Saturday, April 26, 2008

Channeling Edwin P. Seaver

A strange thing happened this week... I was browsing through's book offerings and found a book, "Northborough History" by Rev. Josiah Coleman Kent, published in 1921. It had many mentions of "Seaver," including decent biographies of Abraham Wood Seaver (1809-1887) and Edwin Pliny Seaver (1838-1917). I opened my Seaver database and transcribed the paragraphs, citing my source.

The paragraphs for Edwin Pliny Seaver included:

"Edwin P. Seaver, who ranks among the best educators that the state of Massachusetts ever produced, was born in Northborough, February 24, 1838, and he always reserved a warm place in his heart for his native town. He was a product of the district schools of Northborough, having been a student at both the South and the Center Districts. Upon his graduation from the Bridgewater Normal School he embarked upon a career of teaching which has held few parallels in the country. His career is partially told in a letter to Miss Harriet L. Allen, who, in 1912 prepared a paper on "Some of the Teachers Who Have Gone Forth from Northborough." This letter is such a charming bit of biography that we publish it in full. He says:

" 'After graduating from the Bridgewater Normal School I taught for one spring term (13 weeks) a district school in East Stoughton - now the town of Avon; and in September of that year went to the Friends' Academy in New Bedford where I was the assistant of the late Thomas Prentice Allen , having charge of the English branches. Mr. Allen, as you know, was born and educated in Northborough, and was one of the most renowned teachers of his time.

" 'I remained with Mr. Allen three years devoting my spare time to the study of Latin and Greek, and receiving Mr. Allen's instruction in these languages as part of my compensation for teaching. Sometimes it happened that I recited Latin and Greek with the same boys I had taught arithmetic the hour before, or would tech geography the next hour. In this way I was prepared for college; but feeling some doubts as to the thoroughness of my preparation, thought it best for me to enter the Phillips Academy at Exeter for one year. This I did, and during the year 1860-61 took double work, finishing my preparation for college with a higher class and doing the whole work of the freshman year. This cannot, however, be considered as doing the whole of two years' work in one; for I was already well advanced in mathematics.

" 'During my college course I did some teaching, including one winter term in the East District in Northborough. After graduating from college I came back to the Friends' Academy for a year (1864-65) and was then called back to Harvard College, where I served as tutor and assistant professor of mathematics for nine years - 1865 to 1874.

" 'Then I was elected Head Master of the English High School in Boston, and held the position for six years, 1874-80. After which I served the City of Boston for 24 years as Superintendent of Public Schools -- 1880 to 1904.' "

I thought to myself, "well, that is a really neat life's work" for my 6th cousin 4 times removed. In his own words, too.

Then I received an email from a lady who had Googled and found this blog and then found my Seaver web pages and found more about Edwin P. Seaver. She wrote a nice email that said in part:

"I grew up in Boston (Jamaica Plain). I attended the Edwin P. Seaver Elementary School on Eldridge Road. I was doing a bit of research on Seaver and came across your blog. I just wanted to say hello.

"I was wondering if you knew that a school had been named after him. I believe the structure has been used for housing in recent years. But when I was five, in 1955, I attended kindergarten there and "The Seaver" was my little school right up through the sixth grade. It was a Boston public school and it only went from K to 6, and I have fond memories and I smile when I think back on how many times I must have printed EDWIN P. SEAVER SCHOOL at the top of my blue lined yellow writing tablet paper over those first few years of life. Something like that becomes ingrained into your soul."

It only makes sense that they named a school after Edwin P. Seaver after he served 24 years as the Boston Schools Superintendent, doesn't it?

Serendipity strikes here - an obscure book reference found and a former student of the school named after the book reference come into my knowledge base in the same week.

Why do I bring it up here? Because it demonstrates how people we don't know (yet!) can find our posts or web pages, contact us, and perhaps provide additional information about our families. My other reason is that it's Saturday night and I needed something to post!

My thanks to Colette for her email that brightened my day and provided more context to the life of Edwin P. Seaver.

1 comment:

Mark B. said...

Here's a recent photo of the Seaver school building.

It sits at about 80 Eldridge street, Jamaica Plain, Boston MA. Google Maps Street View gives a good view of it. We in the Jamaica Plain Historical Society mention it when we pass it on one of our walking tours.