Williamsburg Elementary School
"First Public School in North Carolina"The Williamsburg Community in the southeastern section of Rockingham County is proud to be the site of the first public free school in North Carolina which opened on January 20, 1840. The school's first teacher was George W. Garrett, a large plantation owner who had gone to school at a military academy in Virginia. In 1839, when the Common School Law was enacted by the General Assembly, Garrett provided Rockingham County with an appropriate school building on his land with the provision that he would be hired as the teacher. Garrett was said to be a strict disciplinarian who kept a large bundle of switches stacked in the corner of the school room, ready for use. Boys, ages six to twenty-one, attended the one-room, one-teacher school and from accounts passed down in the Garrett family, those switches didn't stop the boys' mischievous behavior. One cold winter morning some of the older boys hid in the building and overpowered Garrett as he entered. They tossed him and his switches into a pond near the school.This drawing of the Garrett Academy building was
found among family papers of George W. Garrett'sdescendants.Garland Paschal , a former Williamsburg principal, reveals
the historical marker at the dedication recognizing
Williamsburg as the first public school in the state.
Before moving to its present location on Highway 87 in October 2003, Williamsburg School was located on Mizpah Church Road. That location was established in 1970 when Williamsburg Elementary School and Roosevelt Elementary School were consolidated into one school. The pre-consolidation Williamsburg School which opened in 1935, was located on Highway 87 South and housed grades 1-8. Roosevelt School, the site of the last Williamsburg School on Mizpah Church Road, opened in 1950 and also housed grades 1-8.
Swift, Vance. "First Public Free School." The State. January 1987. 14-15.