Let’s Talk Clovis – 1897 Dry Creek (Academy) Ulatus Literary Society

PHOTO COURTESY OF CLOVIS MUSEUM

The 1866 Dry Creek School District was among the first eight school districts formed in Fresno County. The 1872 Academy School (built by private funds) was designed as a high school.

An article in the 1877 Fresno Expositor stated, “The Dry Creek Literary Society keeps pace with the school in point of progress, and although its young, promising orators may not quite excel the modern public speaker in “lip service.” Yet in modesty, common sense, and manliness, they take the lead.”

Many of the pioneer family members of the Society worshiped at the Academy Church. They supported a visible moral code of ethics and they recognized the value of quality education.

We share information from the records of the Ulatus Literary Society beginning Dec. 10, 1897, through 1899. Their meetings would include declamation, recitation, essay, music and debate. One debate resolved: “Divorces should not be granted.”

Officers of the 1897 Society were Webster, Lizzie and Kate Potter; Chas Moore; Maggie Adkins; O. Russell; and Walter Cooper.

It was recorded that Miss Kate Potter was fined $0.25 when she failed to review the essay assigned to her. Members were often fined for disorderly conduct or out of order (neither described in detail). The Society approved the sum of $2.10 to pay an installment on the Encyclopedia Britannica at one of the meetings.

Debates resolved: “The life of a hermit is sinful” and “The Hawaiian Islands should be annexed by the U.S.” Hawaii attained statehood in 1959.

Todd Clark, 1877-1967, was one of the debaters. He was an ordained Methodist minister for 24 years, served on the Clovis Union High School Board, elected to the Assembly of the State of California and served 16 years (eight years as Chair) on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Clark married the red-haired Kate Potter (1874-1969) on Dec. 29, 1898. Their son Merle became a Methodist minister. Their daughter Lena was an inspirational teacher at Garfield, Jefferson and Clovis Elementary schools. Their daughter Elizabeth married Methodist minister Dick Walsh.

Kate’s father, John Wesley Potter, and J.W. Cate were instrumental in establishing the first church in Clovis in 1893. The Clovis South Methodist Church was located on the south west corner of Fifth & Woodworth. They remained at that location until 1963.

A few of the debates resolved in 1898 and 1899: “The division of China by foreign nations is justifiable”; “Foreign immigration should be restricted by educational requirements”; “Franklin did more towards the independence of the United Stats than Lafayette”; “Dime novels are more injurious to public morals than newspapers”; “Women should be allowed to vote”; and “The ability to save money is more to be desired than the ability to make it.”

They also resolved: “Rome was a greater nation in her day than the U.S. in her day”; “Fire is more destructive than water”; “Queen Elizabeth was justifiable in executing Mary Queen of Scots”; “Languages are more beneficial as a study than mathematics”; and “The insolvency law should be repealed.”

The Society is part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos
Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.