Our Deaf Heritage


I have had the following post in draft form for several months during which time there have been some Boling, Bolling, Bowling family members discussing whether deafness and hard of hearing runs in our family.  The answer is, in fact, that there have been Boling family members who were born deaf and some of those lines that include deafness extend over to descendants of the John Randolph’s (another branch in the Bolling ancestry).  So, here’s the long and the short of my research:

Early oral education in the United States

Before the 1800s, few, if any, educational opportunities existed for deaf children in America. Some wealthy families sent their children to Europe’s schools, while others children had no access to education.[1] During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many wealthy colonists sent their deaf children to Europe to receive schooling.

[2] The best known deaf educational institution was the Braidwood Academy in Edinburgh, Scotland, established in 1760 by Thomas Braidwood as the “Academy for the Deaf and Dumb.”[3]

Braidwood Academy Edinburgh, Scotland

Braidwood Academy Edinburgh, Scotland

He first established the Academy in Bowling Green House in Hackney, London. The name of the house was changed to Grove House and again in 1799 to Pembroke House. The former Academy was continued after Braidwood’s death in 1806 by his family until c.1810. The building that housed the Academy no longer exists but was roughly located in present day No.36 Chatham Street, Hackney, London.

When Thomas Braidwood (1715-1806) first opened the deaf school in Britain in Edinburgh which in 1760, he had one deaf pupil. Braidwood’s success in developing teaching methods for deaf children led to the numbers increasing to 20 pupils by 1780. His approach was to use natural gestures rather than the oralism used elsewhere in Europe. The Braidwood’s represented deaf education for nearly half a century, however the school in Edinburgh closed and Braidwood then moved to London and established The Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Hackney.

The Children of Thomas and Elizabeth Gay Bolling

Thomas and Elizabeth Gay BollingThe Bolling family, who lived in Cobbs, Goochland, Virginia, were the most prominent colonists to send their deaf children to the Braidwood Academy.[2] Thomas Bolling and his wife Elizabeth Gay (who was also his first cousin) had three deaf children, John, Mary, and Thomas Jr., as well as at least two hearing children.[4][5] John was the first of the three children to go to the Braidwood Academy in 1771, with Mary and Thomas Jr. arriving later.[3] The three Bolling children arrived back in the United States in 1783; however, they became ill shortly after arriving home, and John died on October 11, 1783.[6] Because of John’s death upon his return to Virginia, the effectiveness of Braidwood’s 10 years of oral instruction cannot be determined.[6] However, Mary and Thomas Jr. lived for at least another four decades, and comments about Thomas Jr. noted that he was a “miracle of accomplishments.”[6]

The Children of William (son of Thomas and Elizabeth Bolling) and Mary Bolling

The next generation of hearing Bollings had deaf children, and they wanted their children to be educated in the United States.[5] William, the last child of Thomas and Elizabeth, married his first cousin Mary, who bore five children, two of whom were deaf.[5] The couple’s first deaf child, William Albert, was the impetus behind his father’s desire to create a school for the deaf in America.[5]

The Cobbs School for the Deaf

Cobbs-first school for the deaf nin AmericaWilliam Bolling met John Braidwood, tutor of Bolling’s two deaf children and a descendant of Thomas Braidwood, after he arrived in America in 1812.[5][7] Bolling invited Braidwood to stay in his home as Braidwood sorted out a more permanent living arrangement.[7] Braidwood discussed with Bolling his desire to open a school similar to the Braidwood Academy in America.[7] After many setbacks, the Cobbs School was established in 1815 with John Braidwood as teacher.[8][9]  The first deaf school in the United States was short-lived and closed in the fall of 1816.[10]

References

  1. Marschark, Marc; Lang, Harry G; Albertini, John A. (2002).Educating Deaf Students. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 26.
  2. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  3. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  4. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  5. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  6. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  7. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  8. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. pp. 33–36. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  9. Crouch, Barry A.; Greenwald, Brian H. (2007). “Hearing with the Eye: The Rise of Deaf Education in the United States”. In Van Cleve, John Vickrey. The Deaf History Reader (Anthology). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-56368-359-6.
  10. Camp, Ted. “Deaf Timelines: History and   Heritage”, http://www.silentwordministries.org, Jan. 2011; Loth, Calder, ed. Virginia Landmarks Register, 4th edition, Univ. of Va. Press, 1999.

Silent Worker Logo

The Silent Worker was a popular national newspaper among the deaf population of the United States during the end of the 1890’s through the end of the first quarter of the 20th century. Originally known as the Deaf Mute Times, it was first published in February 1888 and renamed The Silent Worker on September 27 of the same year. The New Jersey School for the Deaf continued its publication monthly, except for July, August, and periodically September until it ceased in June 1929. Deaf American authors wrote almost all articles, although occasional contributions by deaf individuals from other countries were also printed. Gallaudet University Archives has converted their collection of The Silent Worker from 1888 to 1929 into digital format, and made it available on the World Wide Web for public research.

Below is an unabridged article that appeared in The Silent Worker vol. 38 no. 5 (February  1916) that tells the story of the Bollings and their efforts to educate their deaf children in America:

Early Attempts to Educate the Deaf
By: Richard O. Johnson in the Indianapolis News

Source:

The Silent Worker vol. 38 no. 5 (February  1916)

Subjects:

Braidwood Academy
Schools – Deaf

People:

Wilson, Mrs. Woodrow
Bolling, Edith
Bolling, William
Pocahontas
Rolfe, Jane
Bolling, Robert
Bolling, Thomas
Bolling, John
Bolling, Mary
Gallaudet, Thomas H.
Cogswell, Mason Fitch

Digital format:

image/jpeg

Repository:

University Archives, Gallaudet University

Mrs. Norman R. Galt of Washington, DC, now Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, was Miss Edith Bolling,

First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson

First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson

Col Robert Thomas Bolling

a daughter of Judge William [Holcombe] Bolling of Wytheville, Va. and a lineal descendant of Pocahontas, the Indian maid and princess through the Rolfe and Bolling line.  The Bollings of ancient English stock and wealth as far back as the War of the Roses had their seat at Bolling Hall, in Yorkshire.  The first American representative was Robert Bolling [1646-1709, my 8th great grandfather], who married Jane Rolfe, the granddaughter of Pocahontas, her father John having been born and reared in England, but returning to American and mating with a Virginia maid.

Major Thomas Bolling

Major Thomas Bolling

Two generations later Major Thomas Bolling, of Goochland County, Virginia, had three deaf children: John, Mary and Thomas (sixth in line from Pocahontas), all three having been born deaf.  These children were sent at ages of ten (1771), ten and nine (1773), respectively, to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be educated in a special school for the death conducted by the Braidwoods.  They returned to Virginia following the Revolutionary War, in 1783, having “received abroad a good education and, in addition thereto, had been taught to speak intelligently and to read speech from the mouths of others.”None of the three were ever married and they died aged, respectively, twenty-two, sixty-one and seventy.  These three children have the distinction of being the first deaf children of American to be educated.  In addition to these, Major Bolling had another son, William (1777-1845), who possessed hearing and, of course, speech, and who may have had other hearing-speaking brothers, as he certainly had hearing-speaking sisters, who married into well-known families in the states.  This son, Colonel William Bolling as he was later known, “as a man of large affairs and of sterling worth, of broad and liberal views, a philanthropist and a patriot—and, of course, a Virginian with Virginia pride; and it was through his agency that the first private school for the Deaf in America (taught by a young member of the Braidwood family, and giving attention to speech was opened in 1812 at Cobbs near Petersburg, Va.  William Bolling’s initial interest was because of his brothers and sisters, but enhanced later by a deaf son, William Albert, and a deaf daughter, Mary, born to himself and wife, the latter, I believe a Randolph connected with John Randolph, of Roanoke, and fame.  These two children have the distinction of being the first deaf children of America to be educated in their own country.  William Albert had a deaf cousin, St. George Tucker Randolph, a nephew of John Randolph, of Roanoke, who seems to have attended school in Edinburgh, later going to a school in Paris.  Attending school with William Albert Bolling was George Richard Lee Turberville, also deaf, a grandson of Richard Henry Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Really, the first attempt in America to teach speech to the deaf was made by Philip Nelson, in the neighborhood of Rowley, Massachusetts, nearly 250 years ago in 1672.  Just what his success, is unknown, but it was during those disgracefully malicious and inquisitional days of witchcraft when a successful oral teacher would have been hanged or pressed to death.  It is quite probably that there was neither much effort nor success.

Mr. Nelson, however, had trouble growing out of whatever effort there was for the “narrow-minded and fanatical ministers of the neighborhood” were called to investigate him and the boy, who it was claimed, had been taught (bewitched) by him.  The boy was interrogated closely, probably by “third degree” methods of the present day, “but there he stood,” says the church records, “like a deaf and dumb boy as he was—they could not make him hear, nor could he speak.” And thus it was that Mr. Nelson, “who pretended,” it is alleged, “to cure a deaf and dumb boy in imitation of our Saviour by saying epithats,” was saved from the clutch of the infamous frenzy of the day.

Thomas_and_Alice,_Gallaudet_University

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell.

6 thoughts on “Our Deaf Heritage

  1. Joanne,

    See Major Thomas Bolling you wrote the article in which the part needs to be corrected. Your paragraph is “These children were sent at ages of ten (1771), ten and nine (1773), respectively, to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be educated in a special school for the death conducted by the Braidwoods”.

    Scotland, to be educated in a special school for the death. Death? Typo?

    Need to change from death to deaf.

    Thanks, Gloria

    Like

  2. My greatest grandfather is Benjamin Bolling 1734-1832 father of Reverend Jesse Bolling. He seems to fall in the came out of the blue group. Has anyone found his father?

    Like

  3. Pingback: Our Deaf Heritage, Part 2 | Our Heritage: 12th Century & Beyond

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