St. David’s has long burning, intellectual history
A meeting was held on December 13, 1777, in the Welsh Neck Baptist Church, “to promote learning”, according to the private journal of Rev. Evan Pugh, an early pastor of Welsh Neck Baptist Church. A few weeks later, on December 31, 1777, the Saint David’s Society was formed and elected their first officers. The purpose of the Society was to institute and endow a seminary of learning in the Cheraw District. This was the first major civic undertaking by private citizens in the upper Pee Dee region.
At the Society’s third meeting, it was proposed that the academy be open to “youths of all Christian denominations” and, nearly 9,000 English pounds were pledged to the project. This amount would be equal to $ 1,816,666.78 today. A lot, “on the first hill” above the village of Long Bluff was selected and a schoolhouse was built there, opening in October of 1786. Welsh Neck Baptist Church relocated to an adjacent lot around 1799, beginning a new village which would become much more important than the settlement of Long Bluff down on the riverbank.
The original St. David’s Academy burned in 1813, was rebuilt and used until 1833, when it was turned into a girls’ school. The Academy and the Female Benevolent Society actually transferred properties and there were no real estate titles ever recorded for the transfer. The new site of the Academy was on the opposite end of the village from Welsh Neck Baptist Church. Being renovated in 1833 and used until it was burned in 1851, it has remained in this location to the present day.
Rebuilt after the fire, by 1900, enrollment had increased so much that the building had to be enlarged. Adding a second story, the Academy operated in this building until the mid 1920s, when it was replaced by a one-story brick structure. The Work Progress Administration (WPA), under Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, added identical wings on each end of the building and this served as home to the Academy until it was burned to the ground in December of 1944. Classes were held in the Memorial Hall of the Welsh Neck Baptist Church until the new St. David’s Academy was completed in early 1946. This new facility was struck by lightning on July 27, 1956, and was totally consumed by flames. It was replaced by a handsome new building which still stands.