By Carol McCracken
The late Donald L. Ferguson was a student of Marada Adams here on the Hill. In his self-published book, (originally printed in 1982,) – “Munjoy Hill – Portland’s Scenic Peninsula, he wrote about her:
“Her long teaching career began in the front room of a frame house in Linneus, Aroostook County, when she was sixteen years old. The house had replaced the log cabin where she was born November 1, 1845. Between teaching terms she attended Ricker Academy in Houlton. But she also found time to pursue her love of fishing, exploring, and riding horseback in the beautiful Aroostook countryside. She recalled that as a girl she lightened her dishwashing chore by practicing the waltz while wiping plates.
From the beginning of her career at the Emerson School, Miss Adams decreed that art appreciation, her favorite subject, would be part of the curriculum. She enhanced her subject with statuary, paintings, and pictures which she bought on her many travels through Europe. Every pupil kept an art-appreciation notebook illustrated with pictures she furnished of classical artists. Some of the notebooks are still treasured by her former pupils, along with their notebook of poetry. Pete Gaskill, one of her early pupils, remarked, “I would never have known about Rosa Bonheur if it hadn’t been for Miss Adams’s art class.” That applies to the majority of her pupils. Charles Holden, 93 years old, and a member of Emerson’s first graduating class of 1902, recalled how the pupils contributed five or ten cents each to help buy some of the statues. He still displays on his wall a delicate water-color still-life of a blue vase that he painted in Miss Adams’s class. When someone offered him $150.00 for it, Mr. Holden said “There’s not enough money to buy that picture.”
Ferguson goes on to say: “Always a no-nonsense teacher and a strict disciplinarian, Miss Adams meted out considered punishment to offending pupils. It sometimes meant two or three cracks across the palm with her always ready rod, or a simple admonishment, depending on the severity of the offense. Yet, she was a patient teacher and a friend who inspired her pupils to a love of learning.”
In conclusion, Feruguson says: “During her seventy-two years as a teacher, the oldest active teacher in the United States, Miss Adams indeed saw a host of pupils influenced by her counsel and instructions. She died in 1938 at the age of 92. The legacy that Miss Adams left to generations of Munjoy Hill students runs like a golden thread through the lives of us who were influenced by her in our early school years. “
As the future use of the Adams School is decided, it’s important that the “golden thread” that ran through the lives of so many continue to run through the history of Munjoy Hill forever.