A 19TH Century Canadian Time Capsule

A Text Book for Miss Grove’s School

As a teacher, Miss Grove didn’t simply write a story; she also taught her readers. Apart from the obvious history lessons there are other topics presented in a manner that could only have been written to teach.

Miss Grove’s Little Textbook

Reading through some of the passages below you’ll see what the general curriculum and knowledge level was for an eight to nine year old student in Halifax, 1843.

The first example is a simple math lesson when Grace needs to figure out how long it has been since Cabot sailed to Nova Scotia. Rather than simply stating that the young girl subtracted 1497 from 1843 and arrived at 346, Miss Grove described step by step the process of subtracting large numbers:


Grace ran for her slate, and when she had written down 1843, which she knew was the year in which she lived, she put 1497 under it, and then she said, ‘seven from thirteen will leave six; ten from fourteen will leave four; and fifteen from eighteen will leave three; 346 years, mamma, since Nova Scotia was discovered by the English.

Oddly, the process isn’t the same as we (North Americans) would teach our students. If we were to write the process described in the above paragraph it would read something to the affect of the following:
… borrow ten from four, replace it with three; seven from thirteen will leave six; borrow ten from the eight, replace it with seven; nine from thirteen will leave four, four from seven will leave three, and one from one will leave zero – 346 years. As you see we manipulate the 1843, where Little Grace manipulated the 1497 to arrive at the same result.


Near the end of the book there is a lesson in botany which is quite interesting. The knowledge that this eight year old character possessed prior to the lesson is very impressive when compared to today’s grade three science student’s (virtually non-existent) grasp of scientific classifications.

In discussing Nova Scotia’s flower – the Mayflower, Grace states she knows too little considering she knows so much about the lily:

I can describe the lily, because I know of what class and order it is, and that it is called Lilium, and has a bulbous root.
(She’s eight years old!)
The characters refer to a textbook on the subject “Eaton’s Botany”, and Grace is then instructed to count the stamens in the Mayflower she has picked: “Grace counted ten stamens, and told her mother she thought it belonged to the tenth class, ‘and it has only one pistil’, added she, ‘and must be in the first order’

Further study is instructed by Grace’s mother, resulting in a more in-depth view of the botanical knowledge expected of an eight year old…

Grace said each flower had two little green cups,-and her mother told her that the calyx was double, and that she and the book had agreed perfectly in their description. ‘The corolla is salver form with five partings in its spreading edge’

When Grace heard her mother say that the corolla was salver form, she pulled one out of its little green cup, and looked at its shape. ‘It’s little throat is almost choked with soft hairs, mamma’
‘Yes, that is what botanists call villose,’ said her mother.
‘And all the little stems are covered with moss and dead leaves from the fir trees.’
‘From this latter circumstance,’ said Mrs. Severn, it derives its botanical name, Epigaea repens, which means creeping upon the earth.’