Dear Mr. History Person,
On Union Street near the Fairhaven Post Office I saw a house with a plaque that reads, “Julia A. Sears, built 1911.” Who was Julia Sears? How much did her house cost to build?
—D. McK., New Bedford
I’m going to do this in a roundabout way. Before we get to Julia Sears, we need learn about her younger sister, Amanda F. Sears, who had a much longer association with their adopted town.
Amanda Frances Sears was a Fairhaven schoolteacher in the 1800s. Born 1841 in Dennis, MA, she was the youngest of seven daughters of Capt. Constant Sears and Deborah Hopkins. Her sisters were Thankful, Emily, Mary Ann, Sarah, Betsey and Julia. Older sister Sarah married Capt. Milton B. Crowell in 1857. In 1870, Sarah and Milton Crowell settled in Fairhaven, buying the house that stands on the southeast corner of Linden Avenue and Main Street. It seems that Amanda came along at the same time.
Amanda Sears taught school at the “Pink Schoolhouse” in North Fairhaven, the Old Stone Schoolhouse in Oxford village and was principal at the Center Street Grammar School, which stood next door to the Methodist Church. When Henry H. Rogers built Rogers School, the Center Street School was closed and Miss Sears taught eighth grade at Rogers School, retiring in 1887.
Julia Ann Sears, born in 1839, left Dennis, MA, and for 32 years taught at the Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, TN. She summered in Fairhaven with her sisters Amanda and Sarah. According to my 1902 Fairhaven street list, Julia and Amanda were living with their sister Sarah Crowell on Main Street, though Julia still taught in Tennesee until 1907. Sarah was a widow at that time, Milton Crowell having died in 1891.
In 1905, Julia Sears bought the lot on the south side of Union Street where a livery stable had once stood. The Fairhaven Star reported her house was being built in June of 1911. I cannot find a record of how much it cost to build.
Amanda Sears died in 1924 and Julia died in 1929. Julia left $700 in trust to the Town of Fairhaven in her sister Amanda’s name and $1000 in trust in her own name, to fund academic prizes for Fairhaven students. These prizes are still awarded today.