Julia and Laurilla Smith, French and Euclid, 1823–1824

View looking across the Hudson River; Troy, New York is on the left. Artist: William Guy Wall; Engravers: John Rubens Smith and John Hill; Publisher: H.I. Megarey & W.B. Gilley, Charleston, S.C., between 1821 and 1825. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: 2009633821.
View looking across the Hudson River; Troy, New York is on the left. Artist: William Guy Wall; Engravers: John Rubens Smith and John Hill; Publisher: H.I. Megarey & W.B. Gilley, Charleston, S.C., between 1821 and 1825. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: 2009633821.

Laurilla and Zephina Smith saw Mrs. Willard (Emma Hart Willard) when they were in Hartford, in September 1821.

Soon after, Mrs. Willard opened her Female Seminary for boarding and day students, in Troy, New York. Finally, a school which offered mathematics, philosophy, geography, history, and science to women.

In 1823 Almira Hart Lincoln, Emma’s sister, became a teacher and Vice-Principal at Troy Female Seminary. A recent widow Almira, the youngest of seventeen children, had lived with the Smiths for several weeks (in 1813) so she could copy Laurilla’s paintings.

In January 1823 Emma Hart Willard, in her continual search for qualified teachers, wrote and asked Laurilla Smith to teach French. Julia did not want Laurilla to leave. But Laurilla wanted to go. So in February 1823 Laurilla, age thirty-four, left for Troy, New York, some 100 miles northwest of Glastenbury, Connecticut.

Learn Euclid, Teach French
Emma Willard needed someone to teach Euclidean geometry. She thought Julia would be that person. This was the plan: Mrs. Willard would teach geometry to Julia. To pay for those lessons Julia would teach French. After Julia learned Euclidean geometry, Julia would teach the subject to students at the Troy Female Seminary.

Hannah, Laurilla, Cyrinthia, Zephina, and Abby thought that was a good idea. Julia did not. Perhaps Laurilla’s tease that Julia would have to take a back seat to the young Eden ladies who (Laurilla said) “knew twenty languages,” was a challenge Julia could not pass up.

Julia quipped that she “would not take a back seat, for great books do not always make great scholars. When I see these young ladies I will ask them ‘nine plain questions’ from Steady Habits Vindicated; or, Nine Plain Questions to the People of Connecticut, a book on Federalism.” Many years later Julia commented to her friend Frances Burr:

I became a teacher of French and mathematics at Mrs. Willard’s and taught these very same young ladies, Aaron Burr’s friends, the Misses Eden, who knew so much. I wrote home that these young ladies who were going to make me take a back seat, were my scholars.
Abby, Laurilla, and Mary Ann, p. 114.

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Emma Hart Willard

Emma Willard, founder of the Troy Female Seminary. From…the dedication of Russell Sage Hall of the “Emma Willard” School, Troy, N.Y., 1895. Library of Congress: rbpe.13001400.
Emma Willard, founder of the Troy Female Seminary. From…the dedication of Russell Sage Hall of the “Emma Willard” School, Troy, N.Y., 1895. Library of Congress: rbpe.13001400.

Emma Hart was the sixteenth child of Samuel Hart and the ninth child of Mr. Hart and his second wife Lydia. Samuel encouraged his daughter Emma to love learning, reading, and to think for herself.

In 1802 when Laurilla and Cyrinthia Smith attended Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, Emma Hart, fifteen, attended the Berlin Academy in Connecticut, for the first time. By 1806 Emma was in charge of the academy for a term.

In 1807 Emma was principal of the Middlebury Female Seminary, in Vermont, where Emma met and married physician John Willard.

(In March of 1813 Emma’s younger sister Almira Hart stayed at the Smith home for three or four weeks to copy Laurilla’s paintings.)

In 1814 Emma, champion for equal education for young women, opened a boarding school for girls in her own home (in Vermont) so they could study the same subjects her nephew took at College.

Troy Female Seminary Circular. Troy, N.Y. Library of Congress: Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 134, Folder 64; rbpe.13406400.
Troy Female Seminary Circular. Troy, N.Y. Library of Congress: Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 134, Folder 64; rbpe.13406400.

Emma Hart Willard strongly believed that young women should be offered the same subjects as men took in college. At the time finishing schools, which mainly taught social graces, were thought to be the correct education for girls. Emma faced similar opposition to educating women as Sarah Pierce had in 1790.

Using her teaching experience in Vermont, Emma wrote a pamphlet, A Plan for Improving Female Education. In 1819 hoping the New York Legislature would fund a seminary for women as they did men’s schools, Emma presented her plan. She explained that some of the weakness in female education was because the Legislatures undervalued “the importance of women in society.” Finishing schools, which majored on protocols and etiquette, were expensive and not a good value. “Another error” was that educating women had been “to prepare them to please” men. Continue reading

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1815, Eldred Home in the Wilderness

“A Home in the Wilderness,” Currier & Ives lithograph, 1870, Library of Congress: 09097.
“A Home in the Wilderness,” Currier & Ives lithograph, 1870, Library of Congress: 09097.

James Eldred Homestead
At the end of 1815 James Eldred, his wife Polly Mulford, and their five children arrived from Orange County, New York. Ten days later their daughter Phebe Maria Eldred was born.

The Eldreds settled in a log cabin beside a sawmill on two cleared acres near the middle of Halfway Brook, two miles north of the Hickok family. There was no building for a mile in any direction.

The northwest corner of Mr. Eldred’s property was the location for the future Halfway Brook Village—much later renamed Eldred.

James Eldred lumbered and farmed. He became involved with the local government, overseeing schools, and building roads in this new community. (James and his children play a significant role in the life of Asa’s daughter Hannah.)

One Clock, Three Watches
In 1816 only four frame houses, nine frame barns, and a gristmill sat on Lumberland’s large acreage. The animals included 19 horses, 34 oxen, and 34 cows. There were ten wagons. One person owned a clock which furnished the time for the town. James Eldred owned one of three watches.

Close up of Sylvia Hickok's gravestone courtesy of Jane Butler.
Close up of Sylvia Hickok’s gravestone courtesy of Jane Butler.

Congregational Church
A Congregational Church met in log cabins and barns in remote areas near the Delaware River, in Lumberland. In the fall of 1814 some of the meetings were held at the Hickok Farm.

In 1815 Sylvia Hickok, daughter of Asa and Esther, died at the age of thirty-four. Sylvia was buried in what is now the Old Eldred Cemetery.

In September 1818 revival meetings were held in the Hickok barn. The entire Hickok Family joined the church. As did James and Polly Eldred.

The following year James Eldred, a careful Bible student, was elected a church deacon. Church Services were then held at the home of James and Polly Eldred.

The meetings were so meaningful that at the 1899 Eldred Church Centennial, James’s daughter Eliza Eldred Gardner, at age ninety-nine, commented, “If I were thirty years younger, I would walk up to Eldred, even in a storm, if I might see the same spirit of love there, now, that I saw in those early days.”

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Rugged Wilderness Living, Hannah Hickok in Lumberland, 1812

The Delaware River Below Barryville, around 1900. Postcard in the Austin Collection.
The Delaware River Below Barryville, around 1900. Postcard in the Austin Collection.

In the 1780s Hannah Hickok Smith borrowed and diligently read her uncle Asa Hickok’s geography book. From 1802 to 1812 Uncle Asa, Aunt Esther, and their six children (Hannah Smith’s first cousins) lived in Burlington, part of original Farmington, Connecticut.

In 1812 Asa and Esther and their children: Hannah Hickok (age twenty-three), Reuben, Sylvia, Louisa, Justus, and David (his wife and son Asa Royer Hickok), left Burlington. Their journey of 125 miles took them across the Hudson River, to the remote, rugged wilderness region of Lumberland, in Sullivan County, New York.

This Hickoks settled on property two miles north of the Delaware River. Nearby Halfway Brook rambled through the middle of Lumberland’s 150,000 acres of rolling hills carpeted with huge, ancient trees, interspersed with streams and ponds.

Asa and his sons built their house and barn on land which today includes Hickok Falls on Hickok Brook. Hickok Brook connected with Halfway Brook on its way south to the Delaware River, the town’s southwestern boundary, and the New York-Pennsylvania border. The family built a sawmill near the Hickok Brook and Falls. (Asa’s brother Gideon had run a sawmill in the Greenville, New York area.)

Near the juncture of Halfway Brook and the Delaware River was a hamlet, later called Barryville. A crude, rope-guided ferry was the only way to cross the Delaware River from Barryville south to Shohola, Pennsylvania.

In 1854 Abby and Laurilla Smith crossed from Pennsylvania to New York, on that same ferry. Abby found Lumberland a pleasant place which agreed with her health. Laurilla, the artist, took notice of Halfway Brook. Continue reading

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Reading, Writing, and Responsibilities, Five Smith Daughters, 1800–1816

Kimberly Mansion, 2012, courtesy of K.M. Calkin.
Kimberly Mansion, 2012, courtesy of K.M. Calkin.

It was the start of a new century. Daily life continued much the same for Zephaniah and Hannah Hickok Smith, of Glastenbury, Connecticut.

Along with Zephaniah’s law practice, the couple maintained (or hired help for) their large two-story house (Kimberly Mansion) on 133 acres. And tried to keep one step ahead of their five especially bright young daughters (ages three to thirteen), Zephina, Cyrinthia, Laurilla, Julia, and Abby.

Hannah organized and assigned responsibilities to her daughters. Outdoor tasks included tending the gardens and orchard and caring for the animals. Inside there were meals to be made, dishes to be washed, ironing, sewing, spinning, weaving, cooking, and a multitude of other tasks.

But always there was reading!

In 1800 the Smith parents considered two schools in Connecticut: Sarah Pierce’s Female Academy in Litchfield, and the Norwich Boys Academy (which allowed girls to attend). Both schools were boarding situations.

Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy
Miss Sarah Pierce, a descendant of the early New Englanders, believed that women and men were intellectually equal. Convinced that girls should be taught the same subjects as boys, Sarah founded the Litchfield Female Academy, one of the earliest schools for girls in the United States.

Miss Sally, as her students called her, wisely integrated an innovative curriculum of academic subjects with the usual “female” skills (that parents expected their daughters to learn) which included music, dancing, singing, needlework, drawing, and painting.

Geography and history lessons were reinforced with maps and charts the students drew and painted. Students’ embroideries and watercolor paintings illustrated poetry, literature, myths, and Bible stories. Continue reading

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The Hickoks Leave South Britain

Scene in the Catskills. Caldwell & Co. Chromolithograph, c.1872. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: 2018756891; 59122.
Scene in the Catskills. Caldwell & Co. Chromolithograph, c.1872. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: 2018756891; 59122.

From the late 1700s to the early decades of the 1800s, there was a mass exodus of families from Connecticut.

In 1812 my ancestors Asa and Esther Hinman Hickok, their six children (ages ten to twenty-four): Reuben, Sylvia, Louisa, David H. (his wife and son), Hannah, and Justus left Connecticut and settled in what was then Lumberland, New York. (In The Mill on Halfway Brook, I stated it was 1811. But later read that Asa said it was 1812.)

Earlier, around 1790, Asa’s brother Gideon Hickok Sr., his wife Hannah, and their two sons Francis and Gideon Jr. crossed the Hudson River, and settled in an area of the Catskill Mountains, later called Greenville, New York.

Asa’s niece Hannah Hickok, her husband Zephaniah Smith and three young daughters, Hancy Zephina, Cyrinthia Sacretia, and Laurilla Aleroyla Smith, stayed in Connecticut. In 1792 the family moved to Eastbury.

In 1795 The Smiths, with the addition of Julia Evelina resided in Kimberly Mansion, a two-story home on a large property in nearby Glastenbury (now Glastonbury), Connecticut. Two years later Abby Hadassah Smith was born.

The main focus of Abby, Laurilla, and Mary Ann is on Asa’s daughter Hannah Hickok Eldred, and granddaughter Mary Ann; and Asa’s niece Hannah Hickok Smith and her five daughters. Asa’s other children and Gideon’s two sons play a part as they are all first cousins of Hannah Hickok Smith.

In the summer of 1854 Abby Smith and her sister Laurilla Smith visited their mother Hannah Smith’s first cousins Reuben and Louisa Hickok in Pennsylvania; and Justus Hickok, his family, James and Hannah Hickok Eldred, and their daughter Mary Ann Eldred Austin, in the newly created Town of Highland (taken out of Lumberland).

Over the next 15 years, Abby Smith wrote eight letters to her second cousin Mary Ann Eldred Austin and her daughter Emma Austin.

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More Definitions

Elias Olcott House, built around 1763, in Rockingham, Windham County, VT. Historic American Buildings Survey, after 1933. Photographer: Ned Goode. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: HABS VT-42; 167226.
Elias Olcott House, built around 1763, in Rockingham, Windham County, VT. Historic American Buildings Survey, after 1933. Photographer: Ned Goode. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: HABS VT-42; 167226.
Inside the Olcutt Home in Vermont. Library of Congress: 167227. Perhaps it was similar to Hannah’s uncle Justus and aunt Amy Hickok’s home in Castleton, Vermont, 54 miles northwest of the Olcotts.
Inside the Olcutt Home in Vermont. Library of Congress: 167227. Perhaps it was similar to Hannah’s uncle Justus and aunt Amy Hickok’s home in Castleton, Vermont, 54 miles northwest of the Olcotts.

Hannah Hickok (Smith) in her 1784–1786 Journals mentioned a trip to Vermont to stay at her uncle’s house and teach. Some of the terms were mentioned when Hannah was in Castleton, Vermont.

Colloquy (colloquies)
Conversation or discussion.

Discourse
To communicate thoughts or ideas in a formal manner. Ex.: to discourse on the properties of the circle.

Disquisition:
A formal inquiry into any subject, using arguments or discussion of the facts that may make the truth clear. It is usually applied to a written treatise.

Fast Days
Fast days had been proclaimed from the start of Puritans settling New England. Hannah indicated Connecticut’s Governor Trumbull still called for fast days.

Flip
Mixture of beer or rum, with sugar or molasses, eggs, and cream.

Garret
A top-floor or attic room.

Impertinent
Rude, intrusive, meddler.

Physic
A medicine that purges; a laxative.

Inimical
Unfriendly, hostile.

Sweet cicely
Aromatic white-flowered plant of the parsley family, with fern-like leaves.

Sarcenet
Fine, thin woven silk.

Some definitions from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

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Rods, Furlongs, Oxgangs

Agriculture, Denis Diderot, Jean Le Rond D' Alembert, and Pierre Mouchon, Between 1751 and 1772, loc: 2006691777.
Agriculture, Denis Diderot, Jean Le Rond D’ Alembert, and Pierre Mouchon, Between 1751 and 1772, loc: 2006691777.

• Acre: 160 square rods. Originally: the amount of land tilled by one man behind one ox in one day; four by forty rods or four rods by one furlong. Acres were long and narrow to provide more river front access, and because it was difficult to turn the plow around.

• Furlong (furrow length): 40 rods or 1/8 mile or 660 feet. Originally the distance a team of oxen could plow without resting.

• Oxgang: 15 acres or the land tilled by one ox in one plowing season.

• Rod: a measurement of five yards, or sixteen feet and a half. A square rod is equal to 160th of an acre.

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Hickok Hotel, February 1785

“At the end of February, towards the even we had sleigh folks here. We made supper for some.” The Sleigh Race. Currier & Ives, ca. 1859. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress: 05012.
“At the end of February, towards the even we had sleigh folks here. We made supper for some.” The Sleigh Race. Currier & Ives, ca. 1859. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress: 05012.

Hannah, in her 1784–1786 Journal calls their home, the Hickok Hotel.

Hickok Hotel, February 1785
Maria is often here. She was with me when we returned from Sam and Grace Prindle’s wedding Thursday evening. There were some lodgers from Stratford here.

Maria and I went to bed at nine. I, not having slept any, rose at about midnight and made some flip* for Maria and I, after which I went to bed.

But I soon rose with Maria. We sat up all night roasting oysters till five this morning. I slept away the forenoon and rose between one and two, Friday afternoon. Mrs. Curtis was here till just before night. Mrs. Gibbs was here also and stayed here all night with her son.

It is cold in this chamber and I have two or three beds to make, so will write no more at present.

We’ve had many lodgers this month of February. I sleep in different rooms depending on how many are sleeping at our Hickok Hotel. When Grace was here we slept in the barroom. When Sallia was visiting, I slept in the kitchen, as I have at other times.

Sam and Grace Prindle are staying here now. Aunt Sarah came home with Momma and stayed here one night.

Mr. Willard and Kevin who lodged here were impertinent. Col. Sherman and Upson lodged here. That latter and I had some discourse. He is a droll man. I went to bed at twelve.

At the end of February, towards the even we had sleigh folks here. We made supper for some.

*Flip: Mixture of beer or rum, with sugar or molasses, eggs, and cream.

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I Am Not Now Happy, April 1784

Eight illustrations depicting a New England farmhouse replica on exhibit at the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Wood engraving: F.S. Church; Illustration: Harper’s Weekly, July 15, 1876, p. 585; Library of Congress: 3c02852.
Eight illustrations depicting a New England farmhouse replica on exhibit at the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Wood engraving: F.S. Church; Illustration: Harper’s Weekly, July 15, 1876, p. 585; Library of Congress: 3c02852.

Hannah Hickok, daughter of David and Abigail Johnson Hickok, was not the usual teenager. A voracious reader, Hannah
(b. 1767) was usually a no-nonsense
person with strong opinions we learn in her 1784–1786 Journal/Diary.

Hannah mentioned her uncle Asa Hickok several times, including borrowing his geography book. Uncle Asa and Aunt Esther’s daughter Hannah Hickok was born in 1789.

April 1784: Indisposed, Discontented, and Ill
Very much indisposed and discontented I was on the first
Saturday in April.

Sunday though indisposed and discontented, I puzzled myself
whether it was best to drink tea,
and concluded it was not.

Monday I was in a better humor. I went to Uncle Hickok’s. Bella came here. Mama went to Southbury. I washed floors. Mama returned about six. I felt too lonesome to stay below. I am not now happy.

I have read Samuel Richardson’s, The History of Sir Charles Grandison, for several days—perhaps too much. The only advantage I have in reading Richardson’s style is it gives me patience to write, which otherwise I should not have.

The History of Sir Charles Grandison in a Series of Letters, London, 1753–54
Author Samuel Richardson created his leading male character Charles Grandison to be a morally better hero than Tom Jones in Henry Fielding’s, The History of Tom Jones.

Sir Charles Grandison rescued Harriet Byron when she was kidnapped by Sir Pollexfen after he was rejected by her. Pollexfen wanted to duel with Grandison. Mr. G. refused, saying that dueling was harmful to society. Pollexfen then apologized to Harriet and asked her to marry him.

But Harriet was in love with Grandison. However, long ago Grandison had promised to marry Clementina, who lived in Italy. Clementina had demanded Grandison, an Anglican Protestant, become a Catholic. Grandison would not, so there was no marriage.

Clementina’s parents asked Grandison to return and marry Clementina. Clementina said she would never marry a “heretic.” So Grandison returned to England and married Harriet.

English author Jane Austen (1775–1817), a strong admirer of Richardson, is said to have patterned Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, after Grandison. Hannah Hickok didn’t seem to have the same appreciation for Richardson.

Abby, Laurilla, and Mary Ann, pp. 67, 68.

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