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The Brafferton

The Brafferton
  • Built in 1723
  • Simple five-bay Georgian house
  • Most original colonial edifice on campus of the College of William & Mary
  • Housed Indian school

Built by the College of William & Mary

The College of William & Mary raised the Brafferton in 1723 a few yards east of the Wren Building to house its Indian school. The simple brick five-bay Georgian house is the most substantially original colonial edifice on campus.

Some 52 feet tall and long, the Brafferton is 34 feet deep. It has two main floors and a finished attic. Now used for offices, it has been, among other things, a classroom building, a dining hall, and a professor's residence.

Original college charter promised education to Native Americans

William & Mary's 1693 charter included a commitment to train young Native Americans as Christian clergymen and missionaries to their people. Investment income from the estate of English natural philosopher Robert Boyle (the Yorkshire manor of Brafferton) was earmarked for an endowment in 1697.

The Indian school's first students were six boys purchased from Native Americans who had captured them from enemy tribes. By 1712, the Indian school's master had charge of 20 scholars, but there were none by 1721.

School closed for good in 1779

Revived after the Brafferton was finished in 1723, the Indian school faltered on, its endowment applied to other projects or wasted. The last, lone Native American student entered in 1775. Thomas Jefferson, a member of the college's board of visitors by virtue of being Virginia's governor, engineered the Indian school's closing in December 1779.

The Brafferton is not a Colonial Williamsburg exhibition site.