Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get back to the 1800s and the Oakland Female Seminary in Hillsboro.

The seminary started in 1839 at the old Presbyterian Church, which was located at the Y intersection in Hillsboro at current day U.S. 50 and state Route 124, and in the mid-1850s moved to a new facility that was built between Main and West Walnut at Oak Street.

In 1935, a writer named Marjorie Reed penned an article that took up an entire page of a Dayton newspaper entitled “History in those Highland County hills.” In the article, she discussed, among other things, early education in the area, but she digressed for a moment to detail eight “laws” young ladies at the Oakland Female Seminary boardinghouse were expected to live by in those days.

Marjorie wrote, “Let me pause in my chronology account of the development of Hillsboro long enough to quote for your amusement eight ‘laws’ which I have read of the few remaining copies of the ‘boardinghouse’ rules of the Oakland Female Seminary. I am sure you will mentally jump the gap of more than 100 years, and compare them with college rules today. We sometimes wonder if the 18-year-old miss of the present-day college, with her ‘it’s clever to get by’ attitude, could even state eight rules laid down by authorities.”

Well, in 2022 we have to mentally jump the gap of nearly 200 years. Without further eloquence, here are the rules/laws:

No. 1: Be punctual in rising and retiring, at prayers and at meals – and all other things. One minute lost will be tardiness.

No. 2: Be economical, waste no paper or pens, take care of your books, spend no money uselessly. Keep an account of all the money you pay out, to show your parents. Use your things, and do not borrow or lend, bonnets, shawls or any thing else.

No. 3: Never be rude or boisterous, always remember you are a lady.

No. 4: Take care of your health, keep your feet dry, eat no green fruit, pencils or chalks: do not scare or tickle each other.

No. 5: Go not into each other’s rooms, nor into the kitchen. Leave the dining room as soon as you rise from the table.

No. 6: As you are away from home, it will not be proper to receive any attention, directly or indirectly, from young men, or to correspond with them, or to send or receive messages or presents. No visiting or parties or novel reading can be allowed.

No. 7: Attend Sabbath school and preaching on Sunday. Read your Bible and religious books, and refrain from ordinary amusements and studies for the day.

And No. 8: Have a place for everything, a time for everything, and do everything at the time. You will receive 10 merit marks each day – and a demerit for each violation. Young ladies are not allowed to buy anything at the stores, unless they have the money to pay for it.

Marjorie followed up the rules by writing, “It is a far step from that old educational institution to the magnificent new structure nearing completion in Hillsboro, a high school modern in every detail, though linked with the dim past through its fascinating lines of architecture. Erected at a cost of $175,000, it will be a lasting testimonial to educational progress in Hillsboro – a town set among the hills, as its name suggests, and one whose many imposing homes bespeak their inheritance of high educational standards.”

Of course, Marjorie was talking about the construction of the “old” new high school, which turned out not to be “a lasting testimonial” inasmuch as it didn’t last 100 years (closer to 75) and was torn down more than a decade ago in 2009.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time. But in the meantime, don’t eat any pencils or chalk – or tickle or scare anyone.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at [email protected]