The Fall of 1855

In the fall of this year, 1855, my sister and I went to boarding school in Richmond. Mr. Hubert Pierce Lifefors*, who was trained to the Jesuit Faith and destined for their ministry, by some incluence*, I know not what, departed from the religion of his fathers, escaped from his surroundings to Virginia where he soon rose from visiting master to the head of a female school (Mrs. Meeds.) He was a most accomplished and elegant man, being physically and mentally gifted. He was the best educator I ever saw. He left his Jesuit religion behind him in France and was a devoted Episcopalian. He had a wonderful school, having pupils from Southern states. When the Civil War came upon us, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, but did not live very long. His first wife, Miss Mary Williams, was a relative of my mother. His second wife was a lady of Montgomery, who after his death moved to Baltimore, and had a fashionable school called Madam Lefebres*. My sister and I went together there and always stood at the head of the class, she first and I second. Our school days were happy and provitable.* I developed a fine voice, sung solos at all concerts and led choruses. My sister was a fine performer. We both played in all concerts. Excuse my part of this compliment, but alas, there is no one living to do it, so I simply tell the truth. After two years, my sister stopped school. I went two years more. It was the custom for girls to stop school at eighteen. Then when I reached the required age, my sister, Jennie, was out. We all three made many friends, some have been lifelong. Even now at 76, I have correspondents — Mrs. Charles H. Dummock, Lizzie Sedlen of Glancester County; Miss Sallie Coles of Albemarle, Mrs. Julia Randolph Sage — I have letters from them now in 1919. It would take a column to tell of my many friends there and probably interest no one but myself.

(*unknown words, perhaps influence and profitable

My last year of school I was one of four roommates — Lizzie Selden*, Evelyn Cabell, Constance Cary (Mrs. Burton Harrison) and myself. We were all more than ordinary in accomplishments and beauty, We were “old girls” and consequently leaders. Having behaved ourselves for four years, we were allowed privileges. We would go on the street alone, spend nights with friends in the city and spend Friday evenings out. I will not attempt to write of this.

(*spelled Sedlen in the preceding paragraph)

My sister was in town as a young lady in society. I often went to visit the Pattons (cousins of my Mother) and the Grattans (cousins of my Father). I cherish their welcome and hospitality.

I would like to tell of my dear teachers, Madam Estana, a Hungarian exile, expatriated for political reasons. She wanted to adopt me, she was so pleased with my voice. She was allowed to return to Hungary. I never heard from her after that. Our French teacher, Mme. Villemet was a delightful woman. After Mme. Estana left we had Mme. Erben. I loved her. One summer we had her sister Marie. We enjoyed them. After Mr. Lepebore* went south they left for the north and I last heard of them in Boston. I have often wondered where they were.

(*this is suspected to be the same surname as Lifefors, mentioned earlier in the article, but not related to LeFebres, which was the name of the school)

My professor of music, Professor Thilow and Professor of Drawing, Mr. John Calys are dead. I liked them both. During one vacation we had house parties. Our parents were most indulgent. Our life was charming, our neighbors most delightful. I wish I could give a pen picture of each. Often there would be five or six carriages before our door and we would have them come for a week-end at a time, children and nurses.

The ministers Episcopalian and Presbyterian never failed to give us annually a two weeks visit with all their family. My mother was an Episcopalian and my father a Presbyterian. My father was elder and treasurer in his church. A unique church arrangement. We loved both and alternately attended them. We were seven miles from each. I remember our handsome horses and how they pranced and danced before the church doors. We accused the driver of encouraging them to show off.

***

About Dawn Quarles

Dawn Quarles is a high school political science and American history teacher who moonlights as a blogger and writer. She lives on Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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