Biography of John W. Wayland, Ph.D.

John W. Wayland, born December 8, 1872, in Shenandoah County, Virginia, was a notable Southern educator and author. A member of Madison College’s original faculty, he devoted over 20 years to teaching history. Post-1931, Wayland focused on research and writing, publishing around 30 books on American history. His works include “The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia” (1907) and “Historic Homes of Northern Virginia” (1937). Wayland held a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Bridgewater College. He married Mattie V. Fry in 1898, and they had two sons.

As a Southern educator and author, John W. Wayland has established his reputation in both phases of his career. He has taught in the history departments of several institutions of higher education in Virginia and Tennessee and was an original member of the faculty of Madison College, at Harrisonburg, Virginia, to which he gave more than twenty years of active service. During the past decade, however, he has devoted all his time to research and writing, a pursuit which has resulted, since 1901, in the publication of some 30-odd volumes from his pen on various aspects of American history and its principal actors.

Dr. Wayland was born at Woodlawn, near Mt. Jackson, Shenandoah County, Virginia, on December 8, 1872, son of John Wesley and Anna (Kagey) Wayland. His father was a cabinet-maker and school-teacher, a versatile and painstaking mechanic, who built the small frame house in which Dr. Wayland was born and made practically all the furniture in it. Some of his tools and a bookcase and walnut fall-leaf table which he made are still in the possession of his son. During a part of the war of 1861-65, John Wesley Wayland was in the Confederate service under Stonewall Jackson and other leaders, but he was at heart a Union man, opposed to slavery and secession. Woodlawn, Dr. Wayland’s birthplace, took its name from an academy that his grandfather, Jacob Kagey, and seven of his neighbors, all farmers, had chartered by the Legislature of Virginia in 1841. The schoolhouse was built on Jacob Kagey’s land, at the edge of a large tract of timber, and although it was removed about the time Dr. Wayland was born, he often as a boy played over the spot where it had stood and where the foundation still remained. An old log house stood near, in which some of the teachers had lived and which, in an earlier day, was the home of his parents and the older children of the family.

Dr. Wayland’s first paternal ancestor of record was Thomas Wayland, a German blacksmith, who took up land in what is now Madison County, Virginia, in 1728. His father’s mother was Miriam Hoffman, of Madison County, Virginia, a descendant of John Hoffman, who was one of Governor Spotswood’s first Germanna colony (1714). John Hoffman was born March 1, 1692, O. S., in Nassau-Siegen, Germany. Jacob Kagey, Dr. Wayland’s maternal grandfather, was a descendant of Henry Kagey, who came to Shenandoah (then Frederick) County, Virginia, from Pennsylvania in 1768. John Neff, father of Dr. Wayland’s mother’s mother, Barbara Neff, was a descendant of Dr. John Henry Neff, who took up land at Rude’s Hill, now Shenandoah County, Virginia, in 1750, where some of the Neffs still live. The Kageys and the Neffs were German Swiss. One of his mother’s first cousins, John Henri Kagi, son of “California Abe,” was John Brown’s “Secretary of War,” and was killed at Harper’s Ferry in October, 1859. Although none of Dr. Wayland’s people in Shenandoah County favored slavery, neither did they favor John Henri Kagi’s radical methods and did not know of his being at Harper’s Ferry until they heard of his death. Another of his mother’s first cousins was John Francis Neff, colonel of the 33rd Virginia Infantry, Stonewall Brigade, who was killed at Second Manassas.

Dr. Wayland’s two elder brothers and his sister, all born between 1855 and 1858, left home for the Middle West when he was still a small child, and he grew up alone with his parents at Woodlawn. Until he was eleven years old, he was taught at home and then attended a neighborhood school (Rochelle) for several winter terms of five months each. In 1893 he removed with his parents to Bridgewater, Rockingham County, Virginia, where he subsequently entered Bridgewater College. From this institution he was graduated in 1899 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and in 1907, received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Virginia. In 1936, Bridgewater College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

From the beginning he devoted his career to education, teaching first in the public schools of his native Shenandoah County, then successively at Bridgewater College, the University of Virginia, the University of Tennessee and the State Teachers College, now Madison College, at Harrisonburg, Virginia. When Madison College, under its old name, first opened its doors to students in September, 1909, he was a member of the faculty and during the following twenty-two years was in active service at the institution. In this period he became an established scholar in the field of history. In 1931 he obtained a leave of absence from Madison College to spend all his time in research and writing. Writing has long been one of his greatest interests, developing partly through the encouragement of one of his early teachers, Charles S. Stanton, at Rochelle, and partly by inheritance from his mother, who was a great letter writer. She assisted Franklin Keagy in preparing the Kagy Family History, published in 1899, and kept a diary from girlhood, making an entry in it daily for fifty years. Since January 1, 1901, Dr. Wayland has also kept a diary, which now fills twenty-eight books, most of them of three hundred pages.

In 1910 or 1911, Dr. Wayland wrote a song, “Old Virginia,” which was set to music by William H. Ruebush (q.v.) and first published at Dayton, Virginia, in a little book called “Songs of the People”. In the several editions of this book, and separately, two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand copies of the song were distributed, but little profit was realized by either Dr. Wayland or Professor Ruebush because it was sent out gratis to the schools.

Among the numerous published volumes which are the product of his scholarship and labor, the first to attract much attention was “The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia” (1907). In 1914, the Macmillan Company brought out his “How To Teach American History”. Since then they have published his “History Stories for Primary Grades” (1919) and “A History of Virginia for Boys and Girls” (1920), which have had a wide sale. The latter volume has been the adopted text for children in Virginia public schools for thirty years. In 1932, the Macmillan Company also published Dr. Wayland’s “World History”, a text for high schools and academies, which he prepared in collaboration with Carlton J. H. Hayes and Parker T. Moon, of Columbia University. In the summer of 1927, he made a tour of parts of Europe and published his notebook, “Rambles in Europe”. Since 1931, when he gave up active teaching, he has assisted the Quakers of Winchester in the preparation of the “Hopewell Friends History”, a volume of nearly seven hundred pages constituting a history of the Quakers in northern Virginia. In 1937 he brought out his “Historic Homes of Northern Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia”, a large volume of six hundred and twenty-five pages, for which he had gathered material for more than thirty years. “Stonewall Jackson’s Way”, a book on Jackson’s military campaigns, illustrated with numerous maps and pictures, was published in 1940; an account of the five Bowman brothers, officers of the Revolution, appeared in 1943; and, in 1944, “The Washingtons and Their Homes”, a profusely illustrated volume of three hundred and eighty-five pages, was published. More recent volumes from his pen are “The Lincolns in Virginia” (1946) and “Historic Harrisonburg” (1949). His encyclopedia of nicknames of persons and places, pen-names, stage-names, etc., consisting of about twenty thousand items, is now (1950) in the hands of a New York publisher.

On June 8, 1898, John W. Wayland married Mattie V. Fry, daughter of James A. Fry of Bridgewater, Virginia. They are the parents of two sons, both born in Charlottesville during Dr. Wayland’s tenure at the University of Virginia: 1. Francis Fry, who took the Bachelor of Arts degree at Bridgewater College, the Master of Arts degree at the University of Virginia, and his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, was professor of history at McPherson College, Kansas, and is now head of the department of history and social science at Wagner College, Staten Island, New York. 2. John Walter, Jr., who graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science at the University of Virginia and became a lawyer. He spent nearly two years at a war base in northeast Africa during World War II, and later was engaged for nearly three years with a mining company in Peru. Since January, 1949, he has been in the United States.


Couper, Wm. (William), History of the Shenandoah Valley, Family and Personal Records, vol. III, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.

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