This sketch of what was at the time--almost a century and a half ago--the
outstanding girls' school in the county, perhaps in this part of the state,
was published in the "Warren Record" by Mabel Davis. It was written by Alma
Scull Williams, the facts having been supplied by Mr. Williams' father, Dr. Ed.
Mr Billy Kearney, grandfather of my father-in-law, Mr. R. E. Williams, was a man of wealth and influence. He married Miss Maria Alston of "Old Cherry Hill." Mr. Kearney's home, "Huntersville", was first owned by Mr. Jacob Hunter, hence its name. The house was located several miles from Shocco Springs, wealthy and most popular health resort in this section of the state at the time.
Mr. and Mrs. Kearney reared one son, Whitmel, the eldest child, and eleven daughters. All these daughters had to be educated. So Mr. Kearney built a house in a large grove about a mile from his home to be used as a school. In the fall of the year when his tobacco was hauled to Petersburg he journeyed to that city and while there employed Mrs. Mary I. Lucas to come to Shocco and open a boarding school for young ladies.
The school was not a large building, but its coat of white paint gave it such distinction that the plantation slaves called it "The White House", and thereby got its name. The school stood on the exact location that the home of J. B. Davis (granddaughter of Mr. Kearney) stands today. Mrs. Lucas engaged Mrs. Cottrell as her assistant. Many of the young ladies of the aristocratic families for miles around attended. The eight oldest Kearney daughters went there, and on finishing, each in turn entered Salem College.
When Mrs. Lucas retired she went back to Petersburg to live. Some of her letters to Mrs. Kearney are to be found in the scrap book of Mrs. Kearney's daughter, Mrs. Van Williams, now in possession of Mrs. J. B. Davis
Those known to have attended the school were: ... Rebecca Pitchford (Mrs. Edward (Ned) Davis); Mary Pitchford (Mrs. Jackson Egerton); Nancy Pitchford (Mrs. Henry Foote); ... Matilda Cheek (Mrs T. J. Pitchford (Dr.)); and it is thought her sister, Emily Cheek (Mrs. John Burt); Dolly Alston (Mrs. Willie Daniel of Halifax County).
My father-in-law, Mr. R. E. Williams, whose mother was Valeria Kearney, tells, and I quote his exact words: "It was a splendid school and two of the most intelligent women who ever lived in this section, Aunt Rue and Mrs. Ned Davis never went to school in their lives to anyone but Mrs. Lucas. Mrs Ned Davis was a clipper for using big words, and she knew what they meant and how to use them. They were both fine women."
This is the story of the school that many of the fashionable young ladies of ante bellum days attended, who when they went into homes of their own, developed into personages of such dignity, prestige, and charm, that in after years they were referred to as the "Grand old ladies of Warren."