Monday, May 4, 2015

Speedwell School

This week I visited my cousin C. Stuart Brewster in California. As usual, he loves to share stories of his boyhood in Danvers, and I love to hear his stories.

Stuart speaks fondly of his elementary school, which was Speedwell School, a small private school held in rooms on the second floor of the mansion at Locust Lawn, on Nichols Street, Danvers. His older brothers, David and Dudley, attended the school first. Stuart began in Kindergarden (1932 or 33?) and stayed until May 1941, then enrolled in Proctor Academy as a sophomore in fall 1941. "The number of students varied each year, never more than a dozen during my time there."

The Kindergarten used Froebel methods and materials. (See for more information). Froebel was the German founder of the Kindergarten movement.  Dorothy Jenkins Bartlett taught Kindergarten as well as early grades. She was an artist and taught art for all levels in this school. Stuart writes, "There really were not Grades per say, everyone seemed to be at a different level."

Marian Bill Nichols, Stuart's "Aunt Mayon," taught the upper levels. She was also the owner and administrator of Speedwell School, which had been founded in the 1920's at the Locust Lawn property, which was owned by John Holyoke Nichols, her uncle. She had previously taught at Miss Hammond's School in Salem, after graduating in 1915 from Jackson College, the woman's part of Tufts University.

Here is the text of a small flyer promoting the school:


    A Day school for boys and girls between ages of four and ten.
    The location is ideal for nature work as well as a quiet spot for study and ample space for all out door games.
    The work of the child is practically individual although there is the stimulus of group work.
    The tuition fee is $100.00 for the first year and an increase of $25.00 for each succeeding year, this is payable at the beginning of each term. All books are furnished by the children and there is an additional charge of $5 to cover incidentals such as paper, pencils, etc.
    School opens the first of October and closes the first of June. The regular holidays are observed as well as Christmas and spring vacations.
    For further particulars apply to
Marian B. Nichols
                                      98 Preston Street, Hathorne, Mass.
or Telephone 1321-W Danvers.

According to Stuart, the name Speedwell comes from that of the second boat that was to bring Pilgrims from England in 1620 but was forced to turn back when it proved to be un-seaworthy. "I have often wondered just why she chose this name. Maybe because of the Brewster connection to William Brewster who was on the Mayflower?"

Stuart has reminisced about making May baskets at school and the fun of gathering tiny wildflowers at Locust Lawn – Bluets, Indian tobacco, blood root, wild violets – as well as periwinkle and lily-of-the-valley.  School recess was extended for this flower picking. He also recalls trips to the pond to collect polliwogs in jars, which were placed in a classroom for watching.

I 'd like to learn more about this school.  Please add comments (below) or contact me if you attended Speedwell School or have other knowledge of it.  Thank you.