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Young Ladies Seminary, circa 1849 – 1871

History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois, Springfield, Ill.: Continental Historical Co., 1885, pp. 523-525.

In Jerseyville, the Young Ladies Seminary occupied an important place in the educational history of the county for over half a decade. As early as 1849, Miss Mary Farley, sister of Dr. R. D. Farley, erected a large frame building on the northwest corner of Pleasant and Exchange streets, with the benevolent design of furnishing a convenient suite of rooms for the higher education of girls. Miss Farley, once a pupil of Mary Lyons, founder of Mt. Holyoke Seminary, and imbibing something of the spirit of her late instructor, did what she could to encourage a private school for young ladies in the new building. She finally induced Miss Virginia A. Corbett to undertake a select school, which was well sustained for about six years. Miss Corbett soon after married Isaac Harbett, and now resides in Chesterfield, Ill. She was succeeded in the school by two young ladies – Miss Seraph A. Hall and Miss Ruth Hoppin, both graduates of Mt. Holyoke Seminary, Massachusetts. They were excellent teachers, and did much good work in their school, which closed in 1858. Miss Hall married a Mr. Atkinson, and resides in Florida; Miss Hoppin is still teaching in the east.

In the autumn of 1856, Mrs. L. M. Cutting accompanied her husband from their New England home to Jerseyville, for the benefit of his health. Before their marriage, Mrs. Cutting had been a successful teacher in New England and New York for several years, and seemed to have a remarkable control over the mind and will of the young, which gave her success in large schools, where male teachers had repeatedly failed. At the early age of 13, she secured a certificate of high grade for teaching from the school authorities in New York, after a rigid examination. Soon after her arrival in Jerseyville, a few influential friends who knew her history, directed Mrs. Cutting’s attention to the school above mentioned, and persuaded her to utilize it as the nucleus of a young ladies’ seminary, where, under her management, girls might obtain more advanced and thorough education in the higher English, French and Latin languages, vocal and instrumental music, painting and drawing. Mrs. Cutting readily undertook the task, and established the school, so widely known as the Jerseyville Young Ladies’ Seminary, a purely private enterprise, and conducted it with such energy and perseverance as was necessary to make it a success. It is not too much to say, that, hundreds of ladies – wives and mothers, in Jersey county and other places – received culture in this school, which contributed in a large degree, to make their homes refined and happy. The success of the school was due, not only to the abilities of Mrs. Cutting, but to her skill in selecting a corps of assistants, who did not disappoint the high expectations of the public. A brief reference to such, and what has become of them, will be of interest to very many of the readers of this history. In the autumn of 1857, she started a primary department, teaching, herself, in the lower rooms of the seminary building. In the autumn of 1858, Kate Foote, a sister of Rev. Dr. C. H. Foote, and graduate of the Allen Seminary, Rochester, N. Y., assisted her in the advanced department, remaining two years; she afterward taught at Bath, on the Hudson, and now resides in Poughkeepsie, N. Y.

In the fall of 1860, Miss Hannah M. Henderson, a successful teacher in Massachusetts, a sister of Mrs. Cutting, came to Jerseyville, and took charge of the primary department of this seminary and remained in this connection until 1870, when she married Hon. David E. Beaty, of this county, and now resides on a farm near Jerseyville.

In 1860, Mrs. Cutting secured, also, the services of Miss Jennie V. A. Vosburgh, of Hudson, N. Y., a graduate of Peaks’ Seminary, in that city. Miss Vosburgh taught the French and Latin classes and assisted in the English studies. She retired after the second year; taught afterwards in New York, and died of consumption, Feb. 6, 1877.

From 1860 to 1862, Miss Ella V. McGannon taught vocal and instrumental music. She afterwards married Will H. Callender, and now resides in St. Louis, where she holds a high rank as soprano singer in church choirs.

In 1861 and 1862, Miss Maria Blackburn, daughter of the late A. M. Blackburn, and grand-daughter of Rev. Dr. Gideon Blackburn, founder of Blackburn University, taught instruments music in the school. She afterwards taught music in the Monticello Seminary. In 1868, she married M. G. Noyes, and died in Carlinville, in 1872.

In the fall of 1862, Miss Mary E. Ely, and accomplished and successful teacher, from Pittsfield, Mass., joined Mrs. Cuttings’ corps of teachers, and held the position of instructor of languages and higher English branches, until the summer of 1864. She afterwards married Charles Rollins, a lawyer of Tipton, Ia., where she taught several years. She died in 1879, leaving two sons.

Miss Hattie Gunnison, of Rochester, N. Y., gave instruction in the seminary from 1863 to 1867, upon the piano. She now resides in Cleveland, O.

For two years, commencing in the fall of 1864, Selina Pierce, of Marietta, O., assisted in the advanced department of the seminary, and after a vacation of two years, returned and taught one year in the primary department, after which she held the position of lady principal of Almira College, at Greenville, Ill., for seven years. She is now principal of high school at Marietta, O.

Ada C. Joy, a graduate of the Young Ladies’ Seminary, at Granville, O., took charge of the advanced department in the fall of 1866, remaining one year, and after a vacation of one year, returned and continued her connection with the seminary until the summer of 1871. Miss Joy now holds the responsible position of associate principal of the Mount Carroll Seminary, this state, which she has held for over 12 years.

Miss A. Brumbach was associated with Mrs. Cutting’s corps of teachers from the fall of 1866, until the summer of 1868, giving instruction in painting, drawing and languages. She was, afterward, connected with this course of instruction at Almira College, Greenville, Ill. She married a Mr. Winter, on the day the class of ‘79 graduated, and has since studied medicine with her husband, both of whom are now practicing their profession in Cincinnati, O.

In the autumn of 1867, Mrs. Cutting secured the assistance of Miss Julia T. McKnight, in the musical department. The benefit of her instruction as a pianist and cultured vocalist was enjoyed but one year, when she was married to Rev. Norman Fox, of St. Louis. She died in that city, Oct. 8, 1869, leaving one child.

Miss C. Belle Tuthill, a graduate of Mrs. Willard’s school, Troy, N. Y., taught in the advanced department during the school year of 1868-1869. She has since married H. Barr, and they now reside on a farm near Quincy, Ill.

It would occupy too much space, therefore no reference has been made to the individual merits of the somewhat remarkable corps of teachers selected by Mrs. Cutting, as her assistants. No teacher was accepted as an experiment, each assistant being selected on the merit of high attainments and an established record of success. In 1871 the enterprise was abandoned, while yet it enjoyed the full measure of popular favor, for two causes – first, the public mind had ripened in regard to its duty to itself, and a scheme had matured to erect a large public school building, with a high school, where young men could obtain an advanced education as well as young ladies; secondly, Mrs. Cutting’s health began to fail under the great stress put upon it, compelling her to give up all charge of the seminary. For 12 years the enterprise had taxed her vitality, and mental and physical endurance to the utmost limit, and it is a subject of universal regret that her reward is a wrecked constitution. Gradually she became helpless from rheumatic gout, complete loss of nerve force, and for 12 years she has been perfectly helpless, the care of loving friends. But she is comforted in her affliction, in the strength of an unsevered tie of affection akin to that of a mother’s, that still binds her to hundreds of pupils who have been under her charge, some now blooming matrons, some still in the heyday of youth and beauty.

Note: In 1857 a Mrs. Susan Henderson Cutting reopened the Jerseyville Young Ladies Seminary, which she conducted as a private enterprise for about twelve years, or until about 1869, during the period employing teachers, educators of the highest talent, gathered from both eastern and western states. Instruction was given in the common and higher English branches, with Latin and French, painting, drawing, vocal and instrumental music. The board of instruction was represented by the following teachers: Mrs. L.M. Cutting, principal; Miss Jennie V.A. Vosburch, teacher of French and Latin; Miss Harriet M. Henderson, principal of the primary department; Miss A. Maria Blackburn, teacher of instrumental music; Miss Ella V. McGannon, teacher of both vocal and instrumental music. Source: Miss Susan Henderson Cutting’s School, online at, no source listed, accessed April 2004.

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