Marking a milestone: looking back at Farmington High School’s first commencement

Community support and values of high school still remain strong 130 years later

The Farmington High School graduation on Friday, June 7, marks more than just the graduation of another senior class: It is the 130th commencement ceremony in Farmington almost to the exact date of the first one June 6, 1884.

A photograph of a Farmington class assembly dating back to the turn of the century, from the collection of the Farmington Area Historical Society. A portrait of Dr. Levi Dodge hangs on the left between the windows. (Photo submitted)

A photograph of a Farmington class assembly dating back to the turn of the century, from the collection of the Farmington Area Historical Society. A portrait of Dr. Levi Dodge hangs on the left between the windows. (Photo submitted)

The Dakota County Tribune covered the event. A week prior to the event the community was encouraged to come in an article that read: “The influence of a large attendance will not vanish with the day, but will abide to stimulate and inspire the pupils to more earnest endeavor in the work of coming years.”

The conclusion of a story written after the event resonates with Farmington residents today:

“The position occupied by the Farmington high school and the reputation it enjoys is certainly a matter of local pride. Few villages in the state of the size of ours, have schools that can compare with the one maintained here. No pains or expense should be spared to maintain its present high stand and advance it as rapidly as may be possible.”

The ceremony was housed in the music hall as “the stage was ornamented with a profusion of beautiful flowers,” the Tribune reported. Parents, three district trustees and the high school’s five teachers all attended.

The evening of “literary entertainment” with essays and declamations were read by graduating seniors.

Etta L. Smith presented an essay on the study of languages, and she discussed the opposition raised at the study of classics, which some saw as lacking “practical value.”

The paper reported that Smith argued “one of the chief aims of study was to discipline the mind, develop its strength and gibe it power for the expression of new thoughts.”

George W. Orcutt presented an essay regarding England’s powerful navy and its colonies, particularly India and Africa.

“The progress of explorations in Africa and the present Egyptian difficulties were spoken of in a manner that showed a commendable familiarity with current events,” the article said.

Mary Buckley presented an essay regarding education in the North and South. She talked about the Blair Bill, which stirred controversy regarding federal funding of public schools in the 1880s.

The Dakota County Tribune reported Buckley explained it with “its provisions set forth in detail, showing remarkable familiarity with a subject usually supposed to be uninteresting to girls.”

A short time after the ceremony was dedicated to closing remarks about “the importance of public school work.” Administrators encouraged “more hearty co-operation” from parents to continue advancing the school.

The 130th Farmington High School commencement ceremony is at 7 p.m. Friday, May 7, at Farmington High School, 20655 Flagstaff Ave. The event will take place on the football field or in the gym if it rains.

up arrow