About this Project

Most histories of Franklin County focus on moonshine. This is certainly understandable, especially given the huge volume of untaxed whiskey that flowed out of the county in the early 20th century. Even so, our research shows that Franklin County was perhaps not as lawless as its reputation would suggest. In addition to making moonshine, the citizens of Franklin County also made an impressive effort to educate their children. Overcoming the rugged terrain, primitive roads, and widespread poverty, Franklin County supported hundreds of schools in the early 20th century. Today, every single one of these schools has closed, and most have been long since forgotten.

Our research seeks to recover these lost communities, placing them within the larger context of rural education, school consolidation, and racial segregation. With generous support from Virginia Humanities and the Department of History at UT San Antonio, we have spent the past year identifying and mapping every old schoolhouse in Franklin County. We have combed through the archives, and we have trekked through the woods. We have gained valuable insights from local citizens who remember the old schools and who graciously shared their knowledge with us.

This project remains a work in progress. We may never find all the schools, but we are always eager to update the maps and the website with new information. If you would like to contribute your stories, photographs, or other memorabilia to this website, please contact us at [email protected]

About Us

This project is a labor of love between a father and a son. We are both graduates of Franklin County High School, and we are both passionate about education. William “Benny” Gibson (Class of 1971) worked as a teacher, coach, and administrator at FCHS for more than thirty years, including fifteen years as principal (1991-2006). He recently published a book detailing the history of FCHSAbraham “Abe” Gibson (Class 0f 2001) is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he teaches courses on the history of science, technology, data, and the environment.

Contact Us

If you have any stories or photos about schools in Franklin County prior to 1950, then we would love to hear from you! We will update the website and provide proper attribution. You can reach us at: [email protected]

Funding Support

This project was funded with a Public Humanities Grant for Virginia Humanities. The project has also received funding from the Department of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Thank you for the support!

Special Thanks

We would also like to thank the following individuals and institutions, all of whom graciously contributed expertise and/or resources to this project. This project would not have been possible without their assistance:

  • Karl Edwards
  • Bethany Worley
  • Ariel Hundley
  • Sara Hambrick
  • Bennie Smith
  • Herman Harrison
  • Gary Bowman
  • Bobby Housman
  • Ricky Matthews
  • Rebecca Austin
  • Glenna Moore
  • Larry Moore
  • Mimi Boone
  • Mark Naff
  • Al Flora
  • Laura Underwood
  • Ruth Santopole
  • Donna Wray
  • Arnold Hurt
  • Marshal Flora
  • Janet Hodges
  • Ruth Cook
  • Carl O. Johnson
  • Vonnie Reynolds
  • Marvin Reynolds
  • Spook Parcell
  • Sheila Ross
  • Charles Vogel
  • Mike Grimm
  • Gary Saul
  • Bruce Lemmert
  • Linda Stanley
  • Doris Eames
  • Nancy Webster
  • Glen Webster
  • Henry Pagans
  • Clyde Smith
  • Ray Delong
  • Betsy Haynes
  • Bobby Smith
  • Nancy Furrow

We would also like to thank the archivists, librarians, and staff at the following institutions:

  • Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, Ferrum College
  • Franklin County Historical Society
  • Franklin County Public Library
  • Library of Virginia
  • Special Collections at Virginia State University
  • Special Collections at Virginia Tech