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 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,

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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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Shutout – Norwalk HS Girls’ Championship Game 1907

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 boys’ basketball team did not play in the 1906-1907 intramural championship game. They were eliminated months earlier in the season by the juniors, who went on to win the boys’ championship game the evening of Friday, March 22, 1907. But the senior girls’ team did play–and won, shutting out the freshmen girls six to zip. [1]

I don’t have a championship photo of the senior girls’ team, as I do for the Junior boys’ team. But I can match faces to names with individual portraits of the team members that I clipped from their commencement class photograph.

Clockwise from top left, they are, Lillian Smith, Florence Davidson, Ruth Jenkins, Ruby Hoyt, Harriott Wickham, Florence Bascom, and Sarah Barnett aka, Sara Joslin.

Prim and proper here in their commencement dresses, these girls would have appeared differently on the basketball court in “long, dark woolen bloomers, long sleeved blouse to match the bloomers, dark stockings, and flat-heeled soft shoes.” [2] See the picture of the girls’ gym class at Norwalk High School in 1906 for an idea of what they wore in that class.

We may not think of girls in 1907 engaging in sports, but the “Athletic Girl” was all the rage at high schools and colleges during the first decade of the 19th century. It was an offshoot of the “New Woman” movement of the last half of the previous century. [3]

There was an active girls sports program at Norwalk High School in 1907, and basketball was an integral part of it. The gym teacher and girls’ basketball coach at the school was English teacher Miss Minnie Cleghorn, whom I briefly introduced in this blog on February 11th.

What inspired Miss Cleghorn to introduce basketball and physical education to Norwalk High School. We’ll look at that, and learn more about the “Athletic Girl” of the early 1900s, in a series beginning with my next post: Athletic Girl 1907.

Sources:

[1] “Senior Girls and Junior Boys are Champions,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 23, 1907, page 1, column 3. and “Decides Basketball Superiority,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 23, 1907, page 4, column 3.

[2] Betty Spears, “Senda Berenson Abbott: New Woman: New Sport;” A Century of Women’s Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four, edited by Joan S. Hult and Marianna Trekel; National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, 1907, Reston, VA; 21.

[3] Robert Pruter, “Chapter 8: The New Athletic Girl and Interscholastic Sports”, The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control: 1880-1930, Syracuse University, 2013; 145-148.

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The Norwalk Girls Team Knows How to Win at Basketball, too!

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Elyria High School, 1906

In yesterday’s post we saw that the boys basketball team at Norwalk High School defeated their opponents in Berlin Heights on Friday, December 14, 1906. The following afternoon, the Norwalk girls squad won against Elyria High School seventeen to four. As with the Berlin Heights boys squad, Elyria’s team was also in their first year, so the result was not unexpected, either.

How did the team get to Elyria? Just like the boys team traveled to Berlin Heights, I imagine. They probably took an interurban train. I remember my grandmother (Harriott Wickham), telling me that in those days, people could travel nearly anywhere in northern Ohio by interurban train or trolley.  Here’s a link to a map of the routes. More about this subject in a later post.

The Daily Reflector article on this match, which was not published until the following Monday, did not provide as many details as it had in its report of the boys game on Friday, except to comment that the Norwalk girls could have run up a bigger score than they did, given the inexperience of the Elyria squad. The article did provide the team roster, however. As I did in the previous on the boys game, I’ve provided links to the WeRelate pages for the girls who were in the Class of 1907.

Forwards: Ruby Hoyt , captain, and Harriott Wickham.

Centers: Sara Joslin (a senior, but we’ll discuss her in a later post), Gladys Young, and Florence Davidson.

Guards: Ruth Jenkins and Edna Goodhue.

Harriott’s sister Eleanor, who had graduated with the class of 1906, also accompanied the team as a referee.

The chaperone for the trip was the Norwalk High School teacher for athletic activities, Miss Minnie Cleghorn. My grandmother held Miss Cleghorn in high regard as a teacher. I’ll post more about her, and the athletics program for girls in 1906 at Norwalk High School, and around the country.

1906 Basketball Season! Intramural Play

1906 Basketball!

I am not a big basketball fan. Football, yes–baseball, sometimes (especially when the Indians go to the Series–and then disappoint)–but basketball, meh!

Until this year, that is, when hometown hero Lebron James took the Cavs to the first Cleveland major league sports championship in over 60 years. The final game was the first one I watched in its entirety in decades.

All of this brings us to the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. On this day in 1906, Norwalk High School kicked off its basketball season with two intramural games between senior and junior teams, one match between boys’ teams and the other between the girls.

Basketball today is a national pastime and a multi-billion-dollar industry. The NBA playoffs and “March Madness” are eagerly followed by millions. In 1906, the sport was in its infancy. It had been invented fifteen years before by Dr. James Naismith at the YMCA Training School in Springfield Massachusetts (now Springfield College). That first game was a sedate affair compared from today’s fast paced play. Only one point was scored. A soccer ball with laces was used, which made dribbling impossible, and bounce passes erratic. The object of the game was to get the ball into a peach basket fastened nailed to a vertical track.

The sport spread quickly, and by 1906 college, high school, and community teams had been established around the nation. In that year, the peach basked was finally replaced with a metal ring, much like what is used today.

In 1906, Norwalk had at least three teams that had been around for several years: one made up of members of Company G of the Ohio National Guard, and at the high school a boys and girls team. The first Norwalk High School basketball games I can find a record of were on December 1903 for boys’ and girls’ teams.

The Boy’s Game – Exciting!

These first games of the season were well reported in both The Daily Reflector and The Evening Herald. The boys’ game provided plenty of thrills. The Daily Reflector called the match “the most exciting ever played in School Hall.” The juniors were favored, but the seniors proved to be their match. At the end of regulation play, the score was tied 9 to 9 and went into overtime. Finally, the seniors pulled off an upset, winning 11-9.

From the Class of 1907 on the boys’ seniors team were Arthur Young at forward, Homer Beattie at center, and Robert Venus and Harry Holiday as guards. The junior squad only had one center, Homer played alone at center, but John Wickham, a sophomore, was brought in to play alongside Arthur Young at forward.

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Arthur Young, forward for the game, was 17 years old and lived with his parents, Ed and Carrie Young at 55 South Linwood Avenue, near downtown. Both parents were in their forties, so Arthur was either an only child (unlikely) or his siblings had already left home.

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Homer Beattie, also 17 years old, played at center. He lived at 137 Benedict homer-beattie-commencement-photoAvenue, south of Main Street, in the better part of town, with his father, Albert, a successful lawyer, his mother Dora, two brothers, two sisters, and perhaps his maternal grandfather.

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robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907In 1906, Robert Venus, a guard on the boys’ basketball team, was recovering from a series of recent tragedies. He lived at 45 Seminary Street with his father, Carl,and his sister Louise. According to the 1900 Census, in addition to these three, Robert’s mother Wilhelmina, elder brothers Frederick and Carl and and another sister, Blanche also lived in the house. But Wihelmina died in 1904 and Frederick and Blanche passed away the following year. The Norwalk City Directory dated 1909 does not have Robert’s brother Carl living in the house, so I assume he moved out. In the midst of all this tragedy, there was good news: Robert’s father Carl was elected Mayor of Norwalk.

Harry Holiday lived on his family’s farm on Woodlawn Avenue. Today this harry-holiday-commencement-photo-1907area is a mix of residential and light industry, but at that time was all farmland. His father, William Holiday, age 61, had just retired, or was about to retire, from farming. His mother, Alzina, was 59 years old and kept house for her husband, four children, two males and two females, and her widowed mother, Altha Spurrier.  Harry’s brother and sisters were all working folk. His elder brother Frank was a mechanic at Wheeling in Huron. One sister, Myrtle, was a school teacher and the other, Blanche, was deputy recorder at the county courthouse.

The Girl’s Game – Not so Exciting

The girls team had six members,Harriott Wickham and Florence Bascom were forwards, Ruth Jenkins and Ruby Hoyt were guards, and Florence Davidson and Sara Joslin played center

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Harriott Wickham will be familiar to readers of the Firelands History Website: she was my grandmother and a descendant of Platt and Sarah Benedict, and of another pioneer couple, Frederick and Lucy Wickham. These two couples played major roles in the settlement of Norwalk as described in the “Sufferers’ Land” series of posts on this website.Platt and Sarah founded Norwalk in 1817. Lucy Preston came to Norwalk with her father, Samuel Preston, who started the Norwalk Reflector. Her husband, Frederick Wickham, left a career as a schooner Captain on the Great Lakes for one in publishing at the Reflector.

Harriott’s father, Frank Wickham, who was editor of the Reflector in 1906, was the youngest of thirteen children (twelve who survived to adulthood). Her mother, Agnes Wickham, nee Benedict, was the second daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. David was grandson of Platt and Sarah Benedict and was a Union Surgeon in the Civil War. His story told in the “Doctor on a Little Black Horse” on this website.

The other forward was Florence N Bascom, who lived at 90 Linwood florence-bascom-commencement-photo-1907Avenue, south of town, with her father William, a blacksmith, her mother Mana and her elder brother Harry, who had already graduated from high school.

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One of the  guards, Ruth Jenkins was, like Harriott Wickham, a member of the X, Y, Z Club, and helped with the Progressive Dinner on Halloween. She lived at 10 Norwood Avenue with her father Frank, proprietor of a grain elevator, her mother Ida Jenkins, brothers Clayton and Clifford, and her sister Dorothy.

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The two centers on the girls’ team were Sara Joslin and Florence Davidson.

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Florence Davidson

I don’t know much about Florence, but at least I know she was in the class. But what about Sara Joslin? Who was that? She is not in the Commencement photo, nor is she listed in any newspaper announcements for the class. So who is she? That problem took some time to work out. I’ll explain in a later post: “Who Was Sara Joslin?”

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Halloween 1906 – A Progressive Dinner”

halloween-1906Today is Halloween, a holiday that was celebrated in 1906–but with a different twist than today. According to a recent article in The New York Times, and a post from a blog of the Smithsonian Museum, Halloween at the beginning of the 20th Century was as much about romantic love as it was about ghosts and goblins. Although boys and young men were involved in playing tricks or pranks on their neighbors, the practice of trick or treat would not become popular until the late 1920s.

Instead, most young men and women, at least those in small towns like Norwalk, would attend parties hosted by the young women in their homes. The women would treat their guests to a meal and the young people would entertain themselves with dancing and games. As with most social events of the day, activities at Halloween parties were a way for young men and women to flirt and gauge the suitability of potential romantic partners while under the watchful gaze of their parents.

The games especially were a great way to get acquainted. Some are snap-applefamiliar today, like bobbing for apples. A variation of that game popular at the time was called “Snap Apple,” where boys and girls would attempt to bite an apple suspended from the ceiling by a string. The first to succeed would be the first to marry. Another game involved the host hiding a dime, a ring and thimble in mashed potatoes or a similar food. The guest who found the ring in his portion would be destined to marry soon, the one with the thimble would spend his or her or life alone, and the lucky one to get the dime would have good fortune. Of course, one would imagine that an unwary or impatient guest could end up needing dental work.

On Halloween night in 1906, Norwalk was busy with these parties. The next day, the Norwalk Reflector reported on eleven such gatherings. One of these was a “progressive party” held by the X, Y, Z, Club, a social organization of eight or nine young women, five who were members of the Class of 1907: Carrie Spurrier, Irene Bragdon, Harriott Wickham, Inez Adams, and Ruth Jenkins. These social clubs were common in the day. Young women would plan parties at members homes and invite young men to attend. The Norwalk Reflector reported that Harriott Wickham hosted a “Cobweb Party” at her home for the “X, Y, Z Club” on Friday, September 21.

According to the Destination: Austin Family blog, in a “Cobweb Party” strings were routed from room to room throughout the house, crossing often to create a tangle, or web. Participants would each be given one end of a string and would follow it throughout the house, meeting other party goers where the strings crossed. At the other end of the string would be a small gift, or the name of the partner who would escort he or she to dinner.

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Carrie Spurrier

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Irene Bragdon

To begin the “Progressive Party,” on Halloween in 1906, the “X, Y, Z Club” members and their guests, a total of eighteen young men and women, met home of Carrie Spurrier on Walnut Street. Where on Walnut I don’t know. According to my research, in 1909, Carrie lived on Elm Street, but apparently had moved there from Walnut Street sometime between 1906 and then. Irene Bradgon, another senior student, helped her entertain the guests. Here the party enjoyed the first “course” of the evening’s meal followed by dancing and games.

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Sophia Harkness

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Harriott Wickham

After a suitable time had passed, the young people left the Spurrier house and walked down Norwood Avenue to the corner of Benedict and Summit, and then on Sophia Harkness’s home at 31 Hickory Street. Sophia was not in the Class of 1907; at age 18, she must have graduated the year before. Harriott Wickham, who lived catty corner behind her at 32 Summit Street, assisted.

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Inez Adams

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Ruth Jenkins

The next stop was the home of Inez Adams at 31 Oak Street, an eight minute walk of a half-mile. Inez lived with her step-father Martin Callum and her mother Estelle. She was assisted by Ruth Jenkins, who lived only three minutes away, about three blocks.

 The journey to the final two stops of the “Progressive Dinner” was a bit of a hike—a mile and a half to be exact. According to the Norwalk Reflector, the party arrived “in due time” at the home of Bessie Fox at 219 West Main Street.  The last course was at the home of Sarah Joslin at 117 West Main Street, about ten minutes back down Main Street toward downtown. (Sarah and Bessie were not members of the Class of 1907 and I assume that, like Sophia Harkness, they were Norwalk High School Alumni.) After a final course of their holiday meal, one would assume desert, the party broke up and made their way home.

Can you imagine how this evening played out? I see a large group of young men and women strolling the streets of town from home to home, chatting, teasing, laughing–perhaps quarreling at times. Then I imagine them in parlors, drawing rooms, eating, dancing and playing games, while amused parents and other family members listened from the kitchen. Can you see it, too?

 

Sources

In addition to the links to online sources, I consulted the November 1, 1906 edition of the Norwalk Reflector for accounts of the previous evening. The links to WeRelate Wiki person pages for the five members of the Class of 1907: Carrie Spurrier, Irene Bragdon, Harriott Wickham, Inez Adams, and Ruth Jenkins contain sources about them and their families.

 

 

 

 

 

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