Recollections of Private School Attendance at Saint James’ – 1912-1954
In 1912, the Stuyvesant School for boys was established by Edwin B. King (1876-1950) on Winchester Street (now the site of St. John the Evangelist Church). The school had an enrollment of about sixty boys each year and offered a wide range of pre-college classes in a non-military environment. Mr. King was a long-time member and vestryman of Saint James’ Church; he and the schoolboys attended church on Sundays.
In 1915, Mlle. Lea Marie Bouligny (1865-1976), a prominent educator, established the Warrenton Country School for girls on Springs Road (now the site of a U.S. Government facility). It stressed college preparation and cultural courses, with a heavy emphasis on spoken French. Both schools enjoyed excellent reputations.
In the Warrenton tradition, each school encouraged students to become skilled in horseback riding. Boys and girls from the two schools competed with each other in equestrian events. Moreover, the girls were invited to Stuyvesant’s homecoming dances and to other special events at the boys’ school. Mlle. Bouligny strongly believed that her school should be engaged with the community, including the church.
Each Sunday morning the girls, shepherded by faculty members, “trooped two-by-two” from the school along Springs Road, to Culpeper Street, to Saint James’. Dressed in purple and white uniforms with hats, they occupied several rows in the back of the church. Seated directly in front of them were the boys from Stuyvesant School. Parishioners recalled there was much “mutual observation” between the two groups.
A parishioner remembered that when he was a student at VMI (Virginia Military Institute), he came to Saint James’ in his uniform and was greatly embarrassed by all the attention he received from the Warrenton Country School girls. Headmistress Bouligny was very protective of her students. Often after Sunday services, young men of the town would drive through the school grounds, actively encouraged by some of the girls. Mlle. Bouligny reacted by installing nuisance speed bumps around the school buildings.
In 1949, Mlle. Bouligny retired. Warrenton Country School closed the following year. Mr. King died in 1950. Stuyvesant School closed in 1954, thereby ending a chapter in the history of Warrenton and Saint James’ Church.
Note: Many of the students have lived interesting lives. One, Oona O’Neill (1925-1991), daughter of author and playwright Eugene O’Neill, was known for her musical talent, acting, and modeling ability. At age 18, she married actor Charlie Chaplin, 36 years her senior. The couple had eight children, many excelling.