The City of Lockport School District honored the man who broke racial barriers in Lockport’s school system Thursday evening. The Aaron A. Mossell Library Media Center was formally dedicated at a ceremony in the library at North Park Junior High School.
Aaron Mossell was the grandson of a slave who was born free in Baltimore in March, 1824. He started his work as a brickmaker at a young age when he was apprenticed to a Mr. Russell. In 1846, he married Eliza Bowers, and the the couple had six children. Concerned that his children would never be truly free while living in a slave state, he moved his family moved to Canada.
The Mossell family settled near Hamilton, and Aaron immediately began work as a brickmaker once again. While the business was a success, they decided to return to the United States. They settled in Lockport after the Civil War. They first settled on High Street, very close to the present John Pound School. Shortly thereafter, Mossell acquired a brickyard at the north end of the city. Today, the site of Mossell’s brickyard in occupied by North Park Junior High School.
Mossell’s brickyard was extremely successful, producing more than a million bricks a year. HIs bricks were used all over the city, including at the schools his children were not allowed to attend. Boycotting the colored school on South Street, Mossell sent his children to the neighborhood school in defiance. Unfortunately, the teachers ignored them. Years of petitioning the school board finally paid off when the children were finally permitted to attend their neighborhood school. By 1876, the Lockport schools were fully integrated.
“In his lifetime, Aaron Mossell was recognized as one of the leading businessmen of Lockport. He was popular and well-liked for his intelligence, generosity, and disposition. His wife, Eliza, died in 1878, and is buried at Cold Springs Cemetery. Aaron later remarried and moved back to Baltimore, where he died in 1913.”
The ceremony at the newly dedicated Aaron A. Mossell Library Media Center was filmed not only for posterity, but also for all the students to watch in their Social Studies classes this week. Assistant Principal, Michael Pickreign, explained that many students had been questioning who Mossell was as they put up the signage. “It shows that the students who attend our school want to learn,” he commented.
School Superintendent, Michelle Bradley, addressed the full room. “What we see here lives up to our motto, ‘Pride in our past, Faith in our future.’ In this library the past and the future are seamlessly melded together. On one side of the room we have old fashioned book shelves and books. On the other end, we have the tools of the 21st Century. Aaron Mossell would be proud of what we have here.”
Students from the school were an integral part of the program Thursday evening. The history of the Mossell family was delivered by Madison Kephart, Tatum Green, and Shay Fernbacher. When time came for the ribbon-cutting part of the ceremony, it was students who performed that act. Dayonna Tester and Aeral Boyd were given those honors.
Ceremony visitors, upon entering the library, were entertained with music. Liberty Wendt, Jillian Rohde, and Jordan White performed on flutes under the direction of Eileen Brusino. Light refreshments were provided by the Family and Consumer Science Department. Members of the Student Council handed out programs as people entered the room.
The Naming Committee consisted of Board Trustee Jon Williams, Marcia Baehre, Tammy Dodge, Charlene McClain, and Michael Pickreign.