Axiomatically, the decision to educate away from pernicious cities meant housing
and feeding students as well as instructing and exhorting them. Almost the first
thing the trustees did, in April of 1830, was to begin acquiring real estate and
planning buildings. On June 10, 1830, the trustees closed on three parcels of property
amounting to just under 241 acres. No price is given for one plot of 50 acres, but
the others sold for $5 and $6 an acre. In October, the board purchased an additional
24 acres for $2 each. From time to time, other plots would be acquired, some of
them rather curious. In 1836, John and Elizabeth Early, he being president of the
board, sold to the school 21 acres with a house for $2,500. In 1862, William Smith
parted with 27 acres for $1,314.08, about $49.00 an acre. Land at these prices was
a bargain-indeed one of the inducements to settle the school in Mecklenburg. In
1833, Hampden-Sydney paid $10.00 to $22.50 per acre in Prince Edward County. Ultimately,
Randolph-Macon would acquire over 400 acres of land.
So large an amount of land purchased is in part explained by the desire to have
adequate wood for fuel: each boy, for example was expected to use two cords annually.
A student body of say, 100, would mean that 200 cords of wood were concerned annually
(not to mention the amount used for cooking for the students and the amount used
by faculty for their own families, and servants' needs).
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Reprinted from Professor James Scanlon's Randolph-Macon College: A Southern History