The Archivist's Bulldog

Vol. 12 No. 6, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, March 23, 1998

from Piety, Chastity and Love of Country: Education in Maryland to 1916, by Margaret Lynne Browne and Patricia M. Vanorny (Maryland State Archives, 1984)

Education in provincial Maryland was a matter of choice - choice, that is, for the wealthy who were able to hire tutors or send their children to the College of William and Mary in Virginia, to England, or to the continent for an education. Formal education for everyone else was difficult, or impossible, to attain. Practical knowledge acquired through experience, enhanced by a rich oral tradition, constituted the educational experience of most colonial Marylanders.

Despite the general absence of educational institutions in colonial Maryland, the schooling of the province's youth was not entirely ignored by leaders of the colony. As early as 1671, an act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly for "the founding and erecting of a school or college within this province for the education of youth in learning and virtue." The Lower House, mostly Protestant, approved the act with the provision that there be separate schoolmasters, one Protestant and one Catholic. Not surprisingly, this measure failed to pass the predominantly Catholic Upper House.

A 1696 act created a corporation of twenty persons called the Rectors, Governors, Trustees and Visitors of the Free Schools of Maryland, a self-perpetuating body that would control schools in the province. This group had the power to govern the schools set up under this act and to receive public and private donations for their support. Free schools were contemplated for each county, and an import tax for the support of these schools was collected between 1696 and 1723. The only tangible result of the act, however, was the founding in 1696 of King William's School in Annapolis.

In 1723, the legislature passed an act that provided for a school and a seven-member board of visitors for each of the twelve counties then in the province. These self-perpetuating boards of visitors were to govern schools, receive donations, appoint masters, and hold property. Schoolmasters were required to provide a "liberal and pious education of the youth of this province...improving their natural abilities and as to be fitted for the discharge of their duties in the several stations and employments they may be called to ...either in regard to church or state."

Subsequent school legislation from 1723 through the Revolution was minor and related to such matters as dividing funds and naming visitors when a new county was formed. The act of 1696 establishing King William's School produced no other long-lasting institution. The act of 1723 creating county boards of visitors fostered little growth in the free school system. Some county schools flourished and others did not. Success or failure depended mainly on the visitors' interest and the dependability of the schoolmasters. Masters could be anyone from an educated gentleman to an indentured servant or convict, and often the least qualified would serve because of the meager pay offered.

One school founded during this period was the Anne Arundel County Free School, which opened about 1725. This school is particularly noteworthy, since it remained in operation until 1912 and it is today the only surviving school of its type in Maryland. The Anne Arundel County Free School is located off Rutland Road in the community of Lavall, a short distance outside Annapolis. Owned by the county board of education, the school is leased to Anne Arundel Heritage, Inc., a local preservation organization, which is restoring the building for use as a historical museum and meeting place. When restoration is complete, the Anne Arundel County Free School will provide a unique opportunity to see the type of structure successfully erected and supported by a Maryland county in the early eighteenth century.

Despite the success of the Anne Arundel County Free School, the cost of establishing and sustaining a county school proved too burdensome for most Maryland counties. School closings and consolidations were the result. Due to limited local resources, for example, the schools of Somerset and Worcester counties united in 1770 to form the Eden School. Schools in St. Mary's, Charles, and Prince George's counties combined in 1774 to form Charlotte Hall School. Large private subscriptions were raised for the support of these schools. Evidently some people realized that better pay would attract better teachers, and that good teachers were fundamental for a successful local school.

The education of the poor, orphaned, black, and female was generally neglected during the colonial period. In addition, the so-called "free schools" established in the eighteenth century generally charged a modest tuition to the free, white males who attended. Not until 1728 did any school board waive the tuition requirement for a few poor pupils. Other efforts to broaden educational opportunities stemmed from private endeavors. In 1750, for example, the Rev. Thomas Bacon, rector of St. Peter's Parish in Talbot County, began a charity working school for the maintenance and education of orphans, poor children, and blacks. He sold subscriptions to support the school, which was based on his idea to rescue the poor "from ignorance, idleness, vice, immorality, and infidelity" and to save their souls. Bacon purchased one hundred acres of land and built a brick house for the school. Records do not indicate how long this school lasted. It probably ceased to exist after Bacon's death in 1786, if not before.

Most girls received no formal education outside the home. During the late colonial period, however, several private masters offered schooling for young ladies. At Mary Salisbury's school in Annapolis in 1754, for example, the young woman was instructed in "French, all sorts of fine needlework...and every other curious work which can be performed with a needle and all education fit for young ladies except dancing."

by Robert Barnes

Thomas Poppleton was born in the City of London, about the year 1765. He arrived in the United States about the year 1810. When he registered as an alien in July 1812, he stated that he was age 47, had been in the U.S. for 2 years, was living in Baltimore with his wife and was a land surveyor and draughtsman (Scott, British Aliens in the United States). He first appeared in the Baltimore City Directory of 1822-23, when he was described as living on the east side of Calvert Street, north of East St., at Monument Square. He was listed as a surveyor to the commissioners for laying off streets, lanes and alleys in the city of Baltimore.

Poppleton must have flourished in his work since he published Plans of the City of Baltimore in 1821, 1822, 1823, and 1851 (probably a reprint after his death). Poppleton Street in Baltimore is almost certainly named for him. On July 7, 1830 Thomas Holdsworth Poppleton appeared in court, and stated that he had been born in the City of London, and had arrived in the country before June 18, 1812. He declared his intention to become a citizen (Baltimore County Court (Naturalization Docket), 1796-1840, p. 161 [MSA C389]).

Poppleton died in April 1837, aged 72, of old age (Peden, Methodist Records of Baltimore City, vol. 2). He left no will, and evidently left no family to survive him as there were no Poppletons in Maryland in the indices to the Censuses of 1850, 1860, or (for Baltimore City and County at least) 1870.

by Nancy Bramucci

MSA SC4826: McLane Collection, 1885-1914. Materials relating to Governor Robert McLane: Letter signed by various individuals to Robert McLane requesting an opportunity to give him a banquet, 1889/04/26; Appointment Papers of Robert McLane as Minster to France signed by President Grover Cleveland, 1885/03/23; Special U.S. Embassy Passport for Georgine McLane with signature, physical description, seal, 1914/08/04; Special U.S. Embassy Passport for Georgine McLane with signature, physical description, seal, 1908/04/15; Special U.S. Passport of Robert McLane issued by Department of State, 1890/06/12; Special U.S. Passport of Robert McLane issued by Department of State, 1885/03/25; French passport of daughter Georgine McLane, 1914/08/03; Telegram (in French) from Robert McLane to Georgine McLane, 1886/05/22; Safe conduct papers (in French) for daughter Georgine McLane, 1914/09/28; Letter of safe conduct signed by Georgine McLane,1914/08/03; Envelope with handwriting "Passeport Mademoiselle", n. d.; Unbound scrapbook of French newspaper clippings about Robert McLane, 1885; Scrapbook containing newspaper clippings on the deaths of Robert and wife Georgine McLane, including obituaries and letters of condolence including one from B. Latrobe, 1898-1899.

MSA SC4868: Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church Collection, 1864-1902. Church records, Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church, Baltimore: minutes, Sunday school society, 1864-1877; minutes, quarterly conference, Broadway Station, 1864-1876; minutes, quarterly conference, Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church, 1881-1902; members 1874-1885.

MSA SC4871: Maryland Naturalizations Collection, 1772-1851 [1997]. Maryland Naturalization Abstracts: Baltimore County, 1772-1846; Baltimore County/Baltimore City, 1831-1851; Governor and Council, 1786-1796; General Court of the Eastern Shore, 1796-1805; U.S. Circuit Court for Maryland, 1790-1851; Anne Arundel County, 1798-1850; Southern Maryland, 1798-1851; Eastern Shore, n.d.; Cecil County, n.d.; Allegany County, n.d.; Washington County, n.d.; Montgomery County, n.d.; Carroll County, n.d.; Frederick County, 1787-1851; Laws, Maps, Notes, n.d.; first draft, vols. 1-2; reference materials, n.d.; correspondence.

MSA SC4874: Goldsborough Collection. Materials relating to the Goldsborough family.

MSA SC4875: Fenton Collection, 1903-1905. Album of photographs of Johns Hopkins Hospital, doctors and nurses, and scenes inside and outside the hospital.

MSA SC4877: First Christian Church Collection, c. 1850 [c. 1870]. Photograph of Paca Street Christian Church. Original dauguerrotype by H.H. Clark, c. 1850; enlargement by E.J. Weaver, c. 1870.

MSA SC4881: Parham Collection of Egans-Talbot/Talbert-Sheffey Family Papers, 1823-1996. Genealogical materials and photographs of the Egan, Talbot/Talbert, and Sheffey families of Maryland. Collection includes the commission service certificate of Amos Hudson Talbot, class books of Morgan College, and the Afro-American, 1929.

MSA SC4882: James Johnson Papers Collection, 1791 [1997]. Slides of pages 12 - 17 of the James Johnson Papers, MS 1604, from the Maryland Historical Society, describing General George Washington's visit to Annapolis in 1791, and a "Governor's Rout".

Founded 1987

Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
Patricia V. Melville, Editor
Mimi Calver, Assistant Editor
Lynne MacAdam, Production Editor
Rita Molter, Circulation

The Maryland State Archives is an independent agency in the office of Governor Parris N. Glendening and is advised by the Hall of Records Commission. The Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission is the Honorable Louis L. Goldstein, Comptroller, and the Vice Chairman is the Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

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