Augusta County and Wilson Memorial High School: A Narrative
Augusta County has a long and proud historical background. Governor Spotswood crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1700 to claim the land as far west as the Mississippi River and as far north as the Great Lakes for the King of England. Augusta County was established from this large area in 1738 and was reduced to its present boundaries in 1790. A county government was organized in 1745 with the city of Staunton as the county seat. Staunton was the first city in the nation to use the city-manager form of government, reflecting a progressive attitude which is still active today.
Having the second largest land area in the state, Augusta County covers 631,000 acres (967 square miles), more than half of which is covered by forest. According to the 200 census report, the county had a population of 65,615 people living in seven magisterial districts. Wilson Memorial High School serves portions of four of these districts: Beverly Manor, Wayne, South River and Middle River.
A History of the School
The end of World War II brought about the closing of the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital (June 1942-March 1946) and resulted in the proposed creation of Wilson Memorial High School. The location was highly suitable, as the property was in the eastern portion of the county where population growth was the greatest. The Augusta County School Board called upon the County Board of Supervisors for $100,000 to convert the existing hospital wards into classrooms and to remodel other facilities for educational purposes. The supervisors acted quickly, and in September 1947, Wilson Memorial High School opened its doors to students.
The school’s forty classrooms were occupied by students from several smaller high schools: Beverly Manor, Stuarts Draft, Fishersville, and New Hope. Approximately 1,000 students occupied the new facilities during its first session. Within two years, the enrollment jumped to 1,200 pupils. In 1962, as a result of further population growth, Wilson Memorial experienced its first division. The new high schools, Fort Defiance, Buffalo Gap, and Riverheads were constructed and boundary lines were drawn to equally divide the county’s student population.
By the beginning of the school term 1964-65, the enrollment at Wilson Memorial had increased to 1,265 and the maintenance of the old hospital buildings had become a struggle as a result of ongoing deterioration. At the request of the School Board, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed a School Building Needs Survey Committee, which visited the county and submitted a formal report in March 1966. One of the recommendations of this committee was that the Augusta County School Board should initiate steps to erect a new plant. The survey committee also recommended that the school population housed in Wilson Memorial be separated and that two new schools be built; one to replace the old structure and the other on a new site in Stuarts Draft. Contracts were awarded for the construction of the present Wilson Memorial High School on August 13, 1968. The building, with a capacity for 1000 students, was ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 1970-71 school year. Beginning in 2006, a $22 million renovation/construction project was begun to modernize the present facility. Included in this project was the addition of six science classrooms, expansion of the main office area, a complete overhaul of the heating and air conditioning units, upgrades to the auditorium and in all existing classrooms, the library and cafeteria; a separate new gym facility was completed with a 1500 person seating capacity and new locker rooms. Landscaping of the surrounding grounds, paving of the parking lots, and an upgrade of the outdoor lighting and a new terrace adjacent to the cafeteria, completed the renovation project.
Wilson Memorial High School, home of the Green Hornets, is still located in the Woodrow Wilson Complex which consists of the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, Augusta County School Board offices, Valley Vocational Technical Center, Wilson Elementary School, and Wilson Middle School. The school population is composed of students from Wilson, Ladd and Hugh K. Cassell elementary schools and Wilson Middle School
Wilson Memorial is the object of considerable corporate and community support. McKee Foods, Hershey’s and other local corporations and businesses provide snacks and refreshments for many events as well as donations for clubs and other student generated activities. Civic groups, such as the Elks, Ruritans, Key and Lion’s Clubs and the NAACP among others, offer many scholarship opportunities for our students. Area churches also provide venues for the Baccalaureate service and their parking lots for car washes. Numerous individuals and businesses support guidance programs that bring our students into contact with different career options and mentorship sites. The Fishersville Ruritan Club sponsors students to Boys’ and Girls’ State. Parents are very supportive and the school’s athletic and fine arts events are well attended. Community events and programs, including dramatic and musical productions, many little league activities and community meetings, are held within the school’s facilities.
Wilson Memorial High School is a school with a proud, rich heritage that even though it has remained in the same space for over 60 years, is now ready for the 21st century. You can’t hide that Hornet pride!