Students And Teachers: What’s The Rest Of The Story?

Never judge a book by its cover is an old adage that we have to remember in museum and library work. A photo album arrived at the Fenton History Center a number of years ago. The binding on the spine was gone although the contents were still being held together. The metal clasp had been torn off and the leather covers showed wear; wear probably from frequent use.

First thoughts on this donation included the guess that the photographs contained would be in poor shape, in disarray and more likely than not, would be unidentified. But the included cabinet cards were in good shape and many of them had a name on the page to identify the person. Some of them would have been recognizable to many of our staff because the photographs included many teachers from the Jamestown School system from the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. (We are not that old but we have seen their photographs in other sources!)

The first photograph was Professor Samuel Love and the next two were Mrs. R. R. Rogers and Professor R. R. Rogers. A little research produced more information about some of the named people. Some of the teachers were included in the album and a number of students that turned out to be from the classes of 1885 and 1886. Some of those students were teachers in the next few years. In some cases the women were identified by a married name so many of the names were probably added a number of years after the photographs had been acquired.

Included are Calista Jones, an important woman in the development of the Jamestown schools and a teacher there for many years; one of only a few known pictures of Preceptist Mary Rosina Willard, an English teacher who influenced many students including Robert H. Jackson; Vesta May Willard, a teacher in Jamestown schools and sister of Mary Willard; Professor Gilbert D. Harris, graduate of the class of 1882 who married Clara Stoneman, class of 1885, and later lived in Ithaca where he was a professor; and Bertha Stoneman, who went on to teach in South Africa and write many editions of a noted botany textbook. More research can be done to find the stories of the others included in the album. Even some of the unidentified ones may be able to be identified since we know the members of the classes of 1884-86 and later photos may surface to be compared to the ones in the album.

If one is curious enough about something, much research can be done to uncover many stories. This could be the case of this album. What happened to these students and teachers and what did they accomplish in their life could be questions that more research would answer. Stay tuned in case time will allow some research into the lives of the people that stare out at us as we turn the pages in this album.