No hickory sticks, tho.
From the local weekly newspaper, August 1895:
"Miss Anna Cobb has been engaged to teach our district school."
That's all it says. What it doesn't say is that Miss Cobb was herself a bright student who hadn't been afraid to tackle tough courses such as Greek History, Economics, Physics, Advanced Composition, British History, Plane Geometry, Algebra, and Geography - in each of which she earned 90% or above.
When she completed her high school education she went to the Oswego Normal School. She earned her teaching certificate - I haven't been able to find how long it took, but I would guess a year or a little less - then came home and applied to her local schoolboard. They hired her for the grand sum of $5.00 per week, but in that time and place, especially for a young single woman, it must've seemed a fortune.
She taught in a one-room school, on her own, and got her experience on the job. She was responsible for all levels, all subjects, for students who ranged in age from 5 to 16. I suspect one of her favorite subjects to teach would have been drawing, as advanced art was another class in which she excelled during her own school years.
Miss Cobb directed spelling bees, recitals, and even short plays. She taught them games - outdoor activities as well as the so-essential indoor games, necessary for many winter days when there could be no recess outside. They sang songs, memorized poems, and practiced their sums; she taught them to read with McGuffey's readers, that quintessential primer for American schoolchildren.
She provided books to make a small library, and introduced them to botany, teaching them the names of wildflowers. They studied birds, butterflies, and astronomy - another of her favorite subjects. They learned penmanship and wrote essays about their lives on the dairy farms. She kept the woodstove stoked, filled the water-pail to prime the pump, and swept the place clean every day.
At the end of each school year she would give the students what was known as a 'school card.' The district would take photographs of the teachers at the one-room schools in its charge, then have them made up on a type of postcard, together with the names of the students who were enrolled during that term.
In 1959 one of her former pupils had a visit from her old teacher. Jennie Vincent recalled that Miss Cobb was the best teacher she'd had, kind, friendly, interesting, and so encouraging to these rural country kids, many of whom would never travel more than twenty or thirty miles from where they grew up. Jennie proudly showed the original school card she'd been given 62 years before.
Miss Cobb was dedicated, committed to her students and to her profession, but at the end of five years she had to make a choice: leave teaching, marry, start a family of her own... or stay in teaching, and remain single. In those days married women were not allowed to teach.
Every summer she would take a trip - to Niagara Falls, to Saratoga Springs, even up into Canada - and visit distant relatives and friends who had moved away. Her last summer of teaching she went to Ontario for a month, to stay with cousins. And it was from there she wrote a letter to her 'best beau' to tell him yes, she would accept his proposal.
From the local weekly for the week of 29 March, 1900:
"The social event of the season was the marriage of Miss Anna Cobb to Foster Thomas. About sixty-five invited guests met at the home of the bride Wednesday, March 21, to witness the ceremony performed by Rev. W. H. Bentley, uncle of the bride. Miss Pearl Thomas played the wedding march. John Cobb acted as best man and Miss Belle Thomas as bridesmaid. The bride wore blue trimmed with white silk and carried white carnations. The bridesmaid wore white and carried pink carnations. The groom wore conventional black. After congratulations an elegant wedding supper was served. Many beautiful presents were left in token of the high esteem in which the young couple were held. The newlyweds left on the evening train for Syracuse amidst the best wishes of their many friends. They will be at home after April 1."
Miss Cobb - hereafter Mrs Thomas - taught me the alphabet, the rudiments of reading, and how to write my name. She was a remarkable woman. I know, because she was my great-grandmother.
Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are...