Friday, March 4, 2011

The History of Our Schools: Flora M. Clark School

Flora M. Clark (formerly Forest Street) School, Forest Street, Middleborough,
MA, photograph, c. 1900.
During the 1930s, a series of short informal histories of the various Middleborough school houses were compiled by J. Stearns Cushing, Superintendent of Middleborough Schools from 1927 until 1955.  Mr. Cushing prepared these histories for publication as a series in the Middleboro Gazette beginning on February 24, 1933.  With information culled largely from town reports, the series entitled "The History of Our Schools" sought to provide the community with a better understanding of the past history of its public school buildings.  In the coming days, Recollecting Nemasket will republish several of Cushing's short histories transcribed from the Superintendent's original copy and notes.  Today's installment features the schoolhouse which presently houses the offices of the Middleborough School Department and which was formerly the Flora M. Clark School and still earlier the Forest Street School at the corner of Forest and Frank Streets.  The article originally appeared in the Middleboro Gazette on June 16, 1933.

Forest Street School

In the town meeting of 1899 the School Committee called the attention of the citizens to the overcrowded condition in the one elementary school in the center as the Union Street building was far to small for the number of pupils then attending.  The condition was discussed in that town meeting and after long deliberation it was finally voted to build a new schoolhouse on Forest Street.

A special committee was appointed to put the vote into effect.  This committee consisted of the following members: George H. Shaw, M. H. Cushing, D. D. Sullivan, J. Addison Shaw, Arthur H. Leonard, Fred C. Sparrow, John C. Sullivan, W. A. Andrews, and W. C. Litchfield.  Subsequently this committee chose a sub-committee consisting of J. Addison Shaw, John C. Sullivan, and Fred C. Sparrow to attend to the details of the work.

The report of 1900 tells us the following story.  "The building, after plans drawn by Hiram Whittemore, is a one-story wooden structure 44x57 feet, and contains two schoolrooms, each 28x32 feet, two small teacher's rooms, a large entrance hall in front with coat and hat rooms, and a small entrance in the rear."

"The school rooms are well lighted. The windows are massed on two sides of each room, making possible the seating of the rooms in such a way as to admit the light from the left and rear of the pupils.  The color of the walls is a light green and the ceilings are white.  Each schoolroom is furnished with Eclipse adjustable desks and seats.  Abundant blackboard surface is provided."

"The basement contains two furnaces and fuel and toilet rooms.  Part of it is available for playrooms on stormy days.  The exterior walls as the roof are shingled, and are stained moss green.  The trimmings are white."

"The building is well adapted for school purposes, and forms a notable addition to the best schoolhouses in town.  Much credit is due to the committee who had the building in charge for the good results obtained."

This building was ready for occupancy at the beginning of the winter term in 1900.  Both rooms were occupied and all pupils in the first to grades between the westerly side of Pearl Street and the railroad went to this building.

There have been only three Principals in the building during its thirty-three years of service.  Lizzie B. Lucas was the first in 1899-1900, A. Belle Tenney from 1900-1906, and Flora M. Clark from1906-1933.

The death of Miss Clark during the past school year has saddened the hearts of many and it would seem proper to include in this history the resolutions passed by the School Committee at its last meeting.

Resolution on the Death of Flora M. Clark

Once more the shadows have passed over our school year due to the death of one of our beloved leaders and teachers.  Flora M. Clark died on May 6th at her home on Forest Street.  Her going was sudden and therefore a distinct shock to her host of friends and pupils.

She has gone from us all but like all truly great teachers she has left an influence that shall always remain.  For thirty-one years she has poured out her goodness and character to the little children entrusted to her care.  For twenty-six years she has bee Principal of the school she loved so well and to which she devoted her energies and had dedicated her life.

Character, goodness, tenderness, cheerfulness, loveliness, thoughtfulness, love, all were outstanding qualities in a truly Christian life.  Few teachers have left such powers of lasting love i the hearts of their pupils as she.  The strength of the parent organization in the school, the membership of which is made up not only of the parents of the present pupils but of former pupils themselves, was an indication of he devotion of those to whom she had ministered.

In respect of the memory of Flora M. Clark, whose teaching here is o'er and who has gone to meet the Great Teacher of us all, be it resolved that these sentences be inscribed upon the records of the School Committee and that a copy be sent to the family of the deceased to whom at this time of great bereavement the heartfelt sympathy of the Committee is sincerely tendered.

Allen R. Thatcher, Chairman
Priscilla S. Alger
Kendrick H. Washburn
Fred B. Alger
Forest E. Thomas
Dr. R. G. Butler

In 1935, two years after Superintendent Cushing compiled the above history, he presented an address on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Forest Street School which was renamed in Miss Clark's memory.

Parents and Friends:

Thirty-five years ago the School Committee of that year called the attention of the citizens of the town to the over-crowded condition then existing in the elementary schools at the Center.  After the usual town meeting discussion it was voted that a building be built on Forest Street to relieve the situation.  This is the building.

A special committee was appointed, the plans dawn by Hiram Whittemore, the building erected under the direction of J. Addison Shaw, John C. Sullivan, and Fred C. Sparrow, and turned over to the School Committee ready for occupancy at the beginning of the Winter term in 1900.

It is however not because this is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the building of this place of learning, but rather because of the fact that for thirty of those years it was occupied and supervised by one whose charm and personality caused her to be loved by young and old, that we are now here assembled.

During these thirty years nine hundred and eighty of our children came under her tender care, were mentally nourished, physically cared for,and spiritually taught.  Many of you here were in this group that were fortunate enough to begin their school life under such a leader.  Nothing we may do here nor nothing we may say here in tribute, can too highly extol her virtues.

The passing of a child from her grade to an advanced step in education did not lessen her great interest in that child.  She followed her children through their school life and their life career, ever ready to help and share their burdens.  During the last year of her life she came to me and asked permission to copy from the rolls of the last thirty years, the names of all children who had been in her classes.  This was a tremendous task but she wished to list them all that she might place against their names their station in life, their success and their failures.  Her interest was still in those she called "he children".

The Parent organization of the school became her particular joy.  Here and through this medium she could keep in close touch with both former pupils and the parents of those then under her keeping.  She laboured hard that this organization might succeed and it is most fitting and proper that we do here today express our sincere and heartfelt appreciation.

The name Flora M. Clark will always be remembered by those whose fortune has been to know her and to love her, and no insignia, plate, or memorial need be erected to perpetuate her memory.  Your act of today however give[s] outward expression of the esteem and gratitude in which her memory is held.

Cushing concluded the address by reading the resolution passed by the Middleborough School Committee upon the death of Miss Clark in 1933.

Cushing, J. Stearns.  "The History of Our Schools: Forest Street School".  Photostatic copy of original manuscript, 1932-33.  Author's collection.


Anonymous said...

I lived diaginally across the street from this school during the late 80's. My dad remarried and moved into the house with his wife Beth (Standish) Mclean. The school at that time was not used

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