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W. D. Saunders

Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1890 to 1891, William Dabney "Buttermilk" Saunders was a pioneer of dairy science in Virginia.


From VT.EDU website... "The dairy building was named Saunders Hall in 1949 for William Dabney "Buttermilk" Saunders. He was director of the creamery from 1896 to 1911, a professor from 1896 to 1908 and from 1914 to 1922, and an Extension specialist from 1920 to 1945. A dairy industry pioneer, Saunders worked for Virginia Tech for more than 40 years, interrupted by serving as Virginia's first dairy and food commissioner. A tireless worker, he established a system for testing cattle for tuberculosis that virtually eliminated the disease in Virginia dairy cattle. During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Saunders invented a cheese that sold "like wildfire," according to Ellison Smyth Jr. (EE, 1922) in his book, Retrospect. Saunders would go around town with a lump of cheese in his pocket, periodically peeling off the outer layer with a knife and offering a piece of cheese to whomever might be in his vicinity. Saunders died in 1955."


Other history indicates that Professor Saunders developed a special formula that enabled cheese to be produced in mass. In Montgomery County Virginia, the Luster's Gate Cheese Factory used this formula in its operation. Professor Saunders was instrumental in starting this operation.

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VPI Faculty - 1900

From University Archives: Harry Downing Temple Photograph Collection - VPI faculty in 1900.


VAMC Faculty - around 1890

From Alwood Family Archives: Photo taken in 1890 by W. B. Alwood at the porch of Horticultural Hall. This was likely a significant occasion with two members of the Board of Visitors (BOV) Executive Committee visiting the station - possibly the dedication of the building, which was completed around this time. The Executive Committee was the Institute's administrators - among its members were the President and two BOV members. The visit may have corresponded to appointments made of two people in the photograph, W. D. Saunders (station director) and H. M. Magruder (superintendent). In the photo was David Oliver Nourse, the first station animal scientist (wrote the first station bulletin on animal management); Charles Ellis, DVM, station staff veterinarian (1888-90); J. Thompson Brown, BOV, 1889-1904 (executive committee member and later, rector, 1900-08, 1912-21); C.E. Vawter, rector of BOV - the first to be reappointed in 1890 to two consecutive terms (1889-1900); William D. Saunders, professor of dairy science and head of the experiment station in 1890, and; Henry Magruder*, station superintendent. Brown and Vawter worked as a very powerful team - they brought a great deal of change to the Institute over the years.


*This is a rare photo of Henry Minor Magruder, who was one of the agricultural experiment station's greatest critics until he was appointed by the Virginia Board of Agriculture as superintendent of farms and equipment in December 1890. His was a short tenure as he died of a heart attack in June 1891. Magruder was charged by the Board to travel the state to demonstrate practical solutions to farmers. As such he was credited for doing some of the earliest Extension work in Virginia. Although he must not have had much time in this official capacity, his concept of Extension was planted long before Seaman Knapp persuaded the USDA to initiate the first agents in the states to eventually form the Cooperative Extension Service (which came about officially in 1914). As for practicing Extension methods, W. B. Alwood had been bringing practical solutions to the public since his arrival at VAMC in 1888. The first publicly documented Extension activity by a VAMC faculty member (Alwood) was published in the Charlottesville Chronicle in 1889. The article recorded Alwood's demonstration of the use of Bordeaux mixture to grape growers gathered at the Albemarle County (VA) courthouse square.


VAMC Faculty - 1878-79

From University Archives: 1877-79 - Harry Downing Temple Photograph Collection - Sitting (left to right): President C.L.C. Minor, Charles Martin, M.G. Ellzey, V.E. Shepherd, Gray Carroll. Standing (left to right): J.H. Lane, W.R. Boggs.


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