A one-room schoolhouse once attended by the first Japanese person to live in America is looking spiffy thanks to a volunteer cleanup effort.

"The Fairhaven Historical Commission wishes to publicly thank the Fairhaven Lions Club and their members for the though outside clean-up they performed at the Old Stone Schoolhouse on North Street," said Wayne Oliveira, chairman of the Fairhaven Historical Commission.

The one-room schoolhouse, built in 1828, is a popular stop for Japanese visitors following the Manjiro Trail, Oliveira said. The trail consists of buildings and sites associated with the life of Manjiro Nakahama.

Manjiro was born in a Japanese fishing village in 1827. As a young teen, he and four others got shipwrecked on a Pacific island. Six months later, they were rescued by Captain William H. Whitfield aboard his whaling ship. Manjiro’s four shipmates were set ashore at the Sandwich Islands, but Manjiro, then 14, returned with Whitfield to Fairhaven.

Whitfield sent Manjiro to live with a family in his Oxford Village neighborhood. Manjiro was tutored and attended classes at the Stone Schoolhouse. Later, he took classes in mathematics and navigation. An able learner, Manjiro translated Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator into Japanese, according to the Fairhaven Historical Society. He left town in 1846 on a whale ship, traveled to San Francisco, and eventually made his way back to Japan, where he died in 1898.

This fall, the Old School House property was in need of some tree trimming, raking and mulch. The Fairhaven Lions Club stepped up and volunteered to do an intense clean-up of the property.

"We have limited funds to maintain theses historic properties so when someone steps up and offers to help for free, we graciously accepted," said Oliveira.

The Historical Commission oversees many historic properties in town, including Fort Phoenix, the Academy Building and the Old Firehouses.

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