The following was written by Michael K. Bohn and ran in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, in 2006.
Early Schools along Route One, Part 2
Michael K. Bohn
Mount Vernon Gazette, 2006
This is the second of a three-part schools segment in the Route One history series. The first reviewed the development of education in Fairfax County from colonial times through desegregation in the 1960s, and described elementary schools at Accotink, Cameron, Colchester, Groveton and Gum Springs. This section addresses five historic schools in the Mason Neck area. The third and final schools article will survey the remaining historic elementary schools along Route One, as well as area high schools.
Gunston Colored School. Gunston Road, across from Shiloh Baptist Church. In 1882, Fairfax County bought one acre of land from Edward Daniels, then the owner of Gunston Hall. The county built a small school across the road from the Gunston white school and opened a segregated facility. In 1914, Gladys Bushrod, now ninety-eight and a life-time resident of Mason Neck, enrolled at the school when she five. “During the holidays, Mrs. Hertle, whose husband bought Gunston Hall from Daniels, invited all of us kids to her house,” recalled Mrs. Bushrod recently. “On Halloween, we bobbed for apples, and at Christmas, she gave us presents and hot chocolate.” Mrs. Bushrod finished the eighth grade at Gunston, and since there was no was no high school available to her, that was the end of her education. The county closed the school in early 1930s and the African-American families living in Mason Neck had to send their kids to Woodlawn School, fifteen miles away. Parents petitioned the school board for reimbursement for bus fees, a request that was usually granted. The county transferred the land back to Gunston Hall in 1954. (Note: Fairfax County Public Schools used the term “colored” to refer to African-Americans in all official documents until the 1960s.)
Lebanon. 10310 Gunston Road. John Haislip also donated land for this school, located on Gunston Road, across and just south of the entrance to Pohick Bay golf course. The school opened in 1899, and the families named it for the Lebanon farm that is now the golf course. The county closed the school and sold the building in 1935. The Vosburg family bought it in 1938 and lived there until 1946 when they demolished the structure and reused the lumber for a new home. Gladys Bushrod said that the owners demolished the most recent house a few years ago, probably in 2000. Earl Curtis, chief of the Lorton Volunteer Fire Department and long-time school bus driver on Mason Neck, said that he attended Lebanon School 1931-34, transferring to Lorton Valley School when Lebanon closed.
A few years later, perhaps in the late 1850s, the community school relocated the school to the site of Lewis Chapel, a Methodist church built in 1857. Now called Cranford Church, it is located at the intersection of Old Colchester and Gunston Roads. That schoolhouse burned in 1876 and the community again opened another on land donated by John Plaskett. Called Lorton Valley, it was located at 9723 Gunston Cove Road. The school added a second room in 1881, with grades one-four studying the Three R’s in one room, and grades five-eight learning geography, history, hygiene, and reading in the other. In 1905, the school’s lead teacher, George A. Malcolm, who was also a Fairfax County deputy sheriff, was mortally wounded by a man who worked at the nearby Lorton railroad station. The assailant had been harassing girls at the school, and shot Malcolm when the deputy went to the station to arrest him. The county sold the building in 1926.
By 1933, the owner converted the school into a residence, with Percy Ruffner, a guard at the DC Reformatory, buying it in 1939 for $2,500. (Ruffner’s great uncle, William H. Ruffner was the first superintendent of public schools in Virginia.) Percy, his wife, and three children, one of whom is still a Mason Neck resident, Sally Spangler, lived in the old school until the 1980s. “One of the classrooms had been made into a living room and dining room, with the second classroom becoming three bedrooms,” Mrs. Spangler explained recently. “The ledges for the chalk were still there.” The building collapsed in the 1990s—“The termites got it,” said Mrs. Spangler—and the land is now owned by a developer.
Lorton. 8101 Lorton Road. The date Lorton School opened is unknown, but for years, it was housed on the second floor of Springman’s store, adjacent to the Lorton railroad station. Today, that should be about where Lorton Road intersects Interstate 95. The county built a two-room schoolhouse in 1923, then a larger, brick structure in 1934. The school system transferred all Lorton students who lived east of Route One to the new Gunston School when it opened in 1955. The county converted Lorton into an administrative center in 1989. Nearby Lorton Station School opened just a few years ago.