History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880. Vol. 2 (of 2) - Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens
by George Washington Williams
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In 1844, the Rev. Hiram S. Gilmore, founded the "Cincinnati High School" for Colored youth. Mr. Gilmore was a man rich in sentiments of humanity, and endowed plenteously with executive ability and this world's goods. All these he consecrated to the elevation and education of the Colored people.

This school-house was located at the east end of Harrison Street, and was in every sense a model building, comprising five rooms, a chapel, a gymnasium, and spacious grounds. The pupils increased yearly, and the character of the school made many friends for the cause. The following persons taught in this school: Joseph H. Moore, Thomas L. Boucher, David P. Lowe, Dr. A. L. Childs, and W. F. Colburn. Dr. Childs became principal of the school in 1848.

In 1849, the Legislature passed an act establishing schools for Colored children, to be maintained at the public expense. In 1850, a board of Colored trustees was elected, teachers employed, and buildings hired. The schools were put in operation. The law of 1849 provided that so much of the funds belonging to the city of Cincinnati as would fall to the Colored youth, by a per capita division, should be held subject to the order of the Colored trustees. But their order was not honored by the city treasurer, upon the ground that under the constitution of the State only electors could hold office; that Colored men were not electors, and, therefore, could not hold office. After three months the Colored schools were closed, and the teachers went out without their salaries.

John I. Gaines, an intelligent and fearless Colored leader, made a statement of the case to a public meeting of the Colored people of Cincinnati, and urged the employment of counsel to try the case in the courts. Money was raised, and Flamen Ball, Sr., was secured to make an application for mandamus. The case was finally carried to the Supreme Court and won by the Colored people.

In 1851, the schools were opened again; but the rooms were small and wretchedly appointed, and the trustees unable to provide better ones. Without notice the Colored trustees were deposed. The management of the Colored schools was vested in a board of trustees and school visitors, who were also in charge of the schools for the white children. This board, under a new law, had authority to appoint six Colored men who were to manage the Colored schools with the exception of the school fund. This greatly angered the leading Colored men, and, therefore, they refused to endorse this new management.

The law was altered in 1856, giving the Colored people the right to elect, by ballot, their own trustees.

In 1858, Nicholas Longworth built the first school-house for the Colored people, and gave them the building on a lease of fourteen years, in which time they were to pay for it—$14,000. In 1859, a large building was erected on Court Street.

Oberlin College opened its doors to Colored students from the moment of its existence in 1833, and they have never been closed at any time since. It was here that the incomparable Finney, with the fierceness of John Baptist, the gentleness of John the Evangelist, the logic of Paul, and the eloquence of Isaiah, pleaded the cause of the American slave, and gave instruction to all who sat at his feet regardless of color or race. George B. Vashon, William Howard Day, John Mercer Langston, and many other Colored men graduated from Oberlin College before any of the other leading colleges of the country had consented to give Colored men a classical education.


Anthony Benezet established, in 1750, the first school for Colored people in this State, and taught it himself without money and without price. He solicited funds for the erection of a school-house for the Colored children, and of their intellectual capacities said: "I can with truth and sincerity declare that I have found among the negroes as great variety of talents as among a like number of whites, and I am bold to assert that the notion entertained by some, that the blacks are inferior in their capacity, is a vulgar prejudice, founded on the pride or ignorance of their lordly masters, who have kept their slaves at such a distance as to be unable to form a right judgment of them."

He died on the 3d of May, 1784, universally beloved and sincerely mourned, especially by the Negro population of Pennsylvania, for whose education he had done so much. The following clause in his will illustrates his character in respect to public instruction:

"I give my above said house and lot, or ground-rent proceeding from it, and the rest and residue of my estate which shall remain undisposed of after my wife's decease, both real and personal, to the public school of Philadelphia, founded by charter, and to their successors forever, in trust, that they shall sell my house and lot on perpetual ground-rent forever, if the same be not already sold by my executors, as before mentioned, and that as speedily as may be they receive and take as much of my personal estate as may be remaining, and therewith purchase a yearly ground-rent, or ground-rents, and with the income of such ground-rent proceeding from the sale of my real estate, hire and employ a religious-minded person, or persons, to teach a number of negro, mulatto, or Indian children to read, write, arithmetic, plain accounts, needle-work, etc. And it is my particular desire, founded on the experience I have had in that service, that in the choice of such tutors, special care may be had to prefer an industrious, careful person of true piety, who may be or become suitably qualified, who would undertake the service from a principle of charity, to one more highly learned, not equally disposed; this I desire may be carefully attended to, sensible that from the number of pupils of all ages, the irregularity of attendance their situation subjects them to will not admit of that particular inspection in their improvement usual in other schools, but that the real well-doing of the scholars will very much depend upon the master making a special conscience of doing his duty; and shall likewise defray such other necessary expense as may occur in that service; and as the said remaining income of my estate, after my wife's decease, will not be sufficient to defray the whole expense necessary for the support of such a school, it is my request that the overseers of the said public school shall join in the care and expense of such school, or schools, for the education of negro, mulatto, or Indian children, with any committee which may be appointed by the monthly meetings of Friends in Philadelphia, or with any other body of benevolent persons who may join in raising money and employing it for the education and care of such children; my desire being that as such a school is now set up, it may be forever maintained in this city."

Just before his death he addressed the following note to the "overseers of the school for the instruction of the black people."

"My friend, Joseph Clark, having frequently observed to me his desire, in case of my inability of continuing the care of the negro school, of succeeding me in that service, notwithstanding he now has a more advantageous school, by the desire of doing good to the black people makes him overlook these pecuniary advantages, I much wish the overseers of the school would take his desires under their peculiar notice and give him such due encouragement as may be proper, it being a matter of the greatest consequence to that school that the master be a person who makes it a principle to do his duty."

The noble friends were early in the field as the champions of education for the Negroes. It was Anthony Benezet, who, on the 26th of January, 1770, secured the appointment of a committee by the monthly meeting of the Friends, "to consider on the instruction of negro and mulatto children in reading, writing, and other useful learning suitable to their capacity and circumstances." On the 30th of May, 1770, a special committee of Friends sought to employ an instructor "to teach, not more at one time than thirty children, in the first rudiments of school learning and in sewing and knitting." Moles Paterson was first employed at a salary of L80 a year, and an additional sum of L11 for one half of the rent of his dwelling-house. Instruction was free to the poor; but those who were able to pay were required to do so "at the rate of 10s. a quarter for those who write, and 7s. 6d. for others."

In 1784, William Waring was placed in charge of the larger children, at a salary of L100; and Sarah Dougherty, of the younger children and girls, in teaching spelling, reading, sewing, etc., at a salary of L50. In 1787, aid was received from David Barclay, of London, in behalf of a committee for managing a donation for the relief of Friends in America; and the sum of L500 was thus obtained, which, with the fund derived from the estate of Benezet, and L300 from Thomas Shirley, a Colored man, was appropriated to the erection of a school-house. In 1819 a committee of "women Friends," to have exclusive charge of the admission of girls and the general superintendence of the girls' school, was associated with the overseers in the charge of the school. In 1830, in order to relieve the day school of some of the male adults who had been in the habit of attending, an evening school for the purpose of instructing such persons gratuitously was opened, and has been continued to the present time. In 1844, a lot was secured on Locust Street, extending along Shield's Alley, now Aurora Street, on which a new house was erected in 1847, the expense of which was paid for in part from the proceeds of the sale of a lot bequeathed by John Pemberton. Additional accommodations were made to this building, from time to time, as room was demanded by new classes of pupils.

In 1849, a statistical return of the condition of the people of color in the city and districts of Philadelphia shows that there were then one grammar school, with 463 pupils; two public primary schools, with 339; and an infant school, under the charge of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, of 70 pupils, in Clifton Street: a ragged and a moral-reform school, with 81 pupils. In West Philadelphia there was also a public school, with 67 pupils; and, in all, there were about 20 private schools, with 300 pupils; making an aggregate of more than 1,300 children receiving an education.

In 1859, according to Bacon's "Statistics of the Colored People of Philadelphia," there were 1,031 Colored children in public schools, 748 in charity schools of various kinds, 211 in benevolent and reformatory schools, and 331 in private schools, making an aggregate of 2,321 pupils; besides four evening schools, one for adult males, one for females, and one for young apprentices. There were 19 Sunday-schools connected with the congregations of the Colored people, and conducted by their own teachers, containing 1,667 pupils, and four Sunday-schools gathered as mission schools by members of white congregations, with 215 pupils. There was also a "Public Library and Reading-room" connected with the "Institute for Colored Youth," established in 1853, having about 1,300 volumes; besides three other small libraries in different parts of the city. The same pamphlet shows that there were 1,700 of the Colored population engaged in different trades and occupations, representing every department of industry.[64]

In 1794, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society established a school for children of the people of color, and in 1809 erected a school building at a cost of four thousand dollars, which they designated as "Clarkson Hall," in 1815. In 1813, a board of education was organized consisting of thirteen persons, with a visiting committee of three, whose duty it was to visit the schools once each week. In 1818, the school board, in their report, speak very kindly and encouragingly of the Clarkson Schools, which, they say, "furnish a decided refutation of the charge that the mental endowments of the descendants of Africa are inferior to those possessed by their white brethren. We can assert, without fear of contradiction, that the pupils of this seminary will sustain a fair comparison with those of any other institution in which the same elementary branches are taught."

In 1820, an effort was made to have the authorities of the white schools provide for the education of the Colored children as well as the whites, because the laws of the State required the education of all the youth. The comptrollers of the public schools confessed that the law provided for the education of "poor and indigent children," and that it extended to those of persons of color. Accordingly, in 1822, a school for the education of indigent persons of color of both sexes, was opened in Lombard Street, Philadelphia. In 1841, a primary school was opened in the same building. In 1833, the "Unclassified School" in Coates Street, and at frequent intervals after this several schools of the same grade, were started in West Philadelphia.

In 1837, by the will of Richard Humphreys, who died in 1832, an "Institute for Colored Youth" was started. The sum of ten thousand dollars was devised to certain trustees who were to pay it over to some society that might be disposed to establish a school for the education of the "descendants of the African race in school learning in the various branches of the mechanic arts and trade, and in agriculture." Thirty members of the society of Friends formed themselves into an association for the purpose of carrying out the wishes and plans of Mr. Humphreys. In the preamble of the constitution they adopted, their ideas and plans were thus set forth:

"We believe that the most successful method of elevating the moral and intellectual character of the descendants of Africa, as well as of improving their social condition, is to extend to them the benefits of a good education, and to instruct them in the knowledge of some useful trade or business, whereby they may be enabled to obtain a comfortable livelihood by their own industry; and through these means to prepare them for fulfilling the various duties of domestic and social life with reputation and fidelity, as good citizens and pious men."

In order to carry out the feature of agricultural and mechanic arts, the association purchased a farm in Bristol township, Philadelphia County, in 1839, where boys of the Colored race were taught farming, shoemaking, and other useful trades. The incorporation of the institution was secured in 1842, and in 1844 another friend dying—Jonathan Zane—added a handsome sum to the treasury, which, with several small legacies, made $18,000 for this enterprise. But in 1846 the work came to a standstill; the farm with its equipments was sold, and for six years very little was done, except through a night school.

In 1851, a lot for a school building was purchased on Lombard Street, and a building erected, and the school opened in the autumn of 1852, for boys, under the care of Charles L. Reason, an accomplished young Colored teacher from New York. A girls' school was opened the same year, and, under Mr. Reason's excellent instruction, many worthy and competent teachers and leaders of the Negro race came forth.

Avery College, at Allegheny City, was founded by the Rev. Charles Avery, a native of New York, but for the greater part of a long and useful life adorned by the noblest virtues, a resident of Pennsylvania. By will he left $300,000 for the christianization of the African race; $150,000 to be used in Africa, and $150,000 in America. He left $25,000 as an endowment fund for Avery College.

At a stated meeting during the session of the Presbytery at New Castle, Pa., October 5, 1853, it was resolved that "there shall be established within our bounds, and under our supervision, an institution, to be called the Ashum Institute, for the scientific, classical, and theological education of colored youth of the male sex."

Accordingly, J. M. Dickey, A. Hamilton, R. P. Dubois, ministers; and Samuel J. Dickey and John M. Kelton, ruling elders, were appointed a committee to perfect the idea. They were to solicit and receive funds, secure a charter from the State of Pennsylvania, and erect suitable buildings for the institute. On the 14th of November, 1853, they purchased thirty acres of land at the cost of $1,250. At the session of the Legislature in 1854, a charter was granted establishing "at or near a place called Hinsonville, in the county of Chester, an institution of learning for the scientific, classical, and theological education of colored youth of the male sex, by the name and style of Ashum Institute." The trustees were John M. Dickey, Alfred Hamilton, Robert P. Dubois, James Latta, John B. Spottswood, James M. Crowell, Samuel J. Dickey, John M. Kelton, and William Wilson.

By the provisions of the charter the trustees were empowered "to procure the endowment of the institute, not exceeding the sum of $100,000; to confer such literary degrees and academic honors as are usually granted by colleges"; and it was required that "the institute shall be open to the admission of colored pupils of the male sex, of all religious denominations, who exhibit a fair moral character, and are willing to yield a ready obedience to the general regulations prescribed for the conduct of the pupils and the government of the institute."

The institute was formally dedicated on the 31st of December, 1856. It is now known as Lincoln University.


conferred the right of elective franchise upon her Colored citizens by her constitution in 1843, and ever since equal privileges have been afforded them. In 1828 the Colored people of Providence petitioned for a separate school, but it was finally abolished by an act of the Legislature.


took the lead in legislating against the instruction of the Colored race, as she subsequently took the lead in seceding from the Union. In 1740, while yet a British province, the Legislature passed the following law:

"Whereas the having of slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with inconveniences, Be it enacted, That all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach, or cause any slave or slaves to be taught, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe in any manner of writing whatever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall for every such offense forfeit the sum of L100 current money."

In 1800 the State Assembly passed an act, embracing free Colored people as well as slaves in its shameful provisions, enacting "that assemblies of slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, and mestizoes, whether composed of all or any such description of persons, or of all or any of the same and a proportion of white persons, met together for the purpose of mental instruction in a confined or secret place, or with the gates or doors of such place barred, bolted, or locked, so as to prevent the free ingress to and from the same," are declared to be unlawful meetings; the officers dispersing such unlawful assemblages being authorized to "inflict such corporal punishment, not exceeding twenty lashes, upon such slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, and mestizoes, as they may judge necessary for deterring them from the like unlawful assemblage in future." Another section of the same act declares, "that it shall not be lawful for any number of slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, or mestizoes, even in company with white persons, to meet together and assemble for the purpose of mental instruction or religious worship before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same." This section was so oppressive, that in 1803, in answer to petitions from certain religious societies, an amending act was passed forbidding any person before 9 o'clock in the evening "to break into a place of meeting wherever shall be assembled the members of any religious society of the State, provided a majority of them shall be white persons, or other to disturb their devotions unless a warrant has been procured from a magistrate, if at the time of the meeting there should be a magistrate within three miles of the place; if not, the act of 1800 is to remain in full force."

On the 17th of December, 1834, definite action was taken against the education of free Colored persons as well as slaves. The first section is given:

"SECTION 1. If any person shall hereafter teach any slave to read or write, or shall aid or assist in teaching any slave to read or write, or cause or procure any slave to be taught to read or write, such person, if a free white person, upon conviction thereof shall, for each and every offense against, this act, be fined not exceeding $100 and imprisonment not more than six months; or, if a free person of color, shall be whipped not exceeding fifty lashes, and fined not exceeding $50, at the discretion of the court of magistrates and freeholders before which such free person of color is tried; and if a slave, to be whipped, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding fifty lashes, the informer to be entitled to one-half the fine and to be a competent witness. And if any free person of color or slave shall keep any school or other place of instruction for teaching any slave or free person of color to read or write, such free person of color or slave shall be liable to the same fine, imprisonment, and corporal punishment as by this act are imposed and inflicted on free persons of color and slaves for teaching slaves to write."

The second section forbids, under pain of severe penalties, the employment of any Colored persons as "clerks or salesmen in or about any shop, store, or house used for trading."


passed a law in 1838 establishing a system of common schools by which the scholars were designated as "white children over the age of six years and under sixteen." In 1840 an act was passed in which no discrimination against color appeared. It simply provided that "all children between the ages of six and twenty-one years shall have the privilege of attending the public schools." And while there was never afterward any law prohibiting the education of Colored children, the schools were used exclusively by the whites.


never put any legislation on her statute-books withholding the blessings of the schools from the Negro, for the reason, doubtless, that she banished all free persons of color, and worked her slaves so hard that they had no hunger for books when night came.


under Sir William Berkeley, was not a strong patron of education for the masses. For the slave there was little opportunity to learn, as he was only allowed part of Saturday to rest, and kept under the closest surveillance on the Sabbath day. The free persons of color were regarded with suspicion, and little chance was given them to cultivate their minds.

On the 2d of March, 1819, an act was passed prohibiting "all meetings or assemblages of slaves, or free negroes, or mulattoes, mixing and associating with such slaves, at any meeting-house or houses, or any other place or places, in the night, or at any school or schools for teaching them reading and writing either in the day or night." But notwithstanding this law, schools for free persons of color were kept up until the Nat. Turner insurrection in 1831, when, on the 7th of April following, the subjoined act was passed:

"SEC. 4. And be it enacted, That all meetings of free negroes or mulattoes at any school-house, church, meeting-house, or other place, for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered an unlawful assembly; and any justice of the county or corporation wherein such assemblage shall be, either from his own knowledge, or on the information of others of such unlawful assemblage or meeting, shall issue his warrant directed to any sworn officer or officers, authorizing him or them to enter the house or houses where such unlawful assemblage or meeting may be, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such free negroes or mulattoes, and to inflict corporal punishment on the offender or offenders, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 26 lashes.

"SEC. 5. And be it enacted, That if any person or persons assemble with free negroes or mulattoes at any school-house, church, meeting-house, or other place, for the purpose of instructing such free negroes or mulattoes to read or write, such persons or persons shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in a sum not exceeding $50, and, moreover, may be imprisoned, at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding two months.

"SEC. 6. And be it enacted, That if any white person, for pay or compensation, shall assemble with any slaves for the purpose of teaching, and shall teach any slave to read or write, such person, or any white person or persons contracting with such teacher so to act, who shall offend as aforesaid, shall, for each offense, be fined, at the discretion of a jury, in a sum not less than $10, nor exceeding $100, to be recovered on an information or indictment."

This law was rigidly enforced, and in 1851, Mrs. Margaret Douglass, a white lady from South Carolina, was cast into the Norfolk jail for violating its provisions.

West Virginia was not admitted into the Union until 1863. Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey did not prohibit the education of their Colored children.


presents a more pleasing and instructive field for the examination of the curious student of history.

In 1807, the first school-house for the use of Colored pupils was erected in Washington, D. C., by three Colored men, named George Bell, Nicholas Franklin, and Moses Liverpool. Not one of this trio of Negro educators knew a letter of the alphabet; but having lived as slaves in Virginia, they had learned to appreciate the opinion that learning was of great price. They secured a white teacher, named Lowe, and put their school in operation.

At this time the entire population of free persons amounted to 494 souls. After a brief period the school subsided, but was reorganized again in 1818. The announcement of the opening of the school was printed in the "National Intelligencer" on the 29th of August, 1818.

"A School,

Founded by an association of free people of color, of the city of Washington, called the 'Resolute Beneficial Society,' situate near the Eastern Public School and the dwelling of Mrs. Fenwick, is now open for the reception of children of free people of color and others, that ladies or gentlemen may think proper to send to be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, or other branches of education apposite to their capacities, by a steady, active, and experienced teacher, whose attention is wholly devoted to the purposes described. It is presumed that free colored families will embrace the advantages thus presented to them, either by subscribing to the funds of the society, or by sending their children to the school. An improvement of the intellect and morals of colored youth being the objects of this institution, the patronage of benevolent ladies, and gentlemen, by donation or subscription, is humbly solicited in aid of the fund, the demands thereon being heavy and the means at present much too limited. For the satisfaction of the public, the constitution and articles of association are printed and published. And to avoid disagreeable occurrences, no writings are to be done by the teacher for a slave, neither directly nor indirectly, to serve the purpose of a slave on any account whatever. Further particulars may be known by applying to any of the undersigned officers.

"WILLIAM COSTIN, President. "GEORGE HICKS, Vice-President. "JAMES HARRIS, Secretary. "GEORGE BELL, Treasurer. "ARCHIBALD JOHNSON, Marshal. "FRED. LEWIS, Chairman of the Committee. "ISAAC JOHNSON,} Committee. "SCIPIO BEENS, }

"N. B.—An evening school will commence on the premises on the first Monday of October, and continue throughout the season.

"[Symbol: Right pointing hand.] The managers of Sunday-schools in the eastern district are thus most dutifully informed that on Sabbath-days the school-house belonging to this society, if required for the tuition of colored youth, will be uniformly at their service.

August 29, 3t."

This school was first taught by a Mr. Pierpont, of Massachusetts, a relative of the poet, and after several years was succeeded by a Colored man named John Adams, the first teacher of his race in the District of Columbia. The average attendance of this school was about sixty-five or seventy.


The third school for Colored children in Washington was established by Mr. Henry Potter, an Englishman, who opened his school about 1809, in a brick building which then stood on the southeast corner of F and Seventh streets, opposite the block where the post-office building now stands. He continued there for several years and had a large school, moving subsequently to what was then known as Clark's Row on Thirteenth Street, west, between G and H streets, north.


During this period Mrs. Anne Maria Hall started a school on Capitol Hill, between the old Capitol and Carroll Row, on First Street, east. After continuing there with a full school for some ten years, she moved to a building which stood on what is now the vacant portion of the Casparis House lot on A Street, close to the Capitol. Some years later she went to the First Bethel Church, and after a year or two she moved to a house still standing on E Street, north, between Eleventh and Twelfth, west, and there taught many years. She was a Colored woman from Prince George's County, Maryland, and had a respectable education, which she obtained at schools with white children in Alexandria. Her husband died early, leaving her with children to support, and she betook herself to the work of a teacher, which she loved, and in which, for not less than twenty-five years, she met with uniform success. Her schools were all quite large, and the many who remember her as their teacher speak of her with great respect.


Of the early teachers of Colored schools in this district there is no one whose name is mentioned with more gratitude and respect by the intelligent Colored residents than that of Mrs. Mary Billing, who established the first Colored school that was gathered in Georgetown. She was an English woman; her husband, Joseph Billing, a cabinet-maker, coming from England in 1800, settled with his family that year in Washington, and dying in 1807, left his wife with three children. She was well educated, a capable and good woman, and immediately commenced teaching to support her family. At first, it is believed, she was connected with the Corporation School of Georgetown. It was while in a white school certainly that her attention was arrested by the wants of the Colored children, whom she was accustomed to receive into her schools, till the opposition became so marked that she decided to make her school exclusively Colored. She was a woman of strong religious convictions, and being English, with none of the ideas peculiar to slave society, when she saw the peculiar destitution of the Colored children in the community around her, she resolved to give her life to the class who seemed most to need her services. She established a Colored school about 1810, in a brick house still standing on Dunbarton Street, opposite the Methodist church, between Congress and High streets, remaining there till the winter of 1820-'21, when she came to Washington and opened a school in the house on H Street, near the Foundry Church, then owned by Daniel Jones, a Colored man, and still owned and occupied by a member of that family. She died in 1826, in the fiftieth year of her age. She continued her school till failing health, a year or so before her death, compelled its relinquishment. Her school was always large, it being patronized in Georgetown as well as afterward by the best Colored families of Washington, many of whom sent their children to her from Capitol Hill and the vicinity of the Navy Yard. Most of the better-educated Colored men and women now living, who were school children in her time, received the best portion of their education from her, and they all speak of her with a deep and tender sense of obligation. Henry Potter succeeded her in the Georgetown school, and after him Mr. Shay, an Englishman, who subsequently came to Washington and for many years had a large Colored school in a brick building known as the Round Tops, in the western part of the city, near the Circle, and still later removing to the old Western Academy building, corner of I and Seventeenth streets. He was there till about 1830, when he was convicted of assisting a slave to his freedom, and sent a term to the penitentiary. Mrs. Billing had a night school in which she was greatly assisted by Mr. Monroe, a government clerk and a Presbyterian elder, whose devout and benevolent character is still remembered in the churches. Mrs. Billing had scholars from Bladensburg and the surrounding country, who came into Georgetown and boarded with her and with others. About the time when Mrs. Billing relinquished her school in 1822 or 1823, what may be properly called


was built by Henry Smothers on the corner of Fourteenth and H streets, not far from the Treasury building. Smothers had a small dwelling-house on this corner, and built his school-house on the rear of the same lot. He had been long a pupil of Mrs. Billing, and had subsequently taught a school on Washington Street, opposite the Union Hotel in Georgetown. He opened his school in Washington in the old corporation school-house, built in 1806, but some years before this period abandoned as a public school-house. It was known as the Western Academy, and is still standing and used as a school-house on the corner of I and Nineteenth streets, west. When his school-house on Fourteenth and H streets was finished, his school went into the new quarters. This school was very large, numbering always more than a hundred and often as high as a hundred and fifty scholars. He taught here about two years, and was succeeded by John W. Prout about the year 1825. Prout was a man of ability. In 1831, May 4, there was a meeting, says the "National Intelligencer" of that date, of "the colored citizens, large and very respectable, in the African Methodist Episcopal Church," to consider the question of emigrating to Liberia. John W. Prout was chosen to preside over the assemblage, and the article in the "Intelligencer" represents him as making "a speech of decided force and well adapted to the occasion, in support of a set of resolutions which he had drafted, and which set forth views adverse to leaving the soil that had given them birth, their true and veritable home, without the benefits of education." The school under Prout was governed by a board of trustees and was organized as


and so continued two or three years. The number of scholars was very large, averaging a hundred and fifty. Mrs. Anne Maria Hall was the assistant teacher. It relied mainly for support upon subscription, twelve and a half cents a month only being expected from each pupil, and this amount was not compulsory. The school was free to all Colored children, without money or price, and so continued two or three years, when failing of voluntary pecuniary support (it never wanted scholars), it became a regular tuition school. The school under Mr. Prout was called the "Columbian Institute," the name being suggested by John McLeod, the famous Irish school-master, who was a warm friend of this institution after visiting and commending the scholars and teachers, and who named his new building, in 1835, the Columbian Academy. The days of thick darkness to the Colored people were approaching. The Nat. Turner insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia, which occurred in August, 1831, spread terror everywhere in slave communities. In this district, immediately upon that terrible occurrence, the Colored children, who had in very large numbers been received into the Sabbath-schools in the white churches, were all turned out of those schools. This event, though seeming to be a fiery affliction, proved a blessing in disguise. It aroused the energies of the Colored people, taught them self-reliance, and they organized forthwith Sabbath-schools of their own. It was in the Smothers school-house that they formed their first Sunday-school, about the year 1832, and here they continued their very large school for several years, the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church ultimately springing from the school organization. It is important to state in this connection that


always an extremely important means of education for Colored people in the days of slavery, was emphatically so in the gloomy times now upon them. It was the Sabbath-school that taught the great mass of the free people of color about all the school knowledge that was allowed them in those days, and hence the consternation which came upon them when they found themselves excluded from the schools of the white churches. Lindsay Muse, who has been the messenger for eighteen Secretaries of the Navy, successively, during fifty-four years, from 1828 to the present time, John Brown, Benjamin M. McCoy, Mr. Smallwood, Mrs. Charlotte Norris, afterward wife of Rev. Eli Nugent, and Siby McCoy, are the only survivors of the resolute little band of Colored men and women who gathered with and guided that Sunday-school. They had, in the successor of Mr. Prout, a man after their own heart,


who came into charge of this school in August, 1834, about eight years after his aunt, Alethia Tanner, had purchased his freedom. He learned the shoemaker's trade in his boyhood, and worked diligently, after the purchase of his freedom, to make some return to his aunt for the purchase-money. About the time of his becoming of age, he dislocated his shoulder, which compelled him to seek other employment, and in 1831, the year of his majority, he obtained the place of assistant messenger in the Land Office. Hon. John Wilson, now Third Auditor of the Treasury, was the messenger, and was Cook's firm friend till the day of his death. Cook had been a short time at school under the instruction of Smothers and Prout, but when he entered the Land Office his education was at most only the ability to stumble along a little in a primary reading-book. He, however, now gave himself in all his leisure moments, early and late, to study. Mr. Wilson remembers his indefatigable application, and affirms that it was a matter of astonishment at the time, and that he has seen nothing in all his observations to surpass and scarcely to equal it. He was soon able to write a good hand, and was employed with his pen in clerical work by the sanction of the commissioner, Elisha Hayward, who was much attached to him. Cook was now beginning to look forward to the life of a teacher, which, with the ministry, was the only work not menial in its nature then open to an educated Colored man. At the end of three years he resigned his place in the Land Office, and entered upon the work which he laid down only with his life. It was then that he gave himself wholly to study and the business of education, working with all his might; his school numbering quite a hundred scholars in the winter and a hundred and fifty in the summer. He had been in his work one year when the storm which had been, for some years, under the discussion of the slavery question, gathering over the country at large, burst upon this district.


or "Snow storm," as it has been commonly called, which occurred in September, 1835, is an event that stands vividly in the memory of all Colored people who lived in this community at that time. Benjamin Snow, a smart Colored man, keeping a restaurant on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, was reported to have made some remark of a bravado kind derogatory to the wives of white mechanics; whereupon this class, or those assuming to represent them, made a descent upon his establishment, destroying all his effects. Snow himself, who denied using the offensive language, with difficulty escaped unharmed, through the management of white friends, taking refuge in Canada, where he still resides. The military was promptly called to the rescue, at the head of which was General Walter Jones, the eminent lawyer, who characterized the rioters, greatly to their indignation, as "a set of ragamuffins," and his action was thoroughly sanctioned by the city authorities.

At the same time, also, there was a fierce excitement among the mechanics at the Navy Yard, growing out of the fact that a large quantity of copper bolts being missed from the yard and found to have been carried out in the dinner-pails by the hands, the commandant had forbid eating dinners in the yard. This order was interpreted as an insult to the white mechanics, and threats were made of an assault on the yard, which was put in a thorough state of defence by the commandant. The rioters swept through the city, ransacking the houses of the prominent Colored men and women, ostensibly in search of anti-slavery papers and documents, the most of the gang impelled undoubtedly by hostility to the Negro race and by motives of plunder. Nearly all the Colored school-houses were partially demolished and the furniture totally destroyed, and in several cases they were completely ruined. Some private houses were also torn down or burnt. The Colored schools were nearly all broken up, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Colored churches were saved from destruction, as their Sabbath-schools were regarded, and correctly regarded, as the means through which the Colored people, at that time, procured much of their education.

The rioters sought, especially, for John F. Cook, who, however, had seasonably taken from the stable the horse of his friend, Mr. Hayward, the Commissioner of the Land Office, an anti-slavery man, and fled precipitately from the city. They marched to his school-house, destroyed all the books and furniture, and partially destroyed the building. Mrs. Smothers, who owned both the school-house and the dwelling adjoining the lots, was sick in her house at the time, but an alderman, Mr. Edward Dyer, with great courage and nobleness of spirit, stood between the house and the mob for her protection, declaring that he would defend her house from molestation with all the means he could command. They left the house unharmed, and it is still standing on the premises. Mr. Cook went to Columbia, Pennsylvania, opened a school there, and did not venture back to his home till the autumn of 1836. At the time the riot broke out, General Jackson was absent in Virginia. He returned in the midst of the tumult, and immediately issuing orders in his bold, uncompromising manner to the authorities to see the laws respected at all events, the violence was promptly subdued. It was, nevertheless, a very dark time for the Colored people. The timid class did not for a year or two dare to send their children to school, and the whole mass of the Colored people dwelt in fear day and night. In August, 1836, Mr. Cook returned from Pennsylvania and reopened his school, which under him had, in 1834, received the name of


During his year's absence he was in charge of a free Colored public school in Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which he surrendered to the care of Benjamin M. McCoy when he came back to his home, Mr. McCoy going there to fill out his engagement.

He resumed his work with broad and elevated ideas of his business. This is clearly seen in the plan of his institution, embraced in the printed annual announcements and programmes of his annual exhibitions, copies of which have been preserved. The course of study embraced three years, and there was a male and a female department, Miss Catharine Costin at one period being in charge of the female department. Mr. Seaton, of the "National Intelligencer," among other leading and enlightened citizens and public men, used to visit his school from year to year, and watch its admirable working with deep and lively interest. Cook was at this period not only watching over his very large school, ranging from 100 to 150 or more pupils, but was active in the formation of the "First Colored Presbyterian Church of Washington," which was organized in November, 1841, by Rev. John C. Smith, D.D., and worshipped in this school-house. He was now also giving deep study to the preparation for the ministry, upon which, in fact, as a licentiate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he had already in some degree entered. At a regular meeting of "The presbytery of the District of Columbia," held in Alexandria, May 3, 1842, this church, now commonly called the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, was formally received under the care of that presbytery, the first and still the only Colored Presbyterian church in the district. Mr. Cook was elected the first pastor July 13, 1843, and preached his trial sermon before ordination on the evening of that day in the Fourth Presbyterian Church (Dr. J. C. Smith's) in the city, in the presence of a large congregation. This sermon is remembered as a manly production, delivered with great dignity and force, and deeply imbued with the spirit of his work. He was ordained in the Fifteenth Street Church the next evening, and continued to serve the church with eminent success till his death in 1855. Rev. John C. Smith, D.D., who had preached his ordination sermon, and been his devoted friend and counsellor for nearly twenty years, preached his funeral sermon, selecting as his text, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." There were present white as well as Colored clergymen of no less than five denominations, many of the oldest and most respectable citizens, and a vast concourse of all classes white and Colored. "The Fifteenth Street Church," in the words of Dr. Smith in relation to them and their first pastor, "is now a large and flourishing congregation of spiritually-minded people. They have been educated in the truth and the principles of our holy religion, and in the new, present state of things the men of this church are trusted, relied on as those who fear God and keep His commandments. The church is the monument to John F. Cook, the first pastor, who was faithful in all his house, a workman who labored night and day for years, and has entered into his reward. 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.' 'They rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.'"

In 1841, when he entered, in a preliminary and informal way, upon the pastorate of the Fifteenth Street Church, he seems to have attempted to turn his seminary into a high school, limited to twenty-five or thirty pupils, exclusively for the more advanced scholars of both sexes; and his plan of studies to that end, as seen in his prospectus, evinces broad and elevated views—a desire to aid in lifting his race to higher things in education than they had yet attempted. His plans were not put into execution, in the matter of a high school, being frustrated by the circumstances that there were so few good schools in the city for the Colored people, at that period, that his old patrons would not allow him to shut off the multitude of primary scholars which were depending upon his school. His seminary, however, continued to maintain its high standard, and had an average attendance of quite 100 year after year, till he surrendered up his work in death.

He raised up a large family and educated them well. The oldest of the sons, John and George, were educated at Oberlin College. The other three, being young, were in school when the father died. John and George, it will be seen, succeeded their father as teachers, continuing in the business down to the present year. Of the two daughters, the elder was a teacher till married in 1866, and the other is now a teacher in the public schools of the city. One son served through the war as sergeant in the Fortieth Colored Regiment, and another served in the navy.

At the death of the father, March 21, 1855, the school fell into the hands of the son, John F. Cook, who continued it till May, 1857, when it passed to a younger son, George F. T. Cook, who moved it from its old home, the Smothers House, to the basement of the Presbyterian Church, in the spring of 1858, and maintained it till July, 1859. John F. Cook, jr., who had erected a new school-house on Sixteenth Street, in 1862, again gathered the school which the tempests of the war had dispersed, and continued it till June, 1867, when the new order of things had opened ample school facilities throughout the city, and the teacher was called to other duties. Thus ended the school which had been first gathered by Smothers nearly forty-five years before, and which, in that long period, had been continually maintained with seldom less than one hundred pupils, and for the most part with one hundred and fifty, the only suspensions being in the year of the Snow riot, and in the two years which ushered in the war.

The Smothers House, after the Cook school was removed in 1858, was occupied for two years by a free Catholic school, supported by "The St. Vincent de Paul Society," a benevolent organization of Colored people. It was a very large school with two departments, the boys under David Brown, and the girls under Eliza Anne Cook, and averaging over one hundred and fifty scholars. When this school was transferred to another house, Rev. Chauncey Leonard, a Colored Baptist clergyman, now pastor of a church in Washington, and Nannie Waugh opened a school there, in 1861, that became as large as that which had preceded it in the same place. This school was broken up in 1862 by the destruction of the building at the hands of the incendiaries, who, even at that time, were inspired with all their accustomed vindictiveness toward the Colored people. But this was their last heathenish jubilee, and from the ashes of many burnings imperishable liberty has sprung forth.

About the time that Smothers built his school-house, in 1823,


was established in her father's house on Capitol Hill, on A Street, south, under the shadow of the Capitol. This Costin family came from Mount Vernon immediately after the death of Martha Washington, in 1802. The father, William Costin, who died suddenly in his bed, May 31, 1842, was for twenty-four years messenger for the Bank of Washington in this city. His death was noticed at length in the columns of the "National Intelligencer" in more than one communication at the time. The obituary notice, written under the suggestions of the bank officers who had previously passed a resolution expressing their respect for his memory, and appropriating fifty dollars toward the funeral expenses, says: "It is due to the deceased to say that his colored skin covered a benevolent heart"; concluding with this language:

"The deceased raised respectably a large family of children of his own, and, in the exercise of the purest benevolence, took into his family and supported four orphan children. The tears of the orphan will moisten his grave, and his memory will be dear to all those—a numerous class—who have experienced his kindness"; and adding these lines:

"Honor and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part—there all the honor lies."

John Quincy Adams, also, a few days afterward, in a discussion of the wrongs of slavery, alluded to the deceased in these words, "The late William Costin, though he was not white, was as much respected as any man in the district, and the large concourse of citizens that attended his remains to the grave, as well white as black, was an evidence of the manner in which he was estimated by the citizens of Washington." His portrait, taken by the direction of the bank authorities, still hangs in the directors' room, and it may also be seen in the houses of more than one of the old and prominent residents of the city.

William Costin's mother, Ann Dandridge, was the daughter of a half-breed (Indian and Colored), her grandfather being a Cherokee chief, and her reputed father was the father of Martha Dandridge, afterward Mrs. Custis, who, in 1759, was married to General Washington. These daughters, Ann and Martha, grew up together on the ancestral plantations. William Costin's reputed father was white, and belonged to a prominent family in Virginia, but the mother, after his birth, married one of the Mount Vernon slaves by the name of Costin, and the son took the name of William Costin. His mother, being of Indian descent made him, under the laws of Virginia, a free-born man. In 1800 he married Philadelphia Judge (his cousin), one of Martha Washington's slaves, at Mount Vernon, where both were born in 1780. The wife was given by Martha Washington at her decease to her granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis, who was the wife of Thomas Law, of Washington. Soon after William Costin and his wife came to Washington, the wife's freedom was secured on kind and easy terms, and the children were all born free. This is the account which William Costin and his wife and his mother, Ann Dandridge, always gave of their ancestry, and they were persons of great precision in all matters of family history, as well as of the most marked scrupulousness in their statements. Their seven children, five daughters and two sons, went to school with the white children on Capitol Hill, to Mrs. Maria Haley and other teachers. The two younger daughters, Martha and Frances, finished their education at the Colored convent in Baltimore. Louisa Parke and Ann had passed their school days before the convent was founded. Louisa Parke Costin opened her school at nineteen years of age, continuing it with much success till her sudden death in 1831, the year in which her mother also died. When Martha returned from the convent seminary, a year or so later, she reopened the school, continuing it till about 1839. This school, which was maintained some fifteen years, was always very full. The three surviving sister own and reside in the house which their father built about 1812. One of these sisters married Richard Henry Fisk, a Colored man of good education, who died in California, and she now has charge of the Senate ladies' reception-room. Ann Costin was for several years in the family of Major Lewis (at Woodlawn, Mount Vernon), the nephew of Washington. Mrs. Lewis (Eleanor Custis) was the granddaughter of Martha Washington. This school was not molested by the mob of 1835, and it was always under the care of a well-bred and well-educated teacher.


While Martha Costin was teaching, James Enoch Ambush, a Colored man, had also a large school in the basement of the Israel Bethel Church, on Capitol Hill, for a while, commencing there in April, 1833, and continuing in various places till 1843, when he built a school-house on E Street, south, near Tenth, island, and established what was known as "The Wesleyan Seminary," and which was successfully maintained for thirty-two years, till the close of August, 1865. The school-house still stands, a comfortable one-story wooden structure, with the sign "Wesleyan Seminary" over the door, as it has been there for twenty-five years. This was the only Colored school on the island of any account for many years, and in its humble way it accomplished a great amount of good. For some years Mr. Ambush had given much study to botanic medicine, and since closing his school he has become a botanic physician. He is a man of fine sense, and without school advantages, has acquired a respectable education.


The first seminary in the District of Columbia for Colored girls was established in Georgetown, in 1827, under the special auspices of Father Vanlomen, a benevolent and devout Catholic priest, then pastor of the Holy Trinity Church, who not only gave this interesting enterprise his hand and his heart, but for several years himself taught a school of Colored boys three days in a week, near the Georgetown college gate, in a small frame house, which was afterward famous as the residence of the broken-hearted widow of Commodore Decatur. This female seminary was under the care of Maria Becraft, who was the most remarkable Colored young woman of her time in the district, and, perhaps, of any time. Her father, William Becraft, born while his mother, a free woman, was the housekeeper of Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, always had the kindest attentions of this great man, and there are now pictures, more than a century and a half old, and other valuable relics from the Carroll family in the possession of the Becraft family, in Georgetown, which Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, in his last days presented to William Becraft as family keepsakes. William Becraft lived in Georgetown sixty-four years, coming there when eighteen years of age. He was for many years chief steward of Union Hotel, and a remarkable man, respected and honored by everybody. When he died, the press of the district noticed, in a most prominent manner, his life and character. From one of the extended obituary notices, marked with heavy black lines, the following paragraph is copied:

"He was among the last surviving representatives of the old school of well-bred, confidential, and intelligent domestics, and was widely known at home and abroad from his connection, in the capacity of steward for a long series of years, and probably from its origin, and until a recent date, with the Union Hotel, Georgetown, with whose guests, for successive generations, his benevolent and venerable aspect, dignified and obliging manners, and moral excellence, rendered him a general favorite."

Maria Becraft was marked, from her childhood, for her uncommon intelligence and refinement, and for her extraordinary piety. She was born in 1805, and first went to school for a year to Henry Potter, in Washington, about 1812; afterward attending Mrs. Billing's school constantly till 1820. She then, at the age of fifteen, opened a school for girls in Dunbarton Street, in Georgetown, and gave herself to the work, which she loved, with the greatest assiduity, and with uniform success. In 1827, when she was twenty-two years of age, her remarkable beauty and elevation of character so much impressed Father Vanlomen, the good priest, that he took it in hand to give her a higher style of school in which to work for her sex and race, to the education of which she had now fully consecrated herself. Her school was accordingly transferred to a larger building, which still stands on Fayette Street, opposite the convent, and there she opened a boarding and day school for Colored girls, which she continued with great success till August, 1831, when she surrendered her little seminary into the care of one of the girls that she had trained, and in October of that year joined the convent at Baltimore as a Sister of Providence, where she was the leading teacher till she died, in December, 1833, a great loss to that young institution, which was contemplating this noble young woman as its future Mother Superior. Her seminary in Georgetown averaged from thirty to thirty-five pupils, and there are those living who remember the troop of girls, dressed uniformly, which was wont to follow in procession their pious and refined teacher to devotions on the Sabbath at Holy Trinity Church. The school comprised girls from the best Colored families of Georgetown, Washington, Alexandria, and surrounding country. The sisters of the Georgetown convent were the admirers of Miss Becraft, gave her instruction, and extended to her most heartfelt aid and approbation in all her noble work, as they were in those days wont to do in behalf of the aspiring Colored girls who sought for education, withholding themselves from such work only when a depraved and degenerate public sentiment upon the subject of educating the Colored people had compelled them to a more rigid line of demarcation between the races. Ellen Simonds and others conducted the school a few years, but with the loss of its original teacher it began to fail, and finally became extinct. Maria Becraft is remembered, wherever she was known, as a woman of the rarest sweetness and exaltation of Christian life, graceful and attractive in person and manners, gifted, well-educated, and wholly devoted to doing good. Her name as a Sister of Providence was Sister Aloyons.


for Colored girls was initiated in Washington. This philanthropic woman was born in Brookfield, Madison County, New York, in 1815. Her parents were farmers, with small resources for the support of a large family. The children were obliged to work, and the small advantages of a common school were all the educational privileges furnished to them. Hop-raising was a feature in their farming, and this daughter was accustomed to work in the autumn, picking the hops. She was of a delicate physical organization, and suffered exceedingly all her life with spinal troubles. Being a girl of extraordinary intellectual activity, her place at home chafed her spirit. She was restless, dissatisfied with her lot, looked higher than her father, dissented from his ideas of woman's education, and, in her desperation, when about twenty-three years old, wrote to Mr. Seward, then recently elected Governor of her State, asking him if he could show her how it was possible for a woman in her circumstances to become a scholar; receiving from him the reply that he could not, but hoped a better day was coming, wherein woman might have a chance to be and to do to the extent of her abilities. Hearing at this time of a school at Clinton, Oneida County, New York, for young women, on the manual-labor system, she decided to go there; but her health being such as to make manual labor impossible at the time, she wrote to the principal of the Clover Street Seminary, Rochester, New York, who generously received her, taking her notes for the school bills, to be paid after completing her education. Grateful for this noble act, she afterward sent her younger sister there to be educated, for her own associate as a teacher; and the death of this talented sister, when about to graduate and come as her assistant in Washington, fell upon her with crushing force. In the Rochester school, with Myrtilla Miner, were two free Colored girls, and this association was the first circumstance to turn her thoughts to the work to which she gave her life. From Rochester she went to Mississippi, as a teacher of planters' daughters, and it was what she was compelled to see, in this situation, of the dreadful practices and conditions of slavery, that filled her soul with a pity for the Colored race, and a detestation of the system that bound them, which held possession of her to the last day of her life. She remained there several years, till her indignant utterances, which she would not withhold, compelled her employer, fearful of the results, to part reluctantly with a teacher whom he valued. She came home broken down with sickness, caused by the harassing sights and sounds that she had witnessed in plantation life, and while in this condition she made a solemn vow that whatever of life remained to her should be given to the work of ameliorating the condition of the Colored people. Here her great work begins. She made up her mind to do something for the education of free Colored girls, with the idea that through the influence of educated Colored women she could lay the solid foundations for the disenthrallment of their race. She selected the district for the field of her efforts, because it was the common property of the nation, and because the laws of the district gave her the right to educate free Colored children, and she attempted to teach none others. She opened her plan to many of the leading friends of freedom, in an extensive correspondence, but found especially, at this time, a wise and warm encourager and counsellor in her scheme, in William R. Smith, a Friend, of Farmington, near Rochester, New York, in whose family she was now a private teacher. Her correspondents generally gave her but little encouragement, but wished her God-speed in what she should dare in the good cause. One Friend wrote her from Philadelphia; entering warmly into her scheme, but advised her to wait till funds could be collected. "I do not want the wealth of Croesus," was her reply; and the Friend sent her $100, and with this capital, in the autumn of 1851, she came to Washington to establish a Normal School for the education of Colored girls, having associated with her Miss Anna Inman, an accomplished and benevolent lady of the Society of Friends, from Southfield, Rhode Island, who, however, after teaching a class of Colored girls in French, in the house of Jonathan Jones, on the island, through the winter, returned to New England. In the autumn of 1851 Miss Miner commenced her remarkable work here in a small room, about fourteen feet square, in the frame house then, as now, owned and occupied by Edward C. Younger, a Colored man, as his dwelling, on Eleventh Street, near New York Avenue. With but two or three girls to open the school, she soon had a roomful, and to secure larger accommodation, moved, after a couple of months, to a house on F Street, north, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets, west, near the houses then occupied by William T. Carroll and Charles H. Winder. This house furnished her a very comfortable room for her school, which was composed of well-behaved girls from the best Colored families of the district. The persecution of those neighbors, however, compelled her to leave, as the Colored family who occupied the house was threatened with conflagration, and after one month her little school found a more unmolested home in the dwelling-house of a German family on K Street, near the western market. After tarrying a few months here, she moved to L Street, into a room in the building known, as "The Two Sisters," then occupied by a white family. She now saw that the success of her school demanded a school-house, and in reconnoitring the ground she found a spot suiting her ideas as to size and locality, with a house on it, and in the market at a low price. She raised the money, secured the spot, and thither, in the summer of 1851, she moved her school, where for seven years she was destined to prosecute, with the most unparalleled energy and conspicuous success, her remarkable enterprise. This lot, comprising an entire square of three acres, between Nineteenth and Twentieth streets, west, N and O streets, north, and New Hampshire Avenue, selected under the guidance of Miss Miner, the contract being perfected through the agency of Sayles J. Bowen, Thomas Williamson, and Allen M. Gangewer, was originally conveyed in trust to Thomas Williamson and Samuel Rhodes, of the Society of Friends, in Philadelphia. It was purchased of the executors of the will of John Taylor, for $4,000, the deed being executed June 8, 1853, the estimated value of the property now being not less than $30,000. The money was mainly contributed by Friends, in Philadelphia, New York, and New England. Catharine Morris, a Friend, of Philadelphia, was a liberal benefactor of the enterprise, advancing Miss Miner $2,000, with which to complete the purchase of the lot, the most, if not all, of which sum, it is believed, she ultimately gave to the institution; and Harriet Beecher Stowe was another generous friend, who gave her money and her heart to the support of the brave woman who had been willing to go forth alone at the call of duty. Mr. Rhodes, some years editor of the "Friends' Quarterly Review," died several years ago, near Philadelphia. Mr. Williamson, a conveyancer in that city, and father of Passmore Williamson, is still living, but some years ago declined the place of trustee. The board, at the date of the act of incorporation, consisted of Benjamin Tatham, a Friend, of New York City, Mrs. Nancy M. Johnson, of Washington, and Myrtilla Miner, and the transfer of the property to the incorporated body was made a few weeks prior to Miss Miner's death. This real estate, together with a fund of $4,000 in government stocks, is now in the hands of a corporate body, under act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, and is styled "The Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in the District of Columbia." The officers of the corporation at this time are John C. Underwood, president; Francis G. Shaw, treasurer; George E. Baker, secretary; who, with Nancy M. Johnson, S. J. Bowen, Henry Addison, and Rachel Howland, constitute the executive committee. The purpose of the purchase of this property is declared, in a paper signed by Mr. Williamson and Mr. Rhodes, dated Philadelphia, June 8, 1858, to have been "especially for the education of colored girls."

This paper also declares that "the grounds were purchased at the special instance of Myrtilla Miner," and that "the contributions by which the original price of said lot, and also the cost of the subsequent improvements thereof, were procured chiefly by her instrumentality and labors." The idea of Miss Miner in planting a school here was to train up a class of Colored girls, in the midst of slave institutions, who should show forth in their culture and capabilities, to the country and to mankind, that the race was fit for something higher than the degradation which rested upon them. The amazing energy with which this frail woman prosecuted her work is well known to those who took knowledge of her career. She visited the Colored people of her district from house to house, and breathed a new life into them pertaining to the education of their daughters. Her correspondence with the philanthropic men and women of the North was immense. She importuned Congressmen, and the men who shaped public sentiment through the columns of the press, to come into her school and see her girls, and was ceaseless in her activities day and night, in every direction, to build up, in dignity and refinement, her seminary, and to force its merits upon public attention.

The buildings upon the lot when purchased—a small frame dwelling of two stories, not more than twenty-five by thirty-five feet in dimensions, with three small cabins on the other side of the premises—served for the seminary and the homes of the teacher and her assistant. The most aspiring and decently bred Colored girls of the district were gathered into the school; and the very best Colored teachers in the schools, of the district at the present time, are among those who owe their education to this self-sacrificing teacher and her school. Mrs. Means, aunt of the wife of General Pierce, then President of the United States, attracted by the enthusiasm of this wonderful person, often visited her in the midst of her work, with the kindest feelings; and the fact that the carriage from the Presidential mansion was in this way frequently seen at the door of this humble institution, did much to protect it from the hatred with which it was surrounded.

Mr. Seward and his family were very often seen at the school, both Mrs. Seward and her daughter Fanny being constant visitors; the latter, a young girl at the time, often spending a whole day there. Many other Congressmen of large and generous instincts, some of them of pro-slavery party relations, went out there, all confessing their admiration of the resolute woman and her school, and this kept evil men in abeyance.

The opposition to the school throughout the district was strong and very general, among the old as well as the young. Even Walter Lenox, who, as mayor, when the school was first started, gave the teacher assurances of favor in her work, came out in 1857, following the prevailing current of depraved public sentiment and feeding its tide, in an elaborate article in the "National Intelligencer," under his own signature; assailed the school in open and direct language, urging against it that it was raising the standard of education among the Colored population, and distinctly declaring that the white population of the district would not be just to themselves to permit the continuance of an institution which had the temerity to extend to the Colored people "a degree of instruction so far beyond their social and political condition, which condition must continue," the article goes on to say, "in this and every other slave-holding community." This article, though fraught with extreme ideas, and to the last degree prescriptive and inflammatory, neither stirred any open violence, nor deterred the courageous woman in the slightest degree from her work. When madmen went to her school-room threatening her with personal violence, she laughed them to shame; and when they threatened to burn her house, she told them that they could not stop her in that way, as another house, better than the old, would immediately rise from its ashes.

The house was set on fire in the spring of 1860, when Miss Miner was asleep in the second story, alone, in the night-time, but the smell of the smoke awakened her in time to save the building and herself from the flames, which were extinguished. The school-girls, also, were constantly at the mercy of coarse and insulting boys along the streets, who would often gather in gangs before the gate to pursue and terrify these inoffensive children, who were striving to gather wisdom and understanding in their little sanctuary. The police took no cognizance of such brutality in those days. But their dauntless teacher, uncompromising, conscientious, and self-possessed in her aggressive work, in no manner turned from her course by this persecution, was, on the other hand, stimulated thereby to higher vigilance and energy in her great undertaking. The course of instruction in the school was indeed of a higher order than had hitherto been opened to the Colored people of the district, as was denounced against the school by Walter Lenox, in his newspaper attack. Lectures upon scientific and literary subjects were given by professional and literary gentlemen, who were friends to the cause. The spacious grounds afforded to each pupil an ample space for a flower bed, which she was enjoined to cultivate with her own hands and to thoroughly study. And an excellent library, a collection of paintings and engravings, the leading magazines and choice newspapers, were gathered and secured for the humble home of learning, which was all the while filled with students, the most of whom were bright, ambitious girls, composing a female Colored school, which, in dignity and usefulness, has had no equal in the district since that day. It was her custom to gather in her vacations and journeys not only money, but every thing else that would be of use in her school, and in this way she not only collected books, but maps, globes, philosophical, and chemical, and mathematical apparatus, and a great variety of things to aid in her instruction in illustrating all branches of knowledge. This collection was stored in the school building during the war, and was damaged by neglect, plundered by soldiers, and what remains is not of much value. The elegant sofa-bedstead which she used during all her years in the seminary, and which would be an interesting possession for the seminary, was sold, with her other personal effects, to Dr. Carrie Brown (Mrs. Winslow), of Washington, one of her bosom friends, who stood at her pillow when she died.

Her plan embraced the erection of spacious structures, upon the site which had been most admirably chosen, complete in all their appointments for the full accommodation of a school of one hundred and fifty boarding scholars. The seminary was to be a female college, endowed with all the powers and professorships belonging to a first-class college for the other sex. She did not contemplate its springing up into such proportions, like a mushroom, in a single night, but it was her ambition that the institution should one day attain that rank. In the midst of her anxious, incessant labors, her physical system began so sensibly to fail, that in the summer of 1858, under the counsel of the friends of herself and her cause, she went North to seek health, and, as usual in all her journeys, to beg for her seminary, leaving her girls in the care of Emily Howland, a noble young woman, who came down here for the love of the cause, without money and without price, from the vicinity of Auburn, New York. In the autumn, Miss Miner returned to her school; Miss Howland still continuing with her through the winter, a companion in her trials, aiding her in her duties, and consenting to take charge of the school again in the summer of 1859, while Miss Miner was on another journey for funds and health. In the autumn of that year, after returning from her journey, which was not very successful she determined to suspend the school, and to go forth into the country with a most persistent appeal for money to erect a seminary building, as she had found it impossible to get a house of any character started with the means already in her hands. She could get no woman, whom she deemed fit to take her work, willing to continue her school, and in the spring of 1860, leasing the premises, she went North on her errand. In the ensuing year she traversed many States, but the shadow of the Rebellion was on her path, and she gathered neither much money nor much strength. The war came, and in October, 1862, hoping, but vainly, for health from a sea-voyage and from the Pacific climate, she sailed from New York to California. When about to return, in 1866, with vivacity of body and spirit, she was thrown from a carriage in a fearful manner; blighting all the high hopes of resuming her school under the glowing auspices she had anticipated, as she saw the Rebellion and the hated system tumbling to pieces. She arrived in New York, in August of that year, in a most shattered condition of body, though with the fullest confidence that she should speedily be well and at her work in Washington. In the first days of December she went to Washington in a dying condition, still resolute to resume her work; was carried to the residence of her tried friend, Mrs. Nancy M. Johnson; and on the tenth of that month, surrounded by the friends who had stood with her in other days, she put off her wasted and wearied body in the city which had witnessed her trials and her triumphs, and her remains slumber in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Her seminary engaged her thoughts to the last day of her life. She said in her last hours that she had come back here to resume her work, and could not leave it thus unfinished. No marble marks the resting-place of this truly wonderful woman, but her memory is certainly held precious in the hearts of her throngs of pupils, in the hearts of the Colored people of this district, and of all who took knowledge of her life, and who reverenced the cause in which she offered herself a willing sacrifice. Her assistants in the school were Helen Moore, of Washington; Margaret Clapp, Amanda Weaver, and Anna H. Searing, of New York State, and two of her pupils, Matilda Jones, of Washington, and Emma Brown, of Georgetown, both of whom subsequently, through the influence of Miss Miner and Miss Howland, finished their education at Oberlin, and have since been most superior teachers in Washington. Most of the assistant teachers from the North were from families connected with the Society of Friends, and it has been seen that the bulk of the money came from that society. The sketch would be incomplete without a special tribute to Lydia B. Mann, sister of Horace Mann, who came here in the fall of 1856, from the Colored Female Orphan Asylum of Providence, R. I., of which she was then, as she continues to be, the admirable superintendent, and, as a pure labor of love, took care of the school in the most superior manner through the autumn and winter, while Miss Miner was North recruiting her strength and pleading for contributions. It was no holiday duty to go into that school, live in that building, and work alone with head and hands, as was done by all those refined and educated women who stood from time to time in that humble, persecuted seminary. Miss Mann is gratefully remembered by her pupils here and their friends.

Mention should also be made of Emily Howland, who stood by Miss Miner in her darkest days, and whose whole heart was with her in all her work. She is a woman of the largest and most self-sacrificing purposes, who has been and still is giving her best years, all her powers, talents, learning, refinement, wealth, and personal toil, to the education and elevation of the Colored race. While here she adopted, and subsequently educated in the best manner, one of Miss Miner's pupils, and assisted several others of her smart girls in completing their education at Oberlin. During the war she was teaching contrabands in the hospital and the camp, and is now engaged in planting a colony of Colored people in Virginia with homes and a school-house of their own.

A seminary, such as was embraced in the plan of Miss Miner, is exceedingly demanded by the interest of Colored female education in the District of Columbia and the country at large, and any scheme by which the foundations that she laid so well may become the seat of such a school, would be heartily approved by all enlightened friends of the Colored race. The trustees of the Miner property, not insensible of their responsibilities, have been carefully watching for the moment when action on their part would seem to be justified. They have repeatedly met in regard to the matter, but, in their counsels, hitherto, have deemed it wise to wait further developments. They are now about to hold another meeting, it is understood, and it is to be devoutly hoped that some plan will be adopted by which a school of a high order may be, in due time, opened for Colored girls in this district, who exceedingly need the refining, womanly training of such a school.

The original corporators of Miss Miner's institution were Henry Addison, John C. Underwood, George C. Abbott, William H. Channing, Nancy M. Johnson, and Myrtilla Miner. The objects, as expressed in the charter, "are to educate and improve the moral and intellectual condition of such of the colored youth of the nation as may be placed under its care and influence."


In 1830, William Wormley built a school-house for his sister Mary, near the corner of Vermont Avenue and I Street, where the restaurant establishment owned and occupied by his brother, James Wormley, now stands. He had educated his sister expressly for a teacher, at great expense, at the Colored Female Seminary in Philadelphia, then in charge of Miss Sarah Douglass, an accomplished Colored lady, who is still a teacher of note in the Philadelphia Colored High School. William Wormley was at that time a man of wealth. His livery-stable, which occupied the place where the Owen House now stands, was one of the largest and best in the city. Miss Wormley had just brought her school into full and successful operation when her health broke down, and she lived scarcely two years. Mr. Calvert, an English gentleman, still living in the first ward, taught a class of Colored scholars in this house for a time, and James Wormley was one of the class. In the autumn of 1834, William Thomas Lee opened a school in the same place, and it was in a flourishing condition in the fall of 1835, when the Snow mob dispersed it, sacking the school-house, and partially destroying it by fire. William Wormley was at that time one of the most enterprising and influential Colored men of Washington, and was the original agent of the "Liberator" newspaper for this district. The mob being determined to lay hold of him and Lee, they fled from the city to save their lives, returning when General Jackson, coming back from Virginia a few days after the outbreak, gave notice that the fugitives should be protected. The persecution of William Wormley was so violent and persistent, that his health and spirits sank under its effects, his business was broken up, and he died a poor man, scarcely owning a shelter for his dying couch. The school-house was repaired after the riot, and occupied for a time by Margaret Thompson's school, and still stands in the rear of James Wormley's restaurant.


About this time another school was opened in Georgetown, by Nancy Grant, a sister of Mrs. William Becraft, a well-educated Colored woman. She was teaching as early as 1828, and had a useful school for several years. Mr. Nuthall, an Englishman, was teaching in Georgetown during this period, and as late as 1833 he went to Alexandria and opened a school in that city. William Syphax, among others now resident in Washington, attended his school in Alexandria about 1833. He was a man of ability, well educated, and one of the best teachers of his time in the district. His school in Georgetown was at first in Dunbarton Street, and afterward on Montgomery.

The old maxim, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," seems to find its illustration in this history. There is no period in the annals of the country in which the fires of persecution against the education of the Colored race burned more fiercely in this district, and the country at large, than in the five years from 1831 to 1836, and it was during this period that a larger number of respectable Colored schools were established than in any other five years prior to the war. In 1833, the same year in which Ambush's school was started, Benjamin M. McCoy, a Colored man, opened a school in the northern part of the city, on L Street, between Third and Fourth streets, west. In 1834 he moved to Massachusetts Avenue, continuing his school there till he went to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the autumn of 1836, to finish the engagement of Rev. John F. Cook, who came back to Washington at that time and re-opened his school. The school at Lancaster was a free public Colored school, and Mr. McCoy was solicited to continue another year; but declining, came back, and in 1837 opened a school in the basement of Asbury Church, which, in that room and in the house adjoining, he maintained with great success for the ensuing twelve years. Mr. McCoy was a pupil of Mrs. Billing and Henry Smothers; is a man of good sense, and his school gave a respectable rudimental education to multitudes, who remember him as a teacher with great respect. He is now a messenger in the Treasury Department. In 1833, a school was established by Fanny Hampton, in the western part of the city, on the northwest corner of K and Nineteenth streets. It was a large school, and was continued till about 1842, the teacher dying soon afterward. She was half-sister of Lindsay Muse. Margaret Thompson succeeded her, and had a flourishing school of some forty scholars on Twenty-sixth Street, near the avenue, for several years, about 1846. She subsequently became the wife of Charles H. Middleton, and assisted in his school for a brief time. About 1830, Robert Brown commenced a small school, and continued it at intervals for many years till his death. As early as 1833, there was a school opened in a private house in the rear of Franklin Row, near the location of the new Franklin School building. It was taught by a white man, Mr. Talbot, and continued a year or two. Mrs. George Ford, a white teacher, a native of Virginia, kept a Colored school in a brick house still standing on New Jersey Avenue, between K and L streets. She taught there many years, and as early, perhaps, as half a century ago.


was opened, in 1836, on New York Avenue, in a school-house which stood nearly on the spot now occupied by the Richards buildings at the corner of New York Avenue and Fourteenth Street. It had been previously used for a white school, taught by Mrs. McDaniel, and was subsequently again so used. Dr. Fleet was a native of Georgetown, and was greatly assisted in his education by the late Judge James Morsell, of that city, who was not only kind to this family, but was always regarded by the Colored people of the district as their firm friend and protector. John H. Fleet, with his brothers and sisters, went to the Georgetown Lancasterian School, with the white children, for a long period, in their earlier school days, and subsequently to other white schools. He was also for a time a pupil of Smothers and Prout. He was possessed of a brilliant and strong intellect, inherited from his father, who was a white man of distinguished abilities. He studied medicine in Washington, in the office of Dr. Thomas Henderson, who had resigned as assistant surgeon in the army, and was a practising physician of eminence in Washington. He also attended medical lectures at the old medical college, corner of Tenth and E streets. It was his intention at that time to go to Liberia, and his professional education was conducted under the auspices of the Colonization Society. This, with the influence of Judge Morsell, gave him privileges never extended here to any other Colored man. He decided, however, not to go to Liberia, and in 1836 opened his school. He was a refined and polished gentleman, and conceded to be the foremost Colored man in culture, in intellectual force, and general influence in this district at that time. His school-house on New York Avenue was burned by an incendiary about 1843, and his flourishing and excellent school was thus ended. For a time he subsequently taught music, in which he was very proficient; but about 1846 he opened a school on School-house Hill, in the Hobbrook Military School building, near the corner of N Street, north, and Twenty-third Street, west, and had a large school there till about 1851, when he relinquished the business, giving his attention henceforth exclusively to music, and with eminent success. He died in 1861. His school was very large and of a superior character.


was started in the same section of the city, in a school-house which then stood, near the corner of Twenty-second Street, west, and I, north, and which had been used by Henry Hardy for a white school. Though both Fleet's and Johnson's schools were in full tide of success in that vicinity, he gathered a good school, and when his two competitors retired—as they both did about this time,—his school absorbed a large portion of their patronage, and was thronged. In 1852, he went temporarily with his school to Sixteenth Street, and thence to the basement of Union Bethel Church on M Street, near Sixteenth, in which, during the administration of President Pierce, he had an exceedingly large and excellent school, at the same period when Miss Miner was prosecuting her signal work. Mr. Middleton, now a messenger in the Navy Department, a native of Savannah, Ga., is free-born, and received his very good education in schools in that city, sometimes with white and sometimes with Colored children. When he commenced his school he had just returned from the Mexican war, and his enterprise is especially worthy of being made prominent, not only because of his high style as a teacher, but also because it is associated with


This movement originated with a city officer, Jesse E. Dow, who, in 1848 and 1849, was a leading and influential member of the common council. He encouraged Mr. Middleton to start his school, by assuring him that he would give all his influence to the establishment of free schools for Colored as well as for white children, and that he had great confidence that the council would be brought to give at least some encouragement to the enterprise. In 1850 Mr. Dow was named among the candidates for the mayoralty; and when his views in this regard were assailed by his opponents, he did not hesitate to boldly avow his opinions, and to declare that he wished no support for any office which demanded of him any modification of these convictions. The workmen fail, but the work succeeds. The name of Jesse E. Dow merits conspicuous record in this history for this bold and magnanimous action. Mr. Middleton received great assistance in building up his school from Rev. Mr. Wayman, then pastor of the Bethel Church, and afterward promoted to the bishopric. The school was surrendered finally to Rev. J. V. B. Morgan, the succeeding pastor of the church, who conducted the school as a part of the means of his livelihood.


In the eastern section of the city, about 1840, Alexander Cornish had a school several years in his own house on D Street, south, between Third and Fourth, east, with an average of forty scholars. He was succeeded, about 1846, by Richard Stokes, who was a native of Chester County, Pa. His school, averaging one hundred and fifty scholars, was kept in the Israel Bethel Church, near the Capitol, and was continued for about six years. In 1840, there was a school opened by Margaret Hill in Georgetown, near Miss English's seminary. She taught a very good school for several years.


was started on Ninth Street, west, near New York Avenue. Mr. Hays was born in 1802, and belonged originally to the Fowler family in Maryland. When a boy he served for a time at the Washington Navy Yard, in the family of Captain Dove, of the navy, the father of Dr. Dove, of Washington, and it was in that family that he learned to read. Michael Tabbs had a school at that time at the Navy Yard, which he taught in the afternoons under a large tree, which stood near the old Masonic Hall. The Colored children used to meet him there in large numbers daily, and while attending this singular school, Hays was at the same time taught by Mrs. Dove, with her children. This was half a century ago. In 1826, Hays went to live in the family of R. S. Coxe, the eminent Washington lawyer, who soon purchased him, paying Fowler $300 for him. Mr. Coxe did this at the express solicitation of Hays, and seventeen years after he gave him his freedom—in 1843. While living with Mr. Coxe he had married Matilda Davis, the daughter of John Davis, who served as steward many years in the family of Mr. Seaton, of the "National Intelligencer." The wedding was at Mr. Seaton's residence, and Mr. Coxe and family were present on the occasion. In 1836, he bought the house and lot which they still own and occupy, and in 1842, the year before he was free, Hays made his last payment, and the place was conveyed to his wife. She was a free woman, and had opened a school in the house in 1841. Hays had many privileges while with Mr. Coxe, and with the proceeds of his wife's school they paid the purchase-money ($550) and interest in seven years. Mr. Hays was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic by Mr. Coxe, his wife, and daughters, while a slave in their family. When the Colored people were driven from the churches, in the years of the mobs, Mrs. Coxe organized a large Colored Sabbath-school in her own parlor, and maintained it for a long period, with the cooperation of Mr. Coxe and the daughters. Mr. Hays was a member of this school. He also attended day schools, when his work would allow of it. This was the education with which, in 1845, he ventured to take his wife's school in charge. He is a man of good-sense, and his school flourished. He put up an addition to his house, in order to make room for his increasing school, which was continued down to 1857—sixteen years from its opening. He had also a night school and taught music, and these two features of his school he has revived since the war. This school contained from thirty-five to forty-five pupils. Rev. Dr. Samson, Mr. Seaton, and Mr. Coxe often visited his school and encouraged him in his excellent work. Thomas Tabbs used also to come into his school and give him aid and advice, as also did John McLeod.


was opened about 1854, in the building in which Middleton first taught, on I, near Twenty-second Street. Mr. Fletcher was an Englishman, a well-educated gentleman, and a thorough teacher. He was induced to open the school by the importunities of some aspiring Colored young men in that part of the city, who desired first-rate instruction. He soon became the object of persecution, though he was a man of courtesy and excellent character. His school-house was finally set on fire and consumed, with all its books and furniture; but the school took, as its asylum, the basement of the John Wesley Church. The churches which they had been forced to build in the days of the mobs, when they were driven from the white churches which they had aided in building, proved of immense service to them in their subsequent struggles. Mrs. Fletcher kept a variety store, which was destroyed about the time the school was opened. She then became an assistant in her husband's school, which numbered over one hundred and fifty pupils. In 1858, they were driven from the city, as persecution at that time was particularly violent against all white persons who instructed the Colored people. This school was conducted with great thoroughness, and had two departments, Mrs. Fletcher, who was an accomplished person, having charge of the girls in a separate room.


a niece of Rev. John F. Cook, and one of his pupils, who has been teaching for about fifteen years, should be mentioned. She attended Miss Miner's school for a time, and was afterward at the Baltimore convent two years. She opened a school in her mother's house, and subsequently built a small school-house on the same lot, Sixteenth Street, between K and L streets. With the exception of three years, during which she was teaching in the free Catholic school opened in the Smothers school-house in 1859, and one year in the female school in charge of the Colored sisters, she has maintained her own private school from 1854 down to the present time, her number at some periods being above sixty, but usually not more than twenty-five or thirty.

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