Hundreds rally to save historic Powhatan County property

POWHATAN, Va. — (WRIC) – Sisters of St. Francis and St. Emma held a rally Saturday to save more than 2,200 acres of historic property run by nuns. The property is in danger of being sold.

Hundreds came out to Powhatan trying to figure out how to save the site of two historic black schools and a former plantation with a slave burial ground. For the past ten years, local nuns have been working to restore the former site, but recently learned the land is for sale.

Built in 1845, the is a former plantation and cemetery for slaves that later became a school for African American children.

Donna McLean, a former student, reminisces on her time at the school

“It’s what we call the ’empowerment era’ when the schools were active from the 1890s to the early 1970s. We were educated. I was one of 15,000 privileged children to get here,”  McLean said.

Audray Gadson’s has personal ties to the property. Her grandparents are buried there.

“We have over 50 members and relatives of ours buried in the cemetery here,” Gadson said. “We are very concerned about what might happen to those remains if someone takes this property over.”

It’s now a preschool, museum, and place for nature lovers that supporters say has limitless potential.

“We need to keep it and have more facilities on the property for education,” said Gadson

McLean also commented saying “We can accept different, but I can’t accept not being able to come here not being able to see it and to work it and to give back.”

You find a link to the petition by visiting and searching for  Belmead.

Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to

Comments are closed.