Henry Wales: Yankee Schoolteacher

Scan of Wales Advertisement in the American Volunteer, April 27, 1826
Scan of Maria Wales' Advertisement in the American Volunteer, April 27, 1826.
Scan of Wales report to Cumberland County on number of pauper children taught.

Top: Wales Advertisement in the American Volunteer, April 27, 1826;

Middle: In 1826 Maria Wales opened an academy for young ladies and for boys under the age of 12. American Volunteer, April 27, 1826;

Bottom: Henry Wales’ report to the Cumberland County Commissioners included of the names of each “pauper” child, the number of days he taught them between February 1, 1826 and July 1, 1826 and the amount of $51.16 that was due to him.

A former resident wrote reminiscences of his school days in Carlisle in the 1820s and of his teacher Henry Wales. He sent them to the editor of the Carlisle Herald for publication.

“The first Yankee teacher of the English branches, whom I knew, was Henry Wales. He was a man of extraordinary energy and industry; and so popular for a while that he almost superseded the “masters” of the old school. The Lancastrian method of teaching was a favorite one with him. In fact, he made an experiment of it in Carlisle, in a modified form, to which the Town Council gave their encouragement by contributing a certain sum for the admission to the school of many of the poorest children of the town—one colored boy among the rest. The number of scholars at one time was nearly one hundred and fifty; and the way they all learned to move with precision and order, and to spell and write, and sing the arithmetical tables, making the walls of the Old College fairly vibrate with the sound, was a caution to young people...Another thing that I remember to his credit. Wales “knew a hawk from a hand saw,” which not every schoolmaster does nowadays, that is, he knew a good spelling book from an indifferent one. And so, as some of the new fangled teachers had laid aside Dilworth for Webster, he whistled Webster down the wind, and adopted Burran’s, [sic] which continued in use about as long as my school days lasted; and has now been replaced, in its turn, by newer and not better publications.”1

According to a history of Gettysburg Academy, Henry Wales was a New Englander who taught an English school at the Academy soon after it was established in 1810.2 After the death of his 20-year-old son, Horatio, in August 1819,3 Wales moved his family to Carlisle.4

Wales operated his school in Carlisle for paying scholars as well as for “paupers.” Before the establishment of the public school system, Pennsylvania counties paid for “pauper” children between the ages of 5 and 12 to be educated. The county paid teachers for the number of days each child was taught during a term and for school supplies. Teachers were required to submit attendance reports and invoices to the County Commissioners for payment. Henry Wales’ reports and invoices cover the years from 1820 through 1827.

In 1827, Wales was forced to petition for insolvency. His petition included a “Statement of Petitioners Losses and the means whereby he became insolvent.” Wales wrote that an “Increase of family expenses by sickness, loss of the poor school by Act of Assembly, and in endeavoring to continue on through the past year with a part of the Paupers, served to deprive me of a School sufficient for the maintenance of my family.”

His Insolvent Debtors Petition listed the names of each of his creditors and the amounts that he owed them, as well as a schedule of his property which included:

“2 bedsteads, 2 beds, 1 breakfast table, 1 large iron kettle, 10 chairs, 1 bake pan, 2 dinner pots, 1 tea kettle, 2 stoves, 1 small stand, 1 kitchen dresser, 2 shovels, 1 spaid [sic], 2 hay forks, 1 hoe, 1 grubbing hoe, 1 grubbing hoe, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 cow, 1 pair andirons, 1 pair andirons, shovel & tongs, 1 school bell, 1 looking glass, 1 hand saw, 1 small trunk books, 11 school desks, 1 meat tub, 1 water hogshead, 2 small tenements and lot of ground No. 259 in Pomfret St., Carlisle.”5

When Wales’ property on East Pomfret Street was sold by the sheriff on December 11, 1827, the family left Carlisle.6

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Similar Entry

Dr. Charles M. Worthington (1835-1878)

Scan of Charles M. Worthington's obituary in the American Volunteer on October 17, 1878

A survivor of the infamous Libby Prison, Charles McClure Worthington was a man of many occupations; a telegraph operator on the Cumberland Valley Rail Road, a Civil War surgeon, a druggist, and finally, a Carlisle school teacher. Charles M. Worthington was born in Carlisle on September 22, 1835, the eldest son of Ann and Jefferson Worthington, a painter and County Commissioner. Worthington was educated in the Carlisle schools and read medicine with Dr. Baughman.

References (Sources Available at CCHS in bold)

[1]Carlisle Herald, May 5, 1870.

[2] “Common Schools of Pennsylvania, Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” For the year ending June 1, 1877. (Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, State Printer, 1878), 6.

[3]Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, August 11, 1819.

[4] 1820 U. S. Census: Carlisle household of Henry Wales: 1 male under 10; 1 male 45+ (Henry); 2 females under 10; 1 female 10-15; 1 female 16-25; 1 female 26-44.

[5] Cumberland County Prothonotary, Insolvent Debtors Petition, 1827.0857. Cumberland County Archives, Carlisle, PA.

[6] Cumberland County Recorder of Deeds. Sheriff Deed Book B-196.