Biographical / Historical
Martha Fell Schofield was born Feb. 1, 1839, near Newtown, Bucks County, PA. She was the daughter of Oliver W. Schofield and Mary (Jackson) Schofield who were married at Darby Meeting in 1834. Both her parents were involved in a number of reform activities, including abolition, temperance, women's rights, and improved education. The family included twin older sisters, Sarah Jane and Lydia, born 1835, a brother, Benjamin, born 1837, and Eliza, a younger sister born in 1840. Of the four sisters, only Sarah Jane married, to Samuel Shinn Ash.
Martha was educated at the schools at Newtown and Byberry and the Sharon Female Seminary in Darby, Pa., which was operated by their mother's brother, John Jackson, and his wife, Rachel. Martha began her own career in teaching at age eighteen at Bayside, Long Island, N.Y., where her aunt, Eliza (Jackson) Bell, lived. She also taught in Harrison, Westchester Co., N.Y., in a school connected with Purchase Monthly Meeting.
In 1865 Martha Schofield went to the islands off the coast of South Carolina to help educate the newly freed African Americans. She found the malarial conditions devastating to her health and moved inland to Aiken, South Carolina, where she founded what became the Schofield Normal and Industrial School in 1868.
The School was partially supported by the Pennsylvania Friends Relief Association, headquartered in Germantown, Pa., and was headed by Sarah Fisher Corlies (sister of Deborah F. Wharton) and Elizabeth Dorsey. The School received some state aid for a number of years. By 1882 there were over 200 pupils, and in that year, the School was incorporated.
Need for financial aid were constant through the years, and a number of people from the Hicksite branch of Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings supported the school. By 1883 there were over 400 pupils who, in addition to their education, were taught a trade. In 1884 a boarding department was opened, as well as a student aid fund. In 1887 Edward Hicks Magill and Howard M. Jenkins of Swarthmore College were among those serving on the Board of Managers, and the school house was partitioned into a dormitory for boys. In 1890, the Deborah F. Wharton Industrial Hall, with half of the cost donated with by her sons, was completed.
By 1910 the school occupied two entire blocks of the town of Aiken, with three large brick buildings, two large frame buildings, and various other improvements. In addition, the school owned a 280 acre farm three miles outside of Aiken with its buildings. The running expenses were principally made up by annual gifts from voluntary subscribers. With the exception of the headmaster or headmistress and Martha Schofield, who served as Business Manager, all departments heads and teachers were black graduates of the School.
The night before the School was to celebrate the 77th birthday of its founder, Martha Schofield died in her sleep. She died in February 1, 1916 in Aiken, S. C., and is buried in the Darby Friends burial ground in Darby, Pa.. The Schofield School was absorbed into the public school system in 1952.