Saturday, July 14, 2018

1822 Life at Litchfield Female Academy

1822 Diary of 16-year old Mary L. Wilbor at Litchfield Female Academy

Litchfield Female Academy in Connecticut

Litchfield May 28th, 1822 Went this morning to visit the remains of the once lovely and interesting Miss Helen Peck who died yesterday after a severe illness of five weeks. Went to her father's house this p. M. but as I could not get a seat returned home quite disappointed — do not feel in very good spirits. Went down to the Bantam last evening. Misses Austin, Perkins, and myself fell into the water, going to B. met a poor little boy who was an idiot, who was very interesting. I ought to be very thankful my life and reason are spared me! and may I make a good use of these great blessings! . . . Mr. Brace read dissertations today, and Miss Austin's was pronounced the best . I am very glad, for I think she deserves all the praise that is bestowed upon her. She possesses quite a talent for writing; and expresses herself very handsomely. Mr. B. read one of his own compositions, which was elegantly written. Shall be almost ashamed to present mine to him but my turn will not come until week after next, and I will not anticipate evil...It thunders & lightens very vividly & loudly, but the bell rings and I must go to church, for I expect Dr. Beecher will be very eloquent, for he is very much interested. Half-past 8. Was just ready for church when Miss Shelton brought me my letters but was so much overjoyed I could not go.


Miss Pierce is expected this afternoon and I hope she will come, for the whole household will be very glad to see her. £ past 6. p. M. An old man is now here with pictures at which we look with a perspective glass, which improves them very much and renders them very interesting but they would be much more so if some of the scenes were from our own country, for he had none of American scenery, but as he is an Englishman it is perfectly natural that he should be fond of showing his country in as favorable a light as possible I had twelve credit marks for doing one sum in Reduction. . . . Went upon prospect-hill with Misses Averill, Brace, Buell, & Clarke and had a very pleasant walk. There is a most delightful prospect from prospect-hill. We went upon echoing rock, it is astonishing how long we can hear the echo — I like Miss Buell very much. She is very polite and obliging. She is from Burlington Vermont, a niece of Mrs Lynde Catline of New York. I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing her at our house when she comes to New York to visit her aunt.

On our return home we found Miss Pierce had arrived from Boston. Miss Brace received good news from her friends. I am very glad for she is quite homesick, and I hope the letter will serve to dispel it a little. I went to the Post Office with Miss Averill but we did not go in, for it was very much crowded with gentlemen. I do not think it is quite proper for us to go to the post-office so often but still continue going! May 30-, arose at a quarter past six and exercised before breakfast which will entitle me to an extra.

Miss Pierce entertained us at breakfast with an account of Cambridge college also a singular gothic chair which was presented by some one in England to the college. I know I shall be happy this summer I like Miss Pierce very much and I am sure she will do everything in her power to render me so. Spent the afternoon in Martha Denison's room with Miss Perkins. Martha read aloud in "The Son of a Genius" by Mrs. Hofland a very interesting book which is written iu a pure and concise style. . . . We do not recite rhetoric for it is the day set apart for parsing. Miss B. has left our house for that of Dr. Sheldon, probably because her friend Miss A boards there and she always appeared dissatisfied but that probably proceeded from her never having been from home much. It certainly could not be that she did not receive sufficient attention for Miss Mary was very kind and did everything in her power to amuse her

On my return from the post office, took a long walk with Miss Austin. I think I like her better than any young lady that boards at Miss Pierce's. She is possessed of a superior mind and I think has paid some considerable attention to the cultivation of it. . . . We met no other person that we knew except D. B. who is the most unpleasant creature I ever knew.

Do not expect any letters to-night for the mail does not come from dear New York on Fridays. 25th Miss Pierce wishes us to speak dialogues or short pieces but I do not wish to and hope she will not insist upon it. . . . We have just received the heart-rending account of the loss of the packet-ship Albion Capt. Williams, of New York, bound for Liverpool. Among those that perished was Mr. Fisher professor of Mathematics in Yale College. Mr. F. was engaged to Miss Catherine Beecher, and his untimely end is severely felt and greatly deplored. After having undergone all terrors, and supposing themselves out of danger, and even in sight of land, it was indeed awful, not only to have all hope dashed to pieces at a blow, but the "boon of life " taken suddenly away.

June 2nd 6. P. M.

Attended church all day. The weather was very unpleasant. Dr. Beecher prayed very affectionately for Mr. Fisher and all on board the Albion who found a watery grave. . . . Missed only L ^. in all my morning lessons. Wrote a dissertation this forenoon On the uses of history, a subject on which I have had but a few ideas. Misses Reeve, Tufts, Mrs & Miss Lord took tea with us — H. Buell & myself went home with Miss Lord. We had great sport. . . . Mr. Brace had all his bugs to school this p. M he has a great variety, two were from China, which were very haudsome, almost all the rest were of Litchfield descent, and he can trace their pedigree as far back as when Noah entered the ark. Spoke to Mr. B. of Aunt Julia. He recollected her perfectly, said he thought her very beautiful. . . . Miss Austin has a great deal of humour but her spirits are easily depressed. I should like to fathom the character of my bedfellow Miss Buell for I think her a singular girl, she has a singular peevishness of temper which is very unpleasant; I do not know but that is her only fault, for she is a very pleasant companion, and that excepted she is a very agreeable girl.

Miss Austin has just come in and being in very high spirits she makes so much noise it is impossible to write.

Wrote to aunt J. the dearest aunt I have, also the dearest friend.

Anna Maria Perkins of Ohio also sleeps in the room with us, she is a very good companion and peculiarly amiable.

6- June  Arose before six o'clock, made my bed, swept my room, which will entitle me to an extra.


Have this day commenced learning " Robin Adair," hope I shall be able to play it soon. This is examination day and I have many long and hard lessons to recite. We think of going to Canaan tomorrow. If it is pleasant we shall go at six o'clock in the morning. I do not know who will accompany me, but I think Miss Austin and two Misses Tufts, we had expected the pleasure of the company of Miss B. and Miss P. but Miss B. will go when her friends come, and Miss P. will not go for reasons unknown. I do not think it quite polite in her to refuse to go when she knows that the pleasure of the party depends in a great measure on her accompanying us, but mum! I fear I am often, too often guilty of more impolite conduct but

The text this p. M. was "Pray without ceasing" Dr Beecher was unusually eloquent he appears very much engaged in the "good cause." His church is encreasing very much and great attention is paying to Religion and every one appears interested and a great many meetings are held every week. Miss Buell Miss Perkins and myself went to take a walk after dark and left Miss Austin at home all alone.

After our return Miss P. and myself went to a meeting which is attended every Sabbath evening at our schoolhouse, but the room was so crowded we could not get seats. So we returned to our house, Miss P. to her writing and I to the studying of my lesson in history for to-morrow.

Tuesday. This p. M. Mr. Brace will propose a sum and I fear it will be very difficult. All those that study Blair are under the necessity of writing figures which is very difficult. Mine were left until the last and of course they were pretty well selected, for it is Mr. B's rule to leave the best until the last.

Mr. B. read figures yesterday and he selected five from the parcel, as being selected with the most taste and judgment, and I had the pleasure to perceive that mine was among the "priveleged few."

I have engaged to keep the paper this week which I fear I shall find rather a difficult task. Mr. Brace was passing my desk and saw my journal, he said he had kept one since 1806. I should think it it might be very interesting.

Mr. B reads subjects for dissertations, for the week in which I am appointed the subject is "The causes of dreams" which I think a very easy subject.

We have the pleasure to have the company of little Mary Brace, as she is not more than 2 years old, I presume she does not attend school with an idea of improvement .

July 4, 1822.

46 years have elapsed since the banners of Independence were raised over the shores of America, and about 17, years since General Washington departed this life for the land of spirits there to receive a crown of far greater splendour than that would have been if he had accepted, or rather, taken, that of the United States of America — We were sweetly serenaded by B. & S. and L as we suppose but we were so very unfortunate as not to hear it. When Miss Mary told us of it this morning we were quite astonished that we could be so stupid as not to hear it. It must have been quite romantic, for I never saw a more delightful evening.

This morning was ushered in by the ringing of the bells of the two churches and that of the court-house (which sounds very much like the gaol bell of New York.) and a clashing of fifes & drums, guns &c. Miss A. and myself were invited to a party at Mr J. P. Brace's and we hope to accept the polite invitation.

July 5th, 1822 We attended the party last evening and were rendered quite happy by the kind exertions of Miss Betts and Mr. B. who were very attentive and polite. it consisted of about 60 young ladies all of whom were from our school and about 16 gentlemen. B. D. came home with me I think I formed my judgment quite too hastily of of him for I think him very intelligent. My friend Martha A. wished me to change my opinion and as I think I was prejudiced against him I think it was my duty.

Poor Mr. B. being Captain is very hoarse with the great exertions he made yesterday in the commanding of his troops. An oration was delivered yesterday at the meeting-house by a Mr. Sandford. As Mr. B. engaged to shoot any fair damsel that was seen on the green, and as we supposed the house would be uncomfortably full, none of the young ladies of our house attended. (The writer of this was called away suddenly by family misfortunes and left by stage for Albany.)

Mr S. promised to come to-night and bring his flute and Miss Mary says he will come "if he is alive," I am very busy packing my cloathes. My sudden departure seems to affect almost every one. A gentleman is going in the stage to Albany tomorrow and I fear I must go under his protection but I sincerely hope not.

August 9- I left Litchfield and all its dear inhabitants on the morning of the 21-. The eve. before Mr. S. brought his flute and played while we accompanied him with the piano. Those present were Miss Mary and S. Pierce Miss &c and Mr Brace.

In the night we were awoke by music which appeared to be very near us. we instantly arose and found it to be Messrs. Loring, Burgess and Sullivan with flutes which were played with much skill and sweetness. But all the pleasures of Litchfield could not render it possible for me to remain there and in the morning I took my melancholy departure.

In the stage were a Dr. Goodsell Mr Waters of Charleston Mr Hall and his mother of Columbia. When we arrived at Norfolk where we changed horses we were joined by a company of boisterous Dandies but our carriage not being sufficiently large to carry both parties they proceeded in a separate stage. We were not annoyed by them at all — but they made a great noise — When we stopped to dine they appeared to have received a renovation of spirits — but they had not gone far before they broke their carriage which detained us so much that we did not arrive at Albany until about 8 o'clock. We staid there until the next day at 4 o'clock when we left there for Utica. A Mr. Brown of Auburn was one of our company and was very polite to me. We went to Schenectady that evening and left there at 3 in the morning. In one of the stages was Mr. C. Kirkland who paid me much attention. We arrived at Utica about sunset and after calling a moment on Aunt B. I went to New Hartford with Mr. Mrs and Miss Marie Lyon who came to join Miss Rossiter, and in the morning went with F. Hurlbut to see my dearest Mamma.