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Origins of "Olney Green"
“Olney Green” owes the inspiration of its name to a poem of the same name by traveling minister Louis Taber, who taught at the school in its original location in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. (He, in turn, was fond of English poet William Cowper, whose Olney Hymns written in collaboration with clergyman John Newton include “Amazing Grace.” The hymns were named after the village of Olney, where both lived.)
At the time of the school’s relocation from Mount Pleasant to its current spot in Barnesville, Louis Taber sponsored a contest among the young people of the yearly meeting to rename the school. The name “Olney” was selected, and though the school did not officially adopt the new name until much later, Taber wrote the poem in 1875 to describe and praise the quality of life he found at the school.
The Taber Family
A note about the Taber family: Like several other such families in Ohio Yearly Meeting, the Taber family history and the school’s history are very much intertwined. Louis Taber’s great-grandson William P. (Bill) Taber, Jr. wrote both a history of Ohio Yearly Meeting (The Eye of Faith) and a history of the school (Be Gentle, Be Plain). One of the late Bill Taber’s daughters is a board member; the other is the parent of a current student. Interconnections among rural Quaker families and the school have strongly shaped the school’s past and present.
Many of the poem’s lines continue to ring true today to students and alumni.
Of Olney’s student population:
Not only from Ohio’s changing clime,
Shall come the pilgrims to this cherished Shrine;
From sister States they gather, it may be,
From distant homes, from lands beside the sea.
Of the enthusiastic energy of adolescents (and the effect of their energy on everyone in their vicinity):
When books and study all are lain aside,
The youths go bounding with ecstatic pride;
Their various arts and mimic sports they try,
Buoyant with hope and glad expectancy,
Exultant life leaps through each nerve and vein,
The young rejoice, the old are young again.
Behold a scene! so joyous everywhere,
Glad shouts and laughter rend the ambient air!
Such youth are thine; such ever shall be seen,
Through lengthening years of time on Olney Green.
Of the changing generations of students:
Successive troupes of children come and go,
Like ocean tides; the restless ebb and flow
Of human life; the ever-changing sea
Of time, that rolls into eternity;
The dread unknown, mysterious and strange!
No more temptations, trials, tears and change:
Glad, ransomed spirits, in that holy place,
And the light of God upon each radiant face.