Local historian urges town to broaden horizons when it comes to school names

Local historian urges town to broaden horizons when it comes to school names

As the parcel in the northwest section of Cheshire becomes ever closer to becoming a new, modern elementary school, there are many considerations being set out before the public.

One of those items under consideration is the name of the school.

Cheshire’s Medal of Honor recipient Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum has already been publicly advanced as a choice.  Other alternate and equally promising recommendations, should be given space to be heard, according to one resident and historian.

“I have no problem naming things after veterans, and I love the idea of naming it (the school) after Nora Adams, because she was one of the first female veterans in the Navy, and she was a reading teacher,” said Christine Pittsley, Special Projects Director for Connecticut State Library, and director for CSL’s award-winning World War One programs.

Pittsley, herself a veteran and a fourth-generation Cheshirite, said Cheshire veteran and teacher Nora Adams would be an excellent choice to name a school after.  Adams was Pittsley’s reading teacher at Norton School, and taught in the Meriden schools as well. Years later, Pittsley became reacquainted with her former teacher, and learned Adams was a veteran and had served in the Navy Reserve in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Service) in WWII.

“We tend to think of historical figures who died long before we knew them. But there were a lot of people in this town who knew Nora and she is part of our history. And she’s a vet,” stated Pittsley. “I know from her obituary that she was one of the first WAVES. She only died a couple of years ago, but she is a part of our history and so many of us have a connection to her.  I think it would be an amazing way to honor her legacy in this town.”

A fact that Pittsley also notices is that “when we talk about Cheshire history, we’re focused on the men, but there were women who made significant contributions to our community; historically and in the present. So, naming a school for one of those women just makes sense.”

“There is only one building in town named after a woman, and that’s Humiston, and I doubt if most people realize it’s named for Julia Humiston. The idea for naming a building after a woman — it’s time,” she continued.

Lucinda Foote is a noteworthy candidate as well, in Pittsley’s view. Foote was the daughter of Rev. John Foote and when she was 12, she sat exams for Yale, with Yale President Ezra Stiles in 1783. “She’s listed as the first woman to take exams at Yale,” said Pittsley. 

According to the certificate given to Lucinda, Stiles wrote: “She has made commendable progress giving the true meaning of passages of Euclid, of Virgil, the select orations of Cicero and in the Greek Testament and that she is fully qualified except in regard to sex to be received a pupil of the Freshman class of Yale College.”  

Before marrying Dr. Thomas Cornwall in 1790, she pursued studies learning Hebrew from Stiles.

“She (Lucinda Foote) is a name we do not talk about. We talk about her father. We talk about her brother, Samuel Augustus, the governor; and we talk about her nephew. We talk about all the male Footes. Well, what about her?” asked Pittsley. 

That story has always stayed with Pittsley, and so, to name a school after her would be fitting, she said.

Another person who could be among the names considered is a man by the name of Cuff.  Cuff was a free captive. In the writings of late 19th century historian Edward R. Brown, Cuff is mentioned as having lived at the bottom of Huckins Road on Marion Road and the brook that runs parallel is Cuff Brook, named for him, according to Pittsley.

“I think that would be another fantastic name, “The Cuff Brook School,” because it would recognize the contributions of our early African descendant population, which was much larger than it is today. That would also be fitting, as those people were not afforded educational opportunities at that point in time,” she said.


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