Horner School / Horner Military School
Dr. James Hunter Horner,
founder of Horner Military School
Horner Military School Football Team circa 1906
Jerome C. Horner
Horner Military School Main Building
Cadets in formation at Granville County Court House
February 16, 1976 (OPL) -- Rich History of Horner School--In 1851, Dr. James Hunter Horner, a native of Orange County and a graduate of the State University, who later became a Confederate captain, came to Oxford from Hamilton in Martin County where he had been conducting a school for boys for some time. Most of Horner's pupils accompanied him from Hamilton attracted by Oxford's reputation for its health giving climate and its refined social life. With his bride and his group of students, Horner made his first home on the spot where now stands the dining room of the Oxford Orphanage and here, in 1853, was born his first child, Jerome Channing Horner. At that time, classes were held in a small house on the grounds of the Rev. Marsh home, where now stands the old Ray family home. In 1854, compelled by the rapid growth of his school, Horner purchased what was later known as Horner Hill, making his home in the house still standing on the crest. A building for school exercises was erected near the home. Little two-room cottages, most of them with porches, were built on the edge of the Horner yard, and were occupied as dormitories by boarding students. As the school increased in numbers, the attendance, ranging for many years between 100 and 110, other buildings were added, culminating in the new barracks, built in 1891 to accommodate teachers, cadets, and classrooms. In the central part of this building was a large assembly hall, the scene of many festivities which the belles of Oxford were happy to share.
The military system of discipline was introduced in the school in 1878 when, on account of his father's ill health, Jerome Horner became principal. Under his management, with Col. Drewry, a VMI graduate as commandant, the new system proved a great success. When the War Between the States broke out, Horner organized a company and went to the front as its captain. Ill health sent him home in 1863 and he resumed his teaching. He continued to teach in Oxford until 1874 when he moved to Hillsboro. Again ill health compelled a change in Mr. Horner's program and he sought to rid himself of his ailment by travel. Ralph H. Graves, Sr. and Hugh Morison continued the operation of the Hillsboro School until Horner's death in 1876 when the school closed. While Horner was at Hillsboro, Fred A. Fetter taught at the Horner place for a year or so. In spring of 1876, James Horner's younger brother, Thomas J. Horner, returned to the old home place in Oxford and reopened the school. He soon moved to Henderson and opened a school there. The following spring, Junius Moore Horner and Rev. Frank R. Underwood continued the Horner School in Oxford. In the fall of that year, 1877, Jerome C. Horner returned to Oxford and became the general principal of the school established by his father some twenty two years previously. About 1891 new barracks were erected in the yard of the Horner house, as was a large school room adjoining and connected with the residence. After Horner's death, the school continued its successful operation under then Col. Jerome C. Horner. In 1913, came the first great fire which destroyed the new barracks and led to the removal of the school to Charlotte in 1914 in response to generous offers of patronage from citizens of that city. After six years in Charlotte, the Horner Military School closed in 1920.
June 27, 1890 (OPL)—Faculty: James H. Horner, AM (University of North Carolina) Principal and Founder of the School; Colonel T. J. Drewry, Com’d’t. (Star Graduate of Virginia Military Institute; J. C. Horner, AM (Davidson College); G. A. Wanchope, MA, PhD (University of Berlin; late Fellow of Washington and Lee University); Rev. J. M. Horner, BA, BD (University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University).
September 26, 1971 (Durham Morning Herald)--The Hushed Halls of Oxford--Horner's was acclaimed as having few equals in the state for "scholarship and thoroughness" of its programs. The school offered two four-year courses of study--"classical" and "scientific and English". The classical course embraced the study of Latin, Greek, mathematics, English grammar and rhetoric, geography and history. French, German and bookkeeping were elective studies that could be substituted for their equivalent in the regular courses or taken in addition to them. Students were subjected daily to quizzes and were given oral and written examinations at the close of each session on all subjects studied. Records indicate the school was "strictly military in its organization and discipline."
April 5, 1982 (OPL) -- Hallowed Halls of Horner Revisited--The famous military school survived the disaster of the Civil War and stood solidly for 69 years. Horner served as "a classical school to prepare boys for university and college," and it became one of the finest schools in the state. "It was the first day of the new session and a group of boys were in one of the recitation rooms awaiting the coming of Mr. Horner (Junius M. Horner, or June, as he was called, one of the teachers at the school). Among them was a new boy, much frightened by the idea of changing from a child's school, as well as by the rough play of the larger boys. June sought to enter the room but it was so full of boys he could not at first open the door. When he did gain entrance, there stood the new boy with his back against the door, trying to keep as far as possible from the terrifying sport of the more hardened students. Mr. Horner thought the boys were trying to bar him out and that the one with his back to the door was the leader in the effort. Accordingly, he grabbed the boy and gave him a good shaking, which did nothing toward assuring the shaken one that life in the big school was not one of vexation and hardships. Later some of the older boys went to Mr. Horner and explained the situation. Next day, before the entire class, he called up the new country boy and made a clean cut apology to him."
January 12, 1984 (OPL) -- Over 100 Years Old...Oxford's Wall--Although neither large, nor famous, nor well documented, Oxford has its own set of walls that merit some attention. They extend over two blocks, running parallel to Williamsboro Street at about the junction of Military Street and Williamsboro. About 75-80 percent of the two walls, which were built before the Civil War, remain. Originally, the walls extended the full length from the point where Cooper Street joins Williamsboro to the point where Spring Street meets Williamsboro. When the walls were constructed, Military Street had not yet been built.
At the time or origin, there were two walls, approximately the same height but of varying length. The second wall was the longest. The first wall was much shorter in length and served as merely a brace to the second wall. In the early 1930's, or late 20s, when Williamsboro Street was widened, the first wall was disassembled and moved closer to the second wall. Its height was probably shortened when it was moved. The two walls were commissioned to be built by James Hunter Horner, the founder of Horner Military School. Their main purpose was to serve as a barrier against soil erosion (the ground behind the wall was, and still is, much higher than the ground in front of the wall). Junius Christmas was hired to ovesee the building of the wall. The manual labor was probably performed by slaves. Originally, the wall was chinked--large boulders were stacked on top of each other, and then smaller stones were inserted to fill the gaps between the rocks. In more modern times the smaller stones have been replaced by mortar in some places. The stone used to build the wall was obtained from nearby farmland which has since been developed into the residential area of Pine Cone Drive.
A rusty gate stands about midway in the wall. James Hunter Horner's son, Jerome C. Horner, as a child of 12, sat and watched as the Union soldiers marched into town. It was customary for the soldiers to burn as they went, and the residents of the city were expecting the town to be on fire before the day was over. Time has taken its toll on the wall. The ends of the structure are recessed in the earth, the soil thoroughly covering them, and tiny stones lie scattered along its length. Ivy has entangled the main portion of the wall and parts of the structure seem a little unstable. Even so, the past century did not succeed in destroying it.