Howland Chapel School

Historical Significance

The Howland Chapel School was a one-room school for black children built under the sponsorship of New York educator and philanthropist Emily Howland (1827-1929), an active abolitionist. Howland taught at a school for young black girls in Washington D.C. from 1857 to 1859. During the Civil War she worked in Arlington, Virginia, teaching freed slaves to read and write as well as administering to the sick during a smallpox outbreak. According to a local newspaper article, her father purchased property near Heathsville in 1867.

The Howland Chapel School is the oldest standing schoolhouse in Northumberland County, founded to educate African-American students after emancipation. The school opened with grades first through seventh, and then later reduced its class offerings to first through fourth or fifth grades. The one-story, frame school building was in operation from 1867 to 1958.

The building served many uses until the First Baptist Church of Heathsville acquired the title to the school and developed the property as a museum, community center, and adult-education facility. 

Physical Description

While referred to as a one-room school house, the Howland Chapel School actually has two rooms. A wood stove in the classroom shared a chimney with a wood cook stove, located in the adjacent room, where lunches were prepared and eaten. Originally, two outhouses stood behind the school.

Geographical and Contact Information

Knights Run Road (State Route 642)
Heathsville, Virginia