Wednesday, October 19, 2011

History of Linton Hall

It's uncanny how I and the other alumnus who blogs about Linton Hall think alike. In his post, "True History of L.H.M.S." posted on October 13, 2011, which is less than a week ago
he provides an article about Linton Hall Military School's early history. The article is based on the book The Fruit of His Works, by Sister Helen Johnson, published in 1954.

It's a strange coincidence that I have recently read that book and was about to write about it. Guess he beat me to it!

Although written by a Benedictine nun with her own point of view who speaks of "alumni ... cherishing many happy memories" (page ix) the book contains many items of historical interest about Linton Hall and the nearby town of Bristow which, even back in the 1960s when I attended, was so small that we cadets said its slogan was "Blink and you'll miss it."

The book relates how the village of Bristow was destroyed by General Banks' army in August 1862, and that by 1953 the Bristow rail station on the Southern Rail Road line was no longer in use as a full station, but only as a flagstop for daily mail pickup and delivery.

Although by the 1960s the milk we drank came in cartons, Sister Helen recounts how in 1948 the school bought 35 Guernsey cows to provide milk and butter for the students and sisters, and that from 1894 to 1930 Linton Hall had an ice house. (For modern readers, this is a structure in which ice which has been cut from the surface of ponds in winter is stored, with straw as insulation, for many months, often lasting well into summer, and is how ice was kept in the days prior to refrigeration.)

Linton Hall's namesake and benefactor was John Tyler Linton, who died in 1822 at age 26, two months before his only child, Sarah Elliott Linton, was born. (The title "Colonel" that is often used with his name is a Southern title of courtesy, like "Colonel" Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and is not a military rank. John Linton was a lawyer, with a degree from Dickinson College.)

In 1844, Sarah Linton became a Benedictine nun known as Sister Mary Baptista, and she passed away on October 26, 1901, bequeathing land to be used for two schools, one for poor boys, and another for poor girls.

The planned school for boys, to be called St. Joseph's Industrial School, never came into being, but a school for girls, St. Edith's Academy, opened in 1894 with 16 boarders and several day students. Its last graduating class, in 1922, consisted of two girls, and the school was converted to an all-boys military boarding school named Linton Hall Military School. The cadets were divided into two companies. LHMS's first Commandant was Barron Fredericks, and Sister Mary Ignatia Goforth was principal from 1923 through 1931. Sometime during her tenure, however, the school was left without a Commandant, and the school's military program was dropped.

In 1931 Sister Agnes became the new principal, and she revived the military program, organized a brass band (presumably without the percussion element of the Drum & Bugle Corps which existed when I attended during the 1960s) and hired Linton Hall's second Commandant, Lt. Lawrence Scott Carson. At the time the school had an enrollment of around 80 boys.

Sister Agnes passed away in 1932, just a year after becoming principal, and was succeeded by Sister Claudia. In 1938 a new Commandant, Major Marlin S. Reichley, was appointed. (He would stay on as LHMS' Commandant for almost 30 years.)

According to the book, it was not until April 18, 1951, that the current building was blessed by Bishop Ireton. (I am assuming the building was blessed when completed.) There is a photo of the building in the book, which I am not posting since the book may still be protected by copyright. It is just the building we all remember, with the exception that the gym wing has not yet been built.

I find the April 1951 date a bit confusing, since I have a photo from a very old Linton Hall brochure from the late 1940s (which I will eventually be posting, since it is not protected by copyright) which shows the Linton Hall building not only without the gym wing but also without the second and third floors (the dorms) and which is captioned "Ireton Hall" -- presumably named after Bishop Ireton. It is not clear whether this is an actual photo or an architectural rendering, however.

The book also contains a roster of sisters at the Bristow convent from 1953, which contains some familiar names. In addition to Sister Mary David Nolte, there are also two nuns with the last name DuCharme listed, possibly related to Linton Hall's fourth and final Commandant, Max DuCharme.

Much of the book covers the history of the Benedictines in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and does not directly relate to Linton Hall.

Although the book was interesting from a historical point of view, it does little to describe the cadets' daily routine, food, uniforms, disciplinary methods and other aspects which I would have found much more interesting, especially if they had been written from the cadets' point of view.

Thus, I would love to hear more from older alumni who were there prior to me.

Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 (or less) at
Linton Hall Memories

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
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