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February 1900 Article – Great-Grandmothers and Their Opinions of Education of Children – and Their History

I found this most interesting article about great-grandmothers living in the city of Louisville in February 1900.  A little of their life history is given, two who came to Louisville from Germany in the early days of the city.  Child-rearing and education were also discussed – comparing when the great-grandmothers were mothers to their great-grandchildren’s rearing in 1900.

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

February 4, 1900, Sunday, Page 23

Great-Grandmothers of Louisville

Views of a Few of the Venerable Ladies on the Education of Children in the Present Day

Most Numerous Among Germans

The subject of the rearing and education of children is just now receiving the profound attention of students, educators and humanitarians.  The story of mankind should be one of progress, and progress means tangible advancement from generation to generation.  There are in Louisville a large number of intelligent great-grandmothers in all stations of life, but particularly among the German citizens, many of whom came to Louisville when it was yet an infant city and have seen its rise and prosperity.  Several of these pioneer women have expressed themselves upon the past and present rearing of children, as well as given bits of life history that are well worth reading.

Of these, Mrs. Agnes Vetter’s story is of public interest, as her descendants have been intimately connected with the history of the public schools of the city from their beginning to the present day.  Mrs. Vetter was eighty-nine years old on January 1, 1900.  She resides with her grandson, Dr. H. V. Lucas, a druggist on the corner of Shelby and Mulberry streets.  Mrs. Vetter’s memory is keen and unimpaired by age.  She tells of her birth in what is now the grand duchy of Baden in 1811, and how, in 1831, with her husband and infant daughter, Theresa, she came to America in the three-masted sailing vessel, the Clinton, which was commanded by a Captain from South Carolina.  Forty-five days the company in which they came were on the high seas, and three days in quarantine, because there was cholera in France.  It is rather curious to hear of the extravagant expectations of the emigrants of those times in regard to America.  It was more than a land of milk and honey from all the representations made.  The party with which the Vetters traveled, all carrying their own bedding and provisions, went by steamer up the Hudson, and thence to Cleveland by canal.  From Cleveland, they journeyed south in the same manner as far as Chillicothe, but from there were forced to travel to Cincinnati by means of farm wagons.  At Cincinnati the party broke up, some remaining there, others choosing Louisville as a dwelling place.  Mrs. Vetter rather dramatically describes Louisville as she remembers it in 1832, and is, without doubt, the only person now living who can give so clear an account.

“Green Street was nothing,” she states, “There being only one or two houses on it.  The city was Main, Market and Jefferson streets, and cross-streets to Twelfth Street, when the city stopped, and the forest began.  The old graveyard on Jefferson Street was then ‘away out.’”

The Vetter family had a house on Jefferson Street, near Preston.  It was built upon posts, open beneath, and all about it were commons, with no fences to be seen.  Here began Mrs. Vetter’s sixty-eight years’ residence in this city, unbroken save for two visits to Germany.

Her Descendants and the Public Schools

Strangely enough Mrs. Vetter’s “imported child,” as she laughingly speaks of the babe she brought from Germany, was the first pupil-teacher ever given a certificate to teach in Louisville.  This Theresa Vetter was an exceedingly bright and studious girl and at a very early age was given a certificate to teach, signed by Dr. John H. Haywood and Mr. Silas Sission.  She taught a number of months in the public school, then went as a teacher to a Mt. Washington school or college and then completed her education while teaching.  She afterward married and was the mother of Dr. Lucas, who is about fifty years old and who has a son twenty-one years old.  Another daughter of Mrs. Vetter also obtained a certificate at fifteen and taught for a number of years in the public schools and the Hebrew school.  She is still teaching in the First Ward school under her married name of Mrs. Louise Eberhard.  Mrs. Vetter’s son, Matthew Vetter, was the first tutor of the Male High School of Louisville.  He resigned his position in 1861 to enter the Federal army, the Ninth Kentucky regiment, under Col. Grider.  Mr. Vetter was reported for bravery on the battlefield of Shiloh.  After his return he practiced law in Louisville.

In connection with this battle, it may be mentioned that Mrs. Vetter was a volunteer nurse on the sanitary boat that went from Louisville to the battlefield of Shiloh.  A daughter of Mr. Matthew Vetter, Mrs. Fauntine Vetter Miller, is now a teacher in the Tenth Ward school of the city.  The old great-grandmother has kept pace with the progress of school affairs and today talks of them in the same thoughtful manner as she probably did forty years ago.  There is yet little indication of any decline of Mrs. Vetter’s mental powers.  She speaks slowly, translating German thought into English words, but always with a correct result.

On the Bearing of Children

Mrs. Vetter speaks with no little enthusiasm on the subject of rearing children.  She has brought up her own children and most of her grandchildren almost wholly by her own efforts and still exercises a supervision over the great-grandchildren.  She states that there is a great difference in the way children were brought up sixty years ago and now.  In those times children were carefully watched and kept with the parents constantly, their time used to the greatest advantage in study and tasks which would fit them for after life.  The girls were made to sew, to make their own clothing and to learn how to keep a home going and in order.  Especially does Mrs. Vetter speak of the necessity of strict care and supervision.  She does not believe in corporal punishment and has never used it.  Constant iteration of “love the good and hate the bad” was her idea, the teaching of “never to harm other people,” and the deep philosophy of “every bad deed brings its own punishment.”  Mrs. Vetter thinks many of the parents of today are too lax in discipline and too careless as to the habits and use of time of children, nor does she believe that it will result in men and women of strong mind and sturdy independence.’

Another Look Over the Years

Another great-grandmother, very well known in Louisville, is Mrs. Caroline Ullman, who resides on Fifth Street, near the Standard Clubhouse.  Mrs. Ullman was born in Hirschberg, Bavaria, and came to Louisville in 1841.  In 1844 she married Mr. S. Ullman.  She has now seven children, eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Mrs. Ullman is very active, intelligent and has her own opinion of affairs.  In regard to the education of children today she at once spoke of the anxiety of the children of today to be considered men and women, their lack of deference to the opinions of their elders, their impatience of restraint, and the general laxity of discipline on the part of parents.  It is evident that Mrs. Ullman, as well as Mrs. Vetter, could not be convinced that the parental system of the present day is one-half as good as the more vigorous old way.

The Oldest Great-Grandmother

Mrs. Kahn, the mother of Mrs. Henry Flexner, of 518 West Chestnut Street, is not only the oldest great-grandmother in Louisville, but, perhaps, the oldest woman in any station of life.  She is ninety-three years old.  There are a number of great-grandmothers in society circles in Louisville, among them Mrs. Hampden Zane, Mrs. Jane McKay, Mrs. Stuart Robinson, Mrs. Samuel Churchill, Mrs. Sarah Simerall, Mrs. Gertrude Dunn, Mrs. Mary E. Crutcher and Mrs. Mary T. Crutcher, of Anchorage.

1 reply »

  1. Very interesting story. There are still a lot of German names in the Schnitzelburg part of Germantown in Louisville,which Shelby St. And Mulberry are a part.(Shelby St. Actually being a boundary of Schnitzelburg) That part of town always had- and still does- have many small establishments where you can enjoy a beer and a short order dish like a bratwurst on rye. A lot of fine thrifty folks have always lived in that area. The old Swiss Park on the corner of Lynn and Shelby St. used to provide German music by the Rhinegold Band on Sunday afternoons. Good old days!

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