Hopewell Grammar School Kids – c1912

These first two images from around 1912 show the view from the Lincoln Grammar School on Model Avenue in Hopewell, as photographed by Ethel Holeman, a new teacher starting her career there. These are from the collection of her daughter, Eleanora McAlinden Kolbert. (See previous post on the Skillman General Store and Post Office).

But in addition to celebrating this young teacher who thought to take and preserve photos that are now so welcome in our time, this is also the story of the Model Avenue / Lincoln Grammar School in Hopewell – and how kids in the Hopewell Valley got to school in the early 1900s over long distances and dirt roads. Plus it’s a disappointing story of religious discrimination.

The Kolbert / McAlinden photo collection of over 40 images goes back to the early 1900s, including family photos in Hopewell showing still-existing and some now-gone streetscapes along Model Avenue, on East Prospect, and at St. Alphonsus Church.

== View the Kolbert / McAlinden photo album in the Image Gallery ==

Grammar School Wagon – c1912

View of Model Ave. from the Hopewell Grammar School with the school transportation wagon, c1912

The first photo shows the view from the front of the school building, facing a muddy Model Avenue. The horse-drawn covered wagon is the “school bus” of its time, the school transportation wagon that served children from outside of town.

The photo is annotated on the back as the “Mountain Road School Bus.” Behind to the left are the backs of two residences that still stand on North Greenwood Avenue. To the right is a barn building that might have been later rotated on the property.

These school wagons were mentioned intermittently in the local newspapers, especially when complaining about the condition of the local dirt roads, with empathy for the children who need to ride over the bad roads twice a day, which also required a slower and therefore longer trip.

As reported in papers in 1922, the Hopewell Township School District provided transportation for students who were more than 2 miles from a school, or more than 1 1/2 miles from a transportation route (with another half mile added for high schoolers). In 1928, the papers reported that the state and county were paying 75% of the school transportation expenses.

In 1922, the Hopewell Township Board of Education was running 11 routes to transport students: 3 to Pennington, 1 to Harts Corner and Pennington, 2 to Titusville, 4 to the Hopewell grammar school, and 1 to the Hopewell High School. The contracts for these routes varied from $64 to $117 per month, with the Board providing the transportation wagons.

By 1919, however, the Lower Makefield School Board (across the river around Yardley, Pa.) was experimenting purchasing a school bus, a “1 1/2-ton Federal truck with pneumatic tires, the body being a regular school bus type, made especially to transport children.” And by 1932 when the Mountain School in Zion was closed and auctioned off, the reasons given were “improved roads and the introduction of automotive school bus.” The property sold for $77, and the 11 students in the community would then be bussed to the public school in Montgomery, five miles away.

Compare this photo of a Pennington school wagon on the HVHS Facebook, shown on a warmer day – with two horses and the side panels rolled up.

Grammar School Kids in the Snow – c1912

Kids in the snow behind the Lincoln Grammar School, c1912

The second photo, presumably taken around the same time, shows happy school kids – boys in coats and hats – behind the building in the back yard of the school, enjoying the snow. Many have snowballs in hand, but but are not threatening to throw them at the photographer.

Behind the yard is the horizontal line of the railroad tracks (not really visible), and then a line of houses down Hart Avenue.

Then visible up on the hill in the top center is the Castle building with its towers.

Ethel Holeman – Hopewell Student and Teacher

Ethel Holeman McAlinden (1892-1975) grew up in Hopewell and attended the Lincoln Grammar School. This amazing photo postcard from the collection shows the eighth grade students in the school room. (Holeman is in the front with the sailor collar.)

Holeman then continued at the Hopewell High School, recently added in the same Model Avenue building. She graduated in 1909 as valedictorian, with a 95.2 average. The school then had 22 students, with five students graduating in her class, as shown in the class photo from the newspaper. (Holeman on right.)

Eighth grade students in the Lincoln Grammar School, c1907
The graduating class of Hopewell High School [TET, 5/8/1909]

After graduating from Hopewell High School in 1909, Holeman attended the New Jersey State Normal School at Trenton, studying to become a teacher. Since the Hopewell high school program was only three years, she took three years at the Normal School instead of the usual two. (The Normal School later evolved into the State Teachers College, Trenton State College, and now The College of New Jersey.)

After graduation in 1912, she returned to the Lincoln Grammar School as a new teacher, and taught there for two years. During this time she took some of the photographs in this collection, including at the school.

In 1913, she also became treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Hopewell Fire Department, and was extolled in the Trenton paper as a “very promising violinist” in a Musical Mention section, complete with a photo.

Holeman moved to Perth Amboy in 1914, where she continued to teach. She married Merritt J. McAlinden (1880-1975) in 1920 and returned to Hopewell, where she raised five children and served as organist at St. Alphonsus Church for 28 years. Merritt had worked at a store in Perth Amboy, and later served as postmaster of the Hopewell post office from 1942 to 1958.

Miss Holeman Rejected Due to Religion

Nomer Gray letter to the editor on Ethel Holeman [TET 7/12/1914]

The reason that Ethel Holeman left the Hopewell Grammar School was that she was blackballed because she was a Catholic.

This event was documented in the Trenton Evening Times of July 12, 1914 by Prof. Nomer Gray, an important educational figure who also was a graduate of Normal School, had been appointed principal of the Hopewell public schools in 1894 at the age of 23, and later taught in the New York City school system before retiring to Hopewell. Gray also authored the incredibly helpful Healthy, Historic Hopewell pamphlet in 1897 (see earlier post).

In a lengthy letter to the editor, Gray reported that “certain parties or anti-Catholic organizations objected to her reappointment,” but that he had contacted several board members who had assured him that religion would not be considered. He then quoted the rejection letter from the Clerk of the Board of Education to Holeman, that explicitly states that “on motion I was directed to inform you that the only objection to you was your religion.”

Gray also detailed the un-American and unconstitutional nature of this action, as well as pointing out how it served as a bad example that could encourage retaliation, since “we note that there are as many Catholics in New Jersey, according to the census of 1912, as there are Protestants.” He also included copies of letters from the school principal, supervising principal, county superintendent, and president of the Board of Education, which the editor reported that “all four letters contained the warmest endorsement of Miss Holeman, both as a teacher and in a social way.”

However, apparently the antipathy was strong enough that Holeman was encouraged to leave town to find a job in Perth Amboy, although the good news is that this path did result in marrying Merritt McAlinden.

The Model Avenue School

Postcard of the Hopewell Grammar School, after 1907

The postcard shows the Model Avenue school, also known as the Lincoln Grammar School throughout its existence.

The original building was built in 1888 as a four-room school (the center of the structure), and then expanded with wings to the west and east in 1899 and 1907 respectively, which added two more rooms each. A separate two-room Annex building then was added on the west side in 1915 (next to the lumberyard).

A three-year high school course was started in the Model Avenue building in 1908. A new high school building then was constructed  in 1910 on Columbia Avenue (later Borough Hall and now the Hopewell Fire Department). The grammar school later moved to the current Hopewell Elementary School building on Princeton Avenue when it was built in 1926, which ended the school use of the Model Avenue building.

These buildings still stand today – The Model Avenue school was converted into multiple dwelling units, and the Annex has been the home of various businesses.

(One enduring mystery is when and how the original three-story high school building on Columbia was reduced to the current two-story building used by the Fire Department. We have no known documentation of this change. See earlier post.)

We welcome additional information, photos, and materials on the Hopewell schools, and on our local history in general.

More on Hopewell Valley Schools

Posts on school materials, including yearbooks, graduation programs, and plays:

Browse school materials in the Pamphlet Collection:

See also the Document Archive for additional historical school materials.

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