This meeting house is the oldest school still standing in Person County; possibly, in North Carolina. It was built as a school for boys nearly 204 years ago near Payne’s Tavern by Kindle Van Hook, one of the original subscribers whose name is found in the agreement between the teacher William Whitefield and the parents of the students.
After two moves it was last located on the Devereaux Davis farm and came to us from that location through the family of C.B. Davis. Students’ parents cut the wood for the “central heating system”, a five–foot square fireplace. The spring down a nearby hill served as the water fountain. The floor was dirt and the windows were holes cut into the walls with no covering to keep out the elements. Desks were directly under the windows and surrounded the room. Holes can be seen in the logs where the desks were connected.
Some of the logs have rotted away making the cabin only 7 feet high today. It is difficult to imagine 20 students housed in this one room which measures only 10 by 15 feet. The teacher agreed to teach from April 10 to Dec. 25, five days each week except election day and holidays.
The subjects taught at first were spelling, reading writing, and arithmetic for $5.00 per session per student. Later, classes in gauging, surveying, English, geography and grammar were added, but were more expensive to take. When the school was started in 1810, the teacher was only 12 years old. He had learned what he knew from his parents, James and Susanna Minchew Whitefield and from his own reading. He later became a farmer, Justice of the Peace, and a surveyor. He taught in the Van Hook School until his death in 1857. The last year of use is uncertain but records show it was in service up to the Civil War and maybe much longer. One of the latest teachers was Miss Harriet Van Hook, a descendant of the school’s builder.