On October 15, Fork Union Military Academy celebrated Founders Day, marking the opening of the very first school session in Fork Union. The Fork Union Academy, described in those first days as a "Classical Academy," opened its doors on October 15, 1898 and admitted nineteen boys and girls to its first class session.
The Academy was created in 1898 by the Reverend William E. Hatcher, a prominent Baptist preacher from Richmond who had married a Fork Union girl in 1865 and who maintained a summer home in Fork Union named Careby Hall.
Families in the Fork Union community were very excited about the idea of starting a school in the area when Dr. William Hatcher first suggested the idea at a church picnic in September, 1898. There were no public schools in the area at that time, and families wishing to give their children more than a basic elementary education had few options. Even though it was very near to the opening of the fall school season and it seemed unlikely that a brand new school could be formed in time, Dr. Hatcher called a community meeting to discuss the idea. There were so many details to work out such as where to hold classes, where to find a teacher, and the most important question -- how to make sure there would be money available to hire a teacher and pay the school's expenses if the school didn't make enough from tuition in that first year.
Dr. Hatcher suggested that if $500.00 could be guaranteed to pay for a seven-month school session, he would find a suitable teacher using his connections at Richmond College. A written agreement was drawn up on September 30, 1898, called the Guarantor's Agreement, and ten individuals or families agreed to be responsible for $50.00 each. These persons became known as the Academy's "Original Guarantors," and because of their commitment, the Academy was born.
Original Guarantors of Fork Union Academy
The sum of $50.00 might not sound like a lot these days, but in 1898, the country was just coming out of a severe economic depression that had started in 1893. The unemployment rate was still about 12% in 1898 and the average income in the United States at that time was barely $400 per year for those who had jobs. Many families in the Fork Union community were farmers who likely earned significantly less than that. It's possible that $50 represented up to a quarter of their annual income. The Original Guarantors were taking a significant financial risk to help the school get started and we honor their memory today.
The ten who signed the Guarantor's Agreement were: Dr. W. E. Hatcher, Capt C. G. Snead, Mr. W. P. Snead, Mr. W. F. Snead, Mrs. Zadie V. Kie, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Snead, Dr. Geo. H. Snead, Mr. B. H. Snead, Mr. W. H. Sadler, and Mr. W. W. Hughes.
The first class of students at Fork Union included girls, and the school was coed for the first few years of its existence.
The first teacher was a graduate of Richmond College, now known as the University of Richmond, and his name was Mr. Julian B. Martin. Professor Martin was paid $47.50 per month for his services during the seven months of that very first school session.
By 1902, the name of the school was changed to Fork Union Military Academy and the school became a boys only school with a military-style structure over the course of the following decade.