Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

Enoch Flower's School

Two days before we had made the last spike for Samuel Carpenter, word was given by written notice posted on the corner of the Blue Anchor tavern, that Enoch Flower would open a school in his house.

His fee for teaching one to read English, was four shillings; for fitting a pupil in writing, six shillings; and if one wanted to learn how to read, write, and cast accounts, the cost would be eight shillings.

Now Jethro and I had in cash, wampum, furs, and in debts that could be collected, sixteen pounds English money, all of which we had earned by our own labor. In addition, we each had a pair of good skates, which should surely be reckoned in with our earnings, since they represented the capture of very many turkeys.

It was not necessary we should ask our fathers for money with which to pay Enoch Flower, and we decided to get all he could teach us, meaning that we would study reading, writing, and the casting up of accounts.

As I have already said, we could read and write at that time, thanks to our parents; but it seemed as if we should be able to learn a great deal more regarding such things at a regular school, therefore it was that we were willing to spend sixteen shillings.

Enoch Flower's house was by no means the most comfortable in town, and we were forced to sit on short lengths of stout logs, when, with a little labor, benches might have been made, for of a verity there was an ample supply of raw material at hand.

The school hours were from eight in the morning until twelve at noon. In the afternoon the teacher gave all his attention to spinning, for he was a master hand at such work, and thus we lads found plenty of time for home chores and as much of sport as we really needed.

We each read aloud one page from the Bible, or as much from the laws of Pennsylvania as would amount to the same in number of words, and the teacher carded wool meanwhile, in order that his time might not be wholly wasted.


Then, with half a clapboard held on our knees as a desk, we wrote twenty lines from either the laws, or the Book, if so be we had brought with us enough of paper to contain them, for it was not in the bargain that Enoch Flower should provide us with anything save a smoothly sanded board on which we could work out the sums in arithmetic that he made up to puzzle us.

We spent the greater portion of our time figuring on the number of pounds of wool required to make an hundred skeins of yarn, or the wages of a spinner for so many hours at such an amount per skein. But whatever the questions he put to us, we benefited much by the work, and not only learned to "cast up accounts" in the wool or yarn business, but how to spin and card, for the only punishment good Enoch Flower ever bestowed upon us when we were inattentive, was to oblige such disobedient pupils to help him in his daily labor.


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