Cluster Springs Academy
Awaiting the click of the camera, the 25 boys gathered around the porch laughing and talking. Some were joking and kidding around while others waited seriously with thoughts of their impending studies for the night. Many of the boys clutched baseball bats, gloves, and catcher's masks in anticipation of baseball practice later that afternoon. On the back of the keepsake photograph, someone had scribbled Cluster Springs High School Baseball Team, over the words Cluster Springs Academy. The photograph dates back to the turn of the century, around 1900, when secondary education began to change in the United States, specifically in the state of Virginia.
A pamphlet entitled The Scarlet Cord published in the beginning of the twentieth century told the story of a Virginia preparatory school located a half a mile from Cluster Springs on the Durham Division of the Norfolk and Western Railroad, approximately six miles from South Boston, Virginia. The Scarlet Cord is a brochure that not only discussed the history of the Academy but also marked the school to potential students and their families. Many pages were devoted to discussing the benefits of the 150 wooded acres, the famous mineral springs, and the mild climate; the mild climate makes it possible for the students to indulge in some form of outdoor sport every week in the year. One page of the pamphlet was a testament to the school's athletics reputation especially in the sport of baseball where the record was one of the best among the preparatory schools in the state. In terms of academics, the pamphlet quoted that without any form of testing or examination 75 percent of students continued in schools of higher education.
Virginia's education system was beginning to make several changes at the end of the nineteenth century including the growth of the secondary education system as a whole, the inclusion of specific educational requirements, and growth in attendance. For example by 1914, in some Virginia counties, such as Halifax County, there were as many as three public high school districts. At the end of the nineteenth century, there were also lists of recommended textbooks, courses, and subjects for public high schools published by several authors. Another important fact was the growth in attendance in secondary schools. Although the growth was not consistent from 1890 to 1900, the number of pupils increased from 9,124 to 11,736. Even though these were numbers and trends for public schools, the private school enrollment was about the same as the public secondary schools. The Scarlet Cord made the claim that Cluster Springs Academy is an example of evolution in the world of education, and the history of Virginia education proved the claim true.
- Mss 9096-bs, Photographs of Halifax County, Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.
- Cluster Springs Academy, The Scarlet Cord (Cluster Springs, Virginia: Cluster Springs Academy, 1900).
- Donald Rhineart Miller, A History of the High Schools of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia, 1928), 1-10.
- Virginia Department of Education, Courses of Study and Records of the Public High Schools of Virginia, With the Accredited List of Virginia Colleges and Private Prepatory Schools (Richmond, Virginia: Department of Public Instruction, 1914).