The Story of a Pioneer
[from The Pioneer, June, 1926. Volume 7, number 1, magazine of the Henry L. Pierce School]
[ed.note: apparently this the story of Mary E. Mann, who is also the author of the piece. She is listed as Master's Assistant at the Henry L. Pierce School in the Manual of the Public Schools of the City of Boston, 1913]
Once there was a little girl of three in “God Old Dorchester” who had learned to read and was very anxious to go to school with the other children. At this time there were no Kindergartens in existence here, and four was the youngest age that pupils could be admitted; so on her fourth birthday she proudly entered the old Gibson School on School Street, and has been regularly attending school most of the time since. The years came and went as she passed from Grammar to High School and on to Normal; for by this time she knew that she wanted to become a teacher.
During her Normal Course, the first Evening School in Dorchester was opened in the old Dorchester Almshouse on Hancock Street [the Alms House was located where there is now a yard for road maintenance equipment and supplies on Hancock Street], and she was offered a position, which was accepted, and for five successive winters she taught a class of bright boys of High School [age] who, being obliged to go to work, had learned the value of more education and were willing to work hard to attain it. One of these boys became a School Superintendent in later years.
Appointments in a Private School and as Substitute and Temporary Teacher for various periods of time followed. One day in March, 1878, Mr. Endicott, Master of the Gibson School, sent for his former pupil to serve as a substitute from April first in the Thetford Avenue School (now the Robert Swan), which was then a part of his district. [The Thetford Avenue School was located on what is now known as Thetford Street at the corner of Evans Street. From the City of Boston website, the lot now appears to be a public playground. The School appears on the map for the area in the 1884 atlas but not in the 1882 atlas, so it must have been built in 1883 or 1884.] You may view the 1884 map at http://www.dorchesteratheneum.org/page.php?id=2504
You may view an image of the Gibson School at http://www.dorchesteratheneum.org/image.php?id=6785&slide=10275&ko=0
The following Monday she reported for duty at the pretty four-roomed building which at time seemed “out in the wilderness.” Then Dorchester was a very different pace from what it is today. There were no car-tracks on Norfolk Street, and the Washington Street Cars went no farther south than Euclid Street and ran only once an hour. There were two houses and a large field of cabbages on one side of Thetford Avenue, and the school house was the only other building on the other side. There were only three houses from the Cemetery on Norfolk Street to Dorchester Station and an occasional house on the other side.
Inside the school building she found a pleasant, sunny room on the southeast corner with forty-two pupils of various grades and ages waiting for her–from the first Primary through the lowest Grammar grade–just like a country school of today. They were interesting boys and girls, and all went happily. The Master had charged her to keep the outside doors locked, excepting at recess time, as the situation was lonely, and she was the only teacher n the building, which had been built three years previous to her coming. Here she served as substitute for Miss Hanna Pratt, the first teacher of the Thetford Avenue School, who was in a decline and passed away the following March. At the April meeting of the School Committee this “Pioneer” was appointed as a regular teacher in this Boston School.
One day she had a pleasant call from a young lady who introduced herself as Miss Helen F. Burgess. She had come to inquire from the children if any of them had younger brothers and sisters living on or near Bailey Street. She had been told by members of the School Committee that if she could secure thirty pupils for the lowest grade that they would establish a school at Bailey Street, as the parents of the neighborhood had petitioned for better educational advantages for their children.
Miss Burgess secured the thirty children, and a building was erected, known as the Bailey Street School, which became a part of the Stoughton School District. She was the first teacher in the new building and served long and faithfully in the school she had started, until she died in the service, in April, 1924. A petition has recently been circulated to the effect that the name of the Bailey Street School be changed to the Helen F. Burgess. It would seem a fitting memorial to her years of service there. You may view a photo of the school at the following link. The Burgess School is on the left in the photograph and the Leen School on the right. http://www.dorchesteratheneum.org/image.php?id=7305&slide=11110&ko=0
Dorchester has been annexed to Boston in 1872 [actually Jan. 1, 1870]. A few years later there was a great amount of building and an increase in population. By 1885, all the rooms at the Thetford Avenue School were occupied. Mr. Horace Winslow Warren, who had been serving as Master of the Bowditch School in Boston, was transferred to Dorchester, as his school had been absorbed by the business interest of the city, and his pupils had been transferred to other districts. He came to Dorchester as “Principal in Charge” under Mr. Endicott, as the Thetford Avenue School was still a part of the old Gibson District.
The section grew and grew. Classes overflowed into corridors and the basement of a neighboring church. Later, three houses on Armandine street were hired for extra school accommodations. Meanwhile the “Pioneer” had been promoted from grade to grade with her classes. The numbers had so increased that it became necessary to form a new district which was called “The Pierce School” and Mr. Warren was appointed its “Principal in Charge” with the “Pioneer” as his “First Assistant.”
The years sped on. The Bailey Street School had developed into a Grammar and Primary School with Mr. Charles C. Haines in charge, and that section was growing as rapidly as the Pierce District. The School Committee decided to join these two schools and build a new building to meet the needs of the section.
A site on Washington Street, now as the Webster Garden Place, was selected for the new school building. the old Colonial House, which had been the home of Gen. Knox and of Daniel Webster, was torn down to make room for the new Henry L. Pierce School, now honored with the full name of a former Mayor of Boston, who was at this time proprietor of the Baker Chocolate Mills at Milton.[!] The district was to include this new building and two Primary schools–one at Thetford avenue and one in the Bailey Street School. The new building was to be used entirely for Grammar pupils. [The site was the lot now occupied by the Codman Square branch of the Boston Public Library at the corner of Welles Avenue and Washington Street.] You may view the mansion that was torn down formerly owned by the Welles family when Henry Knox and Webster lived there at http://www.dorchesteratheneum.org/image.php?id=6785&slide=10275&ko=0
Building appropriations came slowly in those days. The Class of 1890 hoped to be graduated from the new school. The Class of 1891 felt sure that the honor would be theirs. Both classes were disappointed, but they showed their interest in the new Henry L. Pierce School by each leaving a fine picture to adorn the new school hall. Finally word was received that after the April vacation in 1892 the new building would be ready for the pupils. Then came “Moving Day.” Each pupil carried home all his books that day and was told to appear with them at the new building on the second Monday in April, after the week of vacation. So on the last Friday in March, on a cold, sleety day, the two schools had all their goods and chattels put into bags, each marked with the number of the room where it was to be used and transferred to the new quarters.
On May 19, 1892, the fine new building, in the planning of which Mrs. Emily A. Fifield, as Chairman of the Ninth Division Committee, had been so deeply interested, was formally dedicated. Mr. John Keeland wrote “the Dedication Hymn,” which is printed in this number of our school paper. It was sung by the pupils, and the exercises, which included an address by ex-Mayor Pierce, were most interesting. He presented the fine oil paintings of General Knox and of Daniel Webster to the new building. It being “Columbus year,” Mrs. Fifield gave a bust of Columbus to placed at one side of the platform, and the Class of 1892 gave a bust of Washington to balance it. After Mr. Pierce’s death, a few years later, his family presented to the school the oil painting of Mr. Pierce. It hangs in the school hall and is a copy of the one at the Art Museum.
There were no graduating exercises that year, for the Dedication Exercises took their place; but on the last day of school in June, diplomas were awarded to the first sixty graduates of the new Henry L. Pierce School.
The work of the school went on, and as soon as there were sufficient numbers, Mr. Warren was appointed as the first Master of the Henry L. Pierce District and the “Pioneer” became his Master’s Assistant. The schools were harmoniously united and, with Mr. Haines as Sub-Master and the able corps of teaches which Mr. Warren had selected for his School District, many happy years followed. Many visitors came to view the new building and see the work of the school. Cooking and Manual Training were new to Boston schools in those day and had been introduced in this new building. Dressmaking had been started in Grade 9, and Swedish Gymnastics followed later.
During these years many changes had taken place. Mr. Haines had gone to be Master of the Lewis School; Mr. Ransom was promoted a few years later to the Mastership o the Abraham Lincoln District; Mr. Courtney had come and gone and Mr. William W. Howe had become Sub-Master under Mr. Warren. Many changes had come among the lady teachers. Some had married or gone on to higher grades of school or professional work–a few had passed on to a higher life.
In 1905, the district was enlarged by the addition of a new building at Southern Avenue named the John Greenleaf Whittier School. You may view an image of the Whittier School at http://www.dorchesteratheneum.org/image.php?id=5229&slide=off&ko=0
From that time on the Henry L. Pierce School, the Bailey Street School and the new Whittier formed on district under Mr. Warren, as the Thetford Avenue building had been transferred to the Roger Wolcott District–its name being changed to the Robert Swan School. From 1892 to 1912, Mr. Warren served as the beloved Master of the Henry L. Pierce District. He was a Harvard man, a fine scholar–an enthusiastic traveler–a Christian gentleman, giving of his best for the building of a strong foundation for the school that was so dear to him.
His former pupils will recall his classes in bookkeeping which he so greatly enjoyed and his success in teaching them; his fine work in photography, his love for art; his trips to Europe by Solar Camera or School Lantern that were brightened by his rich and varied experiences; his pleasure in presenting his former Harvard classmates, Gov. Greenhalge and others who had distinguished themselves in some line of work and who added so much to interest on public occasions.
Fortunate indeed were the boys and girls who came under the influence of Mr. Warren! Many of them will remember June 19, 1912, when he retired from active service, and six hundred of his former pupils and teachers honored him with a fine reception in this school hall. For the remainder of his life he was the honored Master Emeritus” of the school he had served so faithfully. On his frequent visits he was warmly welcomed by one and all and most cordially greeted by is successor, who never failed in making Mr. Warren fell that this was still his “School Home.”
It was most gratifying to teachers and pupils alike that Mr. William W. Howe was appointed to succeed Mr. Warren in September, 1912, for he had won his laurels as Sub-Master, and every one knew he was just the right man for the place. He has been proving the truth of that last statement ever since, and it hardly seems possible that it will be fourteen years this September since Mr. Howe became the esteemed Master of the Henry L. Pierce District.
The district has grown rapidly, and this school has been changed from an Elementary to a Junior High or Intermediate School. Mr. Howe as been a “Pioneer” in this, for he was one of the three Masters first chosen to organize their schools under the Intermediate plan. All who know him can realize the results of this work in building up a school that shall be worthy of our great city. The district grew rapidly–the Emily A. Fifield Elementary School and the Thomas F. Leen Primary were built and added to this district, and Mr. Howe was a very busy Master. Last June, however, the Emily A. Fifield School and the Robert Swan School were united to form the new Emily A. Fifield District; so Mr. Howe now has the Junior High and three primary buildings to look after, and every day is a busy one. Let us hope he will have many happy years of great usefulness in the Henry L. Pierce District!
So the first “Pioneer” has seen many stages of growth since the day she first started and now she has come to the end of her school journey begun so many years ago. In June, 1926, she will join the long line of “Graduates” from this school, where she has spent so many happy days and years, seeing more than four thousand boys and girls receive their diplomas or certificates.
She is thankful for the beautiful opportunity for “Service” that God has given her in her native Dorchester; for the two fine Masters with whom she was privileged to associate; for the noble men and women who have given her such help and inspiration in her work; for the boys and girls who have been a joy and interest to her all along the way, and she hopes that each and every one will take up the “Torch of Loyalty” which she now lays down and carry it on to undreamed of Heights; so that the Henry L. Pierce School, which has meant so much to her, will always stand as a power for good in this community.
Can you guess who this “Pioneer” is who has engraved upon her heart the name of the Henry L. Pierce School?