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The 1890 ‘Spinster Class’ was unique

Dibble’s Dabbles

July 12, 2011
By (the late) Billie Dibble, Former Westfield Historian (1975-2006)
First published June 28, 1984:

Perhaps the most unique class ever to graduate from Westfield School was the Class of 1890. It was known as “The Spinster Class” because it was composed of seven young ladies with nary a young man. What a shame!

The seven pretty girls in their floor-length gowns, all be-tucked and be-ruffled each wore or carried a dainty nosegay of roses as she sat on the stage at the old Union School Hall on the third floor of the building which some of us remember as the elementary school.

The hall was filled to overflowing and each graduate acquitted herself with credit and did honor to her teachers and friends.

The Westfield Orchestra furnished music during the entire evening maintaining its usual high standard and gave a first-class performance in every respect.

Prayer was offered by Rev. W.F. Faber. The Salutatory Address was given by Elizabeth Rilla Mosher, her subject being “The Uses of Wit” in which she emphasized the fact that humor should never be used at the expense of another’s feelings.

Hattie Lovisa Hall’s essay was on “Proverbs,” and Sophia Carolina Hubele chose “The Sublime in Nature” for her subject.

Julia Anna Hayword recited the difficult selection, “The Sioux Chief’s Daughter” very acceptably. Ida may Norton’s essay was entitled “I Told You So.” Alice Eliza Holt used “The Autobiography of a Rain Drop” as her subject.

Elsie Rose Hanchett read the Valedictory, “Ladder of Life” in which she counseled her classmates to keep on climbing.

Prof. A.N. Taylor, principal and superintendent, presented the diplomas and gave the address. He was followed by H.C. Kingsbury, president of the Board of Education who expressed the high appreciation in which the faculty of the school was held.

Class Day was held on another day and because of a misunderstanding about the public being invited to the affair and the fact that it was held at 2 p.m., there was a small attendance but the exercises were very fine and highly appreciated.

The Westfield Republican carried the following little notice, “The Board of Education should see in the future that boys are not allowed to throw fireworks up to the windows and explode them so near the audience. It is annoying to both speakers and listeners.” (It’s good to know there were some boys around somewhere. I’ll bet the sweet girl graduates were not greatly annoyed by the fireworks!)

By way of comparison, I took a quick look at the reports of the graduation of 1940, 50 years after “The Spinster Class.” That year graduation took place in the combination gymnasium-auditorium in the Junior High School wing which had been added to the High School Building on the north side of Main Street in 1927. The commencement address, “The Right to Question,” was delivered by Bristow Adams, B.B. professor In Extension Service, editor and chief of Publications, Cornell University.

Diplomas were presented to 56 graduates by S. F. Nixon, president of the Board of Education.

Baccalaureate Service in 1940 was well attended, even though it took place during a steady downpour of rain. It was attended by four clergymen, Rev. M.J. Spencer, who gave the inspiring sermon, Rev. F.A. McKnight, Rev. E.C. Young and Rev. A.T. Bennett.

Donald Tiedemann’s solo showed a rich well-trained voice which will be considered a major factor in the wealth of Westfield talent. Musical numbers were also presented by a double quartet comprised of James McAllister, Rohland Baldwin, Helen Hyde, Nadine Johnstone, Jeanne Bornand, Marjory Caras, Dick Sparks, and Dick Bennett.

Graduation customs change a bit as time goes on but we are always proud of those who graduate and congratulations are the order of the day!

Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.

Beigh can be reached at or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

Article Photos

Photo courtesy Patterson Library
The All-Girl Graduates — The class of 1890 at Westfield Academy and Union School had only seven members, all female. The girls in their gorgeous gowns are Rilla Mosher, Alice Holt, Ida Norton, Julia Hayward, Sophia Hubele, Elsie Hanchett and Hattie Hall.



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