The Female Seminary

Location: North corner of Congress and Water Streets, New Market, Virginia

Built: circa 1780-1800


29 Mar 1845: Between Andrew Speaker (Spiker) and Jane, his wife, of the one part, and John Strayer, Samuel Moffett, Zachariah Sherly, William Wickers, Jr., Joseph R. Sibert, Jacob Sommers, Moses Zirkle, Samuel G. Henkel, Jacob D. Williamson, Jr., John D. Zerkle, Noah I. Henkel and Martin Urner as trustees of the New Market Female Seminary of the other part, lot No. 37 in New Market, and the buildings thereon.

Physical Description

This house sits back from the road and looks more like a combined church and parsonage from the outside, than a house. This is due to the addition of the school auditorium and class rooms, which have a double door entrance. While the woodwork inside is fairly plain, it gives the impression of strength and massiveness.

Historical Significance

Dr. Godry (sic) Henkel is supposed to have landscaped the grounds and planted the beautiful trees there now. The several teachers were as follows: Mrs. Bear from Harrisonburg; Mrs. Jessie Hairman Rupert, who came from Scotland as a young teacher in the Ann Smithe Academy at Lexington, Virginia. She visited Kittie Williamson at "Hardscrabble", stayed quite a while and then came to New Market and had school at the Seminary. She hung out the Union Flag during the War. Several soldiers were cared for, and died in this building. When she left this building she built next to the Rouse Theatre.

Mrs. Mary Frances Rodes Harrison came from Albemarle County with two daughters: Mary Lynn and Lucy Rush Harrison. Mrs. Harrison for some years, conducted a school called "The Seminary" in this house. In recent years (1937), this Seminary has been the home of Mary Williamson, daughter of the Dean of Hollins College.

The house still gives on one corner, said to be due to improper filling of the tannery vats, which used to be on this property.

Some of the Williamsons raised in this home were: Mary Williamson Dean, Rush H. Williamson, Martha Williamson (Mrs. William Keysor Price). Rush H. Williamson was at one time the Assistant to the Attorney General (for two terms under Coolidge) and Colonel Donovan was first assistant. He worked under Utermyer of New York City; worked under the Anti-trust Act during Wilson's administration, being the only one of eight to remain; and was for two terms Commonwealth Attorney of Woodstock, Virginia.

Source: Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project, 1937

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Created October 3 2001