The Memoirs Of Louisa George Tompkins

In August of 2017 I posted an article with the same title and written by the same author. Today I found another version, mostly the same but different and not near as long. The memoirs were written in 1926. The author was eighty four years old at the time, so it is very unlikely that she wrote two versions. You can read the original  post at The Memoirs of Louisa George Tompkins and decide for your self.

School Days – 1852
Memoirs of Louise George Tompkins
(Written in 1926 – She was Eighty Four Years Old)

“In 1853, a year had passed since dear mother left us (died), and I was stronger, so father decided to send Sue, fifteen; Jane (thirteen), and me (nine), to school and board us with Uncle Dick Bass in Marion. Sissy (now seventeen), had to stay home to look after Elias (seven), and Melinda (five).

I can’t express the great delight and joy when I was permitted to go to school, and to have a slate, book and pencil of my own; and to have a lesson assigned me in Webster’s Blue Backed Spelling Book.

Marion was then a village of about twenty families, the most of whom were prosperous farmers with plantations a few miles out in the country. Though a village in size, Marion had the first school in north Louisiana. The principal was a highly accomplished lady from Virginia, and her sister was the music teacher. Their names were  Misses Harriett and Mary Whiting and I want to say they were the best teachers I ever had….even better than those in Judson College.

There were only three of us in the primary class. All of us were ambitious to excel, and each of us was generally perfect in lessons and department. We all strived to make a perfect score.

In 1848, after moving into our new home in the forest, five miles from town, my two eldest sisters, Lizzie (fifteen) and Sue (thirteen) attended school in Marion, boarding at the home of mother’s brother, uncle Dick Bass. The carriage was sent for them on Friday afternoons, and took them back early Monday mornings.

I began to take music lessons at the age of ten (1852), as I was very fond of music and liked to practice. It was not too many months before I was in Class A, out of forty pupils. At the age of twelve (1856), my teacher had me learn and play at her recital, a solo with variations which the music teacher at college in Farmerville,  the county seat, had played at one of their concerts, for there was great rivalry between the schools.

Our devoted teachers, Misses Harriet and Mary Whiting, whom we all loved and respected, honored an obeyed, were leaving. Our next teacher proved to be a failure, many of her pupils being more advanced than she in every way. She was rally a “back letter” and did not command the respect of her students.

In the fall of 1856, my father decided to send me and two step-brothers, who were sixteen, and seventeen years old, back to school in Marion, Alabama where there was a large female college (The Judson), with five hundred students and a male college (The Howard), with three hundred students. Each school was a Missionary Baptist College.

We wore uniforms at Judson; our winter uniform was a green suit with a green dolman for a wrap. There was no jewelry, low socks, low necks or short sleeves. In summer, the uniform was pink and white.

The day began at five o’clock a.m., with the ringing of a large bell on top of the college. We had to be at study assembly by five thirty; a roll call was made and you were given fire demerits if late. Breakfast was at seven and school started at eight and closed down at five-o’clock p.m., with two hours for noon.

During the school year my father visited me at Marion, Alabama. I convinced him to let me return home with him.

The return trip:

  1. Train from Marion, Alabama to Selma, Alabama
  2. Boat from Selma to New Orleans
  3. Boat “Doctor Buffington”, which runs from New Orleans to Little Rock, Arkansas. After three days, we landed at the Alabama Landing in the Ouachita River.
  4. Father went to Marion on horseback and sent a carriage to pick me and belongings up.

In 1858, my father ran an advertisement in the New Orleans Picayune, calling for a school teacher and a music teacher. From the thirty or forty applicants, I selected a mother and daughter (Mrs. Harrison and Anna Porter). They were all that could be desired, both as teacher and companions. Both were well read and quite intellectual. Miss Porter sang and played beautifully. She fell in love and her mother decided to move back to New Orleans.

At this time, I also left for Mount D’Arbonne College in Farmerville, Louisiana, a Baptist college of much notoriety at that time. There was also a large Baptist male college in the same town, where my youngest brother, Elias (fifteen) attended. My youngest sister, Linn, was with me at college. The fall term opened September 1st. Our president was named Prescott; he was a fine young man of reputation as an instructor of booklore. He had previously served as president of a male college. The trustees elected him hoping he could establish the college on the same basis, rules and regulations as the Judson College at Marion, Alabama.

Professor Prescott asked me to help him formulate the rules for governing each department, just as Judson College. All rules were followed except the uniform.

On the first of October, the county fair was opened in town for one week. Our school laws were suspended for the time and students were free to attend with suitable chaperons and escorts. During the week I made pleasant acquaintances; among them several nice gentlemen.

I met Thomas Brooks Tompkins, a very fine man, and at this point, the school days were brought to a close.


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