mercer County Memories

October 26, 2012

Mercer County Memories: Mercer County Schools build new facilities

PRINCETON — Resuming our look at the history of Mercer County, courtesy of Kyle McCormick’s “The Story of Mercer County,” (Charleston Publishing Co. 1957), and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, courtesy of Benson J. Lossing’s book “Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” which is a reprint of the 1848 original kindly provided on loan by Dr. O.J. Bailes, we now continue with the early history of education in Mercer County.

In 1933, the district system of education was replaced by the current county unit. Dr. E.C. Wade was the first county superintendent of schools, followed by Charles H. Archer, who served for a number of years. Under Archer, the county began an ambitious program of school building in 1946, which was continued under the leadership of W.R. “Pete” Cooke and Mercer County Board of Education president A.G. Burton of Princeton and

continued by subsequent boards.

From 1946-56, Athens (Consolidated) School, $250,000; Bluefield High School, $925,000; Matoaka High addition, $150,000; Montcalm addition, $100,000; Park Central High School completion, $160,000; Princeton High School (the current Princeton Middle School), $925,000; and Spanishburg High 1st unit, $250,000. All were paid via bond issue.Current and special levy funds built an addition to Memorial School, $90,000; addition to Princeton Junior High, $90,000; completion of Bluestone School, $140,000; Completion of Bluewell School, $50,000; new building for Camp Creek School, $25,000; Concord Training manual arts shop and classroom, $12,000; conversion of Beaver High to junior high school, $150,000; Cumberland Heights Elementary, $125,000; new Dunbar School, $65,000; new Flat Top school, $25,000; new building Giatto, $20,000; addition Glenwood, $60,000; new building Kegley, $20,000; new building, Lerona-Speedway, $75,000; Oakvale renovation, $50,000; new building Silver Springs, $90,000; and addition to Whitethorn Elementary, $90,000. The number of one-room schools declined from 80 to 15 during this period, and the building program cost $5 million.

Going to the Lossing book, we come to Braxton County’s namesake, Carter Braxton, born at Newington in Kings and Queens County, Va., on Sept. 10, 1736. His father, George Braxton Sr., was one of the wealthiest farmers in Virginia and his mother was the daughter of former Royal Council of Virginia member Robert Carter.

Both died when he was rather young. Braxton went to William & Mary College. Upon graduation, he married at 19 to Judith Robinson, daughter of one of the wealthiest landowners in Middlesex County. Their combined estates made Braxton one of the weathiest men in his home county.

After his wife died in childbirth, Braxton went to England from 1757 to 1760. Upon his return, he soon remarried, to the daughter of a Mr. Corbin, the royal reciever-general of customs for Virginia. They would have 16 children together. Despite his connections, Braxton would become an avid patriot, supporting Patrick Henry’s anti-Stamp Act resolutions in the Virginia House of Burgesses to which he was elected in the early 1760s. In 1769, Braxton was a member of the Virginia Convention which was dissolved by Lord Botetourt, the royal governor, dissolved it for perceived disloyalty. He joined the group who assembled and signed a non-importation act.Botetourt died in 1770 and was replaced by Lord Dunmore, who had continual conflicts with the Assembly. One of those conflicts saw Dunmore dissolve the Assembly in 1774.

In return, 89 legislators, including Braxton, formed a convention to elect delegates to the Continental Congress. Braxton also served as high sheriff of his county briefly but refused to do so under Dunmore.

In 1775, Braxton himself was elected to Congress, replacing the deceased Peyton Randolph. He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence and served his term before returning to Virginia soon afterward. The year of 1777 saw Dunmore make an attempt to seize the munitions stored at Williamsburg, an attempt opposed by a military force led by Henry. Braxton intervened and worked out an agreement which in effect saw Dunmore abdicate his position in return for safe passage for him and his family aboard a British ship.

After Dunmore’s departure, Braxton served in the newly formed Assembly, serving with little interruption until 1785. In 1786, he was elected to the council of the state, holding it until 1791. He was then reelected to the same office in 1794 where he continued until within four days of his death on October 10, 1797 at the age of 61, of an apparent stroke.

To comment on this column write to me care of Mercer County Memories at P.O. Box 1199, Princeton, WV 24740 or e-mail me at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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