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Loudoun County’s first public school turns 200

Built in 1816, the Oakdale School served the Purcellville Quaker community and free African-American families, making it the first integrated school in Loudoun.  Times-Mirror/Veronike Collazo
Before there was the Loudoun County Public Schools enterprise, local children still found places to learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic when not helping their families tend to farms.

One such school, Oakdale, which served a Quaker community and surrounding families, celebrated its 200th birthday this past weekend.

Finished in 1816, the Oakdale School was built by the Goose Creek Friends, a Quaker community in Lincoln, just south of Purcellville. The one-room schoolhouse is still decorated as it was when it first opened, including some original benches.

Originally built to serve the children of the Quaker families within the Goose Creek Friends group, the community also opened the school to the children of free African-Americans, making it one of the first integrated schools in Virginia.

“They were very committed to education, even before there was public education, so they made the school open to both girls and boys because girls didn’t go to school back then, and African-Americans,” said Debbi Sudduth, Goose Creek Friends meeting clerk.

When the school first opened, 70 students attended, ranging from ages 6 to 16. Because the students worked on farms, they did not attend school every day, but the school was open year-round to serve students except for two weeks in the summer harvest season, Sudduth said.

The school’s bicentennial celebration was part of a larger Goose Creek Friends celebration Oct. 21. Loudoun residents had the opportunity to tour the school, original Goose Creek Friends Meeting House and the current meeting house built in 1817.

Friends continue to worship at Goose Creek with the mission to live according to the traditional Quaker beliefs of equality and peace. Worship is open to all at 9:45 a.m. every Sunday.

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