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Writings and Musings of a 19th Century Schoolteacher

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC-A novella by J.A.Willoughby Read the reviews:




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"This book affords a teacher the opportunity to reach out and give the reader one last history lesson - from someone who was there."

Miss Catharine A. 'Katie' McCracken was a teacher who taught in one-room schools in Montour County Pennsylvania from 1859-1877. The schools offered grades 1-8, and boys and girls were taught separately. The seven schools at which she taught were located miles from each other. One can only imagine the children walking to school in knee-deep snow in the cold northeast climate, carrying books, along with  firewood for the classroom's stove. Or Katie traveling by horse and buggy from one school to the next on dirt back roads in the rural countryside.


But this book isn't a look at their lives from the outside. It is a look at the mind of a 19th century educator, a person who saw her growing country divided, literally fighting for unification, and the pain and frustration that caused for a single, young woman who was in political opposition to the nation's president. For solace, she composed and copied poems that spoke to her. The poems written in the pages of her attendance record book were about friendship, love, grief and longing - all very compassionate human qualities.


Though she disagreed with Abraham Lincoln's political views, she did support the troops, wanted victory for the Union, and healing for the nation, including in her book, a poem, "Union War Song" to the local company of 'men in blue', The Iron Guards of Bloomsburg PA, who in 1861 were stationed in Washington to protect the city.    

She was also a dedicated community figure, observing and documenting the smallest of details in her immediate surroundings; local births and deaths, community events, and when the time came on April 14, 1865, a personal note on the assassination of the president, and fate of his assassins.


"J.A. Willoughby offers historical insights that gives the reader a perspective on the time in which Katie lived as well as comparison and commentary on the Age of Invention to our own Information Age. He also provides current photos of the schools at which she taught as well as scans of the actual pen and ink handwriting from her ledger." - From the book's back cover.  


"A young, professional woman is not a supporter of the president or his policies, which she believes have unnecessarily divided the country. Her disappointment is made clear by entries in a journal she keeps at work. Sounds like today, right?


Except it's the 1860's; the young woman is a teacher giving vent to her frustration not on social media, but in her student attendance books, and the president who worries her isn't Donald Trump, it's Abraham Lincoln.


Talk about timing: Jeff Willoughby of Danville could not have picked a more uncannily parallel moment to publish his most recent book, "Gone But Not Forgotten." It's based on journals kept by Catharine "Katie" McCracken, who presided over one-room schools in and around Danville from 1859-1877. If you agree that learning about the troubles faced by our forbears is a good way to gain much-needed perspective on those we're facing today, this is a must-read." Given: a Rose, "Roses and Thorns," Opinion Page, May 13, 2018 Press-Enterprise, Bloomsburg PA, James P. Sachetti, Editor.                        


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