40 Years of History @ your library®
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our 40th Year | Description
of the College | Namesake of the College| Petersburg
Campaign of 1864-1865 | Petersburg Training School
and Hospital and the Petersburg State Colony | Establishment
of Richard Bland College | Celebrating
40 years Photo Gallery
our 40th Year
Bland College is celebrating 40 years of providing learning opportunities
to first and second year college students. As the campus prepares
for various activities, the library is busy doing its part to help in
this celebration. Reeling you in with 40 years of history
@ your library is our theme for this event and will be supported
by our monthly themes, a quilt designed and produced by library staff
for presentation to the college, a 12 month calendar, and culminating
with reeling you in with guest authors @ your library in April as we celebrate National Library Week.
of the College
Richard Bland College is a two-year, publicly-supported, non-residential
branch of The College of William and Mary in Virginia. The college
is located in Southside Virginia one mile south of the city limits of
Petersburg. The primary mission of the college is the offering of
transfer associate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences. The
college offers the Associate in Science Degree and the Associate in Arts
Degree. Most of the approximately 1,000 students are of traditional
college age. The principal commuting areas include the cities of
Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Hopewell as well as a number of the
surrounding counties, including Chesterfield, Prince George, and Dinwiddie.
In addition, the college offers courses leading to the Associate in Science
in Business Degree at the Defense Supply Center Richmond, about twenty-two
miles north of Petersburg. About 100-150 students enroll in courses
there each semester.
The college property consists of one contiguous
area of more than 700 acres situated in both Prince George and Dinwiddie
counties. The portion of the property used as the college campus
has expansive and well-landscaped grounds. The rest of the property
consists of woodlands and wetlands.
Richard Bland College has ties to two salient
events in the history of the United States; first, through its namesake,
Richard Bland, and the move toward independence from British rule; and
second, through the events that occurred on the college property during
the Petersburg Campaign of the Civil War.
of the College
Richard Bland College derives its name from that of Richard Bland, Virginia
statesman and champion of public rights. Richard Bland was born
on May 6, 1710, a descendant of successful colonial planters and heir
to the land at Jordans Point in Prince George County, Virginia.
He was educated at The College of William and Mary and eventually became
a visitor (i.e., trustee) of the College. He was commissioned in the Prince
George County militia, gaining the rank of colonel; and he read law, gaining
admission to the Virginia Bar. From 1742 until his death in 1776,
with a brief resignation in 1775 because of ill health, he represented
the area in which Richard Bland College is now located - first in the
House of Burgesses, and then later in the new House of Delegates.
He became one of the most distinguished and active members of the House
of Burgesses, having, in particular, become chairman of every major committee.
He collected and studied the basic documents of the colony and became
the best authority of his time on Virginia history. According to
historian Clinton Rossiter, "He was the most articulate political
thinker of his time - the very finest model of a colonial legislator."
Although he owned several dozen slaves at his
Jordans Point plantation, Richard Bland had more enlightened views
on slavery than others of his time. When he moved for moderate extensions
of the law to be applied to slaves, Bland, in the words of Thomas Jefferson,
became "denounced as an enemy of his country and was treated with
the grossest indecorum."
Richard Bland was an early leader in the struggle
for colonial rights; and with his active pen he constructed a framework
of protests against British interference. He found himself at the
storm center of Virginia politics with the publication of his An Inquiry
into the Rights of the British Colonies (1766). It is the earliest
published defense of the colonial attitude in regard to taxation.
His theories were advanced by influential colonial leaders and became
accepted throughout the colonies. He served as a member of the Committee
of Correspondence in 1773 and was a delegate in Virginia in both the First
and Second Continental Congresses. Unfortunately most of his letters,
writings, and records have been destroyed - not surviving the invasion
of Virginia by the British under Lord Cornwallis in 1781, the Library
of Congress fire in 1851, and the Union campaigns of the Civil War.
Richard Bland continued as a staunch advocate
of colonial home rule even when the idea of insurrection began to gain
credence in the colonies. His was a moderate voice trying to coerce
the British into recognizing Virginia as a self-governing society within
the Empire. As the struggle for independence grew more intense,
Richard Blands advancing age and ill health forced him to step aside
and let others take up the challenge. More radical men took the
lead and the movement grew into a revolution. By the spring of 1776,
the point was reached where one had to decide between accepting British
rule or declaring independence. On May 15, 1776, Richard Bland made his
decision. He voted to instruct the delegates from Virginia that
the Continental Congress declare "the Untied Colonies free and independent
States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown
or Parliament of Great Britain."
Carved on a statue at the entrance to The College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg are these words composed by Richard
Bland at the request of the Virginia Assembly:
WISDOM AND JUSTICE PRESIDE IN ANY COUNTRY THE PEOPLE
THE PEOPLE WILL REJOICE AND MUST BE HAPPY
After returning to Williamsburg, then the state capital, as a legislative
representative of Prince George County in the newly created state of Virginia,
Richard Bland collapsed on Duke of Gloucester Street on October 26, 1776,
and died later that day. He was buried at his home, Jordans
Point, along the James River in Prince George County.
It is said by his biographer, Richard Detweiler,
"Richard Bland deserves a place in our memory beside such men as
Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison. He distinguished himself in the struggle to preserve liberty in Virginia
just as assuredly as the more famous leaders of the Revolutionary era,
only he engaged in the struggle a generation before them."
Campaign of 1864-1865
Before the Civil War the Richard Bland College property was a farm owned
by the Gurley family. It became an important part of the Union-occupied
territory during the 1864-1865 campaign for Petersburg. The present
campus was the scene of one engagement and one battle during that campaign.
After arriving on the outskirts of Petersburg
with the Union Army, General Ulysses S. Grant failed in his initial attempts
to take the city. His chief objective then became the capture and
destruction of the railroads that supplied Petersburg and Richmond from
the south and west. On June 22-23, 1864, within a week of arriving
at Petersburg, Grant sent his troops towards the Petersburg Railroad,
also called the Weldon Railroad, which ran along the present day western
boundary of the college. This railroad was one of the oldest in
America. The skirmishing for the railroad, known as The Engagement
at the Gurley Farm, resulted in the Union troops being pushed back across
what is now the main part of the campus. The engagement was part
of a larger battle, sometimes known as the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road.
Again on August 18, 1864, under Grant's orders,
General Gouverneur K. Warren moved the Fifth Corps to attempt the capture
of the Weldon Railroad. His force reached the railroad near the
Globe Tavern. The Globe Tavern was an old tavern situated on the
western end of the present college property. General Robert E. Lee
was not prepared to give up the Weldon Railroad without a fight.
Warren headed north towards Petersburg but his troops were driven back
by a Division of General A. P. Hill's Corps. On the 19th and 20th
of August, Warren was able to get his troops entrenched north and west
of his headquarters at the Globe Tavern. On August 21, the Confederates
repeatedly attacked, but were unable to dislodge the Union forces from
their control of the railroad. A field hospital for the Union troops
was set up near the Gurley House in the present day pecan grove.
By the end of the day on August 21, Lee realized that the upper portion
of the Weldon Railroad could not be regained from Union control.
The Union Army had sent over 20,000 troops into the battle with losses
of about 4,300 men, including over 3,000 prisoners; the south had committed
around 14,000 with losses of about 2,300 men, including around 800 prisoners.
T his battle, known as The Battle of the Weldon Railroad is significant
in that it became a major component of the encirclement of the city of
Petersburg by the Union Army. This battleground is the most important
item of historical interest on the RBC campus. The Civil War Sites
Advisory Commission 1993 Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields declared this battleground to be one of national significance.
After gaining control of the railroad, the Union
Army continued building its series of trenches and forts to encircle Petersburg.
Once the Union Army captured the campus property, it never relinquished
it. Two large forts were built nearby - Fort Wadsworth, one-half
mile northwest of the campus, and Fort Dushane, one-half mile southwest. A series of entrenchments and an earthen fort, Fort Davison, were constructed
across the center of campus property facing southward to guard against
Confederate cavalry attacks.
From September 1st through the 9th, the Union
Army continued construction of the City Point and Army Line Railroad westward
for the transportation of troops and supplies. The eastern terminus
was at their base on the James River at City Point (now Hopewell).
This railroad was constructed directly across campus property. It
crossed the Gurley Run ravine, between the present day Petersburg Country
Club golf course and the campus pecan grove, on a 750 ft. long trestle.
The tracks crossed the campus from the east near the present President's
residence, running north of Statesman Hall to the western part where it
was connected to the captured Weldon Railroad. Some of the railroad
bed still exists today in the woods near Statesman Hall. Near the
Globe Tavern, the intersection known as Warren Station, contained several
tracks to park and turn the various train cars and locomotives.
A little known fact is that in March of 1865 President Abraham Lincoln
traveled across the RBC campus property on this railroad to view the Petersburg
fortifications west of Globe Tavern. He was accompanied on this
journey by his wife, Mary; his young son, Tad; along with General Grant
and his wife, Julia.
The entire campus property was denuded of timber
for use in the fortifications, shelters, and firewood supplies that were
necessary for the men encamped there over the winter of 1864-1865.
Both the Gurley House and the Globe Tavern were used as military headquarters.
The Globe Tavern was torn down several months after the August battle
due to its shell-damaged condition - most of the windows, doors, and roof
were gone. The Gurley House outlasted the siege, but has completely
One of today's main roads to the campus, Flank
Road, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's to view
the remains of the earthen trenches and forts constructed by the Union
Army. Many of these can still be seen. The present Student
Center has one entire wall given to a large impressive topographical map
of the Petersburg area during the famous siege.* The map was originally
made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938 for an interpretive center
at the Petersburg national Battlefield Park, then it found its way to
the basement of the private museum at Center Hill Mansion in downtown
Petersburg. It was rescued and brought to the college in 1978 after
the museum changed ownership. The Student Center also houses numerous
display cases containing Civil War artifacts, most of which were found
on the college campus.
*In 2000 the topographical
map was moved to the Pamplin Historical Park in nearby Dinwiddie County,
where it can be viewed by visitors from all over the world.
Training School and Hospital and the Petersburg State Colony
Shortly after the turn of the century the Hatcher Seward family
established a state-of-the-art dairy and cattle farm on the RBC property and two farm houses were constructed. Today they serve as the President's Residence
and the residence of the Dean of Administration and Finance. In
the early part of this century the still beautiful grove of pecan trees
was planted. Another use was made of the property when the farm
was used as a work camp for about twenty conscientious objectors during
world War I.
The Commonwealth of Virginia authorized Central
State Hospital to purchase the land in 1932 for use as the Petersburg
Training School and Hospital. The facility was intended to house
mentally retarded African-American males. The U-shaped building,
now containing classrooms and faculty offices, was constructed in 1932
and contained classrooms, offices, areas for patient sleeping and a dayroom
- all on the first floor. The basement contained the kitchen and
dining areas. The facility housed 230 patients. In 1938, the
Virginia General Assembly established the Petersburg State Colony to care
for the African-American mentally retarded citizens of the state.
Admission was limited to those deemed trainable who were between the ages
of eight and twenty-one. The building now containing the college
administration was added in 1940 to house female patients. It contained
Programs at the facility consisted of academic
classes through the sixth grade, vocational training, and social recreation.
This was the beginning of the first programs for training the African-American
mentally retarded in Virginia. The success of the program showed
the need for a much larger facility and the Petersburg State Colony was
moved in 1959. The land, still owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia,
was available for another state agency. It became a primary site
when the establishment of a new junior college in the Petersburg area
was being considered.
For many years, the history of the land that
is now the Richard Bland College campus was, for African-Americans, one
that reflected many hardships. Prior to the Civil War, they lived
in slavery on the Gurley farm, then were most likely refugees after
the Union occupation. In later decades, they were treated in the
training facility. Those confined here endured the institutionalization
and segregation which characterized societys attitudes at that time
toward mental deficiency and race. Until the buildings were restored in
1994, basement security cells were clearly visible - a reminder that sadness
was endured here.
How fitting it is, therefore, that this place
of so little promise for African-Americans has become a place of equal
opportunity and upward mobility. The Richard Bland College student
body is today approximately one-fifth African-American. Their work
is now one of scholarship and educational growth. The liberating dynamics
of education have replaced the hopeless toil of slavery and the marginal
training for menial work. Indeed, the Richard Bland College campus
is now a locus of academic hope and shared achievement for students of
every race and every ethnic heritage.
of Richard Bland College
When the college was created by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia
in 1960, the former hospital facilities were converted to educational
use. The former male dormitory became the main academic building
that also housed the library and admissions offices. The building
was partitioned into classrooms with a door cut so each classroom could
open onto a portico running the length of the building. The addition
of the portico with white columns, railings, and benches, gave the building
a whole new look. The female dormitory became the science center. An old laundry building was made into another classroom building for business and art students, and
the last dairy barn was renovated into a gymnasium.
In the late sixties, space was cleared on the
Dinwiddie side of campus and an academic building (Ernst Hall, named for
a local business leader influential in the establishment of the college),
library and student center, and gymnasium were constructed. The
barn was little used until a renovation in the late 1970s developed
a performing arts center there and a theatre program was established.
The performing arts center is now known as the Barn Theatre. In
1991, the gymnasium was used Statesman Hall in honor of the namesake of
the college, Richard Bland.
In the early 1990s, a renovation was undertaken
on the old science center which changed it into a handsome building containing
administrative offices. The old science center was recently named
Maze Hall in honor of the colleges second president, Dr. Clarence
Maze, who served for twenty-one years. The U-shaped academic building,
known as Commerce Hall, was also renovated with updated classrooms and
faculty offices. Commerce Hall, now referred to as the Humanities
and Social Sciences Building, contains the faculty offices and classrooms
used by the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences. The old
laundry building is now the Crater Criminal Justice Academy and is a training
base for exercises by southside police officers. (As of 2012, this building is now the Center for Student Affairs, and the Crater Criminal Justice Academy has moved off-site). The most recent
construction on campus has been a maintenance facility erected in 1994.
Classes began on the Richard Bland College campus
in 1961. The college opened its doors to 175 students, taught by
nine professors. Today the college has over 1,200 students and thirty-four
full-time faculty members.
When the college was founded, it was intended
that a series of junior colleges would be established in the commonwealth
that would eventually mature into four-year schools. Indeed, all
the other junior colleges in the commonwealth have done so. In the
late 1960s, Richard Bland College prepared to become a four-year
institution after having been authorized to do so by the General Assembly
of Virginia. However, Richard Bland College had been established
during an era of segregation and a public four-year black college, Virginia
State University, already existed about five miles away. In 1971,
this change in status was prohibited by the federal courts on the grounds
that it would adversely affect the rate of racial integration at both
Richard Bland College and Virginia State University. The court order
still stands today. Since then, the commonwealth has also established
a branch of the community college system, John Tyler Community College,
within the principal service area of Richard Bland College. Virginia State
University and John Tyler Community College today are the primary competitors
with Richard Bland College for area students.
Richard Bland College and the School of Nursing
at the Southside Regional Medical Center established a cooperative program
in nursing in 1962. That program has continued to the present.
In 1975, the college began offering courses at two United States military
installations; Fort Lee, about four miles east of the college, and the
Defense General Supply Center (now Defense Supply Center Richmond). The courses at Fort Lee have been discontinued, but the college continues
to offer classes at the DSCR.
The various disciplines on campus are now consolidated
into two divisions, the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS)
and the Division of Science and Quantitative Methods (S&QM).
RBC has been required to submit periodic assessment reports to the State
Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). In 1991, a Director
of Assessment was appointed from the faculty. Some release time
from teaching was given to the director for assessment duties which included
chairing the Faculty Assessment Committee. SCHEV has recently required
a restructuring report from all institutions of public higher education
in the Commonwealth and on October 1, 1995, Richard Bland College submitted
the Richard Bland College Restructuring Report outlining thirty-four
initiatives the college hopes to take in years ahead.
In 1996, Dr. Clarence Maze, Jr., president since
1975, retired. Provost James B. McNeer was chosen to succeed Dr.
Maze. The college now enters a new phase with President McNeer. He begins his tenure with a commitment to the self-study, restructuring,
and the advancement of Richard Bland College.
Source: Richard Bland College Report of the Self-Study 1996-1998.
40 Years Photo Gallery
firstname.lastname@example.org | Last Update:
June 20, 2012