May 24, 1830: Mary Had a Little Lamb Published

Mary Sawyer was born in 1806.  The daughter of a farmer who lived near Sterling, Massachusetts, in March of 1816 she became close to a lamb who had been rejected by her mother.  At age 83 she wrote about the incident.

I went out to the barn with father; and after the cows had been fed, we went to the sheep pen, and found two lambs which had been born in the night. One had been forsaken by its mother, and through neglect, cold and lack of food was nearly dead. I saw it had still a little life, and asked to take it into the house; but father said, No, it was almost dead, anyway, and at the best could live but a short time. But I couldn’t bear to see the poor little thing suffer, so I teased until I got it into the house. Then I worked upon mother’s sympathies. At first the little creature could not swallow, and the catnip tea mother made it could not take for a long time.

I got the lamb warm by wrapping it in an old garment and holding it in my arms beside the fireplace. All day long I nursed the lamb, and at night it could swallow just a little. Oh, how pleased I was! But even then I wasn’t sure it would live; so I sat up all night with it, fearing it wouldn’t be warm enough if there was not someone at hand to look out for its comfort. In the morning, much to my girlish delight, it could stand; and from that time it improved rapidly. It soon learned to drink milk; and from the time it would walk about, it would follow me anywhere if I only called it.

One day the lamb was following Mary as she and her brother walked to school:

The day the lamb went to school, I hadn’t seen her before starting off; and not wanting to go without seeing her, I called. She recognized my voice, and soon I heard a faint bleating far down the field. More and more distinctly I heard it, and I knew my pet was coming to greet me. My brother Nat said, “Let’s take the lamb to school with us.”

At school the lamb was wrapped in a blanket and tucked away at Mary’s feet.  All went well until the lamb let out a bleat.  The teacher laughed at discovering this new pupil and had the lamb wait outside until class was concluded.  The lamb lived to be four years old and had three ewes of her own.

Visiting the classroom that day was John Roulstone who was preparing for college and who the next day gave to Mary a poem:

Mary had a little lamb,
His fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

On May 24, 1830 Sarah Josepha Hale, who would successfully later campaign for the creation of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, go here to read about it, published the familiar poem on the long ago incident:

Mary had a little lamb;
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out;
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on May 24, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 24, 1830: Mary Had a Little Lamb Published  
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