The story behind Coles-Ackerman Memorial, CAM School, Nellore

After reading a touching story on CAM School here, I decided to do some digging into the history of this memorial and stumbled upon some interesting facts.

CAM High School was started in 1840 by the Free Church Mission of Scotland. The 16 acre campus was later taken over by the Telugu Baptist Mission in 1904.

The present school building was built in 2011 by Dr Jonathan Coles Ackerman in memory of his father Dr Abraham Coles and maternal uncle Warren Ackerman.

Dr Abraham Coles:

Abraham Coles was born 1813 in Scotch Plains, Union County, New Jersey, USA. He received his M.D. degree from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia in 1835 and began his practice in Newark, NJ. He married Caroline Elizabeth Ackerman in 1842. The marriage resulted in the birth of two children: Jonathan Ackerman Coles (1843-1926) and Emilie Smith Coles (1845-1919). His wife died just a few months after the birth of their daughter in 1845. He never remarried.

Dr. Coles traveled the world, often with his children. His son, J. Ackerman Coles, later joined him in medical profession and also became the editor of new editions of his father’s literary works. Dr. Coles died while traveling near Monterey, California in 1891.

Both his children lived long lives, though neither married, and so the line of Abraham Coles died with the passing of his son on December 26, 1926.

Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=47042856

Warren Ackerman:

Warren Ackerman was born in 1827 at New Brunswick, Middlesex County, North Carolina, USA. He was the brother of Caroline Elizabeth Ackerman, wife of Dr Abraham Coles. Warren became involved in all types of profitable business ventures in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and those who knew him recalled him as a wise counselor and reliable friend.

Warren married Lydia Platt, wife of his deceased brother George Ackerman, while in his 40’s. He died at his home in Scotch Plains, NJ in 1893, after a short illness at the age of 66. Lydia Platt Ackerman, widow of both George and Warren Ackerman, died in 1907 in Scotch Plains, NJ at the age of 73.

Dr Jonathan Coles Ackerman

Jonathan Ackerman Coles was born in 1843 to prominent physician/surgeon and poet author, Dr. Abraham Coles and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Ackerman. Jonathan was only 2 years old when his mother died just about 7 months after the birth of his sister, Emilie Smith Coles. The young man grew up traveling the world with his father. He chose medical profession in the footsteps of his father Abraham Coles.

Jonathan never married, and following the death of his father in 1891, continued his father’s philanthropy, contributing many classical works in bronze and marble to the educational and public buildings in Newark, New York, and elsewhere around the world. After his retirement, he devoted himself to travel and the collecting of interesting historical and artistic objects.

Dr. Jonathan Ackerman Coles died in 1926 at age 82. He was the last surviving member of this family. His sister Emilie died seven years earlier in 1919.

Revisiting CAM school

After reading the article on CAM school that was posted on this site, I decided to visit the school campus. I am not an alumni of this school. I had passed by this school hundreds of times during my school years. Many a times, I along with my friends, used to play cricket on the school play ground. Nobody used to stop us from playing, even though we are not from this school. The bright-red-brick constructed main building was not of much interest to us. Our only interest was the vast playground and the shady trees. As kids, all we knew about the building was that it was a memorial to a man called ‘Coles Ackerman’. We had no clue as to who this man could be.

Finally, I stepped into the CAM compound on a Saturday morning, expecting the noise of hundreds of children. Surprise! it was very quiet and peaceful. It took a while for me to realise that it was a second Saturday and was a holiday for the school. I started walking around looking at the building. The building clearly looks aged. The bright-red is now dull red. The needles in the clock on the tower are missing.

But it still holds a charm. The building is full of Gothic arches.

Looking at me photographing the school, a gentleman approached me and asked, “Are you related to this school?”. That started a long chat between us. Here is the gist of our chat.

Pasupuleti Venkata Ramana is an old student of CAM School. He was in the composite maths batch.(his was the last composite maths batch). He joined in1978 and continued till 1984 when he finished his 10th. He fondly remembers his school days, during which time Mr Mitra was the head master. He shows me the XD (tenth D section) room and says “this was our (his) classroom in those days.” The room XD currently is locked and is being used as stores.

Ramana showed me the White hall which was used as a prayer hall for students of 8,9 and 10th classes, and the Red hall which was used as a prayer hall for  6th and 7th class students. Head Master’s room also was part of the Red hall. Ramana currently works as a document writer near the sub-registrar office  and stays at mulapet. He can be reached on 9989017055.

I also happened to meet Mr.Soloman ,who joined CAM school as a craft master in 1987. He informed me that currently there are around 300 students in classes from 6th to 10th and the medium of instruction is  Telugu.

 

I move to the western corner of the building and find this cornerstone proudly proclaiming, that it was laid on 6-feb-1911. A sense of awe engulfed me. I just realised that this building is 100 years old. Is it the cornerstone or the building that is 100 years old? (cornerstone is more like our ground breaking or bhoomi puja. The building would have taken some more time to get completed) It hardly matters to me. I was consciously watching something that is around 100 years old. It was a very strange feeling. I might have seen 100-year-old things in life but never consciously.

 

 Next to the corner stone was this plaque which was another jolt to me. This plaque proves wrong the general public assumption that this is a memorial to a single man named ‘Coles Ackerman’ . It clearly says that it is a memorial for two gentlemen named Abraham Coles (1813-1891) and Warren Ackerman (1827-1893). And the year of construction is 1911, which means the building was completed in 1911 itself.  Happy centenary!!  Wish some one takes this up seriously and do something on the centenary year. Ex-students of CAM, are you listening?

 

 Adjacent to the Red Hall, is the Administrative building which was built in 1970. On its wall is a warning written in Telugu telling ‘Outsiders should not enter the school premises. Playing games or using the playground for any other purpose is banned. Trespassers would be punished.’  I am an outsider and I have trespassed. I should be punished. Wish someone caught me and took me to the principal. I would have interviewed her also, may be kneeling down!! You can see for yourself, what kids did to the other notice, which says “In this compound playing games is not allowed.” I would have missed many good times in my childhood,had this been the case then.

 

 This is the playground, where I played as a child. By the way, it is a holiday and how come it is so empty and no children playing? May be they are preparing for EAMCET!!. (Oh! yes, in Andhra Pradesh students are made to prepare for EAMCET 7 years in advance.!!)

 

 

 

 

 Watch this picture closely, you will see an iron bar stuck into the branches of an old neem tree. This tree is right behind the Red Hall. As a child, I have been told that the British used to hang people here to this iron rod. Many kids used to be scared even to go close  to this tree. I seriously doubt, if the British hanged any one here. I am sure they had better gallows.

 

 

 

Behind the Red Hall is this white building which was meant to be a hostel. This building was opened on 18th December 1915 by Lord Pentland, then Governer of Madras. And today is being used as a B.C girls hostel. I wonder why this building is in Islamic style?

 

 

 

 The plaques on the white hostel building mention two names, George Ackermand and J.Ackerman Coles. The plaque on the Red Hall mentiones Abraham Coles and Warren Ackerman. Can some one tell me about these Coles and Acker’men’? I am a bit confused, as to who’s who?

 

 This building in the school compound. It could be the residential  quarters of the head master.

 

 

 

 

 

– Nellore Lover