RICHARD FETTERS SCHOOL
Southwest Corner of South 3rd & Walnut Streets

The Richard Fetters School was built in 1875 at the southwest corner of South 3rd and Walnut Streets. Designed by prominent Camden architect Stephen Decatur Button, it was one of three identical school buildings contracted for by the Camden's Board of Education. The schools were built by local contractor Mahlon E. Harden, and local shipbuilder John Dialogue played a critical role in their construction. Another school, the Isaac S. Mulford School, which served as an all girls school for many years, was built diagonally across the street, and the John W. Mickle School was built at 6th and Van Hook Streets. As Camden's population grew, so did the school, and additions and renovations were done in 1900, 1928, and 1929. 

The Fetters School was named for Richard Fetters, a prominent citizen of 19th century Camden. Fetters played a vital role in establishing the City of Camden. The section of the city for many years known as Fettersville was purchased by Richard Fetters in 1833 from Charity and Grace Kaighn and embraced the land lying between Line and Cherry Streets, extending from Third Street to the Delaware River. Fetters, a Quaker, was a political and civic leader light years ahead of his time in his commitment to address the needs of his fellow citizens. The town of Fettersville grew rapidly, and in 1835 an additional tract was purchased from the Kaighn family extending south to Mount Vernon Street. 

For most of its existence the Fetters School was an elementary school. Many of Camden's finest educators worked there including Professor Horatio Draper, was the first principal of Camden's Manual Training and High School, the predecessor to today's Camden High School. Prominent Camden citizens who attended Fetters include Rocco Palese and Frank F. Neutze, lawyers who both became judges, Dr. Henry Z. Goldstein and his brother Dr. Leopold Z. Goldstein, and the brothers Tommy and Lew Skymer, both well known in their time both as boxers and as businessmen.

In recent years the school was utilized as an "alternative" High School, where students whose behavior was such that they could not attend the regular High Schools were sent. In 2002, when the discovery of construction defects at the Lanning Square School at 5th and Clinton forced its closure, the Fetters School received many students who previously attended Lanning Square.

Still in use in 2004, 129 years after its construction, the Fetters School has outlived many school buildings built after it opened, which begs the question of why close or raze this useful and historic building now or in the near future. 

The photo above dates from 1922, and was provided by by JoAnn Skymer Hirsch. Her father, Thomas J. "Tommy" Skymer, is one of the Fetters School students pictured in the foreground. The Isaac S. Mulford School is visible in the background. The Annex, containing additional classrooms, was built where the students are standing in 1928.

Camden Courier-Post
Evening Courier - April 23, 1928

It is not so many years ago, old timers say, since Fetters School at Third and Mount Vernon Street was considered large enough to accommodate youngsters for several generations. Now a six-room annex is to be built on the north side facing Walnut Street. Back in 1905 five rooms were added in the annex on Mount Vernon Street. With the new structure the school will contain 19 rooms, which would have thought far too large for a high school in the 90s, when Camden had its first experiment in that line. That was in the old Federal Street building later occupied by the Post-Telegram

 

Half a Century Ago

 

When Fetters School was built in 1875 it was considered about the last word as far as a school structure went. It was of stone, solidly constructed and furnished with gas, running water, and everything then regarded as thoroughly modern. The largest school downtown was the old Kaighn building on Newton Avenue, until the 1870s ample for the Kaighn Point area.

There were plenty of open lots when the Fetters School was built. Those days Camden was something of a struggling community with districts that had not yet lost their individuality. As a pupil in the early 90s in old Fetters  I recall the section had many open spaces. Nothing remotely suggested the part-time classes was then necessary, certainly not thought of by Professor Horatio Draper, of blessed memory, who guided Camden’s educational system more than 30 years before he was displaced by the late Mayor Hatch at the close of the last century

 

Nothing had then been heard of a “melting pot” as applied to America and its schools. But around Kaighn Point even in the 80s there was the first evidence of a great influx of those from across the seas who were soon to follow the old families, who’s children were to enter that melting pot and become transformed into American citizens

 

The Melting Pot

 

The Fuhrmans, Auerbachs, Lichtensteins were among the first I recall. Many others followed; especially from the Russian Polish district where life was hard and oppression severe. Came the immigrant wave from South Italy whose descendants long since have taken possession of the district spreading from Third and Pine, once the stronghold of English, German, and Irish families. In a police census a quarter of a century ago it developed that the Fifth Ward could boast representatives from every nation on the face of the globe, even to a Finlander, some Turks with Japs and Chinese commonplace.

 

It was about the period when Miss Clara S. Burrough, long principal of the High School and now recovering from an operation in Cooper Hospital, was principal of Fetters that the big change came that the classes were composed largely of children of foreign parentage. Often they did not know a single world of English. Teachers had their problems and Miss Burrough will undoubtedly recall the great task involved in really making the “melting pot” down there in the old school at Third and Mount Vernon Street effective. But she and the valiant corps under here direction tackled it and by the time Miss Burrough was elevated to the principalship of Camden High, a very deserved promotion, by the way, the problem had been totally solved.

 

Hot Times in the Old Town

 

Incidentally Miss Burrough will likewise recall the hectic conditions in more ways than one for the period marked turmoil in the educational world hereabouts. “Old Drape” had been fired overnight by Hatch, indignation meetings were held, demands were made for his reinstatement but the Committee of Public Instruction, headed by the late C.S. Magrath, named by Hatch, naturally followed his direction. Martin Scheibner, a long, white-whiskered veteran of the Civil War, was named as Draper’s successor. But it was worse than handling a drove of wild horses. The venerable professor soon bowed out of the scene. It was not until the advent of Professor James E. Bryan that something like peace came. Bryan's firm hand plus extraordinary ability and a determination not to surrender despite scholastic bedlam finally won.

 

But even yet, old friends of “Drape's” who knew him in Fetters or in the makeshift “high school” have not forgotten the bitterness, have not forgiven the shabby way in which that fine Southern gentleman was treated. I recall him down at Fetters, sometimes with his setters on which he placed much store; often with a humorous story, which probably didn’t contribute to strict school, discipline but which certainly left fragrant memories of days long ago.

C.S. Magrath - Martin Scheibner - Fuhrman Family - Lichtenstein Family

Teacher Assignments & Transfers - June 22, 1933

Camden Courier-Post - June 23, 1933

Mitchell Mozeleski Is Assigned to Coaching 
LOCAL STAR ATHLETE WILL ASSIST BROOKS
Wearshing Shifted to Woodrow Wilson Hi; Lobley and O'Brien to Teach 
SIAS AT CRAMER JR. WITH MARY LADEWIG

By FRANK KOPESKY

The appointments to the city's educational staff announced by Samuel E. Fulton, president of the board of education, revealed last night that three former Camden High athletes are among the new appointees. 

The trio are Mitchell Mozelski, Edward Lobley and Edward "Pat" O'Brien. In addition to the appointment of the above, shifts in the physical education department for Camden's two senior high schools were also announced. 
Mozeleski, Lobley and O'Brien were stars of the first water while attending the local institution and also sparkled in college athletics. Mozeleski has been assigned to the physical education department at the
Camden Academic High School at Farnham Park and will assist Phillip R. Brooks. 

Brooks and Mozeleski will coach the various sports at the academic institution, with the latter more than likely taking over football and track and the former basketball and baseball. Brooks, however, will be in charge of the physical department. 

Mozeleski comes back to his alma mater after having had wide success in college sports and in coaching. "Mitch" attended William and Mary College and captained the football and basketball teams in his senior year, while also earning a letter in track. Following graduation from the Virginia college, Mozeleski coached at a Virginia military academy. 

Wearshing at Woodrow Wilson 

Mozeleski is well versed in football and is expected to turn out a formidable team this year at the academic institution. Still, he will have to find plenty of new material, as a number of the present gridders have transferred to the Woodrow Wilson Commercial High School, located at 32nd and Federal Streets. 

Grover "Worm" Wearshing, who assisted in the physical ed department at the local school during the past three years, and tutored the football and baseball teams, will take charge of that department and athletic teams at the Woodrow Wilson High School

As yet no assistant has been named for Wearshing, but within the next few weeks an announcement will be made by the board of education. 

Frank Sias, who was on the physical ed staff at the local high school and coached track, has been appointed as physical instructor at Cramer Junior High School and will be assisted by Mary Ladewig, another former Camden High grad, who has starred on the cinders for Temple University and Meadowbrook, holding a number of Middle Atlantic A. A. U. records. 

Lobley and O'Brien have been appointed as teachers in grammar schools. The former wlll teach at Fetters School, while the latter will tutor at Stevens School
Lobley and O'Brien Stars 

Lobley, who was a three-letterman at Camden High, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was on the varsity basketball team for three successive years, captaining the five in his senior year when the Red and Blue won the Eastern Intercollegiate championship. 

O'Brien, who was a star center at Camden High on the eleven, is a graduate of St. Joseph's College, and performed for three years at that position for the Philadelphia institution. While both have been assigned as teachers, it is likely that they will build up a foundation of grammar school athletics, teaching the youngsters the fundamentals of various sports. 

Fulton also announced last night that in dividing the present enrollment at Camden High into two separate institutions, that both will have the required number of male students to enter the Group 4 division in athletics. 

Schedules are already being drawn up for football for teams at both the academic and commercial arts schools. Fulton also stated that in all likelihood the elevens of both schools will meet on Thanksgiving Day to decide the supremacy of the city public school football title. However, this cannot be decided upon definitely until the alumni agrees to abandon their regular Thanksgiving Day game with the senior high team. .

EARL CUNNINGHAM JR.

Camden Courier-Post - June 24, 1933

Unusual Record

Three generations of the Cunningham family were listed yesterday as graduates of the Fetters School, each of whom were taught by the same instructor.

Latest to join the ranks of "grads" is Earl Cunningham, Jr., son of Policeman Earl Cunningham, also a graduate of the same school.

Earl, who lives at 451 Mechanic street, is winner of the annual Sullivan cash award for scholarship. He is a grandson of the late Edgar Cunningham, the policeman's father who also attended the school and was taught by the same teacher who tutored son and grandson. She is Miss Lillian T. Osler, recently retired by the board of education.

The youngest graduate whose chief desire is the study of medicine when he finishes the high school course, is 12 years old and finished with highest honors in his class.

Camden Courier-Post - February 3, 1959

CSCS Group Addressed By Educator

By WILDA R. SMITH

Josiah C. Conwell Jr., of Palmyra, principal of Camden's Fetter's School was guest speaker Monday night in the First Methodist Church, Westville.

Addressing the "guest night" meeting of the Women's Society for Christian Service on "Character Building," Conwell said the church is the greatest of all character-building institutions.

Conwell is a steward in the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Riverton.

Mrs. W. R. Stocton, 233 Chestnut Street, Westville, vice president of the auxiliary, and program chairman introduced the speaker.

Guest WSCS groups attended from Methodist Churches in Almonesson, Brooklawn, Chew’s Landing, Colonial Manor, Mt. Ephraim, National Park, Thorofare, Verga and Gloucester,

Mrs. Francis Goss is president of the host society.

* * *

By proclamation of Mayor Brunner, Camden will join in celebrating National Negro History Week, February 8-15.

Clubs and groups win pay tribute over the nation to Negro Americans who have made contributions to the existence of the United State's as a free and independent nation.

Service Guild of the Tenth Street Baptist Church, 1860 South 10th Street, is spearheading local I programs for the week's anniversary.

John M. Gray, 1112 Van Hook Street, announces availability of speakers for such programs from a special bureau set up by the guild. He may be contacted at his residence, or by telephone: WO 6-3724.

Climaxing the week's celebration, the guild is sponsoring a mass meeting, February 15, at 8 p. m., in the Tenth Street Church. Local citizens who have made outstanding contributions to race advancement, during 1958 will be presented awards.

Gray announced as main speaker, Thomas Okelo-Odongo, acting executive secretary of the All-African Student Union of the Americas, and a student lecturer at Howard University, Washington, D, C, He is a native of Kenya, and will speak on "Africa Today”.

The Rev. J. A. Nimmo is pastor of the host church.

* * *

Numerous Camden residents attended the annual National Freedom Day celebration in Philadelphia. By a 1948 act of Congress February 1 was made a legal holiday, National Freedom Day..

Richard Fetters School - September 2003
Above: The Annex, on the corner of 3rd & Walnut Streets, was added in 1928. A similar addition was built on the south end, on the Mt. Vernon Street corner. 
Below: Another view of the Annex

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