Who Was Abraham Stockton Jenks
Our school is named for Mr. Abraham Stockton Jenks.
This is the obituary for Mr. Jenks, published in The Public Ledger, one of the Philadelphia newspapers of the time, on Monday, September 23rd, 1895.
A.S. Jenks, who, since the resignation of Mr. Fagen of the Fourth Section, was, it is said, the oldest member of the Board of Education, died of apoplexy, yesterday at his home, 2217 South Broad Street. For twenty-seven years, he was the member from the First Section, and always took an active and prominent part in the work of the Board.
Abraham S. Jenks was born in Burlington, New Jersey, August 4th, 1820. His father was a native of Bucks County, Pa., and his mother of Burlington, N. J. Both were descended from old American families.
A few months after his birth, his parents removed to Newtown, Bucks County, Pa., their former home. The boy received his education in the schools of that place, and afterwards spent a year in the Moravian schools at Nazareth, Pa.
At seventeen he came to Philadelphia and entered the dry-goods house of Townsend and Sharpless as an errand boy. After an apprenticeship of five years, during which his industry won rapid promotion, he left the house and entered the notion business for himself on Market Street. He carried it on successfully for twenty eight years, and at the end of that time, compelled by failing health, he gave up a pursuit that made such demands upon his energy.
He chose the insurance business, and at once opened an office. For a number of years he had his son with him, but of late he carried it on alone.
Mr. Jenks lived, almost since his arrival in Philadelphia, in the southern section of the city.
In 1867 he was appointed by the Board of Judges, the member of the Board of Education for the First Section, and became, by virtue of that appointment, a member of the Sectional Board. He was re-appointed by the Judges every year, and never ceased to work for the improvement of school facilities in his section.
Mr. Jenks, though he worked earnestly in the office which had been given him, took no part in politics. He was a Republican, but not an organizer. He explained to his friends that, though there was no more steadfast Republican in the city, he only voted in national elections and in particularly important fights. So little was he known to the ward workers that a short time ago, he was challenged when he wanted to attend a ward primary.
In the Board of Education his effort lay not in the direction of any great changes, but toward steady and sure improvement through the channels opened in the Board. He never lead any violent discussions or gave his support to any radical measure. In spite of this, however, he was left in the First Section with more than twice as many schoolhouses, with accommodations for much more than twice as many children when he first entered the Board twenty-seven years ago.
He was a member of the Property and Girls’ High School Committees of the Board, and by his regularity and thoughtfulness gained great weight for his opinions and plans. He was also Chairman of the Committee on Estimates.
In the Sectional Board he held, of course, a very prominent position. He was Chairman of the Welsh Combined School, at 13th and Jackson Streets, and member of the committee on the recently completed John H. Taggart School. Mr. Jenks was looking forward with great interest to the dedication of the building, in the raising of which he has worked so earnestly.
On Thursday last, Mr. Jenks attended the meeting of the Board of Education, and seemed as hearty as ever in his life. On Friday, he visited the Welsh School, as he did every day in the week.
One the latest of his acts on behalf of the section that he represented was to secure the lot at 13th and Porter Streets for a new school. The final order for the building of the school has not been passed yet, but it will be given eventually, and the members of the sectional Board hope to name the new school in honor of their dead representative.
Some weeks ago, he said to the President Thomas F. Dul…ng, that it would please him greatly to have his work in the southern section of the city commemorated in the name of one of the schools.
Mr. Jenks was a Methodist and a prominent member of the Broad and Arch Streets Church. He, however, had attended the Bethany Methodist Church at Eleventh and Mifflin Streets, for some time past.
At the age of twenty-three, he married Miss Rose Ann Montgomery. She died while preparations were being made for celebrating their Golden Wedding. They had three children – Daniel, now deceased, who some years ago represented the Twenty-fourth Ward in Common Council, and was a Real Estate Assessor; James, who is well known among retail jewelers, and a daughter, Mary.
Last autumn Mr. Jenks married Miss Lillian Temple, of Boston. His widow, and two of his children survive.