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In the 1880's and 1890's the leaders of the Roanoke Baptist Association realized the urgent need for a good school to educate the youth of Pittsylvania County and the surrounding area, but their plans did not materialize. In 1906, Mr. Charles R. Warren, a young graduate of Trinity College (now Duke University) organized and operated a day school in Chatham named Warren Training School. But at the close of its third session in 1909, it was announced that the school would not reopen in the fall of 1909. At this time, Mr. Jesse H. Hargrave, a mercantilist, and his son, Mr. J. Hunt Hargrave, joined with the pastor of Chatham Baptist Church, the Reverend T. Ryland Sanford, to make preparations for a new school in September 1909.
Colonel Aubrey H. Camden, the second president of Hargrave Military Academy, looking back as he wrote A Historical Record of Hargrave Military Academy in 1959, stated:
To combine the educational needs of that period (1909) the dreams of the Roanoke Baptist Association, the nucleus of Warren Training School, the monetary support and labors of the Baptist laymen, the vision of the youth of their generation. Thereby, was born in the town of Chatham a Baptist school for boys known as Chatham Training School.
Mr. Jesse H. Hargrave and his son purchased about thirty-six acres for the school and modified the Martin family home (Tredway House) on the property to provide classrooms as well as dormitory space for seventeen boarders and eighteen-day students during the 1909-1910 session. One teacher, Mr. John K. Hutton, assisted Warren as headmaster. At the end of the school year, the Martin home was re-purchased by its former owner. At this time, the executive group of the school retained twenty of the original thirty-six acres for building sites for the school and sold the remaining acres. The profits from the sale were given by the Hargrave’s, father and son, for the construction of the first brick building, known as the Old Building, which was ready for use at the beginning of the second session, 1910-1911. Thirty-two boarding students and seventeen-day students enrolled for this first session at the new site on the hill. Two faculty members assisted Mr. Warren.
On July 18, 1911, a formal charter was granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Chatham Training School and was recorded in the Clerk's Office of Pittsylvania County. At the close of the 1910-1911 session, Mr. Warren resigned as headmaster. The office of headmaster was discontinued, and The Reverend Mr. Sanford was elected President and Business Manager on May 23, 1911 and served as president until 1918. In 1913, the Baptist General Association of Virginia made its first gift, $1,000; to the school, and since that time the school has continued an affiliation with the association.
In 1913, a second building, known as Hargrave Hall, was constructed. In 1915, the first yearbook, the "Oracle", was published. The school was granted accreditation by the State Board of Education in 1917 and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1920.
In 1918, Mr. Aubrey H. Camden, who had been serving as Dean of the school since 1914, was chosen as president of the School by the Board of Trustees to replace the Reverend Mr. Sanford, who had resigned. In response to appeals from patrons and students who were motivated by the country's involvement in World War I, military training was approved as part of the course of study. Although the Academy was repeatedly approved for Junior ROTC, the trustees, fearing that such a program would overemphasize the military and lessen the academic, decided that they preferred to operate under paragraph 55C of the National Defense Act, which enabled the school to place less emphasis on military instruction in the classroom. In 1925, the name of the school was changed from Chatham Training School to Hargrave Military Academy. The change in name served two purposes. It corrected misunderstanding that anyone may have had about the type of applicant to be enrolled, and it established a memorial to Mr. J. Hunt Hargrave, whose sustaining interest, faith and collateral security contributed greatly to the realization of the venture which was undertaken in 1909.
In 1911, the president's mother, Mrs. M. F. Sanford, became interested in working with students at the elementary school level, and the enrollment of younger students increased year by year. The junior school was organized as a separate department in 1925, and this led to the construction of the Junior School Building (renamed Floyd Hall in April 1964, in honor of Colonel E. A. Floyd), which was ready in September 1929 with four classrooms and ample space to house 50 Cadets.
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