Early Schooling of Elizabeth and Samuel

John Shoebridge Williams wrote,

“Being born among a dense slave population, and twelve miles from the nearest settlement of friends, white children were very thinly scattered, so that country schools could not be maintained. White children were sent from home for schooling. I never knew a school in that country except one quarter (which would be three months), kept by on Thomas Eccles, when I was four and a half years old. My sister and brother attended. I, however, under the tuition of my mother, learned so as to read with ease at the age of seven. Being divested of all playmates in childhood, induced a singular turn of mind, which may be seen to this day, and which I shall never be bereft of, were it desirable. I learned rapidly, never wore out or abused a book in my life. I kept my first primer, toy books, spelling books, slate, arithmetic, and without a leaf amiss, until I had a nephew old enough to use them. I have sometimes regretted giving them to him, as I was grieved to see they were soon gone when placed in other hands.

“Owing to the waywardness of my disposition, and evil propensities of my nature, I do think that had it not been for the early influences of old Quam and my mother, that I could not have been a man that society would have tolerated. They took singular pains to impress my mind with horror of inflicting pain on even the meanest insect. When a child I would cry to see one wounded. I could not bear to witness the writhings of a conch, boiling to death in its own shell. That seemed to be the only manner of killing them. I could not bear to see fish struggling on the shore for breath, nor clams roasting for dinner.

“To my early tuition may be attributed the fact that, although in boyhood and youthfulness I was an inhabitant of the woods, in the midst of and often annoyed by wild animals, and I had a gun at command, I never shot at but four living creatures, all of which escaped; and when I considered that some of them might be seriously wounded and suffering in pain, and writhing in death, all thoughts of shooting at animals were abandoned. I always considered it fortunate that my early infancy, in which laid the foundation of the future man, fill into such hands as old Quam and my mother; but, unfortunately, that wile I have lost much of the good infantile education, I have retained much, if not most of that which was erroneous, and added of my own what is wrong. My early seclusion from children induced a singular turn of mind and propensity to be alone. This will show itself frequently in the eyes of others to great disadvantage. Perhaps my voluntary relinquishment of my right among Friends at the age of 37 may be traced to this source."