Mr. Mepham

Mr. Wellington C. Mepham

Mr. Mepham was born on October 12, 1876, in Ontario, New York. He taught and acted as a principal upstate. Upon graduation from Geneseo State Normal School in 1901, he relocated to Long Island and became principal of the district known as Smithville South (now North Bellmore). Soon after, he became principal of the Merrick Grammar School. On January 1, 1912, new law created various supervisory districts statewide, and Mr. Mepham became Superintendent of the Second District of Nassau County.

He was a proponent of creation of county-wide, central high school districts and was instrumental in the creation of District 1 (Valley Stream), District 2 (Sewanhaka) and our district, #3, in 1935. This district covered 14.5 square miles, and Mr. Mepham's foresight in developing the "High School District" concept (one building shared by several elementary districts) eliminated the necessity of at least 11 additional, separate buildings.

During his tenure as Nassau District Supervisor from 1912 through 1941, the number of teachers county-wide grew from 63 to 830. The Merrick resident retired, due to a heart condition, in August of 1941, and passed away on February 15, 1942. Mepham High School students and staff gathered on the front lawn on February 18th, to observe the passing of the funeral procession, and the Mepham Acapella Choir sang during the service at the Freeport Methodist Church.

From the program of the building's 50th anniversary, Nov. 7, 1987

Case of the Mysterious "C"

An apparently casual question from a Mepham High School music student last week set in motion an investigation that eventually involved school and public libraries, alumni of the first Mepham graduating class, retired librarian and district clerk, former school board member, the Merrick Fire Department, the first Mepham principal, and the grandson of Wellington Mepham!

The question was "What was Wellington Mepham's middle name?" Everything at the first high school, built to serve Bellmore and Merrick students, carries only the name "Wellington C. Mepham." The school was named for the former teacher and first superintendent of the supervisory district.

The name of the school was selected in a contest won by Merrick resident Joanne Oberkirch in 1935.

Mepham librarian Amy Bellow could not find the answer at the school and contacted the North Bellmore Library which in turn called Bellmore Life. None of the material on Mepham owned by the Historical Society of the Bellmores contained Mr. Mepham's middle name, according to Mary Putrik of the society.

Bellmore Life editor Trudi Cowan thereupon called Janet Sullivan, a member of the first Mepham graduating class; Charles Reinhard, retired school board member; the Nassau Historical Museum; Ruth Bingham, retired Bellmore district clerk; all to no avail.

By this time each of the people contacted had also started to make phone calls-also without obtaining the answer.

Mrs. Cowan went through old Mepham yearbooks and Mrs. Sullivan went through the first yearbooks, but none contained that mysterious middle name.

Mrs. Bingham and Mrs. Bellow independently leafed through copies of a history of the county written by Mr. Mepham, but here too he carefully kept that middle name limited to "C."

Finally, Mrs. Cowan called Sanford Calhoun at his home in New Jersey. Mr. Calhoun was the first principal of the school appointed by Mr. Mepham. Even Mr. Calhoun said he never knew that elusive middle name. "He really kept it a secret" said Mr. Calhoun, who recalled the question being raised from time to time during those early years. However, Mr. Calhoun did remember that Mr. Mepham's daughter had married a Merrick man named Wilbert Edgar, an active member of the Merrick Fire Department.

With the help of Florence Spencer of Merrick Life, Mrs. Cowan tracked down the Bartow family of Merrick, active in the fire department for many years. They knew that Mr. and Mrs. Edgar had died, but their son owned a marina at Noyak. A call to the marina elicited the information that Mr. Edgar owns the Peconic Marina in Southhampton.

So after two days of research, an unimpeachable source was finally found. "There are two stories about that middle name," said Mr. Edgar, "one is that it was just an initial that didn't mean anything. The other is that it was for the name Carl which my mother thought was correct."

Mr. Edgar, whose full name incidentally is Wilbert Mepham Edgar, lived in Merrick for 36 years before moving to Southhampton 13 years ago. He himself is a 1950 graduate of the high school named for his grandfather.

So in case the question ever comes up again, the full name of the first superintendent was indeed Wellington Carl Mepham.

And in case a similar question should arise, Mr, Calhoun's full name is Sanford Henry Calhoun.

Trudi Cowan

Reprinted from Bellmore Life May 20, 1981

Ed. Note: The above column brought a response to Mrs. Cowen from "former Mepham High School Principal Herman Tennant in California. Mr. Tennant said he knew the middle name all along and thought everyone knew it, Just for record, Mr. Tennant's middle name is Adolph."

W. C.Mepham To Quit School District Post

Superintendent Since 1912 To Retire July 1;
Sponsored First Central High
Organized In New York State

Wellington C. Mepham of Merrick, district superintendent of the second supervisory school district, the largest in the state, announced today that he will not be a candidate for re-appointment April 15 and will retire July 1. He was appointed to the superintendency when it was established, January 1, 1912, and has been re-appointed every five years since then.

"After careful and lengthy consideration, I have made my decesion to retire at this time," Mr. Mepham said. "My health is not too good, and after 40 years of school work, I feel that it is for the best interests of the schools for me to retire. My greatest regret will be to leave the loyal teachers and principals in the district who have given me every co-operation within their power."

Tried To Retire Before
Mr. Mepham's resignation was handed to the state department three years ago, because if ill health, but it was withdrawn at the request of school authorities. He will continue to reside in Merrick, he said. Mr. Mepham is eligible for a pension. His successor will be appointed by school directors at a meeting April 15.

Mr. Mepham has the reputation of being one of the outstanding educators in the state and many of the advances in education in the state and district are credited to him.

He was the first school district administrator in the state to implement legislation which allowed the formation of central high school districts. The act was introduced in the state legislature by F. Trubee Davison, after the World war and made a law, but nothing was done about the formation of such districts until Mr. Mepham roused interest and "sold" the idea in Nassau county.

At present, there are five central high school districts in the state, three of them in Nassau county. The first to be organized under Mr. Mepham's jurisdiction was Valley Stream in 1938. Later Sewanhaka district was formed. Mepham Central High school district was organized in 1934 and the school, named for Mr. Mepham, after hundreds of school children in the district had voted their approval, was built the next year. A life-like oil painting of Mr. Mepham, the work of Mary Constantia Priou, hangs in the main lobby at Mepham.

Newsday, March 1941