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Cudmore: Annie Trapnell, founder of Amsterdam Century Club

Cudmore: Annie Trapnell, founder of Amsterdam Century Club

Focus on History


Mercy Annie Allen Trapnell was held in high esteem in Amsterdam over 100 years ago as an educator and organizer. 

She founded and was first president of the Century Club, a women’s social and educational organization that still exists.  She was among the founders of Amsterdam Free Library.  Her views on education were quoted regionally and her death was front page news.

The daughter of Beriah Allen, Annie was born in December 1832 in Blue Corners, a hamlet in West Charlton.  Her family moved to Church Street in Amsterdam when she was a child and Annie was educated at Amsterdam Academy.

The school was on lower Market Street, a building Annie once described as a “large, ancient white structure, with its fine broad piazza extending across the entire building.”

Annie became a teacher in Watertown in Jefferson County.  In 1868 she was among the first to teach at the Normal School in Potsdam, which today is a college in the State University of New York system.  She returned home and taught at Amsterdam Academy.

Rev. William Trapnell, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, took an interest in Annie.  Under his direction, she took French lessons.

According to a history of the Century Club from 1945, Rev. Trapnell waited many “brave and patient years” to wed Annie.  In 1872 Trapnell left Amsterdam for a parish in Maryland and Annie and he finally married.  She was 40 and he was 60.  He died four months later.

Returning to Amsterdam after a European tour, Annie Trapnell lived at the Allen family home on Church Street.  When she wasn’t traveling, she spent the rest of her life supporting community activities in the growing mill town.

Trapnell continued to teach young people English and fine arts at a Grove Street school operated by two sisters, Louise and Helen Bell. 

In 1895 Trapnell was teaching a course in Shakespeare to 25 women.  The women each invited three friends to join what became the Century Club, as the original goal was to have 100 members.
The 1945 club history stated that the founders wanted to share their love for “books and study in a day when women had not yet been received into full intellectual equality with men.”

In 1899 Trapnell attracted regional attention when she spoke at a club meeting in favor of having schools offer young girls education in home economics. Trapnell said such a program would solve the problem of finding domestic help. Plus, she said, by having girls learn housekeeping as an educational subject, women would no longer regard housework a drudgery.

Trapnell was a charter member and secretary of the Amsterdam Free Library board.  She was there when the building opened on Church Street.

In 1907 she went on an extended trip to California.  In 1908 while on a trip to Hampton, Virginia, Trapnell became seriously ill.  Several of her friends, including Louise Bell, traveled there and were with Annie when she died Nov. 9.

Her body arrived by train in Amsterdam and people thronged St. Ann’s Episcopal Church for the funeral.  The floral bouquets included 250 white roses, one rose for each current member of the Century Club.  She was buried at Green Hill Cemetery.

Trapnell left a $12,000 estate with bequests to St. Ann’s, the library and the Children’s Home.
The Century Club continues to this day. The group built its current club house on Guy Park Avenue in 1934.  A portrait of Annie, originally painted by Amsterdam artist Mary Van der Veer in the early 1900s for the library, was given to the club.  Some years ago the portrait was stolen.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com.

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