The Eliot School’s Divine History
by James Foritano
After exiting Jamaica Plain’s Green Street Station, I channeled the intrepid spirit of the Reverend John Eliot (1604-1690), “Minister to the Indians,” as I wended my way to his eponymous school on foot. 24 Eliot Street was located in a woodsy neighborhood that enfolded a panoply of self-respecting Victorian houses, their curious woodwork decked out in proud and tasteful colors.
I entered the Eliot School — which was founded in 1676, endowed an additional 75 acres of land in 1689 and is celebrating its 340th anniversary in 2016 — to find myself across from a roomful of varnished woodworking stations in a small, almost-empty office but for a lone bureaucrat, pecking away at columns on a computer screen and soon morphing into a staff photographer/teacher doing double-duty.
I learned, as I leaned on director Abigail Norman’s knowledge, that the Eliot School, however well endowed by extensive farmlands at its founding, escaped the wolfish ravages of time not only by divine intervention granted to faithful Puritans in the New World, but also by a board of overseers who knew when to scramble for opportunity and when to wait for it.
Established as a grammar school by the Reverend John Eliot when grammar was the way to learn scripture and, not incidentally, the eternal Word of God, the Eliot School reached out, as per its endowment, to Native and African Americans, as well as colonial children within walking distance.