The Franklin School on Concord Ave. about 1925
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Names of old Chester Schools and their namesakes
GRAHAM SCHOOL – On the completion of the Larkin School in 1895 and its appropriation of the name formerly borne by the building on Eleventh Street, the directors gave to the latter building the name of Dr. F. Ridgeley Graham.
Dr. Graham like Drs. Harvey and Starr, was one of the small but remarkable group of physicians who have contributed so much to the intellectual wellbeing of Chester and the success of her schools. He was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1836 and died at Chester, January 27th, 1895. He was a graduate of Amherst College, Mass., and of Jefferson Medical College, paying for his education by his own efforts. The intellectual tastes thus attested he maintained to the end. He was a prominent and influential member of the old Chester Institute of Science, served as a School director from 1872 to 1875, and from 1876 to 1879, and was always interested in every movement tending toward the literary and intellectual advancement of the community. Having no children of his own, he bestowed his regard on all children, who came into contact with him. Many young men now living in Chester can recall their rides with Dr. Graham on his professional visits.
Dr. Graham was a man of marked individuality, outspoken and fearless in every question pertaining to the public good. His sterling honesty and simple sincerity combined with his genial and generous disposition, made him a man to whom was given the utmost respect.
MARTIN SCHOOL – Dr. William Martin, for whom the Martin School is named was born in Philadelphia, September 2, 1765. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1736 with a degree of Doctor of Medicine. He practiced in Georgetown, Va. for over a year, and in 1783 came to Chester, where he was almost at once elected Chief Burgess. In April 1789, when Washington passed through the town on his way to New York to be inaugurated first President of the United States, Dr. Martin delivered the address of welcome to the President-elect. His office as Chief Burgess gave him a place on the county benches; he acquired a fondness for law, read, and was admitted to the Delaware County Bar in April, 1796. For a short time he practiced both as a physician and an attorney.
In the “Aurora” of December 31, 1794, appeared an article from Dr. Martin’s pen, in which he advocated the establishment of public schools, supported by an annual tax, for the pupils of the district in which the schools should be located. This is the first suggestion in our State annals of the advisability of a system of free public education, such as now obtains, and it was largely in recognition of this fact that the school Board, in 1888, called its newest building the “Martin School.”
Dr. Martin died a victim to yellow fever in September, 1798, at the early age of thirty-three, and lies buried in St. Paul’s churchyard.
Dr. William Martin’s son, William, whose portrait hangs in the principal’s room at the Martin School, was for a long time one of the most eminent citizens of Chester, and well worthy to bear his father’s name.
POWELL SCHOOL – Henry Lemuel Powell, whose name is borne by the Powell School, was born in Odessa, Delaware, November 5, 1809 – the birth year of Gladstone, Darwin and Lincoln. He died at his residence in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, 1897. He came to Chester at the age of nine in 1818. At this date, ninety years ago, Chester had a population of six hundred. Nine years later in April 1827, Rev. John F. Watson of Philadelphia, visited Chester, “to view the remains of that distinguished town.”
Mr. Powell, however, was one of those who helped to resuscitate the “remains.” He was a manufacturer of boots and shoes, a builder and renter of homes, and an owner and operator of extensive quarries.
Mr. Powell was an earnest advocate of the public school law of 1834, and is said to have been a member of the first Board of Directors ever chosen in Chester, soon after the passage of the above act. In 1852 the records show he was elected Chief Burgess of the borough of Chester.
He was a director in North Chester Borough school District from 1873 to 1875, from 1877 to 1879, and from 1882 to 1887. From 1872 to 1875 and again from 1883 to 1887 he served as president of the Board.
A crayon portrait of Mr. Powell hangs in the principal’s room at the school.
JOHN WETHERILL SCHOOL – John Wetherill, for whom the Oak Grove School was re-named in 1905, was born in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, December 16, 1834. The family moved to Chester Township in 1843, occupying the old house still standing on the west side of Twenty-Fourth street. At this time the borough of Chester extended from the river to the P. W. & B. Railroad, and from Chester Creek to Ridley Creek. On his marriage he took up his residence in the two-story frame house on the other side of the street, within the limits of the present borough of Upland, and while residing here was elected a member of the first borough Council. On his father’s death soon after he removed to the old residence across the street, and was elected a member of the first borough Council of North Chester. In 1879 he entered the School Board of the borough of North Chester, and remained a member till the annexation of the borough in 1883, when he entered the Chester School Board, remaining aw member until 1902. During this period he was a member and chairman of many important committees, including the chairmanship of the Building Committee of the Lincoln and George Jones Schools.
It is the wish of all the friends of Mr. Wetherill that he may be permitted to enjoy many more years of a well-spent life.
GARTSIDE SCHOOL – Benjamin Gartside, whose name the Gartside School bears, was long a prominent manufacturer in Chester, doing business on ground near the site of the school, and residing on Second Street, between Concord Avenue and Franklin. He was born in Rockdale, Lancashire, England, May 26, 1794 and died at Chester, February 12, 1885. His business in Chester was begun in 1852, and continued till his death. During his long residence in Chester. Mr. Gartside was actively identified with its growth and prosperity. The records show that he was elected a school director in 1860, and again in 1863. A crayon portrait of Mr. Gartside, presented by the family, hangs in the assembly room of the school.
FRANKLIN SCHOOL – Benjamin Franklin for whom the Franklin School is named, is by common consent one of the greatest of Americans and one of the few great men of all time. He was born at Boston, January 17, 1706, and died at Philadelphia, April 17, 1790. Coming to Philadelphia a poor friendless boy, he raised himself by industry, foresight and character to the foremost rank among his countrymen. His services are too many to recite in brief compass. He organized our postal service long before the Revolution; he procured the repeal of the Stamp Act while agent for the colonies in England; he was on the committee that prepared the Declaration of Independence; he secured the treaty of alliance with France, by which our independence was finally won; he was one of the three plenipotentiaries who signed the treaty of peace with England; he was a distinguished member of the convention that framed the present government of the United Stated, and had not his age prevented, he would have been prominent in the government of the action he had done, so much to create. His demonstration of the electrical character of lightning is a familiar fact of history. Himself a student, he was always interested in study and the dissemination of knowledge. He was eminently the founder of the University of Pennsylvania. The State now called Tennessee was once named for him, and to this day the names of towns, institutions, corporations and individuals attest the respect and honor in which his memory is held by millions of his countrymen.
PATTERSON SCHOOL –General Robert Paterson, whose name is borne by the Patterson School, was borne at Cappagh County Tyrone, Ireland in 1792. He came to American in 1798, and finally settled in Philadelphia. His military service began in the war of 1812 from which he emerged with a captain’s commission. In the Mexican War he was appointed a major general of volunteers and rendered efficient service at Cerro Gordo. In 1861 he was again appointed a major general of volunteers, and in this capacity, organized the first troops mustered in Pennsylvania. His withdrawal from service was occasioned by his failure to detain Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and his troops in the Valley of Virginia and keep them from joining General Beauregard on the battlefield of Bull Run. For this failure, which resulted in the loss of the battle, General Patterson was severely criticized, but he never admitted the truth of the charges, and in 1865 published a vigorous defense. General Patterson died in 1881, at an advanced age. He never resided in Chester, but is well known to all for his connection with the Patterson Mills.
HOWELL SCHOOL – The records of the school Board show that at first this school, like several others, was called by the name of the street and known as the Howell Street School. The streets in that immediate vicinity, with the exception of Broomall Street, were named by Hon. John M. Broomall in honor of persons or families of local repute.
Genealogical records at the rooms of the Pennsylvania Historical Society disclose conflicting evidence. Mr. Granville Leech, an eminent authority, shows no Howells near than Chichester township; on the other hand, an account in the American Historical Register, Vol. VII, if reliable, establishes the existence of a Jacob Howell, who was for over sixty years a leading citizen of Chester, a minister of the Society of Friends, and an owner of property on Edgmont Avenue. Mr. Ashmead states, however, that Judge Broomall told him that the name was bestowed in honor of the family, and not of any particular individual.
There was certainly at one time a Howell family of note residing somewhere in the vicinity. Judge Broomall named the street for them, and the school took the name of the street.
DEWEY SCHOOL – Admiral George Dewey, for whom the Dewey School is named, was born at Montpellier, Vermont on Christmas night 1837. He graduated from Annapolis in 1858, standing fifth in a class of sixteen. April 18, 1867 he was commissioned a lieutenant and in that capacity was with Farragut at New Orleans Port Hudson and Mobile. His victory at Manila, May 1, 1893 and his subsequent career are too recent and well-known to be recounted here.
HORACE MANN SCHOOL – Horace Mann (1796-1859_ was our greatest American educational reformer. After practicing law for fourteen years, and presiding for one year over the State Senate of Massachusetts, he closed his office, and as secretary of the newly-organized Board of Education began devoting his life to the educational welfare off the State. Much of this time for the twelve years of his secretary ship was spent in going about the State, addressing all kinds of gatherings on the need of efficient public education. The first normal school in the United States was founded through his efforts in 1839 in the historic town of Lexington. In 1843 he was sent to Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Quincy Adams. In 1852 he was offered two honors on the same day – one the governorship of Massachusetts, the other the presidency of a newly founded college in Ohio. As might have been expected, he chose the latter, and was President of Antioch College till his death.
Horace Mann was the foremost pioneer in the great educational movement in the midst of which we are still living.
THURLOW SCHOOL – The Thurlow School is named for John J. Thurlow, who after nearly eighty years of active life, ended his days on a farm in the vicinity.
Mr. Thurlow was born in Essex County, England, February 1, 1785 and died in Chester, May 15, 1867. He came to America in 1819 and to Chester in 18232. During most of his life in Delaware County he was a hotel proprietor, but his business activities were chiefly those of a contractor. He was the builder of eleven and one-half miles of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroad.
CLAYTON SCHOOL – The Clayton School bears the same of the late Judge Clayton, whose career as President Judge of the courts of Delaware County is still fresh in the recollection of every one.
Judge Clayton was born in Bethel Township, January 20, 1826. He was the oldest of four brothers, all of whom possessed unusual force of character and became more or less eminent. Thomas J. Clayton was admitted to the bar of his native county November 14, 1851, at the first session held in Media. His practice ads a lawyer, however, was chiefly in Philadelphia. In 1874 he was first elected Judge as an independent candidate and again in 1884 and 1894 as the Republican candidate. He exhibited conspicuous ability on the bench and his decisions were seldom overruled by the higher courts.
Judge Clayton was a director of the District of the Borough of South Chester from 1872 to 1874, and resided for over thirty years near the site off the school which bears his name. He died January 30, 1900 and is buried in the old cemetery in his native township.
MCCAY SCHOOL – Robert McCay, 2nd, whose name the McCay School bears, was the son of Robert and Rachel Collett McCay. He was born in Concord Township on July 10, 1783. His father and grandfather fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War. In March, 1812, he bought property on one hundred and seventeen acres at Carterville, Chester Township. Five years later he built an addition to the house standing on the property and brought his family to live there.
In early life he was a contractor and builder, but gave that up to engage in farming and cattle and sheep raising.
He added to his property until he owned two hundred acres, his last purchase being the forty acres east of Flower Street and south off Concord Road in the center of which the McCay School now stands.
He died July 24, 1864, and is buried in the Upland Baptist cemetery.
JOHN WATTS SCHOOL – The subject of this sketch was born a slave in Charlotte Hall, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in the early fall of 1850, and was set free by the Civil War at the age of 18. Mr. Watts came to Chester in the early ‘70s and opened a small green grocery store, in which he developed quite a lucrative business. He served with credit ads a Director of the Poor of Delaware County, was a school director in the borough of South Chester for twelve years and was also treasurer of the Board for one term. He was deeply interested in the establishment of the public school at Fourth and Edwards Streets in 1889, and it is eminently fitting that it should now bear a name. He died of typhoid pneumonia on the 8th day of March, 1894, mourned by hundreds of friends, both white and colored.
HARRISON SCHOOL – The Harrison School is named for Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president of the United States. He was a brave and successful officer in the Union army, which he left at the close of the war with the title of brigadier general. He was elected President in November 1888. The McKinley Tariff, the abolition of the Louisiana Lottery, and the holding of the Pan American Congress were the most conspicuous features of his administration. His death occurred at Indianapolis, March 13, 1901.
GEORGE JONES SCHOOL – George Jones, the first colored teacher who taught in Chester was born in Camden, Del., in the year 1819. His early years were spent on a farm. He came to Chester about 1843. By studying diligently at night he acquired a fair education for a member of his race at that time, and in 1853 opened a school in the basement of Asbury A. M. E. Church on Second Street, above Market where he taught successfully for several years. For many years after his school was closed he was employed as a foreman by Morton and Black. Mr. J. Frank Black speaks of him in terms of unqualified praise, as an unusually intelligent, faithful and reliable employee. He was a director in North Chester from 1880 to 1881, and again from August 18, 1881 till his death in May, 1886. On May 26th, the day of his funeral both schools of the district were closed as a tribute of respect – in his case no mere form.