Biography of John Henry Bailey, Jr.

John Henry Bailey, Jr. — For many years an active worker in the profession of education in Rhode Island, John Henry Bailey, Jr., served faithfully and well as superintendent of schools in Coventry, this State. Although he is now retired from his active endeavors, living on the so-called Nathanael Greene homestead, in Anthony, of which he is custodian, he maintains a lively interest in education and in civic life.

Mr. Bailey was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on March 6, 1863, son of John Henry, Sr., and Elizabeth Ann (Nickerson) Bailey. On both sides of his house, he is descended from old and honored families, the Baileys, who then wrote their name Baily, having settled in Bristol County, Massachusetts, early in the seventeenth century, and the Nickersons having first appeared in New England about 1630. Among Mr. Bailey’s more prominent ancestors, Dean Nickerson held an important place in his day, having been a captain in the first United States Navy in the War of the Revolution; while Mr. Bailey’s own father was a veteran of the Civil War, in which he served in Company D, 3d Rhode Island Heavy Artillery.

Mr. Bailey spent his first five years of life in his native Pawtucket, and then was taken by his parents to Fall River, Massachusetts, to live, and later to North Smithfield, Rhode Island. In both of those places he attended the public schools, having studied for the first three years in Fall River, Massachusetts. He then studied under a private tutor for a time, entering the State Normal School, at Providence, in 1880. He had by that time determined upon teaching as his profession, and, after his graduation in 1882, at once sought educational work. He obtained a position in the Mowry School No. 10, at North Smithfield, but stayed there only a short time before becoming principal of the Chepachet grammar schools (Glocester), where he continued for three years. His next assignment was principal of the Centreville School, Warwick, Rhode Island, whence he came to Bristol in 1889 to teach in the “Old Brick School,” the town’s oldest school, which has since been razed. He was appointed principal of that school, and so served for a time, until he left to assume a similar post in the Walley School, the Byfield School and the Reynolds School. It was in 1898 that he was chosen principal of the Byfield School; and in 1917 became supervising principal of both the Byfield and Reynolds schools. Then, on July 1, 1919, he took the post of superintendent of schools at Coventry, Rhode Island, where he continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1929. It was then that he bought the Thomas Read farm, in the Read School District of Coventry, where he is engaged in farming on a small scale.

It would probably have been impossible for a man who lacked Mr. Bailey’s ardor for educational work to have accomplished so much in this field as did he. But so great was his enthusiasm for each professional task that came before him that he was able to devote himself and his fullest energies to teaching and school administration and to achieve fine results in all his efforts. He has ever manifested a keen interest in humanity and its welfare, both in his professional activities and in his social affiliations. A member of the Free and Accepted Masons, he is connected, in this order, with St. Alban’s Lodge, Hope Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, of Bristol, and Webb Council of Royal and Select Masters, of Warren, Rhode Island. He also holds membership in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he has served as Noble Grand of his lodge, and also as Chief Patriarch of Wampanoag Encampment; in this order he has likewise been Grand Warden and Grand Sentinel, in the Grand Encampment as a member of the staff of the Grand Patriarch. He is a member of the Barnard Club, the Rhode Island Grammar Masters’ Club (of which he is a past president); and the Sons of Veterans, in which he is affiliated with the Charles F. Gordon Camp, No. 10, of Woonsocket, and is a past division commander (colonel) of the Rhode Island division. He has for many years been a member of the Bristol Train of Artillery, an organization founded in 1776, of which he has been twice colonel, from 1900 to 1903 and again from 1917 to 1919, as well as adjutant with the rank of captain. Mr. Bailey’s political affiliation is with the Democratic party, and he is at present a member of the Democratic Town Committee of Coventry. He served as chairman of the Democratic Town Committee of Bristol for several years and as a member of the Democratic State Committee of Rhode Island. While living in North Smithfield, he was at different times a member of the school board, as well as both school superintendent and tax assessor; and in Bristol he served for several terms as a member of the town council.

John Henry Bailey married, on December 22, 1890, Martha Josephine Harris, daughter of Elisha Harris, of Smithfield, and a descendant of Thomas Harris, one of two brothers who came from Bristol, England, in the ship “Lyon” in 1630, with Roger Williams. Thomas Harris was one of the thirty-nine signers of an agreement for a form of government and also a signer in 1637 of the “Providence pact.” To Mr. and Mrs. Bailey there were born three children: 1. Mark Harris, who was educated in the public schools of Bristol, and is a graduate of Thibodeau Business College, of Fall River, Massachusetts. He served in the World War, in the 19th Company Coast Artillery, having been one of the first citizens to volunteer for service in that company, and having been engaged overseas for one year and ten months, the last seven months in France. Since the war he has been engaged in the garage business in Bristol. 2. Clifford Harris, educated in the public schools, left high school in his junior year to become manager of his father’s farm in Bristol, and is now a successful farmer in Coventry, Rhode Island. 3. Abner Harris, educated in the public schools, of Bristol, was graduated from Rhode Island State College, in 1923, with the degree of Bachelor of Science and received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1928. He is now teacher of mathematics and coach of athletics at Newton (Massachusetts) High School. He married Vera Swan, daughter of Herbert Swan; and they have a son, Herbert Swan Bailey.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 4 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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