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Danville Military Institute

Danville, Virginia



The best source of information about Danville Military Institute is A History of Danville Military Institute, a 1959 Master’s Theses by Robert Erle Edwards.  The 1926 yearbook, The Grenade, is available through Internet Archive.  The local newspaper covering school events was The Bee. The 1899 ad (right) is from the Staunton Spectator.


Founded in 1890, Danville Military Institute was the vision of Colonel Isaac H. Saunders of a school for boys and young men “to increase mental, moral, and physical powers by careful training, proper influences and systematic exercises.” Edwards notes that “Danville Military Institute was Colonel Saunders" and that "Colonel Saunders was Danville Military Institute.”  

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With a small, carefully selected faculty, the school offered four courses of study—classical, scientific, English, and commercial.  Thus it prepared graduates for careers in both college and business.


It was unashamedly an R.O.T.C. school, providing students with a rigorous daily schedule of

inspections, drills, marches, and military training in uniforms and under discipline.   The program was sanctioned by the U.S. Military, which provided a commandant from its active service, as well as arms and materials.


D.M.I. was a small school.  The yearbook shows 85 students—61 from Virginia.  These provided two military companies.  The major student organization was the Cotillion Club which organized the three major school dances as well as other entertainments for the students.  Students could choose from among four literary societies—Wilson, Webster, Harris and Saunders—to develop training in elocution.  D.M.I. had an orchestra and a dramatic club; Students published both The Grenade and a monthly newsletter, The Scout.  The school had an Honor Committee to oversee violations of the school’s honor code and a vigilance committee to oversee freshman orientation.


After Colonel Saunders sold his share in the school in 1902, it passed through five ownership/name/focus changes before closing in 1939. 

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Pinterest Image of the "Castle on the Hill."  The image was credited to the Danville Historical Society.

Bricks and Mortar

Danville (1890 population 10,315) is located in the Piedmont section of southwest Virginia.  The cornerstone for the main building of Danville Military Institute was laid September 18, 1890.  Located beyond the western rim of the city, the Gothic style building was constructed of brick,

covered with stucco.  With three floors over a basement, it contained an armory, a study hall, offices, lecture rooms, laboratories and a library as well as dorm rooms.  Heated with steam and lighted by gas, it had hot and cold water in every room.

Because of its Gothic towers, size, and location, it was known to students as the “Castle on the Hill.”


The campus was located close enough to town for students to take advantage of social, recreational and education opportunities, but far enough away that students were not disturbed by the bustle of the city. 


The campus was used after World War II to house German prisoners of war.  It became the home of Danville Technical Institute in 1946.  In 1968 it housed the new Danville Community College.  Declared obsolete, the “Castle” was razed in 1974.


            Team name: Cadets, Tigers

            School colors: Orange and Blue


So far as I can find, the original D.M.I did not have a football team.  In 1902 the new Danville Military Institute began fielding all-school teams.  In 1903 the Richmond Times-Dispatch noted that five professors played on the D.M.I. team.  As a result the schedule included four-year colleges—Guilford, Richmond, V.M.I., North Carolina State, and Hampton-Sidney.  Later D.M.I. began playing a preparatory school schedule.  The 1938 team, the school’s last, lost only one game—to McGuire School of Richmond.  But that team defeated Altavista High School, Shenandoah Valley Academy, Miller School of Albemarle, the Randolph-Macon College Freshmen, Hargrave Military Academy, Virginia Episcopal School, Fishburne Military School, and Lane High School.


Baseball was a major sport at DMI, with a team organized as early as 1895.   Basketball became a school sport from 1920.  In 1906 D.M.I. was one of the schools invited to send track and field athletes to the Episcopal Meet in Raleigh. In 1933 a D.M.I. boxing team finished second in the South Atlantic prep meet.

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1925 football team.  Image from the 1926 Grenade.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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