Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 157
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Documents, Letters, Reminiscences, Etc.
impart instruction to his pupils as well as any
teacher I ever knew. Like his relatives he was
overbearing and ruled his pupils with an iron
rod. Notwithstanding this was my ninth school,
I was still kept in Webster's Elementary Speller.
I could not write my name nor add a column of
figures, had never studied grammar or geogra-
phy, in short nothing except Webster's Speller
and knew but little of that.
Tooke introduced a new departure. He
required me to study geography, arithmetic,
grammar, and penmanship. Had his interest in
school children and his industry towards the
details of the school-room been equal to his
intellectual attainment, I should have learned
rapidly at this school. He measured off long
lessons and promised a flogging if we did learn
them, and invariably complied with his prom-
ise. I was poorly prepared to begin so many new
studies without the constant help of the teacher.
But he was too lazy or too dignified to stoop to
details. Hence failure was the inevitable result.
The ninth teacher was old Sam Cooper, a gen-
tleman of fifty-five summers, and when he
made his debut in our neighborhood wore a
threadbare suit, a three story silk hat, and a
cheap pair of spectacles . . . The moment he
entered the room he declared war on every
pupil. During vacation he drank hard and dur-
ing school he ate opium. With all his faults he
was the best instructor I met up to this time. I
next went fifteen months to the Bastrop Military
Institute at Bastrop, but quit in June of 1859
because of no funds to pay my board. In the fall
of 1859 I went to school for a couple of months.
After the Civil War in 1867 I attended a com-
mercial school in New Orleans where, for the
first time, I mastered arithmetic and gained a
fair knowledge of bookkeeping. This closed my
career as a pupil.
But before I close this chapter let me offer
you a few suggestions . . . My education is
deficient, though I have acquired more perhaps,
than the majority of my fellow men. It is
deficient because I had at start very inefficient
teachers, because teachers changed situations
so rapidly, and the chief reason, because I did
not apply myself to the study of good books
after I learned to read. The initiatory steps into
book knowledge are by far the most important.
You should not only read properly every word
in your lesson, but be able to spell and write
them correctly in a sentence. When you reach
the third reader, you should begin to study ge-
ography and arithmetic. You should have a slate
and pencil. You should prepare your lessons so
as to be able to write the answer to any question
your teacher might ask. You should not be
advanced another step or to a higher grade until
you have completely mastered these three little
books. With the fourth reader you should have
a second geography, a second arithmetic, the
first lessons in English composition, and pen-
manship. In studying you should keep at your
side a Webster's dictionary. You should write
the definition of any unknown word on your
slate and compose an original sentence with
each new word. This appears to be a slow
process but you will find in the end, it will be the
quickest way. At this stage in your education
you should try original compositions. Try easy
subjects-natural scenery, describe the cow,
the dog. Rewrite all of your compositions. Of
course I can not, nor would it be possible for me
to prescribe a course of study for you now as the
systems of education are constantly undergoing
If the good Lord spares my life I intend to
follow the above plan in educating my two
children. If I do not live to do it, perhaps some
kind friend will see this and read it to you and
your teacher, who will adopt the plan. And
when you learn to read you may read all this
over and still learn something. The uppermost
thought of my life is to educate the minds and
hearts of my two darling little children. I have
nothing else to give.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/45/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.