As with many stories of origin, the founding of Friends School Mullica Hill has a short version and a lengthy one. The short version is that the school was started in 1969 as a Pre-K through 12th grade college preparatory Friends School, having moved from Woodbury where it was a Kindergarten through 8th grade school. The long version is that FSMH is the latest in a series of schools incubated by the Woodbury and Mullica Hill Quaker communities within the rich, three and a half century history of Friends education.
Early Quaker Schools
Throughout the Delaware Valley region, Friends schools were often the first public schools in early settlements. The first schools founded by Woodbury and Mullica Hill Quakers were no exception. They educated not only the children within the Quaker Meeting for Worship (“Meeting” is the word Quakers use for “church”) community but to all children in the area. These early Quaker schools represented an unusually acute and inclusive concern for educating young people. This concern resulted in the first schools to educate girls and boys, poor and wealthy children, orphaned children, and children of all races within the same walls. The connection to public education as we know it today is literal: the third school Woodbury Meeting founded in 1827 became Woodbury’s public school; its first school became Woodbury’s library.
From Log Cabin to Multi-Room Building
These first schools provided the basic one-room-schoolhouse experience that was the first hallmark of American education. Mullica Hill Meeting’s school was held from 1720 in a log cabin until a frame building was erected in 1756. The fifth and final school started within the two Quaker communities was founded by Woodbury Meeting in 1950 for Kindergarteners and first graders. Within five years the Woodbury Friends School had moved from the Meetinghouse into its own, multi-room building, and within another seven years was preparing nearly 200 students for high school.
A New Name
The expansion continued until a segment of the school community and Meeting members decided to move the school to its current location. Until this point, the school was owned by Woodbury Meeting, but the new permutation of the school formally separated from the Meeting and started anew as Friends School Mullica Hill. FSMH first occupied Mullica Hill’s century-old public school building (Cope) and constructed a new building (Salem) to house its over 200 students. The student body continued to grow until the first high school graduates were sent off to college in 1973. Among these first graduates is a director of an arts school and museum, a horticulturist, a fund-raiser, a psychologist, a Ph.D., an electrician, an at-home parent, and several business professionals.
Lower and Middle School
The school has been focusing on its lower school and middle school programs since 1992 when it laid down its high school program. We have refined our Pre-K through 8th grade through the accreditation processes developed by the National Association of Independent Schools, the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools, and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The school launched its first major capital expansion in the late 1990s, which resulted in the Hanshi Deshbandhu Building. This newer building houses a library and computer lab, science labs, elementary classrooms, and the Friends Fine and Performing Arts School (FAPA). FAPA is an extraordinary addition to the school, and currently employs numerous professional musicians who teach students who attend Friends and students who do not in a variety of instruments.
College and Beyond
Our alumni attend such fine high schools as St. Andrews, Moorestown Friends School, St. Joe’s Prep, Wilmington Friends School, Westtown School, Bishop Eustace and George School. After high school, our alumni attend such colleges and universities as Harvard, Amherst, Haverford, Drew, Princeton, Colgate, Cornell and many other highly competitive educational institutions. Friends School continues to provide an exemplary education that helps our students gain a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.