Mary Stark was born on October 10, 1890 to Dr. George A. Stark and Anne Jane Knox. She was one of seven children including brothers Carlisle (b. December, 1879), Walter (b. November 1883), George (b. March 1885) James C. (b. 1892) and youngest brother Dawson (b. August 1900) in addition to younger sister Elsie [future wife of William H. Martin] (b. 1894). Her parents moved from Wisconsin to MortonCounty in 1882 and built the first house in the City of Glen Ullin. They subsequently homesteaded their own farm south of town, and where Mary was born, but moved to Mandan in 1900 where Dr. Stark took over the practice of Dr. Reid, who passed away unexpectedly. Mrs. Stark was grateful for the improved educational opportunities the city schools would provide to her children.
Mary attended Mandan Grade School and graduated from Mandan High School in 1908. She was also recognized upon graduation as the only student that had completed all four years of high school without a single absence.
She subsequently attended Valley City Normal School (now Valley City State University) on a "rural scholarship" which provided $300 per students to attend classes one year but commit to teach rural school for at least one year.
She was awarded a Certificate of Teaching in 1909.
MHS Class of 1908 Mary Stark L-Back Row
She began her teaching career that following September at a school in rural Morton County. After fulfilling her commitment, she transferred to Mandan's Custer School in 1911 to teach there.
She began teaching at Syndicate School in 1919. The school was named for the area of town south and west of the Northern Pacific railroad tracks in Mandan which was developed by a group of Massachusetts investors referred to as the “Boston Syndicate.”
She continued to teach until her death compiling a total of 51 years during her career. Some of the accomplishments which took place while Mary Stark was teacher and eventually principal at the Syndicate School included the establishment of the first hot lunch program for underprivileged children of Mandan during The Great Depression of the 1930’s. She also saw that children in her room were properly dressed with warm clothing during the winter.
Long-time member of the First Presbyterian Church in Mandan, fellow congregational members recall vividly her dedication to the teaching profession. She was recognized this dedication to her chosen profession by being named “Outstanding Teacher in North Dakota” during the 1920s and was awarded an all expense paid trip to Washington DC. She was also honored by Mandan for her life of service to the community by its proclaimation of a "Mary Stark Day".
She died on the morning of April 25, 1960 of a heart attack while driving to school. She was to retire at the end of the school year. The Mandan schools were closed the afternoon of her funeral at the First Presbyterian Church. Ms. Stark is buried in Union Cemetery, Mandan beside her parents.
The Syndicate School with 1964 wing addition
The Mandan School District dedicated the replacement to the Syndicate Grade School, now named after her, in recognition of her years of service and dedication to the district's school children.
The MHSoc's museum and office is located at 3827 30th Avenue NW; PO Box 98; Mandan, ND 58554 Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org