Lelia Johnson Sanford was born November 26, 1890 at Woodley Farm in Orange County. She was named after her mother, Lelia Johnson, who was married to Walker W. Sanford. Lelia was the youngest of five children.
Lelia graduated from Fredericksburg College, a small Presbyterian College in operation from 1893-1914. The school served missionary families. who sent their children back to this country for an education. Fredricksburg College was especially noted for its strong music program.
Lelia had a long family and personal relationship with Orange Presbyterian Church. At one time, she served as the organist. To get to Wednesday night choir practice, she would ride the mail buggy to Madison Run. From there, she'd catch the afternoon train to Orange. Lelia would spend the night with Dr. Lewis Holladay and his family. Thursday she would return home by the reverse route.
In 1922, Lelia left home to respond to a call to teach in a Presbyterian mission school in Nelson County, VA. She moved into a cabin on Shoe Creek with a minister, Rev. Arthur Francis, and his wife. Lelia was dedicated to her work. And she was devoted to the Presbyterian churches in Massies Mill, Harmony and Tyro.
Lelia traveled on horseback each weekday to a one-room school building. There she taught seven grades. She also taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and played the organ. She visited the sick and arranged for medical care. She also and transported people to doctors and hospitals.
In 1955, Lelia retired from teaching. The one-room school had grown into a public school. But she continued to be a part of the church and community in Nelson County.
Lelia later returned to Orange County and lived with her cousin, Mrs. Rowland F. Hill, Jr. at Berry Hill. She passed away on February 3, 1969. Miss Lelia Johnson Sanford was, undoubtedly, one of the saints of our church.
In gratitude and affection, her nieces and nephews established the Lelia J. Sanford Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund continues to this day. It supplies aid to worthy young people in the Massies Mill and Harmony Presbyterian churches. The Sanford family hopes it will honor and promote the Christian character and endeavor that shone brightly in Lelia’s life and work.
Jennie Hill Robinson
- OPC History Team