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 High School

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Norwalk High School

If the curriculum at Norwalk High School in 1907 was what these days we would call college-prep (and I think that it was), then we should expect that many graduates went on to college. And a good number did, although not all. Who of the Class of 1907 pursued higher education? The answer, in the main, depends on the gender of the graduate.

Of the seventeen women graduates, only two attended a degree-producing college. Another three women studied teaching or nursing at what today we would call technical schools (I realize that today these schools would be colleges, but not then). Women back then were expected to marry and raise families. The glass ceiling was set pretty low when it came to careers in 1907.

On the other hand, a full eighty percent of the ten men who graduated from Norwalk High School that year attended college. Did education guarantee success in life for these men? It seems so. The eight went on to careers in banking, law, industry and government, and all achieved at least some measure of success in their fields. They were the fortunate sons of Norwalk.

In my next two posts, we’ll look at the “who, what, when and where” of the education and lives of these five women and eight men.

But before I close today, I would like to explain how I discovered who went to college, and who did not.

The 1940 Census has been out since 2012, but I have not paid much attention to it, my research nose being firmly planted in the early twentieth century. Frustrated by lack of information from other sources, I had about given up learning who in the Class of 1907 went to college.

Then, while looking for something else (isn’t that always the case), I stumbled across a column for education on a 1940 Census form. There it was: the level of education achieved. How did I miss that all these years? Also on the form is a column for military service, something else I’ve had problems researching.

The answers to our questions are often right under our noses.

 

US Census 1940 - Wyoming - Barton.jpg

 

I couldn’t find a record of the 1940 Census for several of the graduates, and one died in 1936. But those few exceptions were a breeze to research, compared to tackling the entire class. I turned to Newspaper Archive, and in short order ferretted out the answers.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Social Stratum

Before I address who in the class of 1907 went on to college after graduation, I would like to expand on the subject of the exclusive nature of high school attendance in 1907. Below is a photo of the Senior (class of 1906) and Junior (class of 1907) study hall at Norwalk High School in the spring of 1906: sixty-five students in all. There were twenty-six graduates in 1907. [1] The Class of 1906 had thirty-one graduates, [2] for a total of fifty-seven graduates over two years.

Eighty-eight percent of the students in this photo would graduate within the next two years. But this must have been just a fraction of the number of young people in their mid to late teens living in Norwalk, Oho at that time. Where were the rest?

Working is my guess.

Norwalk High School - Junior, Senior Study Hall

Junior, Senior Study Hall, Norwalk High School, 1906.

My grandmother listed the names of all the students in the class, and the faculty members behind them. But one person she did not name: the young African-American standing in the back. Did she know his name, I wonder?

 

Footnotes:

[1] “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6.

[2] “High School Commencement,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 7, 1906, page 3, column 3.

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Longevity

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Norwalk High School

 

In my last post, we looked at the breakdown of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 by gender and age at the time of their graduation. In this post, we’ll check out how long they lived, and how their average lifespans compared to life expectancy of the general population in 1907 and today. Here’s a chart that lays it all out.

Life Expectancy

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 lived almost ten years longer than the general population. What does this tell us about them, and about public education 1907? It shows, in my opinion, that high school back then, at least in cities the size of Norwalk, was mostly for the upper middle class. The children of workers in the factories of the city, and those of most farmers, could not afford the luxury of attending school into their late teens. They needed to work to support their families. Although I don’t have statistics on this, I would imagine most young people did not make it into high school at all. And education is a major factor in predicting future wealth, and the ability to live a healthy lifestyle. What to you think?

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Ruth Jenkins was the longest lived of the class of 1907. Born July 11, 1889, she lived until October 12, 1987, when she died at the ripe old age of ninety eight years. The first loss among all the graduates was Edna West, who passed away in 1936 just short of turning fifty.

 

Ruth Jenkins (1899-1987) and Edna West (1897-1936)

Ruth and two other women in the class lived into their nineties, five made it past eighty, and three lived to be over seventy. One each passed away in their sixties, fifties, and, as we saw with Edna, forties.

Only one of the men lived to be over ninety: U.S. Senator Stephen Young, who lived to be ninety five years old. Two of the men lived into their eighties and another two into their seventies. Three died in their sixties and two in their fifties. The first of the men to pass away was Arthur Young, the leader of the class academically, and president of the class.

 

Stephen Young (1899-1984) and Arthur Young (1899-1943)

That’s it for longevity. Next up, education, where we’ll see who besides Arthur Young among the graduates received a scholarship.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Because I have not been able to determine when Florence Davidson and Cleo Collins died, they were not considered in calculating the life expectancy for the females of the class.

[2] “Life Expectancy by Age, 1850–2011.” Infoplease. © 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease. 17 Jul. 2017. <https://www.infoplease.com/us/mortality/life-expectancy-age-1850-2011/&gt;.

[3] “U.S. Life Expectancy: White American,” World Life Expectancy. 17 Jul. 2017. <http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/life-expectancy-white&gt;.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Age and Gender

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post about the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 – Out Into the World. I return today with a series of posts about demographics of the class in 1907 and during their lives after graduation. I know demographics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they are fascinating. They provide the only way to truly understand what’s going on in a population – or in this case what went on over one hundred years ago.

I start with a breakdown of the class by gender and age. The graduates of the Class of 1907 were almost twice as likely to be female: seventeen women to ten men. Why was that? I would imagine that more young men of that era had to start work early to help support their families. In that more agrarian age, boys often were needed in the fields.

There was also a striking difference by gender in the ages of the class. The women were on average older at graduation than the men. Fred Osborne was the only boy twenty years old at graduation, but five girls had reached that age: Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Gertrude Ryerson, and Myrtle Woodruff. Interestingly, these young women all were born in the townships around Norwalk.

 

Norwalk High School Class of 1907 graduates who were twenty years old at commencement (clockwise from top left): Fred Osborne, Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Myrtle Woodruff, and Gertrude Ryerson.

 

Fred Osborne was not only the oldest male graduate, but was the oldest in the class overall. He and Myrtle Woodruff were the only graduates born in 1886. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember Myrtle from the series, It Was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run. If you don’t remember, it’s worth checking it out.

Harriott Wickham Commencement PhotoThe baby of the class was Harriott Wickham (my grandma), who was the only graduate born in 1890. On the first page of her 1909-1910 diary, she wrote that she had started school early, two months before her fifth birthday. I remember her mentioning that to me because I also began school when I was four, although I only had to wait two weeks before my birthday. That wait did not mean much to me back when I was very young. Where my early start really made an impact on me was when I went to college. I was one of the few in my dorm who could not legally drink — at that time in Ohio, you could purchase 3.2% beer at eighteen.

Finally, two graduates of the class had the same birthday: Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham were both born on November 9, 1889. Was that considered remarkable by them and their classmates?

Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham shared the same birthday.

 

That’s all I have for now on this subject. Starting with my next post, we’ll look past graduation, and see how the Class of 1907 fared in life.

 

 

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