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Saint Paul’s Memorial Chapel ornament
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The museum’s first annual Christmas ornament. This year’s ornament depicts the Saint Paul’s Memorial Chapel. Future ornaments will include, James Solomon Russell, Saul Building, Russell Memorial Library, Tiger mascot and more related to the history of James Solomon Russell and Saint Paul’s College.
The Reverend James Solomon Russell, 1857-1935
James Solomon Russell, priest, educator and founder of St. Paul’s College, was born into slavery on December 20, 1857, on the Hendrick plantation in Virginia. He was raised by his mother until after the Civil War, when his father, who had been working on a plantation in North Carolina, was able to join the family. Russell’s childhood was marked by poverty and hard work, as the newly-emancipated family struggled to run a small farm in Palmer Springs, Virginia.
Russell recounted in his autobiography that his mother gave him the middle name Solomon hoping that he would be as wise as his biblical namesake and that she made many sacrifices to ensure his education. As a young boy Russell attended a private school where his tuition was often paid in labor and food from the family farm. His education was frequently interrupted by financial constraints and the necessity of helping out at home but his mother always made sure he returned to school. Russell’s abilities caught the attention of the superintendent, who encouraged him to apply for boarding school, as his education could go no further in Palmer Springs. With the support of his parents and community, Russell entered the Hampton Institute in 1874, wearing a used hat and a suit made from wool grown in the neighborhood and woven on a community loom.
After completing his first year at Hampton, Russell was unable to pay the next year’s tuition and sought work as a teacher in order to save money. As part of his curriculum, his class recited the Apostle’s Creed every Friday afternoon. Community members began coming to the school to hear the children, including an Episcopalian woman who gave Russell the Book of Common Prayer. He was so impressed by what he read that he, “then and there became, spiritually, a member of the great Episcopal Church.”
We want you to be part of our museum and experience its beauty and rich history. This is why we offer several ways to let you engage with us to help maintain and develop the museum. Whether you are Alumni of J.S Russel High or St. Pauls College looking to donate or a business/ individual who loves to preserve and cares about local history. We have everything for all of you. Become a member today!