First published June 4, 1987: I keep digging up bits and pieces of history concerning the schools of Westfield, probably because the Sesqui-centennial is rapidly approaching. I recently read with interest the story of the laying of the cornerstone of the high school building which many of my contemporaries attended. The Westfield Republican carried the long and colorful story. November 2, 1901 was a perfect day weatherwise. No event in the history of the public buildings in Westfield had ever been attended with more impressive and colorful ceremonies. "From the moment the ranks of the parade swung into sight at the head of Main Street up to the last earnest words of the benediction there was no incident, no error of omission or commission that marred the dignity and appropriateness of the service." The cornerstone was laid in accordance with the ancient and honorable customs of the Masonic fraternity. More than 300 marched to the sound of triumphal music down Main St. Near the head, with the glitter of swords, shining ornaments, and snowy plumes came the Knight Templars of the Dunkirk commandery, forming the official escort of the grand lodge of the state of New York. Major H.P. Rizius of Westfield was marshal of the day. "Just as the head of the line reached the junction of Pearl and Main streets, the most appropriate incident of the day took place, for a sold phalanx of nearly five hundred school children stood at attention in front of the Union School (south side of Main St.) in order to witness the passage of the grand master, his brilliantly uniformed escort and the long line of the parade." A platform had been erected upon which were seated the Board of Education, the Village Board of Trustees, invited guests and the Citizens' Band, together with Masonic officials. "The address by the Rev. G.L. MacClelland (Presbyterian minister) was a most scholarly, finished and inspiring production and received high praise from all who heard it." In his address Rev. MacClelland said, "History is one essential round of repetitions. Repetitions not to do over again that which our predecessors have done so well, but to take that which has come to us and to enrich it for those who shall come after. This is the duty and purpose for the hour." The cornerstone was laid by M.W. Charles W. Mead, grand master of Masons in the state of New York. He was presented with an ivory handled silver trowel by W.H. Walker, master of Summit Lodge. In the cornerstone was placed a copper box, hermetically sealed, in which were placed many articles of historical significance. Placed in the stone by Summit Lodge, No. 219 were many items including the program of ceremonies attending the laying of the cornerstone, the invitation to the ceremonies and a photograph of R.W. William H. Thompson, district deputy 40th Masonic district. Among the articles placed in the box by the Board of Education was a typewritten history of the Westfield high school from 1837 to the time of the laying of the cornerstone. The history gave the names of all the principals and teachers who served during that period. The deposits of the Board of Education also included issues of The Westfield Republican containing accounts of public meetings leading up to the decision to build the high school, the first catalogue of the Union School, 1869, the latest catalogue, 1901, in which appeared the name of every child in the public schools of Westfield at the time of the laying of the cornerstone, photos of the old Academy, the new Academy and a watercolor of the new high school about to be built. The Westfield Fire Department included in the box photos and lists of officers and members of the department, and an account of the proceedings of trustees in regard to the fire alarm system. Westfield churches deposited histories and lists of officers and photographs in the copper box. Many of the articles which were contained in the old copper box will be on display during July at Patterson Library for those who attend the 150th anniversary of the Westfield schools. 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 email@example.com or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
Photo courtesy Patterson Library
Four years after the laying of the cornerstone for the Westfield high school building which stood at the present site of Bells market (Editor’s note — This is now the site of Tops Market), the class of 1905 planted at cut leaf maple tree and buried its class mementoes beneath it. In the back row of the photo, left to right, are: Nellie Sawin; Ida Donavan of Stockton; Eolene Caldwell of Portland; Grace Johnson; Carlton Judd; president Clara Wratten; Lillian Boult; Marie Daley; Grace Galloway; Clara Kent; Frances Rood; Georgia Munger; and Hattie Johnson. In front, from left to right, are: Raymond Dibble; Carl Phiel; Henry Lockwood; Glenn McCruden; Harlow Whipple; George Minton; Charlie Jenks; and Alton Reed.