Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Somerville Female Institute

(click on photograph for larger image)

The Somerville Female Institute was established in Leasburg, North Carolina, by Reverend Solomon Lea (1807-1897) in 1848. It remained in operation until 1892. The school was named in honor of astronomer Mary Somerville whose work Solomon Lea admired. Beside himself, other teachers in the school were his daughters, his wife, Sophia Ainger Lea, Miss Sarah Stanfield, Miss Margaret Harrison, and Miss French.

The school attracted scores of young ladies from North Carolina, Virginia, and other southern states. Subjects taught included grammar, arithmetic, algebra, Latin, French, diction, philosophy, botany, chemistry, geography, astronomy, rhetoric, moral science, and music. Students were provided with slates, pen holders, inkwells, envelopes, and fine paper.

A school account book survives from the 1856-1859 period and is part of the Caswell County Historical Association Collection in the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, North Carolina):

Somerville Female Institute

To see a list of the names found in this account book see:

Somerville Female Institute Account Book Index

Many of the accounts were settled by a load or two of wood, a sack of flour or potatoes, or the use of a team of horses. The school closed in 1892 as a result of Solomon Lea's declining health.

Solomon Lea graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1833 and was the first president of Greensboro College. For more on him go to:

Solomon Lea


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