Hampton Academy & Winnacunnet High School Alumni Association
65th Anniversary, Historic Souvenir Booklet, 1972

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By Arthur J. Moody, Class of ’53


Introduction and Synopsis

The story of Hampton Academy is so interwoven with that of its Board of Trustees (until 1940, at least) that it is impossible to treat them separately. During the existence of Hampton Academy as a proprietary school (1810-1885), the Trustees undertook the entire operation of the school – much like the public School Board and Superintendent of Schools of today. In addition, the Trustees had to raise the operating expenses in any manner available: it did not have the power of taxation. Thus, tuition was charged, textbooks were sold, contributions were solicited and endowments were sought. It is interesting to note that State law (the Toleration Act) prohibiting compulsory taxation for the support of churches was not passed until 1819. Although, in 1810, public taxes supported at least one ministry in Hampton, no public funds were available for what is now known as secondary education. The town was, however, supporting primary education beyond that required by State statutes.

After 1885, when the Academy became Hampton Academy and High School, the Trustees continued as before, but, eventually, funds were received from Hampton taxes for tuition and supplies, and from area town governments for tuition. As the Academy progressed from a private to a semi-public to a public school, the Superintendent of Schools, at the request of the Trustees, assumed such duties as supervision off the day-to-day operation of the school and performed such other tasks as recruiting faculty and representing the school vis-à-vis State officials. He also began to set admittance requirements and curricula standards.

When the 1939-40 Academy building was constructed by the Hampton School District, the control of the school passed from the Trustees to the School Board. The Board of Trustees of Hampton Academy and High School. Inc., has continued since June 1940 as the corporation entrusted by law to carry out the terms of bequests to Hampton Academy and High School, and, presently to dispose of income resulting from those trusts to the benefit of both Hampton Academy Junior High School and Winnacunnet High School.

The School’s Formative Years

The early years of Hampton Academy, especially its founding and early funding, are covered quite adequately in Joseph Dow’s “History of the Town of Hampton, N.H.” (1893, Chapter XXVIII). Many details which are contained in that work will not be dwelt upon here. Also, a brief history of the Academy by Bruce E. Russell will be found in the 64-page “Official Pictorial Magazine,” Hampton Tercentenary (1938), which is still available [in 1972] from the Hampton Historical Society, 40 Park Ave., Hampton, for 50C plus postage, or from Tuck Museum (same address) during July and August afternoons.

In order to give some kind of perspective to the accomplishments of those who founded and operated the Academy, comparative resident population figures are listed for the State census of 1786, and for the Federal census of 1810 (Academy established) and 1910 (Alumni Association founded three years before), and for the present. Estimated figures are given for 1972.

Resident Population (approximate)

  1786 1810 1910 1972
United States 3,930,000 (1790) 7,250,000 92,000,000 207,000,000
New Hampshire 95,800 214,000 430,000 770,000
Hampton 864 1,000 1,215 9,000
Hampton Falls 569 1,300
North Hampton 659 3,500
Seabrook 668 3,300

The Rev. Josiah Webster (Dartmouth, Class of 1798) who had been installed in 1808 as the 11th minister of the First Congregational Church of Hampton (at that time, still the church of the Town), was the prime mover in establishing a school of higher learning in Hampton. Rev. Webster’s efforts in sowing the seeds among the people of the area for education beyond the three R’s of the common schools (primary, intermediate, grammar) culminated in the incorporation, by the General Court, of a “proprietary School in Hampton” on June 16, 1810. A true copy of the articles of incorporation as passed by the House of Representatives on June 15, the Senate on June 16 and signed by the Governor and Secretary of State of the “State of New Hampshire” on June 16 was carefully copied into The Secretary’s records of the new corporation.{*}

{* The Academy Board of Trustees has had all the Secretary’s records from 1810 to 1939 bound into one 329-page volume. Of this book, Richard B. Shelton ’92 wrote: “Most interesting book! Handwriting shaped with painstaking care; English often decidedly quaint; the use of the Puritans running through its recorded aims and aspirations; the idealism of the religious zealot sounding somewhat naive in this day of hurry and bustle and business and cold facts. But it is well worth reading. It conjures up an impression of solid rock. It is the record of men who looked into the future and, looking, prepared for it.” Mr. Shelton’s 3500-word tractate took the Academy up to 1924.}

That copy of the articles, the first entry in the Corporation’s records, was signed by Governor John Langdon, of Revolutionary War fame, and the legislative leaders of the General Court.

Forty shares in the school were sold to subscribers (called “proprietors”) at $25 per share and, with those $1,000 proceeds, a one-story building was constructed on land donated by the Town of Hampton. The site was on the Meeting House Green where the original, simply constructed Congregational Meeting House had been built by Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his congregation of Puritans shortly after they settled Hampton (“Winnacunnet Plantation”) in the fall of 1638.

Under the first Preceptor or principal, Andrew Mack, students were instructed in the classics, religion and higher arithmetic. The cost for each pupil — who had to beat least 8 years of age and conversant in English — was $10 per term of one year, payable quarterly. The expense for firewood in the winter season was an additional charge apportioned among all the scholars. Any person signed up to send a scholar for the minimum term of one school year could, however, send a different student for each quarter. During construction of the school and later, in 1821 when it was enlarged, school instruction was held in private homes such as that of James Leavitt, Esq., one of the original Trustees of the Corporation.

In November 1817, the Trustees allowed a Mr. Pine to use the “School house for a singing school the ensuing year.” In 1920-21, negotiations with Rockingham Lodge of Free Masons to add a second story on the school were unfruitful. The “Trustees thereupon voted to sell 35 additional shares in the Corporation to pay for an addition. Payment for the shares could be in cash, 30-day notes with interest or building materials. “The clapboard addition with belfry was completed in mid-1821 for the bid price of $450. Thanks to the separate facilities and the fund-raising capabilities of Rev. Webster, it was possible to admit “female scholars” under the tutelage of a Preceptress. We are told that the Academy thus became one of the first such coeducational schools in America.

“The Academy”

The first use in the Trustees’ records of the name “Academy” to describe the Proprietary School in Hampton occurs in an entry dated December 18, 182Q. The entry pertained to a proposition “that a story be put upon the Academy by the Rockingham Lodge.” Thereafter, references to “Academy” or “Seminary” are frequent.

The change to “Academy” (unofficially, as the charter granted by the state 10 years earlier was not amended) was undoubtedly a reflection of the times. Beginning in the early 1800’s, academies were in vogue. “The Encyclopedia Americana” (1966) says this about them:

“The beginnings of secondary education in the United States are to be found in the establishment of Latin grammar schools for boys in several of the English North American colonies, particularly in New England. In all of these schools, the religious purpose and preparation for college predominated. Although Latin was the major subject, a limited study of Greek, religion, and mathematics constituted the curriculum. Because of the limited curriculum of the grammar schools, the increasing secular spirit, and the subsequent demand for providing more practical subjects, the period beginning in the last quarter of the 18th century and extending for at least 100 years saw the development and flowering of the American academy. Although appearing under different names and forms, it became the most prominent institution for secondary education in the United States until replaced by the public high school…. By 1850, 1,007 academies had been opened in New England…. In the entire nation, in 1850, there were 6,085 academies employing 12,260 teachers and enrolling 263,096 pupils.”

Of the seven academies in Rockingham County in 1818, only Phillips Exeter (1781) and Atkinson (1787) were older than the Hampton school. Hampton’s Proprietary School was known as “Academy” from 1820, “Hampton Academy and High School” from 1885 and, after being converted to a junior high school, “Hampton Academy Junior High School” from 1958 to the present time. Hampton, it seems, would not be without its Academy.

Change In Corporate Structure

The Proprietary School Corporation was at first governed by seven Trustees chosen by ballot at the annual shareholders’ meeting in November. At least four of the Trustees had to be proprietors (those owning purchased shares in the school). The first President of the Corporation was Dr. John Fogg, a physician from North Hampton. Others on the first Board of Trustees were residents of Portsmouth, Newburyport and, of course, Hampton. Under the first Constitution of Corporation (1811), a Treasurer and a Directing Committee together with the President and clerk made up the officers who ran the school between annual meetings.

As early as 1814 a committee was chosen “to make certain by laws for the better government of the Corporation.” Difficulties had been encountered with a few shareholders not paying periodic assessments on their shares for the maintenance of the school. At least half of the outstanding shares had to be represented at an annual meeting for business to be transacted; a number of meetings had to be postponed for want of a quorum.

It was decided by the proprietors on May 15, 1821, to restructure the Corporation so that all power would he vested in the Board of Trustees. Once a Board was chosen under the agreement, that body would be self-perpetuating and would he considered the “Hampton Proprietary School Corporation.” “Thus, the shareholders for consideration of $1 sold their interest and rights in the Corporation. The shares could no longer be sold or transferred but were to he retained in trust forever by the Board “for the use and benefit of the Institution…. and for the promotion of Education therein.” A lengthy document entitled “Constitution or fundamental Rules for the Hampton Proprietary School Corporation” was subsequently approved by the Board in August 1821. All this was accomplished under the original 1810 Charier.

Under the new Constitution, a President, Secretary, Treasurer and Executive Committee were elected at the annual meeting in October (later: mid-August). The Board consisted of from 9 to 13 members. Generally, these offices continue to this day for the present 9-member Board although revised Bylaws were adopted in 1916 with some changes thereafter.

Besides setting the organization of the Corporal ion, the Constitution set forth the curriculum (Languages, Music and Arts, Logic, (geometry, etc.) and lengthy standards of conduct for teachers (see Dow’s, pp. 488f.). Article 12th made the following provision for the expulsion of scholars: “In order to preserve this Seminary from the baneful influence of the incorrigibly vicious. the Corporation shall determine for what reason a scholar shall be expelled, and the manner in which the sentence shall be administered.”

Throughout the document, references to “our Holy Christian Religion” and “The truth of Christianity” reflect the deep-seated Puritan influences of Hampton’s past.

Rules For Scholars

In the “Rules for the internal government of the Seminary” (1822), there were such provisions as: students who did not “attend prayers on Sabbath morning” were subject to the same penalties as for absences from school; the Preceptor could appoint monitors in the Academy and in student boarding houses; unexcused absences will result in public or private censure or fines up to 20¢ per day; each student while travelling to and from school “shall observe good order and decency, without uncouth noises or uncouth gestures, paying a handsome compliment to the passing stranger or citizen by pulling off the hat or otherwise, as genteel conduct may require”: from April 1st to October 31st, “students shall be confined to the public road and commons, without intruding on the fields, orchards or gardens of the neighboring inhabitants”; “The students. extraordinaries excepted, shall be at their lodgings on Saturday and Sabbath evenings. They shall constantly attend the weekly and stated worship of the Deity…. The parts of the Sabbath not occupied in public devotions shall be spent by scholars at their boardings without unnecessary meeting together, or unnecessary strolling about”; damage to the Academy building by students shall be repaired within one week or the cost of repair will be charged double to the student’s account; “Profane, indecent, and obscene language, revelling, haunting tippling houses, playing at unlawful games, and every species of riotous conduct shall be avoided by the students as the bane of society.”

Under the 1822 rules, tuition was raised to $13.10 for a three-term scholastic year with an examination at the end of each term. At least once a year. “Trustees were present at the oral examination of students. From 1823, one or two Trustees delivered closing addresses and prayer at the examination. These “closing exercises” or “exhibitions” with printed programs for friends, parents and patrons of the Academy, were the forerunners of the graduation ceremonies of the high school some 60 years later.

The 1822 “Bylaws of the preceptor” provided for suspension of students for violating such prohibitions as publicly speaking “any oration or declamation without having previously submitted the same to the Preceptor for his inspection and approbation.” However, the student could appeal an expulsion by the Preceptor to the Board of Trustees. In 1828, there is mention in the Trustees’ book of “disorderly conduct of certain students” and that “satisfaction” was made to the Board “by the parties concerned.”

“The Golden Years” and Rev. Webster

Learning flourished at the Academy in Hampton from the 1820s to the 1850s. Funds were always in demand but, somehow, bequests and other donations were available to keep the school’s doors open. In 1825 a special committee of Trustees was formed to ascertain the practice of other “similar institutions in relation to their investments of monies.” Endowment appeared to be the answer. In 1829 procedures were promulgated for establishing perpetual scholarships for tuition ($250 subscription needed for each scholarship). In 1832, in order to retain Roswell Harris as Preceptor, the Trustees offered him $50 per year in addition to the regular compensation of all the admission and tuition fees. From that total he had to pay the Preceptress (who later became his wife). The next year, however, Mr. Harris resigned his position of five years to teach in Brattleboro,Vt.*{According to Dow’s, he went to Brattleboro. Another source indicated he went to Bradford, Vt. (a much smaller town than Brattleboro) “to take charge of a large school.”} Two years later the Trustees unsuccessfully sought his return. The practice of setting annual salaries for each instructor was to remain the prerogative of the Board until its last year (1939-40) in control of the school.In 1832 the Board voted to purchase for the Academy “apparatus” from the Lyceum at Amesbury. Five years later, the terms for purchase of a “philosophical and chemical apparatus” under the principalship of Amos Tuck would result in the 1839 resignation of Mr. Tuck’s successor, Joseph Dow (see Dow’s, pp. 492f.).Throughout this period the Trustees were busy attending to their duties of raising funds, providing for the repair of the Academy building, selecting instructors and Trustees to fill vacancies on the Board, attending examinations of scholars and registering boarding houses for the students. In 1832, funds which would become available in the next two or three years were reserved for alterations in the school room
and for repairs to “the deck.”In a history of the Academy through 1885, published in Hampton Union of January 30, 1930, Caroline C. Shea wrote the following about “The Golden Years”:“The old Academy had a great influence in the town. The teachers were men and women of high standing, some of them remaining long enough to become part of its religious and social life. Young men and women came from other towns, to mingle with the youth of Hampton for mutual good, and for the improvement of all. The programs of the closing exercises in the old days show the high grade of instruction. Greek and Latin dialogues were composed by the boys, those in French by the girls, and original orations were delivered. In the [18]50’s there was a flower garden. that the young ladies might be helped in their study of botany. Pupils from other towns found boarding places at Squire Leavitt’s — the old Moulton House — where today their names cut in the woodwork of the closets may be read. Mrs. David Philbrick, who lived on what is now the Freeman Williams place, was a famous boarding mistress, entertaining some of the students who afterwards became famous men. The writer has the cups and saucers from which they drank their tea. Rufus Choate probably boarded at Parson Webster’s…. students wore calico gowns and carried cloth book bags.”No small credit for the progress in those years accrues to Rev. Josiah Webster, A.M., who not only must be considered “The Father of Hampton Academy” but must also be singled out as “The Guiding Hand” of the fledgling institution.{*} He was one of the original Trustees of the Corporation and served as President of the stronger, newly constituted Board of Trustees from 1823 until his death in 1837.

{*An 1807 portrait of Rev. Josiah Webster (at age 35) is reproduced in Dow’s (History of Hampton), facing page 442.}

Rev. Webster was an agent for the Trustees in 1821 to solicit for a permanent fund for support especially, of female education at the Academy. An “address to the Public,” signed by the Trustees, was drawn up for him to take on his circuits to the north, west and south. The five-paragraph tract, addressed to “the friends of the education of youth,” describes the Academy and its location thusly: “A large and spacious building for a Public Literary Institution…. The site of the Institution is pleasant and healthful peculiarly calculated to invigorate the feeble constitution of youth, having both the benefit of the sea and country air; is retired from scenes of vice and dissipation, and nearly central on the principal stage road through the sea-port towns between the two extremes of New England.” The solicitations by the Reverend went on for some time as a labor of love. In 1826 the Board’s Secretary, Moody Stockman, entered the following in the records: “Voted that the thanks of the Board be given to Rev. Josiah Webster for the faithful discharge of his duty as agent in collecting donations.”At Rev. Webster’s death in 1837, two of his goals had been attained at the Academy: a flourishing school and the admittance of “female scholars.” The Minister had served the school well as Trustee from 1811 to 1837 (with a 15-month break in service from November 1819 to February 1821). In March 1838, the Trustees chose Rev. Webster’s successor in the Congregational Society, Pastor-elect Erasmus D. Eldridge, to fill the vacancy on the Board. Rev. Eldridge’s membership on the Board continued for 13 years, ending shortly after the Academy fire of 1851. The new Board President was Rev. Jonathan French of North Hampton, who served for nearly 20 years in that capacity.The level of instruction at the Academy during the very early years was, perhaps. comparable to the 6th-to-10th grade levels of today. But its reputation was good, even beyond the Seacoast Area. Preceptors, or
Principals, must share in the credit for the Academy’s reputation of this period. These were individuals such as Roswell Harris, A.M., Amos Tuck, A.B., and Joseph Dow, A.M., who had come to the Academy from a teaching position in Maine. Prior to that, Mr. Dow, who had attended Hampton Academy in the early 1820’s, was principal and Trustee of Pembroke Academy. He was later to write the definitive history of Hampton’s first quarter-millennium. Mr. Harris, a born teacher and a rigid disciplinarian, brought the school up to a high rank — equal to any in New England. Numbered among the students of Mr. Harris were both Joseph Dow and Amos Tuck as well as James F. Joy, a distinguished lawyer and a railroad magnate of Detroit, and Daniel Clark, a founder of the Republican Party, a U.S. Senator from N.H. and, later, a U.S. Circuit Judge. Mr. Tuck’s 40-year association with Hampton Academy as student, teacher. Principal and Trustee was especially fortuitous, as we shall see.

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