Jul 28, 2014
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From Brushy Plain to Mary T. Murphy School

Mary T. Murphy School began as Brushy Plain School; Mary T. Murphy, a veteran teacher for almost fifty years, never actually taught at the school that bears her name.

From Brushy Plain to Mary T. Murphy School From Brushy Plain to Mary T. Murphy School From Brushy Plain to Mary T. Murphy School

In 1991, the students at created a history of their school, including interviews with former teachers and principals, as well as former students from the school. Here are the basic facts:

  • Mary T. Murphy School was originally Brushy Plain School.
  • Brushy Plain School was originally located at 154 Brushy Plain Road, a property that was divided into apartments in the 1990s, but is currently listed as a single family home.

Students Kathy Lewis, Seth Prins, Marissa Varnadore, Mike Link, and Jessica Boughton described the original school:

The school had two open rooms and one floor. One had grade one through three, and one had grade four through six. There were two out houses way in the back of the yard, one for boys and one for girls.... There was no running water, so they used a pump. A coal stove provided heat.

The original school was auctioned off by the town of Branford in 1935. But the name, Brushy Plain School, was reused when the current school was built, completed in December, 1960. The name as changed to Mary T. Murphy School in 1989.

  • The current school was built on woodland, partially owned by the family of Tony Santos.
  • There had also been a pig farm on the property.
  • The architects for the new building were Lyons and Masther.
  • A 1990 renovation added a new wing to the school. The school was closed for a year during the renovation.

So who was Mary T. Murphy? According to an interview with Mathew Adamo, Miss Murphy taught for 47 years. She began her teaching career in a one room school house on Pave Street, where she taught 1st and 2nd grade. Murphy later moved to Center School, where she taught 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. But over the course of her career, she was not a teacher at Brushy Plain School. She was, however, the high school math teacher of Mary Margaret O'Brien, who became the first principal of the new Brushy Plain School in 1960. The school was named after Mary T. Murphy to honor her teaching legacy.

As part of my research, I posted on the Growing Up in Branford Facebook group (which you can read more about here). Many of the current and former Branford residents who frequent that site remembered their years at Brushy Plain School fondly. My favorite comment came from Judy A. Cappiello-Dobuzinsky, who wrote:

Mary Murphy was my mother, Dorothy Banko-Mihalich's, teacher. My mom was born in 1928. Graduated in 1946. I went to Brushy Plains, but at that time Mary Margret O'Brien was the principal. The year was 1963 or '64. It was a great school!

Others posted remembering their days at Damascus School -- which was later named after , a teacher with a 55 year career who also served as a principal of a number of schools in Branford. The two schools were built by the town as a pair. Both schools currently have classes for students in grades K-4.

What do you want to know about Branford history? Ask and we'll try to find the answer! 

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