Clara Barton School site receives two new flags

Students from Clara Barton Elementary School and MacFarland Intermediate School gather at the historic Clara Barton Schoolhouse on Crosswicks Street in Bordentown with a Barton portrayal led by Bonnie Goldman on May 23. Photo by Thomas Wiedmann

Bordentown residents who drive past the historic Clara Barton Schoolhouse  may notice two new recent features at the site.

As part of an initiative between the Bordertown Regional School District and the Bordertown Historical Society, the historic Clara Barton School received two new flags to be flown and were celebrated for the first time on May 23 at the property, which stands on Crosswicks Street.

Barton was a pioneering nurse who not only founded the American Red Cross, but was also a hospital nurse in the American Civil War, a teacher, and patent clerk.

While teaching in Hightstown in the mid-1800s, Barton learned about the lack of public schools in the state, and in 1852, was contracted to open a free school in Bordentown, which was one of the first free schools in New Jersey.

Although the schoolhouse site has long been a staple landmark in Bordentown, the news flags at the site are aimed to help honor and serve as an enhancement to the site’s history.

One flag is the Red Cross Flag, which is flown in honor of Barton’s founding efforts of the organization in 1881.  The other banner is a 31-star American Flag, historically relevant to the site.

As part of a celebration for the two new additions to the site, Clara Barton Elementary School and MacFarland Intermediate School students and staff partook in festivities the day of the flag raisings.

Gathered together in the elementary school gymnasium, students partook in an educational assembly led by Bordertown resident, and retired judge, Bonnie Goldman. Goldman dressed as Barton in a historically apt costume and partook in a roleplay history lesson about Barton as well as led students in patriotic songs.

She explained that along with the flag raising ceremony, conducting educational assemblies like this help instill a sense of pride in one of the area’s most historical local figures.

“We are so lucky in the fact that Barton taught in Bordentown, and it makes it so important for us to make sure the kids understand what an [historical] mover and shaker she was,” Goldman explained. “It’s local history. We are hoping that if some of these kids continue to live in Bordentown, they are going to grow up and want to perpetuate the history of the town.”

Following the assembly, Goldman led the students in a parade from the school gymnasium to the historic school house site to observe the two new flags. As the students convened around the site, Goldman fielded questions from the students about Barton, her life, and what a typical school day may have been like for students during that time.

Given that there was originally no American Red Cross flag posted at the site as well as the tattered condition of the American flag, Bordentown Historical Society Co-President Doug Kiovksy reported that partnering with the school district for this event was important to embracing a pivotal part of Bordentown’s history.

After Kiovsky pointed out that there was no flag to honor the American Red Cross for Barton’s efforts, he said it seemed appropriate to post one at the site to honor that part of her background beyond her local impact as well.

“The American Red Cross flag is important because this is a school house that Clara Barton actually taught in, so we thought it would be fitting to honor her with that flag out here,” Kiovsky said. “It’s important to the Bordentown people too because if they see the flags here, they will know it’s the Clara Barton School.”

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