P. Carlton was born in Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts. His
education, up to the age of twenty, was confined to the district school,
which, after the manner of his time and place, was kept open only during
the winter months. His work was that of a New England farmer’s boy.
For five of six winters, beginning with that of his eighteenth year, he
taught a district school He was twenty-one years old when he entered
the South Andover High school, where he fitted for the classical course
in the Vermont University. On account of his ability as a writer
and speaker, he was given, at the close of the sophomore year, the place
of honor on the programme of the public exercises of his class. Ill
health compelled him to leave college, never to return. After a six
months’ sea voyage, he was engaged for several years in an insurance business
In 1853 he came “around the Horn” to California, and, in the fall of that year, was made Principal of the North Beach Grammar School. Four years later he was elected Principal of the Powell Street Grammar School. This position he resigned in 1861, to go East. Upon his return, he accepted the offer of a deputyship in the office of John Swett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, where he remained till October, 1863, when he was elected assistant in the State Normal School, where he labored as Vice-Principal and Principal until March, 1873.
His special work in the school was physiology, natural history, and mental philosophy, applied to teaching. The text-book in the latter study was Russell’s work, and the first class completing the course in Normal Training remember well John Swett’s expression of delight and surprise at their proficiency. Mr. Carlton’s lessons in physiology and his enthusiasm in zöological work strongly impressed his pupils. While he was connected with the Normal School he made a collection of nearly all the then known species of land and freshwater shells of the Pacific Coast.
Mr. Carlton exerted a marked influence for good over the growing characters of his pupils. Many of them remember with gratitude his intense interest in their moral welfare, and his anxiety that they should grow in things spiritual as well as in things intellectual.
After leaving the Normal School, he taught a few years in the Boys’ High School and some of the Grammar Schools of San Francisco; but the onerous labor of the school-room was too great for his physical condition, and he has not taught for the last ten years. In these years he has done excellent literary work in school journals and other San Francisco papers. He now resides in Oakland. For the last thirty years he has been a teacher in Sabbath schools.
Any just estimate of Mr. Carlton’s work must take into account the fact that physical weakness continually oppressed him. Pain and weariness were his almost constant companions. His ideal is so high that he estimates his successful life work a failure. Few have been so useful. His three-score years have been well spent.
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