Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Those Who Stayed

 

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Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Ohio 1907

 

 

In the ninety years from the founding of Norwalk, Ohio by Platt and Sally Benedict to the graduation of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, a large proportion of those who settled in the town had stayed, especially those of the social status of the graduates of the class. That was about to change. The stress of World War I and the continued industrialization of America tore at the fabric of small towns like Norwalk. The lure of the big city and the rapid settlement of the west beckoned. Within ten years of graduation, three-quarters of the class of 1907 would leave Norwalk. We’ll see where they went in my next post. In this one, we’ll look at the few who stayed behind

Only seven of the twenty-seven graduates of the class stayed in Norealk and its surrounding townships. Four — Sheldon Laning, Homer Beattie, Irene Bragdon, and Irene Eline — lived in Norwalk. The two men went away to college, and lived elsewhere for a time. But they both returned to Norwalk, and spent most of their careers in the town.

Sheldon Laning and Homer Beattie

Irene Bragdon never married and lived her entire life in her parent’s house, and taught in the Norwalk school district. Irene Eline married a clerk in a Norwalk dry goods store and raised a family with him in the city.

 

Irene Bragdon and Irene Eline

 

The remaining three classmates who stayed in the area spent their lives in the farming townships around Norwalk where they were born. Earl Sinclair became a carpenter and farmed in Clarksfield Township. He never married. Gertrude Ryerson and Alice McCammon married farmers, and raised families with them on farms in Steuben and Bronson Townships.

 

Earl Sinclair, Gertrude Ryerson, and Alice McCammon

 

These seven young people of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 decided to stay close to home. Most of their classmates, however, did not. In my next few posts, we’ll see where they went, beginning with the three graduates who settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Education After Graduation – The Women

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As we saw in my last post, only two women out of seventeen in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 went on to a degree-producing college, Florence Davidson and Harriott Wickham.

Florence Davidson

Florence Davidson

Florence Davidson attended Oberlin College beginning in the fall of 1907, just after graduation, and studied there for at least two years. [1] Her story is an interesting one, and frustrating. As we’ll see when I get around to publishing her biography, she was adopted after her father died by her mother’s new husband, Charles Davidson. [2] By 1909, the Davidson family moved to Massillon, Ohio, [3] and by 1910 were living in San Bernardino, California, where her adoptive father was a machinist in a railroad roundhouse, and Florence was a music teacher. [4] Then, she disappears. I cannot find any record of her at all after the 1910 Census.

All of this raises more questions than answers. How did Charles Davidson afford to send Florence to college on a machinist’s pay? Because Florence was a music teacher in California, I assume that she studied music at Oberlin, but have not found proof of that. I like to imagine that she had a part in the beginning of the movie industry in California and changed her name. But that is only a fantasy. Her life is a mystery I would love to solve.

Harriott Wickham Commencement Photo

Harriott Wickham

Harriott Wickham studied one additional year at Norwalk High School and then taught in a one-room school in Peru Township, just outside of town. Not long after the end of the 1908-1909 school year, she received startling news, Her uncle, oil magnate and philanthropist Louis Severance (brother-in-law of Harriott’s grandfather, David Benedict), had decided to pay her way at Wooster College. It was a dream come true. Years later, she wrote about her school experience:

That fall [1909] I entered Wooster College – and spent 4 “school years” there – very good years! – that prepared me for teaching in high schools of S. Dakota & Wyoming – the years that made a “westerner” of me, & years in Deer Creek Canyon, with Angus & the children. [5]

And that’s all the women in the class who went on to college: two out of seventeen female students in the Class of 1907. Three other women attended a technical school after graduation: Lillian Smith went to a teaching school in Toledo and Chicago. [6] Florence Bascom attended nursing training at a hospital in Lakewood, Ohio. [7] Irene Bragdon went to a “normal school” for teachers in Ypsilani, Michigan. [8] Lillian and Florence married soon after completing their schooling. Irene Bragdon never married, and had a career teaching in Minneapolis.

 

Higher education was beyond the reach of most women graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. That was not the case for the men of the class, however. In my next post, we’ll see where they went to college, and how that opportunity shaped their lives.

Footnotes:

[1] The only evidence I have that Florence attended Oberlin are from short newspaper accounts reporting that she returned to Norwalk for a visit from attending school there. For example: “Personal Mention,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, May 9, 1908, page 3, column 5.

[2] Cuyahoga County Archive; Cleveland, Ohio; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1810-1973; Volume: Vol 56; Page: 109; Year Range: 1903 May – Oct.

[3] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Massillon, Ohio, City Directory, 1909.

[4] U.S. Census: 1910: San Bernardino Ward 3, San Bernardino, California; Roll: T624_94; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0120; FHL microfilm: 1374107.

[5] The story of Harriott Wickham’s education at Wooster College are mostly from her diaries, 1908 to 1914.

[6] “Personal Mention,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, January 6, 1908, page 3, column 5 and “Personal Items,” Norwalk Evening Herald, August 14, 1911, page 4, column 4.

[7] US Census 1910; Cleveland Ward 10, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Roll: T624 1169; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0175; FHL microfilm: 1375182

[8] “Deaths and Funerals: Irene Bragdon,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, November 17, 1944, page 8, column 4.

 

 

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Norwalk High School 1907 Commencement – Out into the World

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Front Row: Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff. Second Row: Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Harriott Wickham, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt. Third Row: Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French. Fourth Row: Homer Beattie, Florence Bascom, Alice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Cleo Collins. [1]

After an evening of orations, essays, and music, the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 settled down for remarks by Superintendent A. D. Beechy. who gave “sound and wholesome advice concerning the members future.” I am sure the class took his words to heart.

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Arthur Young

At the conclusion of his remarks, before introducing school board President J. R. McKnight, Superintendent Beechy called Arthur Young to the stage, and announced that as the most accomplished member of the class academically, Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware and Buchtel College in Akron, were offering him free scholarships to their schools. If he did not accept either of them, they would be awarded to the class member with the next highest record of academic achievement, and so on down the list.

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Irene Bragdon

Did Arthur Young accept one of these scholarships? Apparently not. He attended Western Reserve University – in 1909, he was awarded the First Sophomore Oratorical Prize at that institution. [2] So who did get these scholarships? As we saw in a previous post, Irene Bragdon was second in grades. [3] But after graduation, she went straight into teaching at a district school, and spent her entire life as an educator in Norwalk, never attending college. [4]

Someone must have taken those scholarships. I just don’t know who – yet.

After announcing the scholarships, Superintendent Beechy introduced President McKnight, who read a brief address, and presented diplomas to the graduates, sending them out to “join those who are fighting life’s battles,” as The Norwalk Evening Herald phrased it. [5]

How did the Class of 1907 fare in life’s battles? From my research, I’d say pretty well. Most had successful careers. Many married well. Relatively few stayed in Norwalk.

That’s it for the last year of schooling for the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. It was a busy June. I’ll take a short break, and next month continue with a series of biographies describing the lives of these graduates, beginning with the class president, Arthur Young.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] As I explained in my June 3, 2017 post Mystery Girl, missing from this photo is Gertrude Ryerson.

[2] Western Reserve University 1911 Yearbook, page 126, 1911.

[3] Firelands History Website post, Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Regular Work, June 17, 1917.

[4] According to the Norwalk, Ohio City Directory (page 12; Publisher: The Williams Directory Company, 1900-10), in 1909, Irene E Bragdon was a teacher living at 23 Park with her mother, Sarah A Bragdon, a widow of Francis A Bragdon. Subsequent census records show the same up through 1930. I have not found any record of her death.

[5] Descriptions of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 commencement program are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Regular Work

In my post, Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907, we learned that instead of remarks by a respected member of the community and a Valedictorian and Salutatorian, eight members of the Class of 1907 were selected as class speakers. Two of those eight were Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon, chosen for best grades in regular subjects.

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Arthur Young

Arthur Young, president of the class, delivered a “splendid oration” on “The Masterful Man.” According to the Norwalk Evening Herald, Mr. Young was a natural orator, with a with a fine speaking voice.

“The man is a thousand times more important the man’s work,” he proclaimed, and then went on to add that more important than what a man accomplishes is what obstacles he overcomes. One of these obstacles, according to Arthur, was the pursuit of wealth.

Interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Young’s address is about the masterful man? In that age, women were not expected to strive. I wonder what his teacher Minnie Cleghorn thought about that. As we saw in my Athletic Girl series of posts, she had encouraged her female students become strong and confident women.

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Irene Bragdon

The other class speaker selected for best grades in regular subjects, Irene Bragdon, seemed to have taken Miss Cleghorn’s guidance to heart. The other female students who spoke that night read essays, but Miss Bragdon broke with that tradition and followed the lead of her male counterparts with an oration. Her subject was “The Power of Prejudice.

“It is our boast as American people that we are free minded,” she said.” But is this so? In church and in state we are prejudiced, and this prejudice is growing.” She went on to blame the growth of prejudice on newspapers, and leaders of religious and government leaders in terms and words that I think would resonate with modern readers. Words of a confident young woman? I think so. [1]

So how did they turn out, these two high achievers in their high school class? Arthur was one of the few who went on to college. He married and went into banking, rising to become a Vice President at National City Bank in Cleveland, apparently, finding that wealth was not such an obstacle after all. [2] Irene Bragdon became a teacher, like Minnie Cleghorn, who had been her inspiration. Unlike most of her fellow students, she never married, spending the rest of her life in Norwalk, living in the same home as when she graduated.

That’s it for these two speakers. In my next post, we’ll check out the two students selected for best grades in literary subjects.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Arthur Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Irene Bragdon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907

On Friday, June 14, 1907, one-hundred and ten years ago today, the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 walked across the stage at the Gilmer Theater to receive their diplomas.

What did those young people experience that memorable evening? Well the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald reported extensively in their issues the next day, giving us a blow-by-blow description of the pomp and ceremony.

How did they look that night — these young people about to “join those who are fighting life’s battles,” as the Daily Reflector put it. How were they dressed? We don’t need to imagine. We have a photo taken that very evening at the Gilger. [1] Aren’t they are good looking crew?

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Front Row: Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff. Second Row: Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Harriott Wickham, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt. Third Row: Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French. Fourth Row: Homer Beattie, Florence Bascom, Alice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Cleo Collins.

 

The audience arrived at the Gilger to find the auditorium decorated with the school colors of black and gold and Stewart’s Orchestra playing “Slavery Days.” The Norwalk High School Classes of 1904 and 1906 occupied boxes decorated with their class colors. After all had settled into their seats, the curtain rose to reveal the Class of 1907, dressed as captured in the photo above, the women holding a single stemmed American rose. Above them hung a banner in black and gold, with the class slogan “Immer Siegend,” (always victorious). Accompanied by the orchestra, the class sang the chorus of the hymn, “A Dream of Paradise.”

Father in heaven above,
Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love,
O King most mighty!
Father, Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love.
Thy Light of Love. [2]

To great applause, the curtain lowered, and when it again raised, the class were seated in wicker chairs set in a semi-circle on the stage. With them were School Superintendent A. D. Beechy, the school faculty, and members of the board of education.

This graduation ceremony was not like what we experience today. There was no Valedictorian and Salutatorian, nor did a respected member of the community address the graduates. Instead, this ceremony focused on the graduates, with orations and essays by speakers selected for academic excellence, interspersed by musical performances by others in the class. [3]

Who were the speakers, and why were they chosen? The newspapers are handy references for this as well. Eight young men and women were honored in four categories: Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon for best grades in regular school work. Inez Adams and Alice McCammon for best grades in literary work; Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston were chosen by the class; and Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier were chosen by the faculty. [4]

What did they talk about, these speakers? The subjects may surprise you. We’ll see what they said, and who they were, in subsequent posts, beginning with Mr. Young and Miss Bragdon.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The commencement photo is from the papers of Harriott Wickham, my grandmother,

Gertrude Ryerson 1

who kindly wrote the names on the back. As I reported in my post, Mystery Girl, missing from this photo is Gertrude Ryerson. Newspaper accounts tell us that twenty-six graduates were at the ceremony, so I do not know why she is not in the commencement photo. It is a mystery. I clipped this image of her from a photo of the Senior / Junior study hall that I also found in my grandmother’s papers.

[2] “A Dream of Paradise,” by Claude Littleton, 1900. Full text of the lyrics and an audio file of the tune are at Hymnary. org.

[3] Lengthy descriptions of the ceremony and fulsome praise for the graduates are in “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6, and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[4] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3.“Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1 and 4.

 

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Bachelor Hall – The Chorus Girls – Who Are They?

In my last post, I presented the cast of a performance of Bachelor Hall, a play presented on June 5 and 6, 1907 by the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 — with a notable exception: the chorus girls.

According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, these young women provided the highlight of the show. Accompanied by the Spencer Orchestra, they sang and danced three songs: “When Love is Young,” “Oh, Be Careful of the Alligator,” and “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” So who were these “chorus girls?” [1]

Once again, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham (who was one of their number), comes through again with a photo I found in her papers. Here are the chorus girls from the play Bachelor Hall, apparently performing “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” Unfortunately, she did not include the names. [2]

 

Chorus Girls

There are eight women in the photo, but the newspapers only reported seven: Lillian Smith, Carrie Spurrier, Ruth Jenkins, Florence Davidson, Cleo Collins, Harriott Wickham, and Irene Bragdon. [3]

Who is who? And which girl is in the photo, but not listed in the cast of characters. Here are individual photos of the seven in clockwise order from upper left as listed in the previous paragraph. See if you can figure out who is in the group photo.

 

I must admit that I am not doing well figuring out who is who. Perhaps it is because in the group photo the girls are smiling. After examining the photo closely, I can be sure of only two: Carrie Spurrier, fifth from left (because of the spectacles); and Irene Bragdon, sixth from left.

What do you think?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of the play and cast are from these newspaper articles: “Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Reflector, 6/1/1907, page 4, column 5; “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907 – page 1, column 3; and “Bachelor Hall a Big Hit,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/6/1907, page 1, column 6.

[2] The chorus girl photo is from the unpublished collection of Harriott Wickham’s papers in my possession. I clipped the individual photos from the Commencement photo of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, also in Harriott Wickham’s papers.

[3] The links for each cast member of Bachelor Hall lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

 

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