I’m on the trail of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard again. As I was first delving into their story, I wondered what Sarah was even doing in Cincinnati (where she met Samuel in 1825), when her family lived near Columbus.
I discovered that Sarah was apparently attending school there [see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011]. , and the two seem to have met through a mutual friend, Micajah T. Williams. Forrer, a canal engineer for the Miami and Erie Canal (the construction of which had begun in that year), knew Williams by his association with the canal (Williams was one of the canal commissioners for the Miami and Erie canal). Sarah apparently spent some time with the M. T. Williams family (possibly even stayed with them while she was in Cincinnati), because Williams knew her father (both were Quakers who at one time attended the same monthly meeting, unclear whether there was another connection). She may have also been staying with Joseph Gest, by whose care her father’s 1825 letters were sent.
Both Williams and Gest lived near one another. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, Williams lived on Fifth between Walnut and Vine; Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. [See a Google Map of that area.]
Based on the apparently frequent involvement of these men in Sarah’s life during that time period, I supposed that her school was probably nearby (and as I said, that perhaps she might have been boarding with one family or the other).
As this is really a matter of intellectual curiosity only, I decided I must be content to come up with an “educated guess” about where Sarah was attending school, since I could not find any reference to the school by name in either of Horton’s two letters to his daughter from the Fall of 1825, which seems to have been when Sarah enrolled there (wherever “there” was).
A letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, from November 23, 1825 (from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection), gives much insight into what Sarah was meant to be studying, if not where:
…Thou may remember that our friend Joseph Gest mentioned a probability of there being an opportunity of thy attending a course of Lectures on Chymistry [sic] and I should think well of thy doing so if it will not break in too much on thy other studies, which I think perhaps it would not. I wish thee to be particular in endeavouring to learn the art of painting or shading maps in as neat a manner as thou canst without spending too much time and learn what thou canst conveniently about making or mixing such colours as are not to be bought in Boxes as we shall probably want to paint or shade a considerable number of maps neatly if we can find [sale?] for them.
The calculation we were making that 30 dollars would answer to leave with thee at present included the cost of thy Cloak but as I bought and paid for the cloth to make it, and left thee thirty dollars, besides though wilt not be so short by ten dollars as we calculated and want thee to get what thou needs and not be too sparing of money but continued to be and appear respectable. If thou needs any advice with regard to Books or other things thou art not furnished with or with respect to learning or hearing Lectures or any other subject Joseph Gest or Micajah [Williams] or other friends will advise thee. Joseph will aid or befriend thee very Cheerfully and so no doubt will other friends. Thou may by inquiry perhaps understand nearly how long it would require to learn the French Language or the Lattin [sic] or both, if it should be desirable and advisable. Possibly we might spare thee longer than we had contemplated but as this is uncertain I wish thee to acquire what useful knowledge thou canst in three months or till spring. I now think of thy staying 6 months or until some time in the 5th month if I can but this is uncertain. I intend however that some of us shall write [over?] in two weeks and expect thee to write twice a month or oftener if necessary or thou thinks proper. And if thou should be sick don’t by any means suffer of want of a Phisitian [sic] but have one sent for and I will cheerfully pay the cost when I come.
And I hope my dear Daughter that thou wilt let nothing but sickness prevent thy regular attendance of meetings on first and week days with friends and walk worthy of the profession we make in the world. Neither shun nor be ashamed of the Cross. Often be retired in Spiritual devotion waiting upon, and asking counsel of thy Heavenly Father, so shalt thou ‘Secure to thy self that blessing which maketh truly rich and where unto no sorrow is added.’…
This letter was written 186 years ago, but still I can see familiar sentiments as today’s parent writing to a child away at school: here are my thoughts on your curriculum; try not to over-extend yourself with your course load; I’ve sent you some clothes money; if you get sick, please do see a doctor, and I’ll pay for it.
At first, I thought it curious that Horton was so insistent that Sarah acquire the skills of painting or shading, for maps. Then I remembered that Horton was a surveyor for the federal land office in central Ohio at that time. He probably drew a lot of maps. And he probably figured it would be handy if one of his children became adept at shading them in for him. (Little did he know that his daughter would soon be falling in love with a canal engineer and would never be moving back into her father’s home.)
Armed with the clues from the above letter (the other 1825 letter does not give any clues about education but hints at her parents’ knowledge of her “extracurricular” activities – more on that later) and an idea of the geographic neighborhood where Sarah seemed to spend most of her time, I set out to find out if there was a school she might have attended in that area.
In 1825, Sarah was 18 years old, so I figured I was probably looking for some kind of “college” level school. Also, given the time period, I guessed that she was probably attending some sort of “female” school.
In her article “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Jane Sherzer wrote (pp. 1-2):
The term, ‘higher education for women,’ in those early years…was higher in the sense of giving young women an education much beyond the common branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It differed from the colleges for men mainly in the substitution of French for Greek, and in the addition of music and art to the curriculum. The first institutions for the higher education of women were necessarily private, for, although the states had established colleges and universities for their boys, they had ignored the education of the girls and excluded them from all their schools.
Therefore, I searched the Cincinnati city directories for girls’ academies. In Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, only one girls’ school was listed: the Cincinnati Female Academy of Dr. John Locke. According to Ford & Ford, the academy had been established in 1823 and “was a school of high class and became very popular” (p. 174). As of 1826, the school was located on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth (so, nearby Sarah’s primary neighborhood), but I was not able to find any specific reference to where it was located from 1823-1826 (although I would imagine probably in the same area).
I thought Locke’s school must be a shoe-in for my “educated guess” until I read through Sherzer’s article, which mentions at least two other schools that allowed females during that time period.
One was the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary, though I have ruled it out because it seems to have been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. I can’t imagine Horton Howard sending his daughter to a Presbyterian school when they were Quaker — so Quaker in fact that he could not officially condone her marriage to a non-Quaker [see Part 2, Aug. 10, 2011].
The other was Pickett’s Boarding School (or Cincinnati Female College), which, although Sherzer says the school started in 1823 and was “especially popular” (p. 10), is not listed in the 1825 directory, though it does show up in Robinson & Fairbank’s 1829 Cincinnati Directory. No address is given for the school, though the Pickett brothers’ address is Sycamore, between Fourth and Fifth — so again, right around the same area.
I hoped perhaps the curriculum might help rule out one or the other — Locke’s or Picketts’ schools — but unfortunately, none of the curricular lists are explicit enough. Both of course had the typical female curriculum involving art, but it sounds like Sarah had options such as chemistry or Latin. In the sources I found, only Locke’s school explicitly mentions the availability of chemistry (Sherzer, p. 9); and only Picketts’ specifically mentions having Latin (Sherzer, p. 10; Ford & Ford, p. 174). In Locke’s school’s advertisement from 1825, a list of instructors and their disciplines is given, but that list includes neither chemistry nor Latin; of course, for that matter, it does not explicitly mention any sort of paper-based art form either, which seems odd.
And so, after all of that, I suppose I’ve still not quite solved the mystery of which school Sarah attended. However, I did sate my curiosity, by tracking down a couple of reasonably plausible possibilities: Locke’s “Cincinnati Female Academy” or the Picketts’ “Cincinnati Female College.”
In the end, what matters to Sarah’s story is not so much which school she attended or even necessarily why she was there (is it just me or does it sound like Dad wanted her trained up so she could help him with his map-making?) or even why she was in Cincinnati as opposed to somewhere else (what, didn’t they have any decent girls’ schools in Columbus?)… Those things (and consequently this entire post) are mainly just “matter of interest” details.
What matters is the fact that she was there…in that place…at that time…and that’s where she met Samuel Forrer, whom she married without her parents’ consent a few months later, and who would be her husband for 48 years.
We have, in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, one other letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah during that time frame — Dec. 11, 1825 — and its tone is much different. It would seem that Sarah’s parents had probably caught wind of her developing feelings towards Forrer by that point. I’ll share more of that later.
Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.
Sherzer, Jane. “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 25 (1916): 1-22. Available online from the Ohio Historical Society.
For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.