Brainerd Institute | Olde English District

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Brainerd Institute

115 Marquis St.
Chester, SC 29706
(803) 519-7535 or (803) 899-4391

This was one of several educational institutions for freed slaves and their children started by the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church USA. In 1866 Miss E.E. Richmond and Miss Carolyn I. Kent, both white, came from New York and New Jersey, respectively, to teach students in the Chester area. They operated a day school, a night school and a Sunday school. The school was formerly organized in 1868, and by 1913 there were ten grades (the 11th and 12th grades were added later). Brainerd was a feeder school for many colleges, including Allen University, Benedict College, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingstone College and Howard University. After high school enrollments declined in the 1930s, it became a junior college. The last class graduated in 1939. Today one building, Kumler Hall, remains on the 18-acre campus. In the late 1990s a local group generated national interest in preserving the school. Actress Phylicia Rashad and her sister, dancer Debbie Allen answered the call for support. Rashad purchased the property in honor of her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, who was in its last graduating class. Both Rashad and Allen continue to assist programming and fundraising for the site being preserved for the establishment of a cultural center. Two historical markers commemorate Brainerd: the one on Cemetery Street designates Brainerd's inclusion on the National Register of Historical Places; the other, erected in 1997, is located near the site of the campus on Lancaster Street. On the National Register of Historical Places.