SUSAN NYE HUTCHISON 1790 — 1867
Susan Nye grew up in South Amenia, Dutchess County, NY. She attended local schools and, most likely, the Litchfield Female Academy as well, for teacher training. In 1815, at the age of 25, Susan left the security and comfort of her home and traveled to Raleigh, NC, in order to teach young women at the Raleigh Academy.
Susan kept a journal throughout the 30 years she spent as a teacher in the antebellum South. Her early journal entries describe her impressions and experiences when leaving home and traveling by boat on rough seas, when entering into the southern society and when struggling to succeed as a new schoolteacher.
Though hired to teach young ladies from well-to-do families, Susan was also aware of the culture in which she was living. She could not help but write about the ill treatment of slaves. She described scenes that she witnessed in the home where she was staying and also in the streets of the city. Susan felt compelled to reach out to the slaves in her neighborhood. She would visit their dwellings on Sunday afternoons and read the Bible to them. Even though it was against the law, Susan taught them to read.
In 1823, after eight years of teaching young women in Raleigh, Susan Nye moved to Augusta, Georgia, where she opened her own school, “Miss Nye’s School.” She was assisted by her sister, Amanda Nye.
Susan believed that young women should receive an education equal to what young men were receiving in those days, including instruction in higher mathematics and in diverse science courses, such as astronomy and chemistry. Susan Nye published her thoughts on female education in a treatise, which she wrote in 1828.
While in Augusta, Susan met Mr. Adam Hutchison, a widowed businessman from Scotland, who was living in Augusta with his three children. Susan and Mr. Hutchison married February 10, 1825. The first of their four sons was born in December of that year, and the second son was born 18 months later.
In her journal, Susan commented on her husband’s angry outbursts, the loss of his job as a cotton merchant and his penchant for buying unnecessary, expensive items for himself, while she lacked the money to feed the children and the others in the household. Susan had to resume teaching, just three months after the birth of her second child, in order to support her three stepchildren, her two infants, her sister Amanda and two servants.
Susan’s life as a mother and stepmother was fraught with difficulties. She recorded in her diary the anxiety and grief of trying to cope with a colicky baby, a son with epilepsy, a child dying suddenly of a respiratory illness, and a teenager deciding to leave home. Her husband’s health was failing, as well. Mr. Hutchison went to Florida for treatments at the mineral springs.
In 1834, while Susan and the children were in Amenia, NY, residing temporarily with her parents, she received word that Mr. Hutchison had died. A few months later, Susan returned to North Carolina where she continued her professional career for another decade.
In 1847, Susan retired to her hometown of Amenia, where she lived out her years, passing away in 1867. In her last years, she remained a strong voice in the Presbyterian Church, and she was highly respected in the community.
As Susan’s two older sons matured, they acquired an excellent education and became educators themselves. They graduated from Davidson College in the same class, one as valedictorian and one as salutatorian. Sylvanus became a lawyer, teacher, farmer and minister, while Ebenezer became a physician and a trustee of Davidson College.
Susan’s third son, Adam, died at age 16. Her fourth son, John, chose to go to California, rather than fight in the Civil War. Though they were all separated from her, Susan was comforted in knowing that they loved her.
Susan Nye Hutchison experienced many of the hardships that women face today. As a professional woman of courage and commitment and as a woman of faith and compassion, she remains a shining example for us today and for the generations to come.
For a more detailed account of Susan’s life, Kim Tolley’s book, Heading South to Teach, The World of Susan Nye Hutchison 1815-1845, University of NC Press, 2015, is an excellent biography about this remarkable woman. Kim Tolley is a professor at Notre Dame de Namur University in California.
Quotes from the Journal of SNH —
South Amenia and Family
19th Aug. 1818 — Attended church meeting, I fear, for the last time – bade farewell to the seat (pew) of my venerable grandparents. (Barlow)
27th – Bade farewell to my dear uncles and aunts, my mother and I drank tea with them.
28th – Houseful of company to take leave, a sad day.
29th – Bade farewell to the best of mothers, brothers and sisters and all I hold dear on earth.
2nd May 1815 – In the latitude of Cape Hatteras… the wind had risen to a tremendous hurricane …the dangerous, deathful shoals on one side, the Gulf stream on the other. I viewed death as certain.
3rd – A dead calm. Almost all sick on deck all the time, for the close cabin is more sickening….
29th July 1815 — Awakened this morning by the screeching of a female slave who was fleeing from the whip of her enraged master. … Oh how callous are the hearts of this people! … her neck torn and bloody, her eye swollen. … I live, it is said, with one of the best masters.
3rd Aug. 1815 — This evening at prayer meeting. Oh that God would pour out his spirit upon me and remove this spiritual darkness under which I labor. My mind is not at ease. …Oh appear for me, Saviour of men, take out this flinty heart of mine and give me a new heart.
10th June 1827 – The black people’s meeting in the kitchen, unusually solemn, the groans and cries of the mourners kept us awake until a very late hour.
24th June 1827 –The black people held their monthly meeting here, and it was near morning before they left the kitchen.
12th Nov. 1829 – Jenny, Mrs. Jones’ servant has confessed to setting the fire to Mrs. Walker’s stables….
28th Nov. 1829 – Went with Mrs. Jones to visit poor Jenny in her cell.
4th Dec. 1829 – Jenny was launched into eternity today, on the gallows she prayed….
8th Aug. 1831 – It was unanimously resolved by the Session (of the Presbyterian Church of Augusta, GA) that Mr. Hutchison should be suspended (from attending church)—
The whole community, both in the church and out of it, were excited against him for his conduct toward me whom all regarded as a faithful and an injured and persecuted wife.
(Separated from her two older sons for three years, they were in South Amenia and she in Georgia, S.N. Hutchison wrote)
4th July 1833 – Today if spared, my Ebenezer is 6 years old and I have rededicated him to God whom I ask to make him a missionary of the cross.
(Reunited on Nov. 16, 1833, in South Amenia, with two younger brothers to introduce to them)
17th Nov. 1833 – Sabbath at home. Today I heard my little boys read with great pleasure.
SNH on Female Education
The unfortunate impression, that the female mind is incapable of laborious study, has doubtless laid the foundation, in this country and in every other, for a system of education calculated in all its operations to produce a regard for superficial accomplishments, rather than for those solid endowments which, like unadulterated gold, retain their luster under all circumstances. That there have been, and now are, many illustrious women whose superior talents, elicited by some peculiarly favorable circumstances, have surmounted all barriers opposing their progress in science and literature, I rejoice to say….
Fees per course of study —
Conditions of Admittance and Order of Studies
1st Class: Reading, Orthography, Copy Writing, Blair’s Chatecism of common things, first rules of Arithmetic, Parley’s Geography
per Session $8.00
2nd Class: Kirkham’s English Grammar, Olney’s Geography, Writing, Composition, Arithmetic, 1st & 2nd book of History, Mrs. Phelp’s Geology
per Session $12.00
3rd Class: The Malte Brun Geography, Composition, Barrett’s Geography of the Heavens, Robbins’ Ancient & Modern History, Mrs. Lincoln’s Botony, Newmon’s Rhetoric, Rome’s Elements of Criticism, Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, Day’s Algebra, Sledge’s Logic, Conversations on Natural Philosophy & Chemistry, Mythology, Stewart’s Philosophy, Natural Theology & Evidences of Christianity
per Session $15.00
Extra Branches: Latin $4.00, French $8.00, Spanish $8.00 Drawing $8.00, Music $15.00
This information was compiled by
Elizabeth C. Strauss
Amenia Historical Society
March 3, 2017