February 1990

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The Kirkland's School

in Geneva


Bill Treichler

The Geneva Gazette of February 6, 1828, carried the following advertisement:

House and Furnishings for Sale

FOR SALE that very handsome and convenient house near the south end of the village, built by Rev. Mr. M'Donald, and now occupied and owned by the Rev. Mr. Adams, President of Geneva College. The house has been built only 4 years; and belonging to it, there is an excellent Barn, Wood-House, and other Outbuildings. It is upon the high bank of the Seneca Lake, in a beautiful and very healthy situation. The Lot contains an acre, and the Garden is thrown into terraces running parallel with the bank of the Lake. The fences and every other part are in complete repair, and the garden abounds with choice Fruit Trees, Strawberries, Asparagus, Raspberries, &c. The Furniture has been used but 8 or 9 months, and is of good quality. Persons wishing to purchase are invited to call and view the House and Furniture. The Furniture will be sold by the piece to accommodate purchasers. If not previously disposed of by private sale, the whole will be sold at AUCTION about the last of March. Application may be made to Rev. Mr. Adams, on the premises, or to David Hudson, Esquire. Terms of payment made easy.
Geneva, Feb. 4, 1828.

This house still stands in Geneva at 803 South Main Street. Ford and Harriot Weiskittel have owned the house since 1979 and are carefully restoring it now.

The Geneva Gazette of May 21, 1828, noted that Mr. William Kirkland had purchased the house of the Rev. Mr. Adams, and announced that Mr. Kirkland was establishing a school for young males. The same edition carried the following:

Domestic School at Geneva, N. Y.

MR. WILLIAM KIRKLAND has opened in this place a School for Boys. In addition to the ordinary branches, the course of instruction embraces the Ancient Languages, with Geography of the Ancient World; French, Spanish and German. Algebra and Geometry, with the practical Mathematics; History (particularly that of America with the national and state constitutions) and the English Classics generally. Elocution is particularly attended to. A gentleman of the first respectability has been engaged as Teacher of French and Spanish; the Principal himself is qualified by a residence of eighteen months at the University of Gottingen to instruct in German. To promote a familiar acquaintance with French, it will be made, as far as practicable, the language of daily intercourse. An assistant will be employed in the English Department, as soon as the number of pupils renders it desirable.
The Students will have the privilege of attending the Lectures on Natural Philosophy and Chemistry at Geneva College. Penmanship and Book Keeping with Mercantile Arithmetic will be primary objects. Gymnastic Exercises will constitute a part of the system.
The number is limited to eighteen and no one admitted after his fourteenth year. The pupils receiving instruction at his house, and becoming in all respects members of his family, Mr. Kirkland has given to his establishment the name of Domestic School. It is his aim to unite fully the benefits of public and private education, the former by furnishing every advantage of instruction; the latter by blending with these advantages familiar parental intercourse and strict family discipline.
Terms—Two hundred dollars per annum, payable yearly in advance. This sum includes Tuition, Board, Washing, Lodging, Fuel, Light and Stationery. Elementary Books furnished at cost. A juvenile Library will be provided for the use of the School.
Vacation—Six weeks, commencing after this year, the first Wednesday of August. For the ensuing summer the period of instruction will extend to the third Wednesday of August, and re-commence after four weeks interval, the 17th of September.
For further particulars, Mr. Kirkland refers to his Prospectus.
Geneva May 19, 1828.

Then in the June 11, 1828, Geneva Gazette was an item carried from a Utica paper:

Mr. Kirkland's Domestic School.

It will be seen by an advertisement in this paper, that Mr. Kirkland has opened his Domestic School, at Geneva. His plan, we think, is an excellent foundation of a thorough practical and classical education. The system of blending "familiar parental instruction and strict family discipline," with the objects of education is becoming everyday more popular, and cannot fail to be duly appreciated by an enlightened public. Mr. Kirkland is well fitted in the talents and accomplishments, for the arduous task he has undertaken, and we doubt not he will meet with merited success.
—Utica Sent.

In the September 10, 1828, Geneva Gazette was an announcement concerning the school:

Domestic School

Mr. Kirkland's Domestic School will be re-opened on the 17th inst. It is highly desirable that students be present at the commencement of the term. Winter uniform—a blue round-a-bout with gilt buttons, and pantaloons of the same color.
Geneva, Sept. 8, 1828

In none of the statements discovered in the old issues of the Geneva Gazette about Mr. Kirkland's arrival and the opening of his school was there the mention that Mr. William Kirkland was newly married on January 10, 1828, and that his bride was Caroline Matilda Stansbury formerly of New York City but more recently of Clinton, N. Y., the location of Hamilton College. William Kirkland had been teaching there and Miss Stansbury had moved there with her widowed mother expressly that she might be near her fiancÚ.

Both of these young people had outstanding academic backgrounds. William Kirkland's family had a long association with Yale College; his great-grandfather, David Kirkland, had graduated from Yale in 1720 and William's father, Joseph Kirkland had graduated from Yale in 1790. Joseph Kirkland was a son of another Joseph Kirkland and a grandson of David Kirkland. Another of David's sons was Samuel Kirkland who was the founder of Hamilton-Oneida Academy at Clinton, New York, that became Hamilton College. Samuel's son, John Kirkland was president of Harvard College from 1810 until 1828.

William Kirkland graduated from Hamilton College in 1818 and was a tutor there from 1820 until 1827. His father was a trustee there from 1812 until 1832.

Samuel Kirkland had started Hamilton-Oneida Academy at Clinton for the purpose ot teaching the Indian and local boys. William, in moving to Geneva and starting a school there, was carrying on the educational ideals of his family.

Caroline came from a New York family which had held Loyalist sympathies during the Revolution and were no longer affluent yet still held social position in the city. She was a precocious and talented girl who had gone to the school for young women run by her aunt, Lydia Philadelphia Mott. In school Caroline was at the scholastic head of her class and was also accomplished in the social graces: dancing and music. She was popular as well as thoroughly educated.

Caroline spoke Latin, French, Italian and read German; following her graduation she taught in one of her aunt's schools. At the time that she came to Geneva with her husband she was one of the very best educated women in America.

Although none of the local newspaper accounts found say anything of Caroline or her teaching, a biographical source says that she did teach with her husband in their school in Geneva. Her influence must have been very considerable. You can imagine that a talented young woman who had the confidence to persuade her mother to move with her from New York City to be close to the dedicated young man she admired would have possessed an assertive personality that would support and augment her husband's beliefs about education.

The first year of the new school was adjudged a success by the report in the Geneva Gazette and Mercantile Advertiser of August 12, 1829.


Domestic School

The first full year of this institution closed on Wednesday last; and its members are disposed for a vacation of six weeks. On the Monday and Tuesday preceding, was held a public examination, the result of which, while it proved the excellence of the plan on which the institution is conducted said much for the intelligence of the pupils and the fidelity of the instructors. The examination was conducted in a familiar manner, setting the pupil as much as possible at his ease, and giving those present the best opportunity of estimating his acquirements.
The appearance of the young gentlemen who were examined in the Languages was a strong argument for the frequent inculcation of first principles in the execution of a great deal of conjectural translation, and the facility with which they read and translated French, showed the beneficial effect of making that language in some degree the medium of intercourse. Their French instructor conversed with them in that language almost entirely during the examination.
Geography, History, and Arithmetic had evidently received all the attention which their importance demands; the specimens in Spelling and Reading showed that there had been no disposition to neglect branches which are useful but not showy. In penmanship more correctly, perhaps, than in any other branch of instruction could the improvement of the pupils be estimated. A comparison between their first specimens and their last, led in every instance to a creditable result.
The whole examination could not but be gratifying to all the gentlemen and ladies present, and especially to those who had sons in the School.
On Wednesday an Exhibition of the School was attended at the house of the Principal by a numerous and highly respectable audience invited for the occasion. Most ot the young gentlemen declaimed in selections from English and American orators, and a few recited poetical pieces, some of which appeared to have been composed for the exhibition. Dialogues in French and Latin served to diversify the entertainment. The scholars in general spoke with confidence and determination, and most ot them with a good degree of spirit. All present appeared highly gratified, not only with the speaking but also with the deportment of these young gentlemen. Their behaviour to Mr. KIRKLAND was rather that of children to their father than that of pupils for an instructor. A respectful familiarity, equally removed from careless disregard and abject fear, seemed to mark the precise point arrived at in the plan of the Domestic School.
An institution of this kind has long been a desideratum; one in which a parent may feel that when he sends his son abroad he made for him the best substitute for home; one in which (to use Mr. Kirkland's Prospectus) "the finer sensibilities implanted by Nature and fostered by the kindly influence of the parental roof are not lost by the coarseness, the rudeness, and the vulgarity incident to a large public school." A fair trial of sixteen months has proved that this desideratum is supplied. Let the Principal of the Domestic School find properly qualified imitators, and the standard of education and morals in the other portions of the community will be greatly raised, but if he do not, he will yet enjoy the satisfactory prospects of being extensively and permanently useful.

The local newspapers carried further laudatory accounts of The Domestic School. Also, in the Geneva Gazette of December 9, 1829, was a report of the third annual meeting of the Seneca Temperance Society and an address delivered by Professor William Kirkland. The assembly requested him to furnish a copy of his speech for publication. At the same meeting he was elected Corresponding Secretary for the Society.

Caroline must have been a very busy young woman who, in addition to teaching and carrying the responsibility for managing the household and mothering the 17 young boys who were listed as residents in the 1830 census, bore her first four children during the five years she and William lived in Geneva. The March 13, 1833, issue of the Geneva Mercantile Advertizer carried a sad announcement in the Deaths column; "In this village on the 26th ult. LYDIA P. daughter of Mr. Wm. Kirkland, aged 17 months."

In 1835 the Kirklands moved to Detroit where he had been offered the principalship of the newly established Detroit Female Seminary.

Why did the Kirklands leave Geneva? An advertisement seeking full enrollment for the school appeared in a June, 1833, paper. Perhaps it was difficult to find enough students to fill the school. Mr. Kirkland was still receiving editorial support from the Geneva Mercantile Advertizer in an issue published September 17, 1834, when the Domestic School was again praised. But likely the Kirklands felt the great pull toward the West that was drawing 1000 people a day through Detroit by the water route alone in 1836 .

The Kirklands sold their house in Geneva that year to Samuel W. Swift. (The Weiskittels have the deed of that transaction that was executed in Wayne County, Territory of Michigan. It bears the signatures: William Kirkland and Caroline M. Kirkland.)

In January 1836 William Kirkland started buying land sixty miles west from Detroit in Livingston County. By the end of the year he owned 800 acres and with his father controlled 1300 acres altogether. He moved his family to Pinckney, Michigan, the town they founded and Caroline named in the fall of 1837.

Copyright 1990 by William E. Treichler
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