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Posted on November 19, 2021 at 1:30 PM by Melissa Dalton
This week, we thought it would be interesting to highlight a woman who was well-known in Yellow Springs. Our feature was an Antioch graduate, and devoted her life to the education of children in Greene, Warren, and Clark counties. Today, we would like to introduce you to Cosmelia Hirst.
Cosmelia Hirst was born on April 13, 1834 to Eli Pierpoint and Hannah Janney Hirst of Loudon County, VA. Her ancestors were English and Welsh Quakers, and she was related to Thomas Janney, who came to America with William Penn (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Quakers of Goose Creek Monthly Meeting, VA, 1834 (Ancestry.com)
Cosmelia and her sister, Cornelia, came to Yellow Springs in 1854 to attend the newly founded Antioch College. Roughly a year later, her parents and two brothers, Thomas and John, also moved to Yellow Springs, and the boys enrolled at Antioch as well (Fig 2).
Fig 2. Antioch College Student List from 1869 (Ancestry.com)
Cosmelia is best known for her work in education. She was educated under Horace Mann, a man who argued that good public education was necessary for the populace. Miss Hirst embraced this philosophy, and was a staunch advocate and worked tirelessly to offer good public education for her community, especially since so many had little opportunity for quality education (Fig 3). This drive is witnessed even in the census records, which indicate that from 1870 through 1900, Cosmelia continued working as a teacher (Fig 4).
Fig 3. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette of Hirst reappointed as primary educator in Yellow Springs Schools, date 1 Jun 1892 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 4. 1880 Census with Hirst family outlined (Ancestry.com)
Not only did Cosmelia have a passion for education, but she loved the beauty of life and the natural world. After retirement, she also found joy in genealogy research and local history. According to her obituary, she wrote two genealogies and many historical articles. One such example of her local history articles is from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 1, 1923 (Fig 5). In this article, Miss Hirst wrote a history of “Little Antioch”.
Fig 5. Passing of Unique Greene County Landmark, “Little Antioch” Recalls Quaint History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 1 Jun 1923 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Cosmelia had a close family. As she and her sister, Cornelia, never married, they lived together their entire lives. They actually resided in a double house, and their brother, Thomas, along with his family, lived in the other half. In 1916, Cornelia died after a short illness (noted as grippe, now known as influenza), which caused a stroke, resulting in her death (Fig 6).
Fig 6. Aged Woman Dies at Yellow Springs, Xenia Daily Gazette, 1 Feb 1916 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Even into old age, Cosmelia remained active in the Yellow Springs community and with Antioch College. In 1921, she was invited to speak at Antioch College’s 125th birthday celebration of Horace Mann, the first president of the college and Hirst’s mentor (Fig 7). In 1927, at the age of 93, Miss Hirst also participated in a play “Horace Mann” which was part of the commencement ceremony at Antioch College.
Fig 7. Antioch College Will Celebrate Mann’s Birthday, Dayton Daily News, 3 May 1921 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Cosmelia Hirst died on November 14, 1928 at the age of 94. At the time of her death, she was the oldest surviving graduate of Antioch College. Upon her death, she had four surviving heirs, three nieces and a nephew. In her will, she left her nephew $300 and her nieces were to get any household goods they would like (Fig 8).
Fig 8. Last Will and Testament of Cosmelia Hirst, Probate Court Will Record No. 2 (Greene County Archives)
Cosmelia lived a life full of love, compassion, and vigor, and her memory and legacy continue to live on in Greene County.
Until Next Time.
Greene County Archives
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