Stetson Home for Boys

Richard Johnson
The Stetson School
Established 1899
Campus 200 acres
Location Barre, Massachusetts
Students 120
Faculty 100
Staff 320
School type Private residential
Grades Males 9 to 21 years of age
Website Stetson School
The Stetson School is a private residential institution located in Barre, Massachusetts.

History
Founded in 1899, by a Lynn, Massachusetts, businessman, Henry Augustus Pevear, and then known as the “Stetson Home for Boys” began as an orphanage. It supported itself as a commercial dairy farm where most of its residents worked to help support the institution in a manner similar to indentured servitude. During its early history, this institution maintained a primary school for training its residents.

Farm work
In the ‘50s when Abominable Firebug [5] author, Johnson was a resident, the typical day for the residents started at 5:00 in the morning. As reported in Johnson’s book, the boys would be rousted out of bed in the dormitory and assembled in the barnyard to be assigned the daily chores. Most of the boys cleaned the cow stalls, spread new bedding hay, and fed the cattle. Selected boys would prepare the cows for milking by washing udders and teats and then the foreman would attach and start a milking machine. This was typical New England farm work, but on a much larger scale than the usual farm. At about 7:00 in the morning, the initial work had been completed and the boys would report for breakfast.

Steam plant
In his book, Johnson reports that out of all the boys, one would be selected and trained to tend the coal steam plant. At 5:00, he would report to the powerhouse and open the furnace for cleaning. It would take about a half hour to clean the furnace before shoveling in fresh coal for startup. After the water level was adjusted, the firebox draft was adjusted and furnace started to warm up. This would provide steam heat for the entire facility. It was expected that the heat would be running by 7:00 in the morning at which time the furnace tender would arrive for work and the boy who cleaned and started the furnace would leave for breakfast.

Vegetable gardening
The Stetson residents also maintained a large garden used to grow produce for market during the growing season. There were many acres of Pie, Hubbard, and Butternut Squash produced as well as beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Continuous work
According to Johnson, the work tending this farm left little time for anything else. Because of this, boys attending Barre High School were not allowed any social activities and, in fact, were not even allowed to visit the homes of other classmates. The boys would perform the required work or they would be punished. Even though they had nowhere else to go, there were several instances of boys becoming runaways during Johnson’s short stay. He says this was not a very nice place to spend ones childhood because its sole purpose seemed to be making money from child farm labor. Young boys earned one dollar per week, older boys, five.

Richard Johnson
Stetson School from the air
Accommodation
The boys slept in a large dormitory on the top floor of the main building. Each resident was provided a bed and a foot-locker in each of the dormers under a common roof. There were wooden dividers which separated each of the dormers, but these short walls provided only limited privacy. There were usually two beds which would share a common dormer, but areas which housed younger boys usually contained four.

It was not expected that a boy would have much personal property and his access to the dormitory was restricted during normal working hours. Therefore, an additional locker to contain clothing, shoes, towels, and schoolbooks was provided downstairs. By today’s standards, these accommodations may seem sparse. However, at the time reported by Johnson, this housing seemed quite adequate as the boys, many who would have otherwise have been street-people, were warm and well-fed.

Several residents were targets of sexual abuse
There were several reported incidents of residents being sexually abused by priests and others. [1,2] Additionally, at least one former resident, Richard B. Johnson, Abominable Firebug author, reported sexual abuse in his book. It is therefore quite interesting that this institution now specializes in males with sexually abusive behaviors.

Several residents became well known or famous
Philip Lampi [3] is a well known scholar who built a database of election returns from 1787 to 1825. Richard B. Johnson, [4] who actually burned down the barn at Stetson, went on to become a productive engineer, inventor, and the author of Abominable Firebug.

Secondary schooling not required
Secondary schooling was not required in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the time of its founding. Once Massachusetts required school attendance up to sixteen years of age, residents requiring secondary education attended the Barre, Massachusetts High School. Notwithstanding its lack of educational facilities at the time, i.e., classes only to the 8th grade, the Stetson Home for Boys became known as the Stetson School, which continues today.

Secondary schooling now provided
By the 1960’s, Stetson began treatment for emotionally disturbed boys, [6] often from broken homes, who had suffered some form of abuse or neglect. Later, Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 766 legislation passed, and Stetson started a program approved by the Massachusetts Board of Education. At that time, its educational levels extended to the 12th grade so the resident’s attendance in an external school was no longer required.

Presently specializing in sexual behavior problems
In 1990, Stetson began to admit juvenile males with a history of sexually abusive behaviors, which continues to this day. [6] By 1994, Stetson specialized in treating male children with sexual behavior problems.

A five-year campus expansion program was started in 1998, which resulted in the construction of three new residences; Connington Lodge, Palson Lodge, and the two-story Cutting Lodge, plus the Robinson Education Center which is a 26,000 square-foot special education center. [6]

References
   1.  Priests cited for sexual abuse
   2. Additional priests cited for sexual abuse of minors
   3. Philip Lampi, the Orphan Scholar
   4. Johnson’s book which recalls his time spent at Stetson
   5. Abominable Firebug book
   6. Stetson School Web Page

External links
Author’s website
The Charles Hayden Goodwill Inn
The Lyman School for Boys
The Roslindale Detention Center

Notes
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