|The Pennsylvania Freedmen's Bulletin
Letter from Ellen Murray
February 16, 1865
St. Helensville, February 16, 1865.
Dear Sir,â€”I received your letter of the 31st by the last steamer. The draft arrived safely, for which
I am much obliged.
J, intended to have written before this, but for the last two or three weeks our school has been in a
rather unsettled state.
The people of Edisto, who for over two years have been living on St. Helena, have been
enabled/by Sherman's order, to return to their homes, and nearly every one, whose children came
to our school, went. This takes about ten out of my division1, fifteen from Miss Towne's, and
between sixty and eighty from the primary division; we cannot count the numbers accurately yet,
as all that are going home have not gone: two steamboat loads have already left the village, but
thero are still enough to fill the steamer again. They hope to have land of their own there, and are
so eager to go, that it requires all the authority and efforts of the Captain and Mr. Tomlinson to
prevent them from crowding, and so overloading the steamer, when it comes to take them off. I am
exceedingly sorry to lose- one of my pupils,â€”Bess,â€”a girl of about eleven or. twelve. She is
very black, and in outward appearance stupid and unprepossessing, but with a great deal of
ability, and a wonderful share of perseverance. She worked her way from the lowest class in Miss
Towne's division to the highest class in mine, and for weeks past has kept her place at the head of
my best arithmetic class, who are studying Emerson's Second Arithmetic. Poor Bess fairly cried
when she came to say good-bye, and leave her school. I don't think I ever saw a child who loved
learning better for its own sake, while apparently quite uninfluenced by the usual incentives of
rewards and praises. Our school will probably soon be filled up with refugee children from Georgia;
and those who have already come in are so bright and intelligent that we are well pleased to have
them, and agree in thinking that they will out-strip the St. Helena children in learning. They speak
much more correctly, and seem to apprehend what we say more readily. Several of the children
are " motherless," and have been adopted by plantation people. It is very pleasant to see these
poor children so well cared for, tidily dressed by their new protectors, and sent to school regularly.
One of my girls brought in to-day two little things of about five, whom her grandmother had
adopted. I found that one of them knew all her letters, and, asking who taught her, she answered, "
little mother," to the great delight of my scholar, who had taught them to give her that name.
One woman, who lives at Saxtonville, was sold years ago from Washington, and has never since
seen or heard anything of her relations. She found among these refugees, a young cousin who
had also been sold away from her family, and at once applied for permission to take her home and
care for her as her child, as she said, they had no other family but each other. Next week she
came to the school to ask admission for this adopted girl, saying we must tell her " if Elizabeth did
not behave." We were prepared for a little girl, and were amused when Elizabeth presented herself,
â€”a tall, gentle, quiet young woman of 19 or 20.
Part of my division are now reading the "Physiology Made Easy" that was sent down last summer.
They are quite interested in it, and 1 hope it will teach them some useful lessons about the
importance of. fresh air and cold water,â€”things that are not held in much esteem at present
among the people.
We are more comfortable in our school-houses than we could have ever hoped. The stoves sire a
great comfort. I do not know what we should have done, in the extreme cold weather of last month,
without them. ^
We are never tired of admiring our comfortable rooms, with the large blackboards; and Genl.
Saxton, who came over with Genl. Howard a week or two since to see them, expressed his
admiration of our pretty rooms.
Miss Town and I are reading with great interest your books on the West Indies. Miss Towne
intends writing as soon as we have finished them. With kindest regards, I remain Ycurs very truly,