Event to raise funds to restore old school

Published 7:13 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

FRANKLIN—The Franklin and Southampton County area is full of many people and institutions that have played a pivotal role in the history of black people.

On Saturday, Feb. 14, members of the Apostolic Faith Church of God will hold a conversation about the life of one such individual and the institution she created through its theme, “Restoring the Legacy.” The event will feature the life of Della Irving Hayden, for whom Hayden Grammar School was named.

Hayden Grammar School was the elementary school attended by black children in Franklin before desegregation.

Apostolic’s program director, Debra Ellis, said the event is an opportunity to share history with Franklin residents who might not be aware of Della Hayden, while raising funds to renovate the school.

“There will be a freewill offering and all proceeds will go toward the renovation and restoration of Hayden Grammar School,” Ellis said.

Della Irving was born on an unknown date in 1851 in Tarboro, N.C., to a slave named Charlotte Irving and an unknown father.

Della was only 9 years old when her mother, Charlotte, was sold to a new master in Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War. Della remained behind with her grandmother.

At the end of the war, Charlotte returned to North Carolina and relocated Della, by then 14 years old, back to Virginia.

Della expressed to her mother her desire to attend school, but since there were no Freedman’s Bureau (schools for freed blacks) schools in their county, Charlotte and Della moved to Nansemond County, which is now Suffolk.

A year later, the two moved to Franklin and Della finished secondary school here.

In 1872, Della began school at Hampton Institute. Although temporarily sidetracked by a lack of funds that forced her to take some time off from school, she worked as a teacher to earn money to return.

In 1877, she graduated among the top of her class with high honors. Shortly after her graduation, she returned to Franklin and became principal of the school and married her college sweetheart, Lindsey Hayden.

In 1890, Della Hayden was appointed principal of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University in Petersburg).

At the end of her tenure in Petersburg, she returned to Franklin.

Knowing first-hand the lack of educational opportunities for black children in Franklin, she founded the Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904. She served as head of the school for 21 years.

On Dec. 10, 1924, at the age of 73, Hayden was involved in a car accident in Suffolk and died later that evening from the injuries she sustained.

Her obituary read, “Mrs. Hayden stands in the ranks of the best early educators of our race. It has been well said by those who knew her best that she was ‘born to teach.’”

Records provided by Ellis show that in 1913, the Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute had a total enrollment of 46 students and four teachers.

“She established a haven for the education of African-American children in an area where they may not have received,” said Ellis. “In a time when many have lost that passion because they are busy with other things, we wanted to bring this story out as a


Ellis said that all proceeds raised during the program to restore the old school will go directly to the creation of an auditorium, conference area and facilities to help mentor youth and aid people in need.

The program will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14. The Apostolic Faith Church of God is located at 680 Oak St. in Franklin.