A Historic Family’s 1911 Schoolhouse Is Available for Relocation

Update October 13: The price is now $2,500 for the schoolhouse.

Update October 9: The price is now $500 each for the schoolhouse and the smokehouse. The other outbuildings are $100.

Brothers John and James McNairy looked at the schooling available to their children in Guilford County and decided it would be home-schooling for their kids. That term didn’t exist in 1911 when the brothers were thinking about it, and their solution isn’t one that most home-schoolers would consider today: They built their own schoolhouse and hired a teacher for it. They used the building as a school until 1920, when their youngest children completed their education.

The McNairy family schoolhouse still stands on a piece of what used to be the large McNairy farm in north Greensboro, and it can be yours to take home for $100 $500 $2,500. The owner is working with the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund to relocate the schoolhouse and the McNairys’ old smokehouse, which also is available for relocation for $100 $500.

The schoolhouse is about 16 feet long and 14 feet wide, 224 square feet. The roof is 24 feet high at its peak, tall enough to accommodate a loft. The interior is floor-to-ceiling bead board. The development fund calls the small building “perfect for a playhouse, COVID-19 schoolhouse, she-shed, he-shed or garden house.”

The smokehouse is a split-log structure, about 10 feet wide, 12 feet long, and 12 feet high. “Formerly used for curing hams, it would make an excellent garden house or workshop,” the fund says. Additional barns, sheds and lean-to structures on the property are available for salvage for $100 each.

For more information, send an email to Cheryl Pratt of the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund or call her[mfn] … at 336-202-6543[/mfn].

The McNairy Family

John and James were members of a family much involved with the early history of Guilford County (and the state of Tennessee) with connections to David Caldwell and one-time Guilford County lawyer Andrew Jackson.

Francis and Mary Boyd McNairy moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania in 1761. They bought land on Horsepen Creek; 20 years later it was part of the site of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Their house was used as a hospital after the battle; prominent local minister, educator and ardent revolutionary David Caldwell provided emergency medical treatment (he also was a self-taught physician). The home was dismantled in 1967 and reassembled at the Greensboro Historical Museum, where it still stands.

John McNairy

Digression: One of Francis and Mary’s nine children was John McNairy (1762-1837). Educated by Caldwell, “he also read law, probably under the direction of his neighbor, Governor Alexander Martin, and in 1783 received a license to practice, thus becoming the first native-born lawyer in Guilford County,” the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography says (via NCpedia). Shortly after that, he began a lifelong, up-and-down friendship with volatile young  attorney Andrew Jackson, then of Guilford County. In 1787 McNairy was appointed judge in what is now Davidson County, Tennessee, then part of North Carolina. He took Jackson along and appointed him attorney general, setting Jackson on his rough-and-tumble way to the presidency of the United States.

John went on to become a major figure in the early history of Tennessee (a county is named for him). Eventually, the whole family joined him there except for his brother James, a lawyer who stayed in Guilford County. “A large landowner like his father, he served as a justice of the peace, as well as a member of the state legislature,” according to Tim Cole of the Greensboro Public Library.

At the turn of the 20th century, James’s descendants included the second pair of John and James McNairy brothers, who built the schoolhouse. When John died in 1932, he was remembered as a “prominent Guilford County farmer of the Battleground community,” which included the area around Lake Jeanette Road and Bass Chapel Road. His youngest son, Glenn, was among those educated in the family schoolhouse. Along with three of his brothers, he graduated from Duke University (their two sisters stayed in Greensboro and graduated from the Women’s College; sister Julia McNairy Grady became a lifelong educator and endowed a scholarship fund there). Glenn became a prominent Greensboro businessman. The Glenn McNairy branch of the Greensboro Public Library is named for him. It’s on Lake Jeanette Road, sitting on land that once was part of the McNairy farm.