William Westerman Document
The article of agreement shown above is dated 1823, just six years after Mississippi became a state. It is a contract agreement between William Westerman and twelve individuals of Warren County, Mississippi. In the contract, Westerman agrees to teach the children of the signers at a rate of $2.50 per child, per month. The contract is for a total of ten months, during which time Westerman agrees to teach reading, writing, grammar, and mercantile arithmetic. Westerman also agrees to make up any time lost due to personal illness or absence from the school. The signers agree to the price of Westerman's services and indicate at the bottom of the printed contract that a total of sixteen children will be under Westerman's tutelage. The document is signed by twelve individuals: Jacob, James, and Christopher Hyland; Claudius Rawls; Levi R. Gibson; Abel Wright; James Clark; Archibald Erwin; Edmund Reeves; Gabriel Burnham; Jesse Wright; and Jackson Downs, all residents of Warren County in the 1820s and 1830s.
Educational opportunities in Mississippi during the early years of the nineteenth century were severely limited. Families who could afford the expense sent their children to New Orleans or to Europe for their education, while others chose to hire private tutors.
In Warren County, Mississippi, public schools did not operate until after 1845. Prior to that time, due to the lack of state-funded educational institutions, many people in the area relied on the services of private tutors such as William Westerman. Tutors regularly advertised their services in local newspapers and then signed contracts with an individual, or group of individuals, effective for a certain period of time. Paid a monthly salary based on the number of children under their care, tutors such as Westerman were required to teach only the basic fundamentals, mainly reading, writing, and arithmetic. In some cases, other subjects such as Latin or French were required, depending on the social status of the employer. People hiring private tutors were usually prominent within the community and sufficiently affluent to afford the expense.
Among the families employing William Westerman as a tutor were the Hyland, Rawls, and Gibson families of Warren County, Mississippi. The Hyland family, one of the first families to settle in the south of Warren county, had resided in the area since the turn of the century. Between 1818-1827, Jacob Hyland served in the county legislature, while James Hyland watched over the family business and plantation. Associates of the Hylands included the Gibson Family and the Rawls Family (who arrived in the area at the same time as the Hylands). David Gibson arrived in Warren County in 1826 and built the family plantation. Following his death, his sons, including Levi R. Gibson, remained in the area until the 1830s when Levi Gibson moved to Le Flore County.
No information is available concerning the life and activities of William Westerman. For more information about this document or the collection, call the Special Collections reference desk at 601.266.4345 or Ask-a-Librarian.
For related information:
Mayes, Edward. History of Education in Mississippi. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899. [microform Z1236 .L5 LAC 10831]
Morris, Christopher. Becoming Southern: The Evolution of a Way of Life, Warren County and Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1770-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. [F347.W29 M67 1995]
Morris, Christopher. Town and Country in the Old South: Vicksburg and Warren County, Mississippi 1770-1860. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1993. [F347.W29 M66 1991a]
Rowland, Dunbar. Encyclopedia of Mississippi History. Madison, WI: S.A. Brant, 1907. [F339.R88 1907c]
United States. Works Progress Administration. Source Material for Mississippi History: Preliminary Manuscript [by counties]. Jackson, MS: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1970. [Microform F341 .U74]
NOTE: The document above is from collection M110 held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
Some text for this "Item of the Month" was prepared by Diane DeCesare Ross. However, most of it was taken directly from the finding aid for the William Westerman Letter.