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Annabella Giles Norwood


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At a Glance

Annabella Giles Norwood was one of three Hillsborough, NC sisters who attended the Burwell School [1].


Annabella Giles Norwood and her younger sisters, Robina Norwood  and Margaret Yonge Norwood , were students at the Burwell School. They were the daughters of John Wall Norwood and Annabella Giles. Their grandparents were Judge William Norwood and Robina Hogg Norwood of Poplar Hill Plantation in Orange County, NC, and William Giles and Anabella Fleming Giles of St. James Parish, Wilmington, NC.

Annabella Norwood, who developed into a delightful and lovable girl, pretty and charming, apparently entered the Burwell School when she was but a child as one of its first students. Her sisters Robina Norwood  and Margaret Yonge Norwood , born in 1835 and 1838, came along proportionately later. It is rather surprising that the Norwood girls attended the Burwell School at all, for their grandmother, Mrs. Robina Hogg Norwood, deeply disapproved of Mrs. Burwell's (Margaret Anna Robertson) practice of using Milton's Paradise Lost simply for parsing.

Bell Norwood, however, seems to have been a well-adjusted Burwell girl. The W.N. Tillinghast Papers contain a dozen of her newsy, bright letters to her Tillinghast cousins about activities at the school. She wrote to her cousin William N. Tillinghast in Fayetteville, NC on January 26, 1846:

They have sixty-nine scholars in the Caldwell Institute. Mrs. Burwell Margaret Anna Robertson has only fourteen scholars and only two of them that do not reside in this place; they are Professor Mitchell (Elisha Mitchell) and Dr. George Moore's daughters.

The streets of Hillsboro' are nothing but mud...I might say a foot deep. The stage drivers say they never saw the roads in such a state but once before....I see nothing but books from morning 'til night. I rise early in the morning and get my lessons, go to school at nine and that is directly after breakfast these times. On Tuesdays & Thursdays after school I take my drawing lessons. On Mondays and Wednesdays after school I write my composition for the next day. Friday evenings we have a working society so you see I don't have much spare time.

On January 18, 1847, she commented wryly to William N. Tillinghast about Prof. Bingham's (William Bingham) sending her cousin Eliza to the Edgeworth Female Seminary in Greensboro, NC,  " who has always been so much opposed to boarding schools as her father to send her to one."

You have no idea how very literary Hillsborough (Hillsborough, NC) has become, & if the coming generation are not all able to spell, read & write, it will not be because there are no schools in the place, their being only ten....

On June 14, 1847, she mentioned the social events at the end of the session:

The young people here have been quite gay for the last month; we had four parties. You know Dr. Wilson and Mrs. Burwell (Margaret Anna Robertson) do not like their scholars to attend parties during the session, but at the last part of it we always manage to get round them.

A month later, on July 13, 1847, she relayed the news of the new session:

Mrs. Burwell will have quite a large school for Hillsboro' (Hillsborough, NC). She is looking for Martha Williams  every day. Susan Webb (Susan A. Webb ) (I expect you saw her down at Uncle Bingham's) is going to her (Mrs. Burwell) and boards here. She is a very stout girl & quite a pleasant companion for me. So I'll recommend her to you. You must come up and see her.

I shall now have as much as I can possibly do for I am going to take drawing & French lessons from Mr. Martino (Antonio di Martino, Mrs. Burwell's (Margaret Anna Robertson) music teacher. He takes Daguereotype likenesses & can take his Camera Obscura & double it up so as not to contain more space than a square foot; he will then take the legs & fix them so that they can be used as a walking stick & goes about & takes views. Mr. B (Robert Burwell intends taking him on the  "Indian Hill"  to take that beautiful view.

An undated letter (1849?) from Bell, as she had begun to sign herself, describes a Christmas vacation:

What kind of Christmas have you spent? I dont believe I ever knew one to pass more heavily. I was by myself & was not very well. Last Tuesday I spent at Miss Carry Heartt's (Caroline Heartt), Wednesday at Mr. Burwell's (Robert Burwell) & Thursday at Grandma's & by that time I was pretty well worn out. I attended a dance Monday evening at Col. Jones' (Cadwallader Jones, [Jr.]) as Miss Sally (Sally Rebecca Jones ) is spending her Christmas Holiday at home. I was too good a Presbyterian to dance as you might know, but enjoyed myself very much as spectator. We had two parties at the end of the Session both of which I attended---There are very few girls in Hillsboro' (Hillsborough, NC) at this time & no gentlemen that I know of except a few Chapel Hill, NC students...

Annabella's school years, indeed most of her life, were shadowed by her mother's terrible illness, which involved excruciating pain so great that it drove Mrs. Norwood (Annabella Giles) to long periods of insanity. Sometime in 1848 or 1849, another cousin, young Benjamin Robinson Huske of Fayetteville, NC, met Annabella. Benjamin Robinson Huske took an AB at the University of North Carolina in 1850, opened a successful school for boys in Hillsborough, NC, and on December 4, 1851, married Annabella at Poplar Hill Plantation in Orange County, NC. The next few years were undoubtedly the brightest and happiest of Annabella's life. The young Huskes had four children.

Maj. Benjamin Robinson Huske of the 48th N.C. Troops was mortally wounded in an engagement near Petersburg, VA and died of erysipelas near Richmond, VA on July 15, 1862. Annabella with four small children to support returned to live at Poplar Hill Plantation in Orange County, NC [1].

Biographical Data

Annabella was called Bell.

Important Dates

Annabella Giles Norwood was born on July 2, 1831. She died on May 29, 1914, and was buried in Old Town Cemetery in Hillsborough, NC.

Places of Residence

Schools Attended




  1. Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).