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  • Last modified 25 days ago (May 23, 2018)

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A classy portrait

For three decades, going to school in Marion’s valley meant learning from Rachel Anna Bown, one of two local teachers for whom historic Bown-Corby School was named.

A member of a prominent Marion family that included land agents and county officials, Anna Bown primarily taught first and second grade at what was known alternately as West School and Valley School, which the 1929 Bown-Corby School replaced.

“Miss Bown,” as she was known, began teaching after the family arrived from Ohio in the 1870s.

She often taught very large classes — 76 students in 1893 — yet was heralded by the Record of 1889 as “one of the most efficient and popular teachers who ever graced a Marion schoolroom.”

Although many regard summer vacation for school is a throwback to more agrarian days, she also taught during the summer in those very agrarian days. In 1890, for example, she presided over a “select school” for first through fourth graders that gave special attention to elocution.

She continued teaching until age 75 when, in 1917, ill health prevented her from taking up her duties — a development that the Record of the time regarded as a major news flash.

“For 30 consecutive years she has been teaching the little tots here, and what a wonderful service she has rendered during all these years,” the newspaper reported. “Into the life of this community Miss Bown has woven, as the years have come and gone, a thread of devoted and efficient and helpful service such as few communities have received.

“And no one can measure the influence she has had, for under her fine direction hundreds of children have learned their first school lessons — lessons from the books and larger lessons in the subtle shaping of the spirit.

“She has in a number of cases taught the children of men and women who had gone to school to her in other days. In addition, these children-grown-big have rejoiced with great joy when they sent their little tots off ‘to school to Miss Bown.’

“Anyhow, Miss Bown, this is just to say to you that the people of this good old town hold you in affectionate regard, and they are wishing for you a steady and early return to perfect health.”

A year later, she moved to California to live with her sister, Gertrude Wood. She died there in 1926, at age 84, but her remains were returned to Marion for burial.

The school named for her and fellow teacher Jenny Corby was added to the National Register of Historic Sites in 2015 and now serves as a remodeled apartment building.

Last modified May 23, 2018

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