Katherine Belle Yancey Chandler
Memoirs by Grey Chandler
Katherine Belle Yancey Chandler, my grandmother, was the youngest of thirteen Yancey children and never moved from her native Mecklenburg County Public Schools for ten years until she married my grandfather in 1904.
What was so unusual about Grandma Chandler was that she never attended a formal school a day in her life until she entered Longwood. Instead, she was a product of the Post- Civil War South. During reconstruction her family had little money, besides, she was female and did not need an education outside the home. Grandmother’s older brother Ben had married, and his wife took special interest in her. This sister-in-law’s family provided money for books so she could teach my grandmother to read and write. Grandmother’s avid love for learning coupled with the care and devotion of her sister-in-law prepared her well enough at home to eventually enter Longwood.
Family oral history details the trip in the mid-1890’s to Farmville, Virginia, to college. Her home was located between Buffalo Junction and Nelson, Virginia, approximately seventy miles from Longwood. Since automobiles did not exist, grandmother’s brother drove her there in a horse-drawn wagon. The trip took two days on dirt roads; it covered parts of Mecklenburg, Charlotte, and Prince Edward Counties. Once there, she did not come home until she finished her training.
When she returned to Mecklenburg County, Grandmother Chandler became a “ school administrator” for a one-room school. Her role included principal, teacher, and janitor. She drove a buggy to work each day and took her lunch wrapped in newspaper. Once there she started the fire and brought in water with the assistance of students. She taught all subjects and ages to sometimes as many as twenty students; she taught without electricity, audiovisual equipment, and computers. More noteworthy, she taught alone because no other educators existed for collaboration in her area of the county.
As soon as Grandmama married, her teaching career ended because married women were not allowed to teach. However, her interest in providing rural education continued. For years a special room was set-aside in her home so she could offer free room and board to teachers who came from outside the area.
Grandmother Chandler imparted her love of education to her daughters. All four worked in Mecklenburg County Public Schools at sometime in their lives. Three taught school, one became the county reading supervisor, and one assumed a principal ship. One, who was legally blind, worked in the cafeteria at Clarksville Elementary School. I have a friendly suspicion that they all fulfilled the hopes and desires of their mother.
Education challenged my grandmother, not only in her girlhood and career, but also in her family. She faced inadequate resources, environmental difficulties, and hard work assignments. Yet she persevered and successfully contributed to the education of many in her time and place in history. She was a truly miracle.