Support the Burwell School

Burwell School

The Burwell School Historic Site is located in Hillsborough, NC. The original house was built by John Berry, circa. 1821. The house became property of the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church and in 1835 the home was provided to Reverend Robert Burwell and his family as the parsonage. The Burwells came to Hillsborough from Petersburg, VA. When they arrived, they came with their two children, Mary and John Bott, as well as a young slave girl named Elizabeth  "Lizzie"  Hobbes (Keckly), later to go on to purchase her freedom and become the personal dressmaker and confidante of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

In 1837, Mrs. Margaret Anna Burwell established her school for girls at this site. This was one of the earliest all-female academies in the South and provided the pupils, aged 8-16, a very well-rounded education. The school was a boarding school and students came from all over the Southeast and even as far away as New York, Texas and Florida to attend. Students who lived in Hillsborough, NC also were educated here and on average, there were up to twenty boarding and day students attending per semester.

The original two-room school house, built 1837, still stands in the rear of the Burwell home. Bricks used to build this structure were a gift from Dr. James Webb, whose daughter Mary Webb  was the first student to be educated by Mrs. Burwell. As the school grew, Reverend Burwell chose to leave his appointment with the Presbyterian Church to oversee the school with his wife full time. At this time, the Burwells purchased the property and in 1848 commissioned John Berry to build a large addition to the house to accommodate the students, the large Burwell family which had grown to fourteen members, and their household staff.

The curriculum at the Burwell School was extensive for any female academy of the time. Subjects included the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic to much more diverse offerings such as geology, Watts on the Mind, chemistry, philosophy, lessons in astronomy and evidence of Christianity. In addition to the standard offerings, electives of foreign language, art and music were also taught.

The teachers at the school were the Reverend and Margaret Anna as well as former students previously educated under the Burwells' tutelage and other well respected educators from the outside community. Overall, during the twenty years of the school's operation (1837-57), over two hundred young women received their education here. Many of the students went on to teach and became administrators at other schools and women's colleges.

The school closed in 1857 when the Burwell family moved to Charlotte, NC to assist in the establishment of Charlotte Female Institute which is today Queens College. Later, Reverend Burwell and his eldest son John would relocate to Raleigh, NC where they were instrumental in the foundation of Peace College.

The Burwell School Historic Site was purchased by the Historic Hillsborough Commission in 1964 and has since been fully restored and made available to the public. It is situated on two acres in historic downtown Hillsborough. The original home (1821, 1848), schoolhouse and necessary house (1835) still stand and are open as a historic house museum and interpretive site. Tours, exhibits and special events are offered all year long, free to the public.

List of Students


Anna Henrietta Alston; Eugenia Alston; Lavinia M. Alston; Sally Alston; Fannie J. Amis; Rosa Amis; Ann Eliza Ashe; Annie Ruffin Ashe; Eliza S. Ashe; Maria N. Ashe; Sarah Sitgreaves Attmore


Emily Rowena Bell; Jane Williamette Bell; Julia Benners; Elizabeth Ann Berry; Josephine Berry; Rosanna Berry; Sally Bridges; Virginia Bridges; Harriet L. Brooks; Sallie Faulkner Brooks; Charlotte Ann Brown; Elizabeth Commilla Brown; Laura H. Brown; Mary Louisa Bunting; Sally Bunting; Anna Robertson Burwell; Frances Armistead Burwell; Mary Susan Burwell


Annie Ruffin Cameron; Bettie Morton Carrington; Catharine Chapman; Mary Snead Chapman; Elizabeth Coit; Martha Coit; Harriotte Middleton Gillespie Cole; Lavinia Ellis Cole; Emily Eliza Cooley; Mary Cain Cooley; Caroline E. Cowan; Martha Jane Craig


Anna Davis; [Unknown] Davis; [Unknown] Davis; Margaret Douglas


Mary Bailey Easley


Mary Amelia Faison; Sallie E. Faison; Elizabeth Jane Matilda Faucette; Martha Faucette; Sally Faucette; Mary Ann Freeland; Virginia Ann Fuller


Victoria Garland; Anne Elizabeth Garrett; Mary L. Garrett; Frances Perry Gilchrist; Hester Maria Gilchrist; Lucy Gilchrist; Susan Blaine Gilchrist; Lizzie Glass; Sarah Grice


S. Hall; Ella Hammond; Cassandra Harrison; Hannah Hawks; Henrietta Howard Holdich; Janet Hollister; Elizabeth Ashe Holmes; Annie Holt; Frances Ann Holt; Margaret Parthenia Evelyn Hooker; C? Horner; Emily Martin Howerton; Maria Louise Howerton


Mary E. Jeffreys; Margaret Johnson; Eliza Adam Jones; Frances Iredell Jones; Mary Albertine Jones; Mary Cameron Jones; Mary Rebecca Jones; Sally Rebecca Jones; Ann Jordan; Elizabeth Jordan


Annie Ruffin Kirkland; Susan Mary Kirkland; Sarah Jane Kollock


Annette Eliza Lindsay; Mary Virginia Lindsay; Helen Cadwell Long; Margaret Taylor Long; Frances Elizabeth Lunsford; Virginia Lunsford; Elizabeth Palmer Lynch; Mary Jane Lynch


Sallie Alston Mangum; Mary Caroline McCauley; Annie McDiarmid; Catharine McDiarmid; Margaret McLester; Martha Frances Mebane; Mary Elizabeth Mebane; Jemima Haywood Middleton; Eliza North Mitchell; Barbara Maria Montgomery; Ann Moore; Julia Rebecca Moore; Mary Moore; Sophronia Moore; Bettie S. Morris; Martha Morrow; Virginia Garland Moseley; Catherine A. Murchison; Margaret Murchison; Julia Murphy; Mary Bailey Murphy; Susan Moseley Murphy


Elizabeth Simpson Nash; Emma Newkirk; L. H. Newton; Annabella Giles Norwood; Margaret Yonge Norwood; Robina Norwood; Sarah E. Nunn


Mary Owen; Sally Roberta Owen


Eliza Palmer; Jane Rebecca Parker; Maria L. Parks; Annie Blount Pearce; Mary Huske Pearce; Henrietta Martin Perkins; Margaret E. Pointer; Mary Anne Primrose


Sarah C. Ray; Susan Roberts; Mary Elizabeth Robinson; Susan Mary Ruffin


Lauretta Winifred Sanders; Sarah Elizabeth Sanders; Emma Jane Scales; Frances A. Sellers; Rosa Sellers; Margaret Shepard; Mary Shepard; Bettie Smith; Frances Elizabeth Smith; Isabella Smith; Julia J. Smith; Lou Smith; Mary Smith; Mary Ivy Smith; Rebecca Cameron Smith; Sarah Smith; Sarah Smith; Jane Speed; Nannie Taylor Speed; Rosaline Brooke Spotswood; Eliza W. Stedman; Jane Ellen Stevens; Elizabeth Stevenson


Ann Thompson


Narcissa Jane Unthank


Emily Vanderford; Isabella Brown Venable; Martha Elizabeth Venable


Charlotte Isabella Waddell; Maria "Mariah" E. Waddell; Margaret Isabella Walker; Elizabeth Ann Watkins; Lucy Baskerville Watkins; Caroline J. Watters; Anne Huske Webb; Elizabeth G. Webb; Fannie Webb; Henrietta Webb; Martha Ann Webb; Mary Webb; Mary Caroline Webb; Susan A. Webb; Elizabeth Whitted; Bell Williams; Cornelia Elizabeth Williams; Kate Williams; Martha Williams; Phi Williams; Mary Wilson; Denah McEwen Witherspoon; Mary Nash Witherspoon; Fanny Womack; Mary Woodrow; Sarah Woods; Mary J. D. Wortham


Annabella Yonge