|Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian||
Earlier this year I was trialling a website called genealogybank.com. In the course of searching the name "Jerrems" (something I often do, for some strange reason) I came across a reference in a 1901 Philadelphia newspaper to a Miss Jerrems who had won a prize for charcoal drawing at a girl's school with the rather unlikely name of "The Ogontz School for Young Ladies".
This website specialises in newspaper articles, rather like the website fultonhistory.com which I have referred to previously, but it covers more States. I have set out the newspaper article later in this article because it is quite long and you may get lost in it unless I tell you more about Miss Jerrems beforehand. The history of this article is that I sent an early draft to our esteemed Editor Donald, who initiated more research which I have now incorporated in this article.
As so often happens when I obtain more information, the article has grown considerably. I hope you like it; it provides (amongst other things) an interesting contrast to the trials and tribulations of James Jerrems and his family as described in the July 2008 issue of this Journal.
Who was Miss Jerrems?
Bearing in mind that the school was a private school and the fees would have been very high, when I first read the newspaper article I narrowed the field down to the daughters of William and Mary Jerrems of Chicago, being Helen, Mae or Annie. I concluded that the most likely candidate was Annie, the youngest, who would have been 19 at the time.
Editor Donald contacted Abington Library in Abington, Pennsylvania, resulting in Carolyn Hotchkiss from that library providing me with extracts from the 1903 Class Book of the school which confirmed that the "Miss Jerrems" in the newspaper article was in fact Annie.
The school seems to have been what is often called a "finishing school" so some of the girls attending could have been in their late teens or older (Annie graduated when she was 21).
Annie's full name was Annie Letitia Jerrems, and she was the youngest daughter of William George Jerrems and Mary Nicholl Jerrems. She was the grandmother of Mark Healy, one of our readers.
Annie's father (William George Jerrems) was one of the Jerrems families that migrated to Australia in the 1850s. He eventually settled down in Chicago, where he became a wealthy mens' clothing merchant trading under the name of his father-in-law's firm "Nicoll the Tailor".
What was the Ogontz School?
My first reaction was that with a name like "Ogontz" the school must have been in Russia (or wherever Minsk and Gdansk are located). But Mr Google assured me that the school was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and that it had reigned for a hundred years from 1850 to 1950.
The website for the school modestly states that: "For 100 years, the elite and prestigious school known as The Ogontz School for Young Ladies was a prominent force in female private education." After giving you these tantalising pieces of information I will now quote most of the article, from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper of June 5, 1901, then I will explain some more things.
The newspaper article: School Days End At Pretty Ogontz
Thirty One Young Women To Meet The Problem Of The Big World
Yesterday the school days of 31 graduates of the Ogontz School for Young Ladies came to a close. The different rooms on the lower floor of the school building were beautifully decorated with flowers and plants. The drawing room, where the exercises were held, was more elaborately decorated than the others. At one end was a raised platform, which was occupied by the graduates.
About 400 persons were assembled in the room when at 10 o'clock the graduates, attired in spotless white, entered, accompanied by the school faculty. The program contained many interesting and high class features and was necessarily a long one, because of the number of graduates. At its conclusion the award of diplomas and distribution of honors was made by Miss S. Eastman, principal.
Honor Winners: The honor winners were:
Gymnastics-Gold medal to Miss Gladys Green, with honourable mention to Miss Cordes and Miss Mathieu.
Military-A silk banner was awarded Company A for proficiency in drill, with honourable mention to Company C. In individual competitive drill Miss Mabel Horton won the gold medal, with honourable mention to Miss Blunt, in the older girls' class, and a gold medal was awarded to Miss Carolyn Sherwood in the new girls' class. Athletics-Miss Cathryn Treat was awarded a silver cup for proficiency in fencing.
Art-Miss Walker was awarded a gold medal for the best all-round work, with Miss Fisher a close second. Honourable mention was given to Miss Bigelow for color work, to Miss Jerrems and Miss Treat for charcoal work, and special mention was given Miss Webber for best work in clay modelling. After the awards had been made an address was delivered by the Rev. J. Sparhawk Jones D.D.
[I have not included the list of graduates here. It did not include Annie Jerrems, who I subsequently discovered graduated in 2003]
The School Curriculum
The newspaper article showed that the school had a rather unusual curriculum designed for energetic young ladies (or perhaps it was designed to attract parents who thought their daughters should be energetic young ladies, regardless of what the young ladies actually thought on the subject). The curriculum included activities like military drill (the first girls' school to have this), gymnastics and fencing. Photographs on the website show girls playing baseball and basketball, horse riding and standing in a line holding rifles. What happened to those genteel activities one associates with well-bred young ladies of that era like cooking, flower arranging, embroidery and ballet? Was the school akin to a reform school for delinquent girls?
Intrigued that Miss Jerrems had gone to such a girls' school I consulted Mr Google and found that there is a website devoted to its history. I was in for a surprise.
The School and its Grounds
At the school Annie in fact had a very congenial environment that most girls could only dream about. The school was located in three different locations over the years. At the time Annie attended the school it was based in an imposing five story country mansion, with extensive grounds, and had about 100 students. The website tells us that the mansion, with its many spacious rooms, could accommodate one hundred students. "Dignified, but not gloomy," it came furnished in ornate Victorian style with heavy velvet carpets on the wide corridors. The large library became a classroom, and an amusement room on the top floor with a stage and seating capacity of 150 was used for lectures and plays. The Conservatory, a court with palms, rubber plants, and a sculptured fountain, was a central gathering spot. The elegance of the mansion proved impressive even to the affluent clientele.
A lodge in the grounds would serve as a science laboratory, and new buildings were erected to accommodate an art studio, gymnasium, and music rooms. There also were stables, an infirmary, and greenhouses. Forty acres of the estate were well-kept lawns and flower gardens. The students spent their spare time walking, playing tennis, skating, playing ninepins (bowling) and swinging dumbbells. In the large amusement room the girls presented operettas, dramas, and minstrel shows.
It must have been a hard life!
Origin of the School's name.
In its first move away from its original campus, in 1883 the school had rented the Elkins Park estate of Civil War financier Jay Cooke, named "Ogontz" for Cooke's boyhood mentor and role model-a Sandusky Indian chief. With the move, the school assumed the name of the estate and became The Ogontz School for Young Ladies. So much for my initial idea that the name had had European origins! The website www.libraries.psu.edu/digital/ogontz , with its numerous links, has a lot of fascinating information on the school and numerous photos of Annie's era. The website is well worth a visit.
Why did Annie attend the school?
It is of course a matter of conjecture over a century later as to why Annie attended the school. However three of Annie's brothers went to major universities like Yale and Harvard (the fourth brother, William, did not want to go) so it would be reasonable to assume that Annie went there for the simple reason that she wanted to do so because her parents gave her that opportunity. In those days not many girls went to university.
Did Annie want to go to the school because she was an energetic person? The answer is probably "Yes". It was no coincidence that Amelia Earhart (the famous American aviatrix) attended the school. Probably Annie liked adventure also. Jerrems Journal reader Mark Healy (her grandson) has a photo of her, taken about five years later, showing her perched on a camel in front of an Egyptian pyramid. Editor's note: We need a copy of that photo.
What were Annie's achievements at the school?
We find out from the documents provided by Carolyn Hotchkiss that Annie was quite a busy young Miss. The 1903 school Class Book refers to the following:
(a) Annie's nickname was "Jerry" (not particularly original, I would like a dollar for every Jerrems person nicknamed Jerry), she came from 4917 Greenwood Ave Chicago, she attended the school from 1900-1903 (three scholastic years), she was a Corporal and then Second Sergeant in 1902, First Sergeant in 1903, she was in the T.W.T. Team (whatever that was) in 1903, was in the Tennis Club, and was Captain of the O.B.B.N. Team (sounds like the baseball or basketball team to me) in 1903.
(b) In the more sedentary area, she was in the Sketch Club and received Honorable Mentions in Drawing in 1900 and 1901.
(c) In the thespian area she was Snug in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and at the Commencement Day ceremony on June 2nd 1903 she recited "The Last Leaf" by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
(d) At the Class Supper Election in 1903 she was elected as being the "Most Athletic" girl in the class (she missed out on being the Prettiest, Wittiest, Best Figure and Most Intellectual).
(e) This was followed up with a humorous forecast in the Class Book about the girls' futures, Annie's being "After having a Physical Development Class for two years, Annie Jerrems will take another course in muscle-making exercises, and will do such wonderful feats in the athletic line that Corbett, Fitzsimmons, and even Sandow, will look with apprehension to the time when she will enter the ring with them, and, it is needless to say, gain the champion's belt". (Corbett and Fitzsimmons were world champion boxers and Sandow was a famous strongman).
What did Annie's parents think about the Ogontz School?
I have no doubt when proud parents William and Mary Jerrems attended Annie's graduation ceremony at the school in 1903 they would have cast their minds back to their more humble childhood days. William, in particular, at the age of 60, would have remembered his early childhood days in Gainsborough, the family's perilous sea voyage to Melbourne (JJ#16 August 2006 and JJ# 26 June 2007)when he was 16 and the family's hard times adapting to life in that frontier city. What a contrast to the environment at the school! I am sure that William and Mary would have felt very pleased that they had been able to send Annie to such a school. But perhaps they might have been slightly quizzical about the relevance of military training, tennis, baseball, fencing and athletics to a future debutante awaiting entry into the upper level of Chicago's society.
I trust you have enjoyed this excursion into the lives of one of the Jerrems relatives. I have certainly enjoyed researching and writing the article. Our thanks also to Carolyn Hotchkiss for her research.
|Charles W. "Chick" Keller, Overland Park, KS||
Treasured Finding in Chick's Attic
We moved recently and last night I was cleaning out a file cabinet and came accross a file I don't think I had ever seen before. I think we picked the file up when my mother Sydney Ann Jerrems died.
Anyway there was a letter in the file that contained one good paragraph of family info that may interest you.
The letter was written by William G Jerrems (my grandfather) on Sept 22, 1943 and was written to Betty Wright Rizzo, daughter of Marjorie Jerrems Wright Teasdale.
The letter is addressed to "My Very Dear Granddaughter"
Anyway here is the paragraph of interest.
"You once asked if the Jerrems family had a coat
of arms. It has. I had a copy of it, but it became lost in
my frequent moves.
Editor's Note: This is such a charming letter, we will let it stand for now. Ray's initial response: "The letter was a real "find" and clears up some outstanding mysteries." Stay tuned next month.
|Donald Jerrems, All-purpose Editor and More.||
In Pursuit of Jerrems Lore
Did you note that William and Mary were mentioned in both featured stories?
We welcome these wonderful stories. If you have one to share, send it in.
Later this year we will run images in our neglected Remember Us series. Be sure to submit you family favovite.
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