What was school like in 1815? 200 years ago elementary education took place in the home. Secondary education was provided by private academies, mostly limited to boys, to prepare them for college. If you had been in George Macculloch’s school in the 1820s, the desk illustrated here could have been yours. One of the Boykin brothers who sat at this desk carved his initials on the inside lid of the desk.
In 1814, Mr. Macculloch decided to open his Latin School for Boys. A few years later, he added a high ceilinged room to his house designed and built by Joseph Lindsley who went on to build the Morris County Courthouse. This new addition, with a separate entrance to Doughty Street, was used as the schoolroom. On the floor above were dormitories for the boarding students and teachers. The students took their meals in a cellar room. This school operated from 1814 to 1829 when George closed it and devoted his attention to the creation of Burlington College. Today the schoolroom is the main gallery of the Macculloch Hall House Museum.
On Sundays, the schoolroom was used for services by Episcopalians who had no church in Morristown until St. Peter’s was built just a few blocks away in 1828. The room was also used for plays and social functions. The Palladium of Liberty, a Morristown newspaper, on February 10, 1820 published the following notice:
“A Theatrical Exhibition for the Benefit of our Fellow Citizens…will be performed with appropriate Scenery at Mr. M’Cullock’s Academy on Tuesday the 23rd. Addison’s celebrated Tragedy “Cato” [will be performed] after which will be played the Diverting Afterpiece of the “Spoiled Child”. Curtain rises at 7:00. Tickets 3 shillings for grown persons, children half price.”
Macculloch Hall House Museum’s Archives house some of the Macculloch Family’s letters. Some concern the school that offer tidbits of what school life was like at the Old House back in the 1820s. The more colorful missives note how “the school boys let the mince pie burn” (George Macculloch to his son Francis Macculloch, January 1, 1827) and just how much Louisa Macculloch managed the school: “Your father is very busy preparing for New York…he will leave us on Saturday with four boys…I remain at home with ten…what with the charge of them and cleaning the house I shall not want for employment” (Louisa Macculloch to Francis Macculloch, March 26, 1826).
Macculloch Hall House Museum has lots of stories to tell. Come for a visit to hear more!
JO and AG for Macculloch Hall