Friday, December 27, 2013

Osborne Ambrose Cully: A Senior of Worcester Trade School 1917

Adopted Maternal Ancestry

I have specific goals when it comes to researching my genealogy.  One of those goals is to identify my Great Grandparent's Ambrose E. Cully and Nora Ann Gilliam's children.  So far, I have identified and documented 13 of them. They are (William, Sydney, Catherine, Hannah, Zara, Osborne, Agnes, Wendell, Ralph, Raymond, Nora Ann Jr., and two Male Stillborn children born 1902 & 1910.   The Story handed down from my grandmother Agnes Mae, who is one of the children, stated that there are varying stories of there being 10 to 20 of them. Not all of them survived.  Some died in childbirth, miscarriages, and also early in life. Agnes was not the oldest, nor was she the youngest.  Agnes and her brother Osborne were very close as they were about fourteen months apart.

Osborne & Agnes Cully
Worcester, Mass.

I never had the opportunity to meet my grandmother nor my grand Uncle.  Osborne was born in 1899 and died in 1937. Agnes was born in 1900 and died in 1965.

One of the things I do on a semi-regular basis is to google various family members or look them up on Ancestry, Family Search or some of the other online databases.  I do this often as things are added daily and when I do find more information, it allows me to develop my ancestor's stories.

Well, both my Grandmother Agnes and Grand Uncle Osborne were educated in trade schools.  It was the thing to do in the middle 1910's and 1920's.  Agnes went to Worcester Girls Trade School for dressmaking and Osborne attended The Worcester Boys Trade School  for electrician. Osborne was in attendance between 1914-1917.

The Worcester Trade School for Boys was developed by Milton Prince Higgins. He dedicated the last years of his life to educate boys and to get them ready for the world.  He was considered the Father of the Public School Trade Movement of America.  My Cully family worked for the Higgins household. I believe Milton Higgins and then later one of his sons. Ambrose was the head servant for the household.  The oldest daughters of the Cully family, Zara and Catherine worked in the household and were considered the family "pets." They both were given considerable monies until they both married.

My Uncle Wendell attended Commerce H.S., where the Higgins had a considerable amount of influence.  They were instrumental to Wendell's education and to his early development in music.  I believe my Grand Aunt Nora attended there also as I saw a photo with my Uncle in the Orchestra and a young girl sitting in a chair that was identified as a pianist.  During this time in 1924 or 1925..There were no Black children in attendance at Commerce H.S.  I believe Wendell and his sister were the first one's that attended.

Father of the Trade School for Boys

My Uncle Osborne "Ozzie" was one of my mother's favorite uncles.  I was on and discovered a Year Book for the Worcester Trade School for Boys of 1917.  I went through every page of the year book and found more than I had expected.

Blue & Grey, Page 51


Electrician                OSBORNE A. CULLY           Worcester, Mass.
                                             "Banker"   "Cully"
Track 4: Inter-department Basketball 2, 3; Banquet Speaker 4; Aftermath
"Don't bother me now, can't you see I'm busy?"  When you hear that, then you know you are talking to Cully.  Always ready to do his share in the school activities and to help a classmate, a combination which any school is glad to obtain.  Osborne is a very popular fellow, always wearing a perpetual smile on his face and spinning a new one every ten minutes.  As an electrician he has reached the maximum standard, and although not seen in the shop all the time because of "Banker's" hours, we may rest assured that he is either utilizing his surplus strength on the wireless key or taking in a new show outside of scholastic work.  Osborne takes a liking to athletics, having very few competitors in the mile, playing a sterling game at back on the Electricians' basketball team, and showed the makings of a football player in his senior year had he stayed out the entire season with the squad.  As graduation opens the doors to the world Osborne will be remembered by his classmates a loyal student and supporter and we wish him success in whatever he undertakes.

 Below is a photo of The Worcester Trade School building.  It was most likely taken in 1916 or 1917.  My uncle spent at least four years here.

Page 17
Here is a photo of the Graduating Class of 1917.  My Uncle Osborne is front and almost center.  He was the only African American in the School and his trade was Electrician.

Page 27

I always knew that Osborne played some instrument, most likely the piano, as all of the children of the Cully family played the piano and had other talents that went along with their musical talents.  Osborne's father Ambrose was the music director of the Zion AME Church of Worcester.  In the Yearbook, something else was revealed to me about "Ozzie"  He played the Trombone...See below and the abstract.

Page 37
 I was at rest but a few moments when the strains of sweet music struck my ear like a ton of brick.  Music that bespoke of fearless musicians.  The refrain carried to me by some unkind wind, seemed to be an echo of the workings of a stone crusher, accompanied by sweet tinklings that arise from a herd of wild boars.
As the band came by the street I noticed the flag of the Salvation Army at its head carried by Brig. Vice Admiral Herbert Johnson.  The drum major, Joseph Bodreau, chosen by reason of his height, was twirling a large baton, when the beastly thing slipped and knocked the chief harmonica player James J. McDermott of his feet right through the bass drum played by Brother Cormier.
Just as the procession crawled by my position of observation Reggie Lepire, the second piano player in the band lost his music and had to retire from the parade.
The other members of the honorable organization were Osborne Cully, who was playing his trombone backwards so as to keep the dust out of the horn, and Fridolf Carlson who seemed to be slightly off pitch with his jews harp, but later I found he was playing in a different key.  Clifford Stott carried the bass drum in a manner which covered himself with mud.

 I learned that Osborne was a good enough speaker, which seemed to be something that all the Cully's did very well.  Osborne spoke at his Senior Banquet.  He is in the back and standing up.

Page 74
Page 75

The Senior Banquet
This gay repast was held at the Hotel Pleasant on the evening of February the eighth.  Nearly all the class, many with lady friends, several of the faculty, and a few outside speakers, were present making a total of about one hundred.  The committee in charge were, James Kelley chairman, assisted by William Lawson and Ralph Taft, with our faculty advisor, Mr. Casey, as toastmaster.
After all had satisfied their appetites our director, Mr. Jameson, gave an address on "Ideals," followed by Miss Metcalf on "Reminiscences." Our president, Robert Butler, spoke on  "Nineteen seventeen," a year always to be remembered by us, as the year of our graduation.  Following this was a piano solo by Miss Adams, and a talk on "Class Spirit" by Raymond O'Malley.  The speaker next on the program was Frank Ryan, president of our alumni, who gave a very interesting talk on the alumni of the past expressing his desire for our co-operation in the future.  Here Leo Deery gave a talk taking us back over the four years of school life.  The final speech, a very interesting one, was by Osborne Cully on "Loyalty."

 Another fact about Osborne, which I mentioned earlier, is that he was on the track team.  

Page 96

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have a little more insight into Osborne's life.  He seemed to be well liked.  The attitude of the 1917's concerning Blacks was not favorable, however, it seems that Ozzie was able to have a successful High School Career regardless of how Blacks were stereotyped.
Massachusetts was a Mecha for Blacks during slavery and during Reconstruction.  It also had a place in history that was not favorable for Blacks.  There was a time when Blacks were very politically active in Mass., but as the KKK took their stand in Worcester and other cities of Mass., the struggle for Blacks became more difficult.  Blacks during the 1930's began to leave to other States to find better opportunities.  I hope to discover if the "First Fruits" of the next generation after Slavery and the next few generations afterwards were able to realize their dreams of "Moving on Up," to greater opportunities of freedom and equality.

To every genealogist and family researcher: It is important to go through each page of year books of your ancestors as you may find things that may not have been indexed 100% online.  This is what happened when I was researching Osborne.


  1. Enjoyed getting to read about your family, and share your discoveries abour Osborne.

  2. The yearbook...what a find! I need to look at them more during my searches. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for stopping in...Yes Yearbooks are really a wonderful source.

  3. Thank you for sharing your family discoveries with us. It gives me hope that with in-depth research, there IS information out there about our relatives! Keep the stories coming!

    1. I believe that there is a lot of information out there on our ancestors...Directly and Indirectly. We are their storytellers and it is possible. Thank you for stopping through.

  4. Love the detailed information you found on your Uncle. I love hearing stories from my parents about their favorite Aunt or Uncles.

  5. Wow you hit the Ancestor jackpot with Osborne! Amazing! Now what part is the 2014 Spring Ancestor Challenge -- identifying all of the CULLYS children?

    1. I think I have identified all of them, except for the one's that may have died through miscarriages. I think I will do a couple of posts on the documenting of each Aunt & Uncle. A few of them disappeared...I wonder if they either died or ended up passing as White.

  6. What a wonderful blog. I love the layout. You have certainly done your research and have made your ancestors proud.

    1. Thank you Teresa. Thank you for supporting my blog. Look forward to reading yours too.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post. The information about Osborne was very interesting. He certainly was a well rounded fellow. Love your pictures too.

    1. Thank you Bernita. I had no idea what he was like...This just made me so much happier to be able to see a glimpse in time to his personality.

  8. Great pieces of advice! You found some gems by going through page by page. Great post!

    1. Thank you Andrea! I just loves me some Osborne!

  9. Yvette! you did this so well! I can always follow your lead! Great STory on Osbourne as well! loved the pictures. Track Team!

  10. Thank you True!!! Girl you have become an expert yourself. I have been following you...I love the growth we all have been making. Thank you for the support.