Name: By Canal and By Stagecoach: A Journey from Nelson County to Staunton
Date: ca. 1858
Image Number: EHW01
Comments: Shown above is Elizabeth 'Bettie' Nicholas Cabell with her daughter, Annie Barraud Cabell in 1858. Bettie attended Virginia Female Institute in Staunton for the 1849-1850 school year.
In August 1849, fifteen-year-old Bettie Cabell left her home at Liberty Hall in Nelson County to attend boarding school, the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton. On the first day she traveled with her parents along the canal by packet boat, The Clinton. "As we glided along, I sat at the little window of my cabin looking back at my dear old home where I had spent so many happy hours of my childhood, and when it vanished from my sight, I turned away with a heavy heart for I knew I would not see it again for ten long months and perhaps never." They arrived in Scottsville at 5 p.m. where they spent the night. "I was ushered into the most forlorn looking room I ever saw," she wrote, "but I comforted myself with the thought that I was to leave it soon." The next day they traveled by stage along the recently planked Plank Road (now Route 712) and spent the night in Batesville. "We were off again before day to climb the lofty summits of the Blue Ridge. We proceeded very slowly and reached the top just as the morning sun was bursting forth in all his splendour. Several of the gentlemen got out and walked some distance, but though it was summer they found the air at that early hour so fresh that they were forced to resume their seats. We then began to descend the mountain very rapidly." The family arrived in Staunton at 11 a.m. Despite her fears, Bettie loved her school, though she did complain about having to write compositions. Her descendant, Ernest H. Williams, has a collection of her papers, including 20 compositions that she wrote during that school year. Some of the titles are "Government," "The Value of Time," and "Pride is the Bane of Happiness."
The Virginia Female Institute had been founded by the Episcopal Church in 1844 with the stated purpose of educating women in "the womanly traits for which the Southern woman has always been distinguished." The school, renamed Stuart Hall in 1907, is still in operation today.
Thanks to Dr. Williams, Professor of Biology Emeritus at Hamilton College in New York for sharing this interesting material with us.
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