- Founded in Christiansburg, Virginia, in 1866/1867 by Captain Charles Schaeffer of the Freedmen’s Bureau as an institution to educate freed slaves
- Booker T. Washington became adviser to the school in 1896
- Christiansburg Institute served the educational needs of African Americans from fifteen counties before it closed in 1966
Christiansburg Institute began after the Civil War with a mission to educate freed slaves. The school was founded by Captain Charles S. Schaeffer, a Union soldier and future minister from Philadelphia. Working for the Freedmen’s Bureau, Schaeffer came to Christiansburg and started teaching twelve former slaves in a rented room. Beginning in 1870, a Quaker group called the Friends’ Freedmen’s Association began helping Schaeffer fund the growing school after the Freedmen’s Bureau stopped its support. In the 1880s, Schaeffer turned over control of the school to a completely African-American staff. He retired to focus on ministry before his death in 1899. During his time in Southwest Virginia, Schaeffer helped organize twenty-nine African American churches. The 1885 Hill School and Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church still stand at 570 High Street in Christiansburg.
A new era for the Christiansburg Institute began in 1896 when Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, became adviser to CI. In 1909, Washington addressed almost 5,000 Christiansburg residents, both white and black. The Christiansburg Institute implemented a curriculum similar to those at Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes, continuing to grow throughout the early twentieth century. The Institute expanded to property at 140 Scattergood Drive, where the 1927 Edgar A. Long Building, named for the principal of the Institute from 1906-1924, still stands. In 1947, the Friends’ Freedmen’s Associations deeded the Institute to the Montgomery County, Radford, and Pulaski County school systems. During the years of segregation in Southwest Virginia, Christiansburg Institute served the educational needs of African American students from up to fifteen counties at a time. Christiansburg Institute closed in 1966 when local public schools integrated.
Finding Christiansburg Institute
140 Scattergood Drive NW
Christiansburg, VA 24073
From Blacksburg, take 460 Eastbound to the Downtown Christiansburg exit. Follow North Franklin Street towards downtown. Scattergood Drive will be on your right just after passing Christiansburg High School. A historical marker just south of the intersection of Franklin Street and Scattergood Drive gives the history of the school. To find the old Hill School, continue south on North Franklin and turn left onto Depot Street, then bear right onto Wing Street and turn right onto High Street. The school building and chapel stand at the corner of High Street and Shaffer Street.
For More Information
Roy Wyete Kanode, Christiansburg, Virginia: Small Town America At Its Finest (Kingsport, TN: Inove Graphics, 2005).
Mary Elizabeth, Lindon, ed, Virginia’s Montgomery County (Christiansburg, VA: Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center, 2009).