New Salem — Schools

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

The New Salem Academy.

      The early records of the town having been destroyed, very little can be ascertained about the early history of New Salem schools; but it is safe to assume that here, in common with the towns in Western Massachusetts, the growth of the cause of education developed slowly in the days of the pioneers.
      Public concern touching the necessity and value of schools was awakened directly upon the settlement of the territory, and such provision as could be made with the limited advantages at command was attended to.
      In 1794 the subject of providing the town with a school possessed of superior advantages began to be actively discussed, and to such good end that a number of enterprising citizens erected a commodious school building at the Centre, and Feb. 25, 1795, the NEW SALEM ACADEMY was incorporated under an act which set forth that the school Was to be "for the purpose of promoting piety, religion, and morality, and for the instruction of the youth in such languages and in such of the liberal arts and sciences as the trustees shall direct."* The trustees then appointed were Rev. Joel Foster, Rev. Solomon Reed, Rev. Joseph Blodgett, Rev. Joseph Kilburn, David Smead, John Goldsbury, Jonathan Warner, David Sexton, Ebenezer Mattoon, Jr., Daniel Bigelow, Martin Kinsley, Ezekiel Kellogg, Jr., Samuel Kendall, Varney Pearce, and Asa Meriam.
      Among the members who were active in procuring the charter were Rev. Joel Foster, Deacon Samuel Kendall, Ezekiel Kellogg, Jr., and Varney Pearce. The first record is in the handwriting of Rev. Joel Foster. The next secretary Was Varney Pearce, Esq., who, With the exception of an interval of two years,—1810-11,—attended every meeting of the board of trustees from the organization to the time of his death, in 1823.
      The State granted half a township of land in Maine in 1797 for the benefit of the school. This land was placed in market by the trustees, and was purchased to a large extent by citizens of New Salem, in order to assist, by every means in their power, the incipient institution. This course eventually involved them to such an extent that many were obliged to give up their homes in Massachusetts and remove to the wild lands of Maine. Among these was Capt. James Houlton, after whom the town of Houlton, in Maine, was named.
      By the running of a new boundary-line between the United States and the British dominions the institution lost about one-half the original grant.
      The school building, already mentioned, Was donated to the academy, and at the first meeting of the trustees, which was held at the tavern of Samuel Kendall, in New Salem, measures were taken to set the institution upon an advanced plane, and thereby attract to its support pupils from all parts of the State.
      This liberal and comprehensive scheme bore immediate fruit, and the school entered at once upon a prosperous career, gathering within its walls many student from the State at large and from other States; occupied an enlarged field of usefulness, and took a prominent place among the institutions of learning of that day.
      In 1837 the academy building Was destroyed by fire, but was promptly replaced by the present edifice, mainly erected from funds contributed by citizens of the town. In 1870 the academy received from the State a donation of $10,000, from the citizens of New Salem $5000, and from Ira Stratton, Esq., of Cambridgeport, a native of New Salem, $1000. The valuable scientific apparatus now in the possession of the school was the gift of Mr. Greenwood, of Boston, a former pupil. In the year named (1870) the trustees erected near the academy a handsome and spacious boarding-house, at a cost of $4000. This structure, as well as one of a similar character built many years before, provides homes for the academy students.
      The free introduction of high schools and the increase of educational advantages elsewhere have of late somewhat narrowed the field of the academy's usefulness, but it still holds a high rank, and annually prepares many students for college.
      The value of the property belonging to the institution, including fund and buildings, is about $16,000. The south building at the right and rear in the wood-cut is used as a boarding-house, and is in charge of a steward. The central building contains rooms for those who desire to board themselves, and is in charge of the principal.
      The principals who have served the academy from its incorporation, in 1795, to 1879, given in regular order, are thus named: Fowler Dickinson, Proctor Pierce, Joel Foster, Joseph Billings, Alvah Tobey, David Kendall, Warren Pierce, William Ritchie, Alpheus Harding, Oliver Greene, John Wallace, Joel Wright, Leonard Jewett, Phineas Johnson, Oliver Fletcher, Allen Gannett, Constant Field, Joseph Anderson, Charles Osgood, Alonzo Andrews, Luther Wilson, J. M. Macomber, Horace Blake, John Stacey, Gardner Rice, V. M. Howard, Charles Whittier, T. W. R. Marsh, Joseph A. Shaw, Andrew J. Lathrop, Henry M. Harrington, D. G. Thompson, E. A. Perry, F. F. Foster, Lorenzo White, F. E. Stratton, and William H. Smiley, the latter being the principal in charge April 1, 1879.
      The trustees in 1879 were Lyman E. Moore, of New Salem; T. D. Brooks, of Athol; Willard Putnam, William T. Freeman, and F. A. Haskell, of New Salem; N. L. Johnson, of Dana; J. B. Root, of Greenwich; Thomas P. Root, of Barre; Alpheus Harding, of Athol; George A. Berry, of Shutesbury; A. J. Clark, of Orange; Lucien D. Trow, of Hardwick; and Edward F. Mayo, of Warwick. Among the prominent trustees not heretofore mentioned have been the following: Joshua Green, Hon. N. F. Bryant, Ebenezer Mattoon, Gen. James Humphreys, Hon. Richard E. Newcomb, Rev. Luther Wilson, Rev. Oliver Everett, Rev. Alpheus Harding (who was connected with the school as teacher and trustee for more than sixty years), Rev. John Goldsbury, Hon. Samuel Giles, Deacon Asahel Paige, Rev. David Eastman, Jabez Sawyer, Esq. Among the alumni who have been prominent are the following: Ex-Governor Alexander H. Bullock, Judge P. Emory Aldrich, Hon. Frederick Allen, Hon. Alpheus Harding, Hon. Willard Richardson, formerly mayor of Galveston, Texas, and editor and proprietor of the Galveston News; Rev. Ozi W. Whittaker, Bishop of Nevada; Rev. Francis E. Tower, Hon. N. L. Johnson, Hon. Edward A. Thomas.
      Besides the academy, there are in New Salem 7 district schools, at which the average attendance is 135 scholars, and for whose support, in 1877, the sum of $1136.68 was expended.
      Among the students of New Salem Academy who became college graduates was Alpheus Harding, who graduated at Dartmouth, was afterward preceptor at the academy, and pastor of the First Church in New Salem, in which town he resided for seventy years. Of the natives of New Salem who received college diplomas, there were Warren Pierce, Proctor Pierce, Doctor Coles, Charles Pierce, Solomon Howe, Bishop Ozi W. Whittaker, and Willard Putnam.
      The rates of tuition seem to have changed considerably; commencing in 1796 at from $1.25 to $1.50 per term; after-ward declining to $1 and $1.25; then gradually increasing to $5 and $7 per term. Formerly there were four terms annually, each of eleven weeks; now there are three terms,—two of thirteen weeks, and one of twelve weeks.
      The State gave the institution $10,000, and the town of New Salem and sundry friends gave $5000 additional. The value of the original grant of lands by the State was probably about $5000.

*Charles A. Harding, Jr., 1855-57; Charles M. Pierce, 1757-59; Royal Whitaker, 1859-74; Charles R. Shumway, 1874; F. A. Haskell, 1875; Charles Chandler, 1876-79.

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