Teacher of the Deaf

Ralph Hinman Atwood (1838-1927) was one of ten children of Hinman Atwood and Anna Eliza DeForest, my third great grandparents who owned a farm in Watertown CT.  Ralph became deaf from scarlet fever in 1844, according to several genealogies.  By age 12, he was living at The American Asylum at Hartford for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb Family.AmericanAsylumfortheDeaf.RalphHinmanAtwood(now the American School for the Deaf), the oldest school for the deaf in the U.S., founded by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc. The school was a model for deaf education, and students were taught to sign.

By 1860, at age 21, Ralph was living as a boarder in a house in Waterbury and working in a factory as a “printer.”

On Nov. 24, 1863, Ralph married Mary Ann Perkins in Newbury, MA.  On the marriage registration, they are both listed as “deaf and dumb.” They had two children, Ralph Gomez (1866-1868) who died of scarlet fever, and Lois Elmore, born February 14, 1872. Both children were hearing. Lois later became a respected teacher of the deaf, but died of a heart ailment at age 30.

Around 1864, Ralph began teaching at the American Asylum. He soon moved to the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, OH, which needed teachers due to Civil War staffing shortages. He took a position at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in 1870.  Ralph later helped to found the present-day Beverly School for the Deaf  in Massachusetts, where he also served as principal. He resigned in 1880 and moved back to Ohio, where he taught for 18 more years.  All these schools were leading institutions for deaf education founded by Gallaudet and his supporters.  Ralph died MAY 11, 1927 at the age of 89.

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2 Responses to Teacher of the Deaf

  1. vahughes17 says:

    I have to think that Ralph’s parents were a strong inspiration for him. What a great story!! Just curious: how do you know that he became deaf in 1844 (the researcher is me wants to know). I have a friend who works at the Beverly school for the blind. Can I share this text with her (not sure If a copy and paste will work). Thanks for the interesting post. Glad you are back “online”.

    • I am in awe of him, considering his challenges. Several published genealogies give the information about scarlet fever causing his deafness. It is something for me to investigate further. I’m trying to get more information from the schools…maybe a photograph of him, too.

      On Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM, 92MonteVista

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