This letter was written by Margaret Moore (Hill) Lane (1801-1874), the wife of Levin Thomas Lane (1793-1863) and the daughter of Col. Thomas Hill (1770-1818) and Susannah Mabson (1770-1843).
Mrs. Lane wrote the letter to Anna Maria Campbell Hickman (1809-1891), the daughter of Harris H. Hickman, an attorney and native of Alexandria, and Ann Binney Hull, whose father was then governor of Michigan Territory. We learn from this letter that two of the Lane children — teenagers Augusta and Susan — are attending Anna’s school for girls in Richmond, Virginia.
“Anna Maria was a writer and educator. She authored numerous children’s books in the 1830s, later wrote short works of fiction and devotion, and contributed to the Boston Home Journal, the New York Churchman, the New York Tribune, and the Southern Literary Messenger.
On February 25, 1836, in Newton, Hickman married her second husband — a Virginia clergyman named Zacharia Mead — a graduate of Yale University and the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia, who then joined the staff of Grace Episcopal Church in Boston. They had two sons and one daughter. Late in 1837 the family moved to Virginia, where he became an assistant clergyman at Monumental, Saint James’s, and Saint John’s Episcopal Churches in Richmond and also editor of the Southern Churchman. Zacharia Mead died of consumption on November 27, 1840. For the next several months, until the proprietors appointed a new editor, Anna Mead, who had assisted her husband, took part in editing the Southern Churchman.
On October 4, 1841, with the help of several clergymen, she opened a Richmond boarding and day school for girls. For twelve years, even through the death of her only daughter in December 1843, she was principal of Mrs. Mead’s School, one of the larger and better private schools in the city. She initially employed one other female teacher and two male teachers, but the success of the school was such that within two years she added other members to the faculty and in 1843 began the session with more than 130 pupils. The curriculum was demanding, comparable to the best available in academies for the sons of prominent Virginia families. The offerings included ancient and modern languages, astronomy, chemistry, history, literature, mathematics, music, philosophy, and theology, specifically including poetry with Christian messages. Mead expected her students to attend Episcopal services with her unless their parents provided a proper escort to another church.
Anna Maria was married three times, and she outlived all three husbands and three out of four of her children. She settled in Halifax County with her third husband in 1856, and there she raised money and taught at Sunday schools for freedpeople that she established. In addition, in 1877 she formed the Southern Churchman Cot fund to support beds for poor children at Retreat for the Sick, a Richmond hospital. She died in Albemarle County in 1891.” [Source: Encyclopedia Virginia]
The epitaph on Anna’s grave marker reads:
They that be teachers shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.
Addressed to Mrs. Ann M. Mead, Richmond, Virginia
Wilmington [North Carolina]
January 27th 1842
I received your kind letter, my dear Mrs. Mead, with great pleasure, and must offer you my apology for delaying to reply to it until now. At the time I received your letter, I was quite occupied with a visit from my married daughter, Mrs. Gorlott. Her stay with me was limited and since she left me I have not been very well.
I was highly gratified to hear from you that my daughters were conducting themselves in a manner that met your approbation. May God’s blessing be always with them to enable them to do their duty in all things is the constant prayer of their anxious mother. It was hard for me to part with my dear girls, but I really consider it a special dispensation of providence that your school was recommended to us and feel it a privilege to have my children with you. I assure you, dear madam, that I feel every confidence in your good management of them. I see you have judged their disposition very correctly, and I esteem that a great point in the management of children, as different dispositions require different treatment. Pray tell them that their mother intreats of them to be good girls.
Our mutual friend, Mrs. Emfrie, arrived here on Saturday last. She found her mother extremely low. I am very glad that she came for it is a sweet, though mournful privilege to watch beside the bed of a dying parent. I went to see Mrs. E. on her arrival. Her countenance is much overcast with sorrow. I was pleased to hear from you all by her. My daughters in all their letters assure me that they are perfectly hppy. We quite approve of Augusta’s commencing French as she found she had time and hope that she may prosecute the study with diligence.
Miss Corvan, who I believe has already written to you, was to see me a day or two ago, and requested me to say to you when I wrote that she would be with you in a fortnight.
Augusta & Sue, I know, will be delighted to have someone in school from Wilmington, although they speak of their present companions with much affection. I hope you may be blessed, dear madam, in the children committed to your charge, and that they may be good and dutiful. My husband joins me in affectionate remembrance to yourself and your kind mother. Our love to the girls and say to them we are all well at present. I was very much pleased with my visit to Richmond, and hope I shall have it in my power to visit you again. I shall be pleased, dear Mrs. Mead, to hear from you as often as you have leisure to write.
Affectionately yours, — Margaret M. Lane