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Savannah Free School Society (founded 1816)

Location of Records: Georgia Historical Society, Savannah (Collection #689)

Extent of Records: Manuscript Volumes of Minutes of the Board 1816-1838; 1832-1856; Accounts 1834-1870

Extracts from the Records
Rules 9th December 1816

'1st. The Association shall be denominated the Savannah Free School Society

2nd. Any person who shall contribute the sun of three dollars annually to the benefit of this society, shall be a member thereof and shall continue such, so long as he or she shall continue said contribution.

3rd. Any person who shall contribute at any one time the sum of twenty dollars, in addition to the three dollars, also have the right, during his or her life, of sending one child to be educated at any school under the care and direction of the society.

4th The affairs and concerns of the society shall be managed and conducted by thirteen directresses chosen annually from the members of the society residing in Chatham county.....

16th Applications for the admission of children into the school shall be made to the school committee, who shall meet for the purpose of attending to them once every week, at such time and place as shall be fixed by the board of directresses.

17th When application shall have been made for the admission of a child, particular inquiry shall be made into his or her circumstances, so that none be admitted who are not really indigent. The school committee may admit, in their discretion such children as they may think proper without reference to the subscribers, but a preference must be given to those who are recommended by the members of the society possessing that right.

18th It shall be the duty of the keep a book in which he shall enter...the time when [ a child].. was advanced in any aspect of the different branches of learning taught in these schools....

[teacher responsible to directresses]

19th. The teachers shall pay particular attention to the regulation prescribed under the head of rules for the government of the schools....

21st The school hours shall be from 9 to 12 o'clock in the forenoon, and from 2 to 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

22nd. A punctual and regular attendance of the children being of the first importance, the teachers are requested to enjoin it upon them a an indispensible duty. When a child has been absent from the school, the teachers are to ascertain the cause. Should any be repeatedly absent without assigning a sufficient reason, the teahers are desired to notify in writing those who may have the care of such children and if no amendment then take place, they are to report the case to the school committees.

23rd. As Cleanliness not only promotes the comfort but the health of the children, it shall be the duty of the teachers to take notice of every neglect in this particular, and to use such means as they may deem best calculated to ensure attention to it.

24th AS the mode of instruction adopted by this institution renders the appointment of monitors necessary, the teachers are requested to select none for that station but those who are distinguished for their exemplary deportment, and attention to their studies. The monitors are to hold their offices only during good behavior. The children are orderd to respect and obey them.

25 & 26 children to be given certificates on graduation or at end of each week if a monitor for good behavior - 'ticket of approbation'

27th The trustees being impressed with a belief that important advantages will result to the children of this institution from a due observation of the sabbath, or the first day of the week, direct that all the scholars be ordered to attend on the morning of that day, at the school to which they may belong children, and that they there be divided into classes , and proceed under the charge of a monitor, to such places of public worship as may be designated by their parents or guardians.

28 monitors to report all children who skip church to school committees

29 going to church one of the ?indispensible conditions? of taking a child.

30 twice daily readings from scripture compulsory in schools

31, Lancasterian mode adopted

'32 and the funds of the society cannot in any case be appropriated for the cloathing of the children.'

Minutes Vol 1: 1816-1838
December 11, 1816

first meeting to elect 1st dir etc, at Mrs Taylor?s. Mary Taylor to advertise for teacher

January 6, 1817

2nd meeting at Mrs Clelland?s. ?It was determined that if we did not get a teacher from New York, or hear from Mr Smith, in a fortnight that we should engage one here and adopt the old mode of teaching for the present

Feb 3, 1817

?Mrs Taylor be authorised to engage a teacher by the month until an answer was received from Mr Smith.? Mrs Hunter resigns as treasurer, Mrs Clellend elected

Feb 10, 1817

board meets at Chatham Academy to open the school

Feb 18 1817

'The object of this meeting was called for the purpose of taking into view the propriety of receiving the children of persons, who were enabled [unable] to provide for their education without the aid of this institution.......'

question of how long children should remain in school

March 3, 1817

'Resolved that the children to be kept at said school untill they are perfect in the different branches of education taught in the school. It was also determined that the directresses should not admit into the school those children that were farther from the city than five miles.'

Mr Hinckley appointed as teacher until July 1st

April 7, 1817

?Letter from Hudge Berrien and Mr Edwards with respect to a teacher from the Northward, which were unfavorable. . . a donation of ten dollars was received through the medium of the Post Office from an anonymous person whereupon it was resolved that the same be acknowledged publically in the papers. The board agreed to procure a pair of shoes for Henry Holderson (pupil) as a compensation for his services in collecting money for the society.?

Teacher?s report from Mr Hinckley

?At the commencement of your school it was generally observed by those who visited it, that the minds of the scholars were corrupted and their habits vitiated, bit your teacher is happy to inform our that the school now presents a more favorable aspect, and trusts that through the instrumentality of divine providence, that much of their heretofore corruption, has now ceased, begging your indulgence for this hasty report I am 

very respectfully your obedient servant, Charles A Hinckley

May 5, 1817

decide to petition legislature to get incorporation and to city council for lot. Henry Holderson (pupil) gets new suit of clothes for collecting money

May 30th 1817

council petition approved, and submitted

June 21, 1817

Mr Adams applies to be teacher, Mary Taylor empowered to employ him, or others.

July 7, 1817

report of teacher

?Your teacher after entering on the duties assigned him, found that there was a few obstinate characters of both sexes and thereby was under the necessity of using coercion, but he now can say with confidence that he has brought the scholars under as regular a discipline as any school he had the honor to conduct heretofore, and hopes through the goodness of divine providence that they will become useful members of society.? Peter Hynes

September 5, 1817

?no children hereafter be admitted into the school without an engagement being entered on the part of the parents or guardians for their continuance till there education is completed.

October 6, 1817

teachers report that most children had been sick

November 3, 1817

letter to Col Cuthbert, CC senator in legislature re incorporation

?the object of the institution is to extend the benefits of education to poor children of both sexes, but if any insuperable objection can be urged against this plan, they will be willing to relinquish the boys under their care to any institution of a similar kind that be organised at a future period. To discard them at present when they cannot be received elsewhere would manifest a degree of unkindness and neglect that could not be expected from the board. It is well know we presume to yourself and the other gentlemen who represent this county in the legislature that the union society is the only association in this place for the education of indigent or orphan boys exclusively and from the low state of their funds we are informed but a limited number are now under their patronage. Under these circumstances it is hoped by the board that the petition they have sent to the legislature will receive its sanction.?

Dec 1, 1817

annual report

'as soon as practicable after the society was organised, a teacher was employed & on the 10th of February a schools was opened in one of the rooms of the academy - 38 children were received into the school the first day, 29 have since been admitted - of this number 18 have been discharged - 1 expelled for bad conduct, and 2 removed by death. There remains on our books 46 names, but not more than 40 are regular attendants.'

Jan 3, 1818

Mr Adams and daughter employed as teachers for $1000 per annum

report from Mr George W Adams states 48 pupils in school, 24 boys, 24 girls

girls only have been ?instructed one half day in plain sewing?

April 6, 1818

now 94 pupils

June 1, 1818

decide to acknowledge another donation in the paper. Miss Adams gets LOA to go north

July 6, 1818

board asks Miss Adams if she?s coming back, pay her $30 ?as a mark of their approbation of her attention to the scholars during the time she was in the school? 

now 109 pupils

October 5, 1818

now 135 pupils, 74 boys, 61 girls

Jan 4, 1819

now 149 pupils 83m 66f

Feb 1, 1819

society asks Henry Kollock to preach charity sermon

March 1, 1819

now 180 pupils

May 3, 1819.....

'the board resolved that the children of the society should be distinguished by a badge on the arm.' 

June 17, 1819

accepts Mr Jay?s bid to build new school for $2200

Mr and Miss Adams bid to go north for summer, accepted and Mr Hynes replaces them (so on good terms with school)

August 2, 1819 

now 195 pupils, 108m, 87 f

October 4, 1819

now 210 pupils, 116m, 94f

November 18, 1819

churches asked to announce the annual meeting on 29th Nov

Dec 6th 1819

'The increased population of the city from emigration will no doubt add considerably to the numbers of the school, and evinces still more its usefulness and the neccessity of perseverance, tho much had been accomplished, still much remains to be done and the board stimulated by the partial success which has crowned their effort, are animated with new zeal in the good cause. To the generous supporters of the institution, the only reward which they can offer is the gratitude of friendless infancy and the prayers & benedictions of aged poverty.'

Jan 5th 1820

more charity sermons requested

annual report

number of children 228

129 boys, 99 girls

says females are sewing ?the largest of them have attended arithmatic a part of the time?

January 13, 1820

the meeting was called ?in consequence of the late fire for the purpose of taking into consideration the removal of the children from the academy to the free school, that thereby an accommodation might be made for the sufferers?

Feb 16, 1820

new school opened

April 20, 1820

Mayor sends books sent to him by New York ?for the sufferers of the late fire?, now 252 pupils, 147m, 105f

July 3, 1820

now 293 pupils. 164M, 129f

Nov21st, 1820

reports that George Adams died on 12th Oct, board to pay salary up to date of death (though reported ill in Sept) and pay for funeral. Board to contact Mr Hynes again

Dec 6, 1820

Frederic Crafts appointed as teacher for $800 per year

Jan 3, 1821

Mr Cooper appointed as extra teacher, more charity sermons requested

Feb 5, 1821

?Resolved that Mrs Tibbs be allowed to occupy the lower part of the school house, with the kitchen, and to teach the girls sewing at five dollars per month?

March 5, 1821

95 pupils, 35f, 60m

Mrs Tibbs refuses the offer for rooms, but Mrs Williams teaches girls sewing every afternoon except Friday

tres reports $590.9 1/4 from charity sermons, 104.18 3/4 (Epis); 308.8 (Pres); 125.45 (Meth), 52.37 1/2 (Bap)

June 29, 1821

suggestion that Union Soc boys to be taught at school, board, ?wish no interference with the Union Boys whatever? but say that private arrangements with the teacher are acceptable

December 1, 1823

requests explanation from Mr Cooper regarding unauthorised leave of absence, leaving the school in a ?disorderly condition?

7th Annual Report

?The institution, notwithstanding its difficulties, still continues to progress in usefullness by disseminating religious and moral instruction among a numerous class of helpless beings, who re aided by its fostering care. Would be commended by their limited means, to the pernicious consequences that spring from ignorance and idleness. The accession of one hundred and six scholars since the commencement of 1823 manifests a favorable change in the sentiment and feelings of parents and guardians towards the institution.?

March 22, 1824

letter from Pres of Hibernian Society regarding education of catholic children. Asks that Catholic children should have their own catholic texts to use, that they should attend catholic church, that basically there should be no discrimination. SFS responds stating that any discrimination was unintentional, and that they respect freedom of conscience.

June 7, 1824

SFA allowed to send ?indefinite number? of pupils to the SFS. 

July 5 1824

three boys get public reprimand for ?improper behavior?

Sept 5, 1824

board acts to tackle lateness and absences by writing to ?parents and guardians, entreating their co-operation in enforcing a more punctual attendance?

November 1, 1824

requests annuity from state legislature, to offset the ?very precarious? state of the society, eventually they get some money.

May 11, 1825

letter of pupil

?To Mr Cooper

About to leave the charitable institution in which I have derived the benefits of instruction I avail myself of the present occasion to return my sincere thanksto Mr Cooper for his kind, indulgent and tender treatment to me, and to the ladies, who have been actively instrumental in promoting its chief design the education of the friendless. 


Solomon Sheftall.?

July 4, 1825

copy of act of legislature An act to vest the Poor School Fund in the county of Chatham in the Savannah Free School Society. Passed Dec 20, 1824.

charity sermons dispensed with.

November 28, 1825

8th Annual Report

Positive report noting the '?interest and concern which is felt in its welfare by an enlightened and liberal community and encouragedby the expectation that so important an establishment will not be suffered to decline....

any remarks on the benefits arising from the education of indigent children would beconsidered altogether superfluous as they are well understood'?

123 pupils, boys taught taught, r, w, gr,ar, girls sewing

August 4, 1826

August new fines for lateness, instead of 25?? it will be ??1 per minute late (clearly a problem!)

September 21, 1826

reports death of Mr Cooper on 10th Sept, board appoints his wife as teacher until end of year as long as she gets a '?competent assistant'?.

November 27, 1826

9th annual report

society wants to do more because ?many objects exist within the city who do not reap the advantages offered by the society'?, and they fear ?this evil will be continued until some further means be made use of to convince the parents of the importance of education in promoting the temporal and eternal interest of their offspring'? particularly as subscriptions have declined from over $1000 to only $300.

January 20, 1827

note that an order has been received by Executive Dept of Gov?s Office stating that 3 justices have to attest every year that the money from the state is being spent on ?beneficient purposes?

February 4, 1827

Mary Taylor reports that annual state subsidy is $500

May 7, 1827

donation of $200 from Thespians Society

August 6, 1827

Dr Brown (teacher) asks for 6 month vacation

August 10, 1827

extra meeting to discuss problems with Dr Brown. He attends and ?after much unsatisfactory discussion he withdrew? - they turn him down.

September 3, 1827

Dr Brown resigns and they look for another teacher

November 5, 1827

they engage Mr Millwood fromNew York, who has been trained in Lancasterian mode of teaching, for $700.

November 26, 1827

10th Annual Report

state that society is in healthy condition but 

?they still, however, have to deplore the continued and wilful disregard of parents and guardians to the usefulness and importance of this institution to the rising generation.

In this community there are still to be found many children ofa fit age, who from the supine negligence of their parents will grow up in ignorance, and who will with reason attribute all the deplorable consequence of that ignorance to their parents. Those very parents are now daily and earnestly solicited to afford their children, through the medium of this institution the opportunity of receiving the first rudiments of knowledge and sound principles of morality.?

Appeal to ministers and church goers especially to encourage this;

lack of funds a problem, says educated 500 children in 1817; 105 on register

Jan 7, 1828

Mary Taylor elected 1st dir again

March3, 1828

monitor general to get salary in line with other Lancasterian schools

July 7, 1828

Mr Millwood ill, school closed until he is better, or on summer afternoons if he sees fit.

September 1, 1828

records that school had been closed on afternoons, but would re-open now.

November 28, 1828

11th annual report

reports that no money has come from state until 1827, due to uncertain ec climate - forced to rely on subscribers and the ?lukewarmness of the citizens of Savannah?

?Can they have a worthier object on which to exercise their benevolence, than to rescue their fellow creatures from ignorance, degredation and vice; to inform their morals, enlighten their minds and elevate their characters? The friends of Free Schools may want zeal and perseverance but they can never want motives, and these to lovers of moral order and religious precepts at once the most solemn and important.

Let them with the eye of faith contemplate the future cause of usefullness to which with the blessing of God, many of the indigent youths of this community may be led by the fostering hand of charity, who is left in their present neglected condition may be lost to the world and themselves?

125 pupils

December 1, 1828

Mr Millwood resigns due to ill health

January 5, 1829

Mr Theodore Bartow to serve as teacher for $600

February 2, 1829

asks ministers for charity sermons

June 1, 1829

has to defer charity sermons because of the demands on charity in Savannah due to fires

October ? 1829

debates whether to send financial statement to legislature in hope of money, to ask Richard Habersham?s advice (he says yes)

[no annual report in minutes] 

May 5, 1830

Mr Bartow give 3 months notice

July 7, 1830 Bartow released early as he has taken ordinantion in Epis church; school closes until Nov 1st as no replacement teacher found

November 8, 1830

Mr Farmer employed for $500, not fully qualified, but best person they could find

November 29, 1830

13th annual report

acknowledges difficulties of past year; but says 1817-1830 720 pupils educated, 104 on roll now, got $400 from state

May 4, 1831

parents to be visited to persuade them to ?compell their children to attend more regularly at school?

November 28, 1831

14th annual report

regrets ?that public feeling is so little interested in behalf of this institution? and that it is a good job that subscriptions are not only source of income but announce legacy of $500 from Josiah Penfield; 98 pupils

February 1, 1832

asks clergy to visit school and suggest improvements

November 26, 1832

15th annual report

again complain about lack of public interest, but believe that they continue to receive the thanks of ?the widow and the orphan?

Dec 4, 1832

Mr Farmer resigns because board will not increase his salary

January 8, 1833

Mr Morel elected teacher, but under Mr Farmer until he leaves

[no 16th annual report 1833]

January 9, 1834

Mr Morel sacked as teacher as the board blame him for steep decline in number of pupils

April 1, 1834

Mr Emmanuel Sheftall elected teacher, at even lower salary (unspecified)

November 24, 1834

18th {?} annual report

praise ?increasing prosperity? but deplore ?so little interest?, now 75 pupils ?great increase? on last year who improve in ?knowledge and morals?

Nov 30th 1835

annual meeting but no report in mins

Feb ? 1836

report of legacy of $5000 from Thomas Young of South Carolina payable in two years with 7% interest

no annual report for 1836 in mins

Feb ? 1837 

Mr Sheftall gets pay rise from $500 to $550

Dec 12, 1837 

Mary Taylor elected 1st dir for 20th time

February ? 1838

21st annual report

80 pupils on roll learning English and religious education

Nov ? 1838

agrees to advertise annual meeting and get ministers to mention it in church

Volume 2, 1832-1856

1832-38 copy of previous mins

January ? 1839

22nd annual report

pleased with progress of school

?If their [there] is any sentiment to which all will yield an unqualified assent it is that education is the vital principle, the key stone in the arch of our political fabric, the essential aliment [element] of our national existence. If education thus thoroughly and generally diffused is the conservative principle of our invaluable inheritance it requires no labored reasoning to shew that, that class for who[se] sakes and in whose behalf more especially we are now assembled should be the last to be passed by or neglected?

80 pupils

December ? 1839

23rd annual report

children ?have been rescued from a state of ignorance and enabled at least in some degree to appreciate the blessings of creation and the works of the being who made them immortal?

Feb ? 1840

board offers condolences to Mrs Taylor on death of her husband 27/1/40

November ? 1840

24th annual report

invites citizens to experience ?the delight of rescuing a fellow creature from error and ignorance?

says taught 1180 pupils since 1817

November ? 1841

25th annual report

says had 1210 pupils since 1817

?it is surely needless to urge its advantages in this day when education is so much more appreciated and when reflection and experience has taught that true charity is to rescue our fellow creatures from ignorance and error as well as poverty thus enabling them to feel the real blessings of life, a knowledge of their duty and the way of its performance.?

November ? 1842

26th annual report.

?The ladies regret that the meeting of the subscribers was not better attended as they are convinced that the sight of seventy-five children snatched as it were from ignorance and vice and neatly attired must have awakened interest in the minds of many who only require to have their attention seriously directed to this subject to act for the good of their fellow creatures. It is a lamentable fact that educate [ion] which alone can elevate the minds of our people and teach them to think and support the principles bequeathed by our noble and cherished ancestors should be so much neglected throughout the state, when we may hope that this matter will be effectually established by law, the good result of which is shown in fact that in Connecticut there are only two persons who cannot read and write.?

November ? 1843

27th annual report.

Complain of the lack of ?pecuniary assistance? which will force closure if not reversed. School doing well, 113 on roll, 1352 in total since 1817; income only $438, exp $922

February 27, 1844

offers to loan out $3000 of the $5000 legacy of Thomas Young to John E. Ward, for three years at 8%. Says he has to secure the loan on his property on Liberty St. Effectively mortgaging it.

March 19, 1844

John Ward refuses loan, doesn?t like terms, offered instead to Dr Troup if their lawyer approves

March 30, 1844

lawyers turn down Dr Troup

no annual report in mins in 1844

Nov. ? 1845

Mrs Mary C. Taylor re-elected (for final time)

28th (?) Annual report

1436 since 1817, 110 this year

?There have been some removals since the establishment of the Catholic Asylum in this city of children belonging to that denomination?...

?The ladies commend with much pleasure the services of their present preceptor, Mr E Sheftall, who for eleven and a half years has discharged with fidelity his incumbant duties?

February ? 1846

agree to dispence with the publication of the report

last Tuesday in June 1846

?A Special Meeting of the board...

It having pleased Almighty God in all his wide providence to remove from the scene of her usefulness on earth our beloved friend Mrs Mary C Taylor, Be it resolved 

1st that by the death of the late Mrs Taylor, the society has been deprived of one of its earliest, most zealousand devoted members, and that while we deplore the loss which this providence has occasioned to us as a society, we as her friends do most cheerfully acquiesce in the belief that death has proved her conductor to eternal joys.

Resolved 2nd that the cause of universal charity and benevolence has lost an ardent advocate an active and consistent supporter and more especially this institution of which she was from its earliest foundation the 1st directress.? Mrs James Hunter new 1st dir

November ? 1846

29th annual report

1557 in total, 95 this year, 10 or 15 left for sisters of mercy

only 32 subscribers

November ? 1847

30th annual report

reports 5 removals to sisters of mercy, 27 subs

November 28, 1848

31st annual report

school is ?flourishing? but

?It is unnecessary to urge the advantages or claims of this valuable institution to an enlightened and Christian community, no department of benevolence can be invested with more importance that that which possess (not to eradicate) but to supercede and prevent the effects of ignorance and error by imparting that early moral culture which alone insures a life of rectitude and consistency.?

24 subs

December ? 1849

32nd annual report,

112 pupils, 20 subs

December 1850

33rd annual report, 

no content

November 24, 1851

34th annual report

?continued prosperity of school?, 90 pupils, several ?have left the school and are now prosecuting the various mechanical arts of the day?, teacher says parents do not enforce regular attendance, 19 subs

June 8, 1852

notes that school burned down on 6th, temporary classrooms at Methodist church, insurance $2500

November 29, 1852

resolves to sell lot where school stood and buy another

35 annual report

over 100 pupils

new lot on Drayton and Charlton Sts, old lot goes for $4000

March ? 1853 (1st quarter)

accepts that Massie School will be built, but believes that state money can be divided in half by inferior court, and argues that Massie school should only teach boys, as they were given exclusive rights over girls in original charter.

Nov 25, 1853

no annual report in mins because of ?unsettled condition of the school?

December 12, 1854

?In consequence of the sickness during the past season there had been no regular meeting of the board for some time past. And so few of the members of the society being in the city at the time of the annual meeting should have been held, the meeting to day had to take the place of it.?

No annual report in mins

April ? 1855

board to visit parents to get punctual attendance

November 26, 1855,

annual report

95 pupils, praises the ?improvement in the moral character of the children:

April 1, 1856

no child under 5 to be received at school

Mr Sheftall still works there

Vol 3. Account Book 1832-1874

Accounts for 1833 income mainly from subs (50%+), rents, more than from dividends and poor school funds

Accounts for 1847 show more money coming from rents, dividends on stocks and shares, far more than from subs

Feb 24, 1841 $909 in Bank of State of Georgia 

Feb 10, 1852 $1032 in Central Rail Road

July 19, 1852 invested $2475 in Muscogee Rail Road

June 15, 1858, invested $2040 in 24 shares of South Western Rail Road company

By 1859 income from subs only $9 out of $900 of income, all rest in rents and dividends - more reliable?

Shows that school was still in existence right up to and beyond Civil War, E Sheftall still teaching there for $600 yea