George Washington Dame (27 July 1812–24 December 1895), Episcopal minister and educator, was born in Rochester, New Hampshire, and was the son of Jabez Dame, a merchant, and Elizabeth Hanson Cushing Dame. In 1823 he moved to Prince Edward County, Virginia, to live with his maternal uncle, Jonathan Peter Cushing, president of Hampden-Sydney College. Dame received an A.B. from Hampden-Sydney in 1829 and began studying medicine at the University of Pennsylvania the following year. After his uncle became ill, Dame returned to Hampden-Sydney and received an A.M. in 1832. He joined the school's faculty as a tutor the next year. In 1834 he was appointed chair of geology and mineralogy and a professor of natural philosophy and chemistry. On 22 July 1835 Dame married Mary Maria Page. They had nine children, of whom two daughters and four sons lived to adulthood. Among his grandchildren were George MacLaren Brydon, who also became an Episcopal minister and historian of the church, and Mary Evelyn Brydon, a physician and public health officer.

After contracting tuberculosis, Dame resigned from Hampden-Sydney in 1836. He stayed with his wife's family in Cumberland County while recovering, but health problems continued to plague him for the rest of his life. In May 1836 Dame joined the Episcopal Church and soon became convinced that it was his duty to enter the ministry despite his concerns about his health, speaking abilities, and finances. He prepared for the ministry at night while operating a school for girls in Lynchburg in 1838 and in Prince Edward County in 1839. Ordained a deacon on 15 January 1840, Dame took charge of the church at Prince Edward Court House (later Worsham). He was ordained a priest on 10 August 1841.

In September 1840 Dame accepted an invitation to become principal of the Danville Female Academy. He successfully managed the school for many years and was able both to pay off his accumulated debts and to provide free schooling for impoverished students. When Dame arrived in Danville, he agreed also to serve as rector of Camden Parish, which at that time included the counties of Franklin, Henry, Patrick, and Pittsylvania. The parish reportedly had only eight Episcopalians, and he worked tirelessly to build the church in and around Danville. Dame traveled more than a hundred miles each month to hold services in Competition (later Chatham), Martinsville, and Rocky Mount. During his nearly fifty-five-year tenure he established ten churches throughout the region with more than five hundred members. Having raised the funds for its construction, he held the first service at the Church of the Epiphany, in Danville, in 1844.

During the Civil War, Dame ministered to wounded Confederate soldiers and Union prisoners. He received a commission as chaplain of the general hospital in Danville on 9 June 1864 (to date from 14 April of that year). After the collapse of the Confederacy, he took the oath of allegiance on 12 May 1865. The following year Dame closed the Danville Female Academy. He remained committed to education, however, and in 1870 was appointed the first school superintendent for Pittsylvania County, with responsibility for examining and licensing teachers, supervising school boards, and monitoring the management of each school in his district. During his first year Dame noted the enthusiasm of county residents for the new system of public schools and logged 1,000 miles visiting Pittsylvania schools. Believing that a strong system of public education was vital to the country's future success, he consistently urged greater funding for teachers' salaries and construction of adequate school buildings. Dame remained county superintendent until August 1879, when he became superintendent for the schools in the city of Danville. He was reappointed in 1883 but had resigned by April 1884.

Dame became a Freemason in 1833 and in January 1842 was elected Worshipful Master of Danville's Roman Eagle Lodge, a position he held until 1869 and resumed for one year in 1876. He was a district deputy grand master for more than twenty years and also the grand chaplain for the Grand Lodge of Virginia from 1863 to 1895. Not long before his death Dame completed a Historical Sketch of Roman Eagle Lodge (1895). He was a member of the local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for almost fifty years and served as Most Worthy Grand Master of the state lodge for the 1867–1868 term. He also supported the temperance movement.

Hampden-Sydney College awarded Dame an honorary D.D. in 1891. On 20 April 1894 he retired as rector of Camden Parish and the Church of the Epiphany. George Washington Dame died at his Danville home on 24 December 1895. He was buried in the city's Green Hill Cemetery next to his wife, who had died three months earlier.


Sources Consulted:
Typescript autobiographies, 1892 (with birth and marriage dates) and 1895, in Materials Concerning the Reverend George Washington Dame, Virginia Museum of History and Culture (VMHC), Richmond; autobiography in Marshall W. Fishwick, ed., George Washington Dame (1812–1895): Missionary to Southwestern Virginia (1961); biographies in Edward Pollock, Illustrated Sketch Book of Danville, Virginia: Its Manufactures and Commerce (1885), 119, and A. J. Morrison, College of Hampden Sidney: Dictionary of Biography, 1776–1825 (1921), 281–282; Cumberland Co. Marriage Bonds; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers (1861–1865), War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; George Washington Dame Papers and Dame Family Papers, VMHC; writings include Dame, "Flute Melodies," Accession 20613, Library of Virginia, "Sketch of the Life and Character of Jonathan P. Cushing, M.A.," American Quarterly Register 11 (1838): 113–128, Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (1868), 318–328, "Supt. Dame on the Danville Schools," Educational Journal of Virginia 10 (1879): 428–430, and Historical Sketch of Roman Eagle Lodge (1895), with frontispiece portrait; Church of the Epiphany, Danville, Virginia: Centennial, 1840–1940 (1940), 6–22; obituaries in Richmond Dispatch, 25 Dec. 1895, Richmond Times, 25 Dec. 1895, and Washington Post, 25 Dec. 1895.


Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Jeffrey W. McClurken.

How to cite this page:
Jeffrey W. McClurken,"George Washington Dame (1812–1895)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2006 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Dame_George_Washington, accessed [today's date]).


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