Among items on the agenda for Wednesday's Prince William School Board meeting is a request to rescind the board's June vote to name the county's 13th high school Gainesville High.
Occoquan District representative Lillie Jessie is listed next to the agenda item, which reads: "Recommended Action - That the Prince William County School Board rescind its ... motion naming the 13th high school, Gainesville High School, to rename the school."
The board voted unanimously June 10 to name the school, currently under construction near the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater in Bristow, Gainesville High. The school is expected to open this fall.
In September, Jessie's husband Richard launched a petition to have the school board reconsider the name, citing that its namesake was a prominent local slave owner, Thomas Brawner Gaines.
In the petition, Richard Jessie said a "bewildered" citizen sent the school board an email the day after the vote, noting that Gaines was not only a slave owner but a constable who "shows up in several Prince William Circuit Court records regarding the disposition of other county residents’ slaves, recommending where those slaves should reside upon the death of their masters," the petition reads.
Lillie Jessie on Monday declined to comment on the name-change request.
"I am gathering my thoughts on this so I prefer not to discuss it at this time," she said in an email.
Unincorporated Gainesville in western Prince William is named after Gaines, who had begun buying up property in the area as early as 1835, and later became a major landowner, John Toler wrote in a 2017 piece for Piedmont Lifestyle Magazine.
“Thomas Gaines, canny Welshman that he was, and owner of the area where the Manassas Gap Railroad sought right-of-way, insisted that all passenger trains should stop there, and that the place should be called Gainesville,” according to "Prince William: The Story of Its Places and Its People."
The Gaines family lived in a house built in the 1830s on a tract of land bordered by present-day Catharpin Road and Route 55.
"Thomas Gaines lived to see the railroad built across his land in 1852 and the village named for his family, but he died young, in 1856," Toler wrote.