When the Sockanosset School for Boys opened in Cranston during the 1880s, the juvenile reform facility offered numerous employment opportunities for officers, cooks and teachers. Among the officers …
When the Sockanosset School for Boys opened in Cranston during the 1880s, the juvenile reform facility offered numerous employment opportunities for officers, cooks and teachers. Among the officers was Lura Katherine Ripley of Maine.
Lura was 23 years old when she relocated to Cranston to begin working as a live-in officer at Sockanesset School’s Cottage #2 in 1891. An outgoing young woman who made friends easily, she enjoyed bringing whatever happiness she could into the lives of those around her. On Dec. 10, 1891, she and another female employee planned a surprise party for the sewing room matron and the hospital matron. With many of the staff gathered into Cottage #2, the party feasted on salad, cake, fruit and ice cream. After the meal, everyone removed to the sitting room where games and amusements were presented for hours. Three male employees were assigned the task of assisting with the party; the school's clerk, the night watchman, and John Ziba Goodell who also lived at the school and served as officer of the 44 boys in Cottage #4. Lura had eyes for 27-year-old John and vice versa.
For many employees at the school, their job was the biggest part of their life. Both Lura and John gladly took on any responsibility available, above and beyond what was required of them. By 1892, Lura was supervising the boys who worked in the school's laundry department and John was supervising the boys who were put in charge of barn work. John fixed whatever needed fixing and took pride in repainting the cottage interiors to make them have a more pleasant appearance. He took it upon himself to clear stumps and dead trees from the property and allow the school grounds to look as beautiful as possible.
While certain behavior was merely expected of the boys at the school, Lura and John both believed in rewarding that behavior and, in the years to come, would put together special events for the boys such as oyster suppers or the surprise of hot chocolate during the colder months.
On Jan. 11, 1893, Lura and John were married in Mass. When they returned to Cranston after their honeymoon, they were met at the depot by their many co-workers and a musical band which the school's superintendent had hired to greet them. As a gift, they were presented with a bronze and marble clock on behalf of all the officers.
During their marriage, Lura gave birth once, to a child who didn't survive. The Goodells however, had plenty of children to raise and care for. By 1895, they were collectively in charge of the facility's kitchen and made sure that Christmas feasts and other holiday meals were extra-special for these young boys away from their families. In the fall, John would take the boys out to pick apples and proceed to make numerous casks of cider. Another fall tradition was the Goodells two-week vacation to visit the family Lura had left back in Maine. Often, they would invite co-workers to accompany them on their annual trip. During the spring of 1900, John became very ill with scarlet fever and had to be quarantined in the hospital for six weeks. When he returned to the school, where he still lived and worked, he was in charge of Cottage #3 and had decided to begin building his own small home for him and Lura in the area of Eden Park. In June of 1905, being six months pregnant, Lura announced she would be retiring from her job as a school officer to concentrate on being a housewife and mother. That fall, the couple took their usual two-week vacation and when John returned to work, he brought Lura with him so that her former co-workers could meet two-month old Myrl Louise.
It seems that while fate intended for Lura to mother hundreds of troubled young boys, it did not intend for her to mother a child of her own for very long. Myrl died on July 17, 1906.
It appears as if Lura returned to work at Sockanosset School. On Nov. 10, 1914, the 46-year-old had a dizzy spell at the institution and fell into a bathtub which was partially filled with water. She died of accidental asphyxiation and was buried in Pocasset Cemetery next to her daughter.
John eventually married again. He retired after devoting 35 years of his life to the Sockanosset School for Boys. He passed away on July 7, 1936.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.