Becoming a Teacher

Jean Clark’s family eventually moved to a farm on the outskirts of the town of Stayton, OR. There was a one-room schoolhouse nearby, but her father wanted her to get a better education, so he sent her into town to live with her great-grandmother, a very strict woman who walked from Virginia (where the family was from) to Oregon along the Oregon trail right after the Civil War.

 I wasn’t awfully happy with it because it was “Sit up.”  “You have a backbone you know.” And “Young ladies do not cross their legs. If you must cross anything, cross your ankles.”  And then one day I came home, I began to realize she was of a different ilk.  I mentioned that today was Lincoln’s birthday.  “Oh!” she said, “He freed the slaves and ruined the south!” So you knew where she was coming from.

Clark was a talented student. She got a scholarship to Reed College in Portland, but her father wanted her to go someplace less experimental, so she ended up at the Oregon College of Education in Monmouth, OR (now Western Oregon University) when she was just 16. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in three years instead of the usual four and became a teacher.

This photograph comes from the collection of Jean Clark.

Edna Jean Clark

Meet Edna Jean Clark, who goes by Jean. Jean was born and grew up in Stayton, Oregon, which she called “a family town.”

My great-great grandfather came there in the early 1800s and founded the town.  The town is named for him. Stayton, Oregon.  My family all grew up there.  My brother and I and my cousins.

Jean’s mother was a Murphy and her father a Richardson. related to that original Stayton who founded the town. They got married 1911.

Stayton was a logging community, and Jean’s family all worked in the industry. That meant the family often moved around the area as her father got new jobs.

He was always a logger or a farmer depending on which was the best. We did a lot of moving from one log camp to another. I grew up, my first grade class was in a logging camp where there were just eight children in the first grade and only one in the second grade and then several along scattered through. It was a one-room school. Pot bellied stove on the floor.  We played on the the sawed off logs as a playground.

The certificate of marriage comes from the collection of Jean Clark.