Monday, February 21, 2011

Knapsack 2-24

Notes From My Knapsack 2-24-11

Jeff Gill

Twelve Years Old in Granville – 1871


Bluebell knew that some thought her name was a bit odd, but it was
the only one she'd ever had, so it sounded right to her.

Her father was a doctor up past Mary Ann Furnace along Rocky Fork
Creek, down to Hanover and back, riding along the trails through open
valleys and into rocky gorges towards the Knox County line. Mother
died so long ago she could hardly remember her face, and recently
Father had sent her to board at the "Lower Sem," which is what people
hereabouts called the Granville Female College. That distinguished it
from the "Upper Sem," or the Young Ladies Institute, where Dr.
Shepardson led a fine institution, but Dr. Kerr was much beloved by
all of his students as a teacher and leader.

Bluebell would not quite be old enough for the Lower Sem ordinarily,
but she was old beyond her years, after becoming mother hen to so
many younger girls in the wilds of Rocky Fork – part of why her
father wanted to give her back a bit of her childhood in the best way
he knew how. She stayed in the boarding house across the street, next
to the old post-road inn on Broadway, looking out her window at night
to the four story building on the north side of the street, where so
many marvels of the wider world were brought before her.

On weekends, she went to the other side of town to stay with cousins
who had a lovely house and a spare room, but she rather enjoyed the
boarding house during the week. The older girls of thirteen and
fourteen and more looked out for her, taught her how to sew up small
rents in her skirts and other fine little skills she had never
mastered; in return, she told them about how best to tickle a fish
out of a hollow in the creekbank into your hands, and that an osage
orange would keep spiders out of the wardrobe they shared.

Today, a special treat for all the young ladies was the visit of Miss
Hartwell. Bluebell thought how marvelous it was that she was exactly
twice her own age, twenty-four years old, mature yet still so young.
Not yet married, but having graduated from this very school, she had
gone on to teach, in Granville as she had in Jersey Township, and now
in Danville, Illinois, but back to visit family in Hebron, Luray, and
here in Granville.

She was an honored guest of the Lower Sem not as a successful
teacher, though she was, but as a published author. Not just in the
Newark Advocate or North American, but in national publications like
Frank Leslie's Illustrated, "Golden Hours," "Hearth and Home," and
Lippincott's had shown an interest in her work. She had even been
paid for work, Miss Hartwell told them with a smile, before it was

As a schoolgirl, Bluebell could hardly imagine that.

During the reception after Miss Hartwell's address to the young
ladies, Bluebell had pressed forward to shake the author's hand,
hoping some of that success might, in a way, rub off onto her. She
found herself invited to a chair, where her story was gently drawn
out by the guest, asking for an account of how one so young came to
be there. It was clear that Miss Hartwell understood much of
Bluebell's story without even asking, but she asked about the oddest
details…and even drew out a small notebook, in which, with a pencil,
she noted a number of things as they spoke.

[Mary Hartwell Catherwood married in 1877, and published a book that
became a nationwide best-seller in 1882, titled "Rocky Fork," tracing
the mundane adventures of a young girl named Bluebell, from her
valley home to a town west of Newark named Sharon that is
unmistakably Granville.]

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