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Education in 1800s was strict, severe

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POSTED: April 23, 2013 4:00 a.m.

School teachers today cannot be like the ones in the 1800s in this area of Georgia. The law would be called every few minutes for child abuse.
Many of the school teachers were strict and disciplined the children for many reasons. But when the child left the school, usually at the age of 16, the child was ready for any college in the United States and did well when they got there.
I was reading, for the second time, “Recollections of a Southern Daughter,” a memoir by Cornelia Jones Pond of Liberty County. She had such a good memory in describing her life and giving such minute details about everything that touched her between the years 1834-75. If you have not read this book, do yourself a favor and find a copy. Check the Midway Museum for one.
I really liked the part where she described her school teacher, Samuel McWhir Varnedoe, whom she referred to as “Old Mac.”
Cornelia Jones (1834-1902) was born on the Tekoah Plantation in Liberty County. Her parents were William and Mary Jane Robart Jones. Her father was rich, well-known in the county and was an unusually knowledgeable plantation owner. Cornelia, as well as her sister Rosa and her two brothers, Sam and Louis, grew up in luxury.
Jonesville was a summer-retreat village where many plantation people went to get away from the mosquitoes that were bad around the swamps and rice fields. Jonesville, which no longer exists, was founded by Cornelia’s grandfather, Samuel Jones II, and he provided lots for his family and neighbors to build houses. This was about 4 miles west of their swampy plantations.
The first schoolhouse in Jonesville that Cornelia attended was one room. All the surrounding rich kids also attended.
Education was important to the descendants of Midway. Boys and girls were expected to receive an education beginning in elementary grades and continuing through college. Cornelia began her formal schooling at the Academy in Jonesville when she was 5 years old. Her teacher was Varnedoe, whom Cornelia described as fat and severe, using the rod frequently.
One day during her first summer in school, her Grandmother Jones was coming to spend the day. Naturally, the little girl wanted to stay home and be with her grandmother, but Cornelia’s mother would not let her. She had her nurse, Annie, take her to school. She cried all the way there. When she went inside, the teacher wanted to know what her problem was. The little girl told him, and he immediately slapped her face and took her in his arms and carried her the 40-foot length of the room and sat her up on a high desk that was used by preachers as a pulpit on Sundays before the church was built. Cornelia was scolded so much that the little girl was almost frozen in fear.
However, he was a good teacher and taught the children to learn well, and they rapidly advanced.
By the time she was 11, Cornelia had finished arithmetic and algebra and was in geometry. She also was studying Latin. At 12, she was in trigonometry. She was an excellent reader and speller, and they had spelling bees often. In fall 1842, she received a prize for winning the spelling bee. It was a beautiful book of fairy tales, bound in red, and she read and reread it many times.
Cornelia read every book she could get her hands on. The first book her father gave her was “Masterman Ready.” He had several books in his library that were suitable for her. “Robinson Crusoe,” “Pilgrims’ Progress” and “The Looking Glass” were some of her favorites.
When her brother and sister went to college, Cornelia had to go to school alone. Her mother sent Paul, a young slave her age, to go along with her and carry her lunch bucket and to “keep the cows away.” Paul went back at 4 p.m. to accompany her home. Her brother, Sam, became old enough to go to school with her, and for three winters they trudged along Sandy Run Road.
The schoolhouse had a chimney at each end, and the boys gathered wood to make fires. They also had to gather a big supply of switches for the teacher. He smoothed the knots on the switches with his pocketknife. The water came from a well with a long sweep on it. The boys had to draw the water and water Old Mac’s horse as well as their own.
When Cornelia finished her school in Liberty County, she enrolled in Montpelier Institute in Macon for a year and finished her education at the Methodist Female College in Madison, Ga. Cornelia married Thomas Goulding Pond in July 1853. He was the grandson of the Rev. Thomas Goulding of Liberty County.
Samuel and Cornelia are buried in Oak View Cemetery in Albany.

 

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