Thomas Woody.

Early Quaker education in Pennsylvania online

. (page 21 of 28)
Online LibraryThomas WoodyEarly Quaker education in Pennsylvania → online text (page 21 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

gill in 1758 to Israel Pemberton (of Philadelphia) as a very
suitable master for the school. 13 Their "teacher's agency" in
England was constituted by two members, John Fothergill
and John Hunt ; at any rate, for some forty or fifty years they
always informed them as soon as they had need of masters,
and except in a few cases, masters were sent over. At one
time (1760) not being able to hear of a possible applicant in
England, an attempt was made to induce Peter Warren, an
inhabitant of Virginia, to come to the position, at a salary of
150, plus 20 to transport his family. 14 In the ensuing
correspondence it was stated by the said Warren that he
chose to go to Pittsburg; to inhabitants of Philadelphia his
choice must have seemed ridiculous.

However, the overseers of the school were not daunted.
Quite in keeping with the system of apprenticing the youth
in various occupations to members of Friends, and also in
keeping with the general custom of the day, they sought out
the brightest and most capable poor lad in their limits, and if
they found him interested at all in the "futures" of teaching,
they made the offer of an apprenticeship in the school.
Instances may be cited which will clarify their procedure.

In 1 7 56 it was proposed that Samuel Eldridge be apprenticed
to the board to prepare him to become a teacher of Latin and
Greek ; 18 he was to study Latin, Greek, Arithmetic, Accounts,
and Mathematics. 16 He was to be furnished, besides the
instruction, clothing and board, and was paid 30 annually.
In return for this he studied and performed such duties in the
capacity of usher as his progress in the various subjects would
permit. At the end of the period of his indenture (1760) the
board manifested their approval of his services by a gift of
io. 17 At another time shortly subsequent thereto there was

"P. C. S. M., I, 58.
"Ibid., 5 f-
"Ibid., 175-
"Ibid., 208.
"Ibid., 139-

"Ibid., 141.

"Ibid., 265.

Masters and Mistresses


mentioned the desirability of encouraging James Dickinson,
Richard Dickinson, and Joseph Rice to continue their
schooling in order to become school masters; members of the
board were named to speak with them and to ascertain their
desires and intentions. 18 One of them, James Dickinson, was
in 1762 indented to serve three years in the same manner as
Eldridge. 19 King also, in 1754, was taken in as usher
at a very small salary, later to become a master in the
school. 20 The exact extent of the apprenticing of school mas-
ters is not determined, but it does not seem to have been
widely practised in and around Philadelphia. This appear-
ance might, however, be corrected if greater sources of
information were available.

One would judge from the complaints of the yearly meet-
ings, and their recommendations, that better and more
permanent accommodations be afforded, so that teachers
might be more easily kept, 21 that the tenure of the early
Quaker schoolmaster was short. The yearly meeting recog-
nized the advantage accruing from longer tenure, and did seek
to remove some of the causes which worked against it. Just
how much they were able to increase the tenure it is impossi-
ble to say. We may, however, cite certain cases in which the
duration of a master's service is known. Benjamin Clift
was apparently employed to teach in Darby for two years at
least. 22 Jacob Taylor, who was concerned with a school
at Abington about I70I, 23 and became a land surveyor about
1 706 24 , may have continued to teach there between those two
dates. He seems to have been resident there in that period, 26
and the scarcity of teachers was everywhere evident, as has
already been pointed out. This is certainly not a proof of
his incumbency; it indicates a probability. Keith was
employed from i68g 26 to 1691 j 27 Thomas Makin from the

"P. C. S. M., I, 237.
"Ibid., 245. *<>Ibid., 116.

"See Yearly Meetings' Advices, 250.
M Min. Darby Mo. Mtg., 7 7 1692, 54; 9-20 1693, 56.
2 Pa. Arch. XIX, 248.
M Bean, 680.

M There is found no record of his removal by letter, though he may
have done so without, which, however, was not according to practice.
M Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg., 5 26 1689, 154.
"Ibid., 3 29 1691, 146.

The extent
of the system
not great

The tenure
of masters

Cases cited
of B. Clift
J. Taylor

G. Keith,
Makin and


Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania

Tenure of



latter date, intermittently, until his death, i;33; 28 Pastorius
from the latter part of 1697 or the first part of i6g8 29 to
i7oo; 30 Robert Willian probably from I748 31 to I753; 32
Seaton from I75I 33 to I763, 34 and Robert Proud, not con-
tinuously however, from i75p 35 to i77o 36 and again mas-
ter in 1 784.^ These were taken at random. The longest
period of service, doubtless, must be credited to Anthony
Benezet who first taught in Philadelphia in I742 38 and con-
tinued there with very brief intermissions until his death in
I784- 39

These are only a few cases and the majority of them in the
city where it was possible to employ the best, pay them better,
and hence, keep them longer. Hence, too much weight must
not be given to the facts above stated as proving a long term
of service was common. If a study of a number of cases in
country districts were possible, the results would probably be
very different.

It is difficult to get information about the length of service
of the mistresses. When first mentioned in Philadelphia
records 40 they are spoken of as so many nonentities, their
names not given. The term of service of Olive Songhurst, the
first mistress whose name is mentioned, 41 we cannot deter-
mine. The women teachers seem quite frequently to have
begun work under the overseers without much notice and to
have left off with little more. There are, however, a few
cases where we know that the term of service was of
considerable length. Rebeckah Burchall seems to have
taught continuously at one school from I7S5 42 to i76i. 43

2S Weekly Mercury, Nov. 29, 1733.
29 Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg., n 28 1697, 227.
*Ibid., i 29 1700, 254.
31 P. C. S. M., I, 64.
3z lbid., 101.
33 Ibid., 90.
3 *Ibid., 266.
"Ibid., 175.
"Ibid., 334-

87 Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg., 1301784, 123.
3 "P. C. S. M., I, 33.

"Simpson's Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, 53.
Mtg., i 30 1784, 128.
*Ibid., i 31 1699, 244.
u lbid., i 27 1702, 326.
^P. C. S. M., I, 126. *Ibid., 221.

Min. Phila. Mo.

Masters and Mistresses


Whether she discontinued service on leaving that school is
not known. Ann Thornton was probably not continued in
service more than two years. She began in 1755 when she
filled Anthony Benezet's 44 place and left in i75;. 46 In the
meantime, it had been necessary for the board to draw up a
set of special rules for the government of her school, 46 from
the nature of which it is probable that she did not take
another school under their direction.

From none of the sources of information does it appear that
there was any license system whatsoever. The recommenda-
tion of well-known Friends was the best pass a teacher could
have, as was instanced by those sent over by John Fothergill.
In addition to the personal recommendation, the certificate
of removal from his home meeting was an assurance to
Friends in other parts that an individual was "clear" of all
entangling alliances and might be received into full member-
ship. In no case where a teacher came to teach, from a dis-
tance, did he fail to take and produce a certificate on his
arrival. These, of course, did not certify the things which
modern licenses do, but they, in conjunction with the per-
sonal recommendation as to ability, seem to have answered
the purpose.

The term for which a teacher was hired was in most cases a
year for trial, which was renewed again at the year's end, if
satisfactory to both parties. Mention has been made of
Benjamin Clift of Darby, 47 Keith, Makin, Cadwalader,
Willian, Proud, and many others. Some were taken for a
trial of six months, 48 and there were cases in which the board
reserved the right to discharge the individual on three
months' notice. 49 The board desired, and in some cases
requested, that the employee should give six months' notice
before his resignation should take place. Such notice was
customary in i7S5. 50 Two instances have come under the
writer's attention, in which a contract was made for three

"P. C. S. M., 1, 130.

"Ibid., 161.

"Ibid., 158.

47 Min. Darby Mo. Mtg., 7 7 1692, 54.

"P. C. S. M., I, 133-

"Ibid., 274.

*Ibid., 131.


Her success

No system
of license

dation and
certificate of
their use

The term of
usually a


Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania

years. King (son of Joseph King) was employed in 1754 for
the three years subsequent thereto at 40, 50 and 60 for
the years respectively. 51 Mr. King resigned regardless of
the contract, after six months' notice, because the school did
not agree with his health or inclination. 82 The other case was
that of Keith who was to be employed for one year at 50 and
for two years more at 120 each, if he should desire to stay. 53
In neither of the two cases does there appear to have been any
instrument in writing.

The salaries and rates received by many of the teachers
have been mentioned in several pages previous to this. For
convenience for reference there is presented without discus-
sion a table showing the pay received by various masters at
the times their respective services were rendered.* One case,
neither so prosaic to us, nor so profitable to the master, defies
tabulation, so it is given verbatim.

1 8th Day of X br 1735.

Reced of Richard Buffington, Junior 18 s per Hatt, 43 6d by stockings,
173 6d In money In all forty Shillings; Being in full for a yeare
Scholeing, I say Reced per


Flower, E.
Keith, G.


per Q per year (Reference)
4/ 6/ or8/or 10 Col. Rec., I, 13.
(following) 50 Ph., 5 26 1689.




4 f Ph., 11281697.



for a half year trial

20 Ph., 128 1700.



50 Ph., i 27 1702.

Every, J.



30 Ph., 4 26 1702.

Benezet, A.


50 P.C.S.M.,1,33.

Willian, R.


150 Ibid., 73.

Wilson, J.



60 Ibid., 84.

Seaton, A.



20 Ibid., 90.

Wilson, J.



70 Ibid.,ioi.

Johnson, Wm.



10 Ibid., 1 06.



80 Ibid. ,117.

P. C. S. M., I., 123.

62 Ibid., 131.

63 Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg., 5261689.

*In the references at the right hand margin of the table "Ph" refers to
Minutes of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the date given; Darby
refers to Minutes of Darby Monthly Meeting.

fFuthey and Cope, 308.

Masters and Mistresses




(proposed in a con-

tract) 40 Ibid., 122.



Thornton, Ann


20 Ibid., 130.

Johnson, Wm.


(assistant) 40 Ibid., 131.

Thompson, Chas.


150 Ibid., 133.

Johnson, Wm.

1756 (raised 20 to keep him) 60 Ibid., 141 .

Fentham, Jos.


85 Ibid., 144.

Patterson, M.


70 Ibid., 235.

Thompson, J.



Ibid., 341.

Proud, Robert


150 Ibid., 175.

Proud, Robert


250 Ph., i 30 1784.

His usher

80 Ibid.

Todd, J.

1784 (for entrance



(for poor sent by

Board io/)


Weaver, I.


3<>/ 30


Brown, Wm.


(whole days) 3O/)

. Ibid.

half days) is/


(children) is/

(sent by board) io/

Lancaster, Sarah


(sent by board) half


(sent by board half

day) 7/6

Harry, Mary

(children) is/


Clark, Joseph

(older girls 3O/)


Mrs. Clarke



Marsh, Ann



McDonnell, Mary




Clift, B.



Darby, 9 20 1693

Underwood, Elihu


(Credit for school

keeping) 2/2/O/
by 2 raccoon skins


By netting a pair of
stockings 0/2 /6/ M

Meccum, Eliza


(Negro School)


Ph., 2 25 1798

Pickering, Elisha


(Negro School)



Benezet, A.


(Negro School)



Britt, Daniel


(Negro School)


Ibid., i 25 1793

Dougherty, Sarah


(Negro School)



"From an old account book in possession of Albert Cook Myers,
Moylan, Pa.

212 Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania

Pay of
masters simi-
lar to that of
other private

The charge
for poor
children less

masters ill

to be first

As stated elsewhere in this work, the amounts received by
masters and mistresses in the Friends' school measure about
the same as those stated for other private masters in the city
at the same time. In the table above, the seeming increase
from 50 per year in 1689 to 250 per year paid Robert Proud
in 1784, and the slender salaries of the women as compared
with those of the men, are worthy of attention. 55 Though all
of the teachers in the Negro School had had long experience,
their salaries did not equal that of Classical School teachers;
but they did keep pace with those in the English School. The
price paid for young children was usually low, about one-half
that paid for older ones in the same subjects. Children sent
by the board were received at a less charge, or perhaps free of
charge if that body had already made arrangement to that
effect. The contrast between the salary received by the
country masters Clift (Darby) and Underwood (Warrington)
is very interesting. Such salaries were doubtless effective in
causing unrest and a floating teacher population, against
which the yearly meeting frequently remonstrated, and
earnestly sought to correct.

In the pages following, brief attention will be given to
several of the Quaker teachers who have come to the attention
of the writer during the course of this study. Many of them
have been mentioned in other parts of it, reference to whom
is to be found in the index. Though the women were given
more scanty attention in the records and seem to have filled a
less prominent place in the schools, we may gallantly, yet
illogically, give them first attention here. In another light,

M Dewey, D. R., Financial History of the U. S., 39.

The reader is reminded of the fact that because of greatly depreciated
currency the amounts paid, as shown in the above table, did not repre-
sent so much absolute increase. That some exact idea of the extent of
depreciation of the continental currency may be gained, there is given
the following table for the year 1779, when the depreciation became
most marked.

Jan. 14, 1779 8 to I June 4,1779 20 to I

Feb. 3 10 to i Sept. 17 24toi

Apr. 2 17 to i Oct. 14 30 to I

May 5 24toi No.v 17 38>toi

The fact of such depreciation was not officially recognized by Congress
until March 18, 1780, it being then provided that paper be accepted for
silver at a ratio of 40 to i.

Masters and Mistresses


it may not seem illogical. Women were leaders in the
Quaker meetings and were privileged to speak, a favor not
granted elsewhere. In the early yearly meeting recommen-
dations they urged good mistresses be chosen as well as good
masters. 66 Women were also recognized by London Grove
Monthly Meeting in 1795, when a committee of women
Friends were appointed to meet with a like committee of men
to consider the question of schools. 57

As before stated, mistresses in Philadelphia were
mentioned by the monthly meeting as early as i6gg, b *
but we are not informed who they were. The first, Olive
Songhurst, whose name is given, was employed for some
time about I702, 59 and if we may judge her service by
a raise of salary granted in that year, it seems to have
been acceptable to the meeting. After Olive Songhurst
a long period of time passes in which the writer has found no
mistress named in the minutes, though mistresses are
frequently mentioned. It is not, therefore, to be assumed
that this list is complete either in the case of masters or mis-
tresses ; those who are mentioned may prove of some interest
or service to other students.

Ann Thornton was mentioned as being employed by the
board in 1755, when it was proposed that she might take
Anthony Benezet's place in a Girls' School, which he had
entered the year before. It is not very probable that she
was an inexperienced teacher at the time, since the board was
usually careful to place strong and proven teachers in its best
schools. She was to receive no more than thirty scholars and
had to promise to look after them in meeting, which seem-
ingly unpleasant task she hesitated to take. 60 It is the
writer's opinion, based on the fact that the board was forced
to make a list of rules especially for her school, 61 and the tenor
of her dismissal when Benezet was again available, and that
she does not appear to have been employed again by the board,

^See page 20.

67 Min. London Grove Mtg., 3 4 1795, 62.

6 *Ibid., 31 1699, 244.

K Ibid., i 31 1699, 244.

M Ibid., i 27 1702, 326.

P. C. S. M., I, 130.

"Ibid., 158.


Ann Thorn-
ton in Girls'
School, 1755

214 Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania

employed at
same time;

that her work in the school and agreement with the board
were not satisfactory.

Rebeckah Burchall, employed near the same time as
Ann Thornton, was engaged in teaching poor children. 62
It was also stipulated that she guard the girls in meet-
ings, especially her pupils. 63 So in 1755, had we entered
the quiet Friend's meeting we would have no doubt seen the
two prim Quaker ladies just mentioned sitting in silent and
upright watchfulness amid their youthful charges. Gentle-
men were not immune from such duties.

Widow Mellor is mentioned in 1755 as keeping a small
school, 64 which probably was quite similar to the one kept by
Debby Godfrey, a poor woman to whom the board decided to
send some poor children to learn to read and write. 65 The
minute reads as though it was a condescension, and very
likely it was a form of charity on their part. Jane Loftu,
likewise, (1761) taught thirty-two poor children, her charge
made to the board for the service being 32. 66 Ann Redman
seems to have been a teacher of more than ordinary merit.
She is first noted as a teacher at the Fairhill School, at which
place she was visited by members of the Public School Board,
who seem to have been so well impressed with her as a teacher
that she was immediately asked to come into the school just
vacated by Rebekah Burchall. Her employment was teach-
ing reading, writing, and plain sewing. 67 Mary Wily, a
teacher employed by the board in 1762, received very little
attention. A question is raised concerning her, however, by
an objection made by the board to her account presented for
certain schooling. 68 It was settled amicably it seems. Ann
Pattison, first mentioned as being employed in 1763, 69 isdoubt-,
less the same as the Patterson later employed in I766. 70 She
.was employed in teaching poor children. Mary Gosnold,
Rebecca Seaton, and Mary Moss are mentioned in 1764 as
teachers of poor children. 71 Rebecca Seaton does not appear
in the ranks of teachers (at least on Friends' records) till after

62 P. C. S. M., I., 126.
"Ibid., 130.

^Ibid., 128.
"Ibid., 145.
<*Ibid., 216.

61 'Ibid., 221.
., 239.

id., 266.

id., 288.
n lbid., 276, 277, 279.

Masters and Mistresses


the death of Alexander Seaton, her husband. It seems quite
evident that the mistresses were assigned, more especially, to
the keeping of school for the poor, though it was by no means
limited to them. Sarah Mott was also a teacher for poor
children/' 2

Hannah Cathall, we feel certain, must have been a teacher
of considerable merit. She began her service at least as early
as i;65 73 and in 1779 was still in that employment, being at
that date engaged in a school with Rebecca Jones, for in-
structing girls in reading, writing, "and other branches suit-
able to them." 74 They also received poor girls sent by the
overseers. Other mistresses employed by the board in 1779
were Sarah Lancaster, teaching the rudiments to young
children of both sexes (sewing especially for girls), Essex
Flower in a school similar to Lancaster's, and Ann Rakestraw
who had charge of a reading and spelling school. 78 Sarah
Lancaster still continued in the schools' service in 1784, hav-
ing in attendance sixty-four scholars, part of whom attended
only half days. The other mistresses mentioned at that time
were Mary Harry, teaching a school for children, Mrs.
Clarke, teaching boys and girls, reading and sewing for the
girls ; Ann Marsh in a school similar to that of Mrs. Clarke's,
and Mary McDonnell, who taught fifteen young children,
what studies we do not know. 76 The committee's report for
that date shows that nearly one-half or perhaps more of the
children attending the schools of the Friends' masters and
mistresses were children of the members of other denomina-
tions. In almost every case the teachers were Friends, or, as
they termed it, "people of friendly persuasions."

Mistresses devoted their abilities also to the instruction of
the Negro children. Sarah Dougherty was for a time (about
1790) employed in the Negro School, but for some reason,
unexplained, Elizabeth Meccum was employed in her stead. 77
Elizabeth Meccum remained in that capacity till the time of

P. C. S. M., I., 309.

Ibid., 288.

74 Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg. 7 30 1779, 151.

lb lbid. (An extract of the report to the monthly meeting is given on
page 71 ff., chapter on Philadelphia, showing the state of schools in 1784.)
Ibid., 130 1784, 123 ff.
""Ibid., 1251793, 184.

Subjects of






and other


subjects for


tions in

in the Negro

2i6 Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania

rated by the
with which
they are
by well recog-
nized writers

notice to be
very brief


her death, which occurred between 1795 and I7g8. 78 Joseph
Foulke, in a letter concerning his schooling at Gwynedd
Meeting, mentions Hannah Lukens who kept a "family
school" and also Hannah Foulke, 79 both of whom were mem-
bers of Gwynedd, but further information of them the writer
does not have.

If one were to measure American Quaker schoolmasters as
some American men of science have been measured, by the
amount of space they have gained in literature, they would
not stand out very strikingly. Of fifty-five male teachers in
and around Philadelphia, but twenty-one of them are men-
tioned in five standard works on local history and genealogy.
None of the fifty-five teachers receive mention in all five of
the works; three of them are chronicled in four; seven are
mentioned in three of the five; ten are spoken of in two,
twenty-one are given a place in one; and thirty-four receive
no notice. If rated according to such a scheme, Partorius,
Benezet, and Charles Thompson would head the list, while
quite a number group themselves at the other end of it. The
scheme, though it has not been carried out fully, for example
no attempt has been made to measure the length of the
notice, does seem to favor those who stood high at the time
of their service. 80

In the brief notices following, concerning the male teachers,
it is not intended to write biographies. Some of them have
already been written, and to them the reader is directed, if he
or she wishes a full account of the man's life. Others will
not, cannot, ever be written for obvious reasons. In the
space allotted to them here, there is set down only what has
been found of interest concerning them as teachers.

In 1842 Anthony Benezet came from Germantown where
he had been engaged in a school, 81 to be employed by the
Board of Overseers of Philadelphia. He was employed at a
salary of 50 to teach arithmetic, writing, accounts, and

78 Min. Phila. Mo. Mtg., 2 23 1798, 149.

"Quoted in Jenkins' Hist. Collections oj Gwynedd, 396-7.

80 The works from which the notices were taken: Watson, Annals of
Philadelphia; Simpson, Lives cf Eminent Philadelphians; Jordan,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryThomas WoodyEarly Quaker education in Pennsylvania → online text (page 21 of 28)