School Days

Governor Howell Cobb who lived in the Governor's Mansion in Milledgeville from 1851 to 1853 had seven children who lived beyond infancy. His children were John Addison, Lamar, Howell, Jr., Mary Ann Lamar (Jr.), Sarah Mildred, Andrew Jackson, and Elizabeth Craig. It is interesting to note that the male children were sent to educational institutions while the records of one daughter that are available indicate that a private tutor was employed for her education. While the grading scales differ in each report card, it is easy to surmise the academic strengths and weaknesses of each of the students.

The letters that were written by Lamar Cobb from school and to family members reveal a portion of the everyday life of a child in the 1850s. In the letters, students can trace the growing maturity of the writer as well as his growing proficiency in his use of the quill and ink. It is interesting to point out to students that the grammar and the spelling of the writer is not perfect because he is learning to write.

The two documents that address the boarding schools for "boys" and for "young ladies" are fascinating comments upon the educational standards of the time period. The subjects that are offered, the rules that are listed and the cost of the education are points which most students will find interesting and similar to some of their own experiences.

Activity 1: Lessons and Subjects

Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Identify the subjects that were offered to male and female students.
  • Compare and contrast the types of subjects that were offered to male and female students with those that are offered in today's schools.

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Skills: A1, A2, A8
Grade 8: Topics/Concepts: D20, Skills: A1, A2, A5, A6, A11

For this project, you will need to look at the following images: Report Card #1
Report for Oct-Nov-Dec
Miss. M. Cobb
Spelling 0 0
Grammar 4 0
Geography 4 4
Arithmetic 4 4
History 4 0
N. Philosophy 3 4
Algebra 3 4
Botany 4 4
Astronomy 0 0
Rhetoric 4 4
Reading and W. History 4 4
French 4 4 4
German 4 4 4
Painting 4 4 4
Recitation 4 4
Attendance 3 2
Conduct 4 4

Suggested Lesson:
  1. Make copies of the documents for the students.
  2. As a class, list the different subjects that your students take in their grade or school. (If your class has pen pals or Internet partners in another city, state or country, you may want to compile a list of classes that are offered in other schools as well as those that are offered in your own school for comparison.)
  3. Make different columns listing the subjects taken in your school and the three report cards from the Cobb children. If your class has an Internet partner, you will want to add another column listing their classes as well.
  4. Ask the students to define the following terms: Rhetoric, Botany, Recitation, Orthography, Composition, Declamation, Deportment, Propriety.
  5. What similarities and differences can be found between the course work of the 1850s student and the course work of today's student?
  6. What similarities and differences can be found between the course work of Miss Cobb and her brothers?
  7. Why is Miss Cobb's report card handwritten while her brothers received a printed report card? There is no scale of explanation for Miss Cobb's report card. Ask the students to estimate her grades.

Activity 2: Letters Home

(Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to :
1. Read and analyze an historical letter written home from school or to a relative.
2. Create and write a friendly letter using an historical perspective.)

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Skills: A1, A2, A3, A8
Grade 8: Skills: A1, A2, A6

Use these links to access the letters: Athens Dec 22 1849
Dear Father

Uncle John sent Johnny- "Gullivers travels- and- Howell- "City Cries" and "the world of fun" and me "Aasops Fables." xxx Henry and I broke my pony for me and he was much gentler than I thought he would be- Uncle John sent me and Howell two white puppies.. Their names are pedler and tinker- he sent us two hogsheads of yam potatoes Old Jim is silly sometimes- New hope and Uncle John horse. Peter works until toydher(?) James got plank from the saw mill- and made a shelter in the grove for the ponies to stand- under- uncle John is going to send us a - Lot of sugar cane.
Your affectionate son
Lamar Cobb

Macon February 5th 1851
My Dear Mother

Uncle John has bought me a gun and he went with me Friday before last out to the plantation and killed four sparrows and Johnny killed two sparrows and one field lark and Uncle John killed six doves and four black birds and he is going carry us down to the plantation again on Friday. Mr. Mead has turned me back in history and when I came here I was studying Latin reader and Mr. Mead put me back in the history of Saere. Tell Howell me and Johnny would answer his letter but it is German and we cannot read it. Me and Johnny send our love to all
Your affectionate son
Lamar Cobb

Athens Sept. 13th 1851
My dear Uncle

As today is Saturday I thought I would write to you. Sister has four little kittens that Howell gave her and, she is all the time with one in her hands. I am getting along in Latin very well I have commenced Latin reader since I saw you and I an reading and parsing. The small boys bought a rope and put a swing at the school house and when school is out-we-swing- and sometimes I swing in the large boys swing as they have a large- r one. Sometimes, I come home and read in my histories, and some times I ride on the pony. Last Saturday I was out at grandmama's , playing with cousin Johnny Rutherford and Tommy Glenn and Johnny and Howell, and we went out to the field and got as many wild grapes as we wanted and a few muskadines. And just before we came away we went and got a calf and shove him from the field to the horse lot. Mr. Prince says if you see Mr. Boykin tell him that he and Aunt Mattie go to the botanical garden every day courting and giving each other presents. Sister gave me a kiss to send to you she is out in the porch helping Mama measure out molasses for the Negroes-- Mama and all the family write with me in much love to you- Papa is still in the up country-
Your affectionate nephew
Lamar Cobb

Roswell June 21, 1852
Mr Dear Mother

Johnny received your letter this morning stating that you expected a letter from me I set down to night to write to you. I have learnt how to swim since I came up here but Johnny can beat me a long away. There two stores here where the boys candies, shoes and boot buttons or any thing they sant. There is two cotton factories here one is in operation the other is a new one not in operation yet they are just fixing the works to go to work with. I like Mr. Pratt better than any school teacher I ever went to. I had rather stay with him than any school teacher I ever went too. I like Mr. and Mrs. Pratt and their children very well. Mrs. Pratt is very kind too the boys she will do anything for them they ask her to do for them When the boys want bread or anything between meals will just have to go to the kitchen which is a room in the and ask the cook it and she will give ti to them Tell Howell he must make haste and me a letter and I will answer it as quick as possible. Tell both of my little sisters I am going to write little letters on note paper to both of them. Tell Howell he must be in Latin when I see him again ask him to send me a list of all the school boys that go to Mr. Scudder I am going to write to Mike Horne to nigh or to- morrow night. I am going to write to Papa some- time this week. I would write a longer letter but the bell is ringing for us to go to bed so I must stop now. Give my love to Howell and my two little sisters. All are well, me and Johnny join in sending our love to you.
Your affectionate son
Lamar Cobb

P. S. I wrote to Uncle John last night I would like to make a visit to Athens to see you but I do not think I will have a chance. You must come up and see us and our two sisters and with you soon.

Suggested Lesson:
  1. Make copies of the letters for the students. Be sure to allow the students to see both a copy of the original manuscript as well as the typed transcription.
  2. Younger students may want to try writing with an ink pen that must be dipped in ink. This will usually help them to understand how demanding penmanship was for students like Lamar Cobb.
  3. Ask the students to choose one of the letters and to write a reply. In the letter, they should refer to one of the ideas or events that was discussed by Lamar Cobb in one of his letters. They also should write an account of an activity or an event that has happened recently to them. Remind the students that they are living in the 1850s, therefore they cannot refer to modern conveniences.

Activity 3: "Engaged in the Education of Youth"

(Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to :
1. Analyze an historic document.
2. Compare and contrast educational curriculum between male and female students and between time periods.
3. Discuss the economic requirements for an education in the 1850s.)

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Skills: A1, A2, A3, A8
Grade 8: Topics/Concepts: D20, Skills: A1, A2, A6, A11, A12, B15

For this lesson you will need the following images:

School for Young Ladies
A. Bolmar's Institution for Boys, page 1
A. Bolmar's Institution for Boys, page 1
A. Bolmar's Institution for Boys, page 1

Suggested Lesson:
  1. Make copies of the announcements concerning the two boarding schools
  2. Instruct the students to locate the reason for the establishment of each of the schools. They should underline these statements in the document.
  3. Ask the students to look for other information about the schools in each of the documents. How many students will each school be able to teach? What are the qualifications of the teachers? What subjects will be taught? How much does each school charge for tuition? What other costs might the students incur such as books or clothing? Is religion addressed? How is it addressed? Considering the locations and tuition of the two schools, what kinds of students would be enrolled? Ask the students to research find out when public education is made available to the population of Georgia.
  4. Ask the students to make a list of the similarities and differences that are found between the two schools. What does this tell them about the education of wealthy males and females in the 1850s?
  5. Allow the students to list any rules and regulations that they find in each document. Ask the students to compare and contrast the rules and regulations of their schools with those found at these two schools.

Click here for the Second Lesson, Sanborn Maps

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If you have any questions or comments about the Mansion,
please contact Jim Turner either by phone or e-mail-

(478) 445-4545 /

or by mail -

The Old Governor's Mansion
120 South Clarke Street
Milledgeville, GA 31061

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