Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little, Medill, and Mote: The Teachers of MCH

Miss Lora Little, 1924
 There are a few major categories of what I like to call "Names we know but don't usually think about". One of those is road names, and a few such names have come up in previous posts. These are names like (Benjamin) Duncan Road, (Rev. William) McKennan's Church Road, and the Robert Kirkwood Highway. No doubt, you'll notice that these are all men, which should not be too surprising since, let's face it, men's names were generally the most prominent until relatively recently. However, there was at least one profession open to a woman in the 19th and early 20th Centuries where she could make enough of an impact on the community to have her name remembered by future generations -- teaching. In this post we'll take a look at three such teachers who lived and/or worked in Mill Creek Hundred and, in honor of the contributions they made, had schools named for them -- Lora Little, E. Frances Medill, and Anna P. Mote. (h/t to Donna Peters for the idea)

The first of the three educators we'll look at has already been mentioned in a post, and was the inspiration for this one. Lora Little (1890-1963) was the first child of William and Ida (Moore) Little. (Ida, if you'll recall, may or may not have been the girl who (temporarily) saved her baby niece/nephew from the fire that killed her sister, Mary Whiteman, and her nephew, in 1866.) From the best that I can tell, Lora grew up in the northwestern section of Mill Creek Hundred, near Corner Ketch. By 1910 (according to the census), she was already employed as a teacher. It doesn't specifically state where, but unless she was commuting into Newark, the closest school at which she could work was the Union School (#37) on Corner Ketch Road. According to one account from a former student there, Union School downsized in about 1921, shedding its upper two grades and keeping only grades 1-6. Whether this had anything to do with her move or not is unknown, but in the only reference I could find to her teaching years, in 1922 Miss Lora Little was having success teaching in Stanton.

I don't have much information on her later years, but in 1930 she was still living (with her recently widowed father) and teaching in Stanton. The new school (now the Central School) was built in Stanton in 1929, and I have to believe that Miss Little had something to do with its creation. I don't know when she retired (maybe someone out there knows more, or even was a student of hers?), but she passed away in 1963, just a few years after the elementary school in Milltown was named in her honor.

The second of our teachers began her career about a generation prior to Lora Little, and seems to have worked mostly outside of Mill Creek Hundred. However, Edna Frances Medill was born in here in 1869, the daughter of George and Philena Medill. The Medill house stood south of the main road from Stanton to Newark (present-day Kirkwood Highway) in what is now the development of Green Valley (just west of the Western Branch YMCA). This was most likely on land owned by Philena's father, Lewis Pennock, and sometime in the 1870's the Medill's sold their home to Philena's brother Pusey Pennock. They moved to Pencader Hundred, and although I know a little less about that area, I believe their house is still there. It's south of Newark on the west side of South Chapel St., just south of the Amtrak tracks. They were still listed there on an 1893 map, and probably remained until George's death in 1914. By 1920, Edna was living with her mother, brother and sister on East Main Street in Newark.

 I can't find anything definitive, but I assume she taught in the public school in Newark. One of the few references I can find lists her as a 5-6 grade teacher in Newark for the 1936-37 school year. She would have been approaching 70. She probably retired not long after that, and passed away in 1952. Shortly after her death, the new elementary school just east of Newark was named in her honor. And although I realize she worked outside of MCH, we're going to assume her success had to do with her early years here and claim her.

The final one of our three educators is the only one whose eponymous school is still open -- Anna P. Mote. I initially had trouble finding much on the background and family of Anna Mote, which I soon realized was due mostly to my own stereotyping of teachers from that era. Without thinking, I assumed that Mote, like Little and Medill, had remained unmarried throughout her life. After hours of frustrating research, I finally realized why I was unable to find the young Anna P. Mote in the census records. It was because she was born Anna Phebe Guthrie, the daughter of Joseph and Phebe Guthrie, in 1870. As it turns out, her father and grandfather (Alexander Guthrie) were already mentioned in the Ebenezer Methodist Church post as two of the key figures in its history. From what I can tell from census and map data, Anna was born and first lived in a home on Possum Park Road, right about where the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is now. By 1880, it appears the family may have moved into Alexander Guthrie's house, which was nearby on Paper Mill Road, about where Stage Road is now.
Marshallton School, c.1900
Sometime in the late 1880's or early 1890's, Anna married (I believe) Theodore Mote. He was the son of William James Mote, and the grandson of Eli Mote, whose farm was on the western end of Fox Den Road. [I'm relatively sure about the Mote connections, but not 100%.] Anna may have begun teaching at the Milford Crossroads school nearby, but sadly, Theodore died in 1892 at the age of 30. Sometime in the next eight years, Anna moved to Marshallton, as in the 1900 census she was teaching there and living with her sister, Eliza (Lidia) Guthrie. Although I can't be sure, I think they may have been living on Newport Road near the school. The two story brick schoolhouse which stands now behind Big D's Pizza was built in the late 1890's, and may have been what attracted her to the area. (I say that because I found an Anna P. Mote, teacher, in an 1897 Ocean Grove, NJ city directory. No way to know if it's the same woman.)

Anna spent the rest of her teaching career in Marshallton, eventually moving into the much larger Marshallton Consolidated School when it opened in 1932. As with Lora Little in Stanton, I just have to wonder how much she might have had to do with having it built. Mote continued teaching until 1938, and when a new school was built on the other side of Kirkwood Highway in the late 1950's, it was named in her honor.
Entrance to the Anna P. Mote School

These three women, just a few of the many dedicated educators that MCH has produced over the years, act in a way as a link from the old MCH to the new. They were all born in the 19th Century to families with deep roots in the area. When they came of age and began teaching, they were helping to educate the last generation or two that grew up in and knew the old MCH. The schools that bore their names were constructed in the 1950's to handle the influx of new students who were there as a result of the rapid suburbanization of the post-war years -- the new Mill Creek Hundred.


  1. After publishing this post, I remembered that I had found a photo of the Marshallton School. I'm not sure of the exact date, but it has to be about 1900, give or take a few years. The reason I've inserted it now is that it certainly dates to the time Anna P. Mote taught there, and I imagine she is probably in the picture. She may be on the far right, but I don't know for sure.

  2. I've added to this post a recently-passed-along picture of Lora Little, taken in 1924 while she was teaching at the old school in Stanton.

    On a related note, there should be a related post up sometime later this week. Stay tuned...

  3. I recall Miss Little honoring us with her presence at assemblies at her namesake school. I was there grades 1-6 1959-1966. We were asked to be silent in those days before her voice could be amplified. Though quite elderly, her voice was strong! Thank you for these MCH posts and especially her photo. 😊 Amy Gier Bland

    1. Thanks for the great memory, Amy!!!

  4. There is a plaque with Lora Little's name on it in the Central School. I knew where Lora Little Elementary school was as my friend went to school there. In 2009 I worked in The Central School and noticed the plaque.

    1. Thanks for the info! I didn't know about the plaque, but it makes perfect sense. In looking back at this post, I realize I didn't mention that I went to Lora Little Elementary its last two years. It closed after my first grade year.