Happy Saturday morning to all! The weather here in Easton has been excellent all week. Lots of sun and warmth means the real beginning of yard work. I have been enjoying the bright yellow daffodils that are in full bloom around town. April showers are soon to follow though, so it looks like indoor spring cleaning will be the order of business this week.
Many of our students are returning back to school full time. Graduation is in the near future, and with that thought in mind, let’s take a look at a rare example of an early Easton graduation.
We have in our collection a small booklet from 1882 titled Easton High School – Program of Graduating Exercises. You have noticed by now that this does not have “Oliver Ames High School” as the school name. In 1869 the Ames family built a multi-story wood high school building for the Town of Easton. The building was Italianate in design and included a clock tower (it was from that tower that many of the photos in our new book Easton In Stereo were taken.) This dominant structure stood on the site now occupied by the 1895 Oliver Ames High School on Lincoln Street opposite the Rockery. When Governor Oliver Ames offered to build the 1895 school, the old Easton High School building was moved to the southwest corner of the schoolhouse lot, and continued to be used as a primary school until it was torn down around 1930 to make room for the classroom wing and gym added on to the high school.
Inside the booklet is the order of exercises for graduation, which took place on Friday, June 30, 1882, at 7:30 p.m. The event probably took place inside the school building which must have included a small auditorium. The class motto was “Onward and Upward.” The program features ten orations, essays, or recitations by graduating seniors, interspersed with five musical performances. The topics of the talks given by students include “As is Life, so is its End”; “Finding our Place in Life”; “Make Life Worth Living”; “Labor and its Reward”; “The Right Use if Things”; and “Short views we take nor see the lengths behind.” The Class Prophecies were read by Jennie E. Shepardson, and the Valedictory titled “True Manhood” was presented by Thomas H. McCarthy. Both male and female students are featured speakers. The evening wrapped up with the presentation of diplomas by Rev. William L. Chaffin representing the School Committee.
Although it is nearly impossible to find a complete list of graduates (whose ages ranged from 17-20), this booklet at least contains the names of those who took part in the graduating ceremony. Of particular interest to us at the Museum is graduate Heman Howard, who some fifty years later would research and write about old houses in Easton. We have a copy of his research on these early houses, some of which are no longer extant. Other familiar names include members of the Buck, Selee, Rankin, Finley, Berry, Toothaker, Wade, Young, and Dickerman families. Unfortunately, the names of those who provided the music are not noted.
I am off to get my first Covid vaccine on Monday, one jab closer to some sense of normalcy. I hope you all stay well, and until next week,
Anne Wooster Drury