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

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By Arthur J. Moody, Class of ’53


Hampton Academy & High School

The enabling Act of 1872 was still in effect so, a dozen years later, it was resurrected in the planning for a public high school. At a special meeting in January 1884, the Trustees set up a committee “to investigate or learn the feeling outside of the Board in regard to the school.” On July 16. 1885, the Board voted “to accept the offer of the “Town in regard to organizing a high school in connection with Hampton Academy.” Dr. William T. Merrill, who was also Superintendent of Schools in Hampton, was authorized “to do what he shall consider the best for the school in connection with the com. appoint. by the town.” On a more mundane level, the Board voted “to build a fence from the Academy building, the northeast corner to meet the out building.”

Superintendent (and Trustee) Merrill was wholeheartedly in favor of a public high school. In his annual report to the Town, dated February 26, 1885, he had written: “Let this community awake to our educational wants. The time has come to establish a high school; it has long been needed to crown the work of the lower grades, by filling its pupils to be intelligent and useful citizens. Private schools cannot bring education to the doors of all, neither can they assume sufficient independence to accomplish the best results: they can furnish the poor no extra advantages. On the other hand the lower grades can teach but little that expands the mind and some generally accessible means should be provided for making thinking citizens. A high school must have an influence on the lower grades. Something higher to be obtained is a great incentive, arousing new energies and earnestness, for they see something beyond. Many towns can furnish ample evidence of increased intelligence, promoted industry, and enhanced value of property through the influence of their high schools. An educated class in a community is worth to that community all the additional expense of a higher education.”

Thus on September 14, 1885, Hampton Academy and High School opened under principal Jack Sanborn of Hampton Falls. After three-quarters of a century, the era of “The Proprietary School in Hampton – Hampton Academy” had come to an end.

According to the Town Report for the year ending March 1, 1886, 54 students were enrolled during the Fall and Winter Terms (1885-86 school year). Ten boys and seven girls made up the Middle Class while 20 boys and 17 girls constituted the Junior Class. Average daily attendance for the two terms was 50 pupils. In a report on the beginning of the High School, Dr. Merrill (writing for the Board of Education) stated: “It is becoming more and more evident that the free public high school will soon become as highly prized as the elementary schools. Here all will be done that can be done to push as far and high as possible, a course of education adopted to the wants of all classes of citizens, and render it an instrument of the highest possible good…. At the beginning of the next year, the school should be provided with Philosophical and Chemical apparatus, which are almost indispensable. We also need a reference library…. Next year a class will be ready for graduation which I believe will do credit to the school. At the close of the present year some public exercise should take the place of graduation exercises.”

“Three 12-week terms were held with no school during the summer months. The subjects offered were: LANGUAGE: Reading, Grammar, Composition, Rhetoric, English Literature and Latin; MATHEMATICS: Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, Algebra and Geometry; NATURAL SCIENCE: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology and Hygiene. Geology, Astronomy and Physical Geography; MISCELLANEOUS: U.S. and English History, Writing, Spelling and Civil Government.

The next annual Town Report lists the three-term enrollment (March 1886 to March 1887) as 67 with 16 in the Senior Class, 33 in the Middle Class and 18 in the Junior Class. The daily attendance average was 93 percent. A three-year course of study was still being offered but a fourth year’s work would be added by 1894 – although few would take advantage of it. The Trustees’ first selection for a new member under the consolidation was Rev. Walcott W. Fay of the Congregational Society.

Fourteen of the 16 seniors were graduated on Wednesday evening June 14, 1887, from the Congregational Church (the Hampton Town Hall auditorium was used thereafter through June 1939). Two days of public examination preceded graduation (or class) day. Unique graduation programs for the occasion set the standard for future commencements. The members (six girls and eight boys) of the first graduating class were honored with extensive coverage in Dow’s “History” (published in 1893) and their “progress in the first five years after graduation was detailed. Of the Class of 1887 graduates,{*} Dow’s concludes: “not one has disappointed the hopes of the faculty and friends of the school.”

{* This Alumni Association publication is dedicated to the memory of those first 14 graduates of Hampton Academy and High School.}

The Trustees continue to operate the school, provide for maintenance (e.g., oiling the floor each year) and set the salaries of the staff. The actual hiring of teachers was usually left to the Executive Committee of the Board. In 1889-90, a Department of Vocal Culture was added with an Instructress in Elocution and Physical Culture being hired. Thereafter, no more than three instructors were employed each year until 1905-06. During a few terms of that period, the staff fell back to two, apparently because of low enrollment. Graduating classes remained small – between five and 14 for the most part – until the mid-1920s. The names of all graduates each year were written into the Trustees’ record book by the Secretary.

The Town now appropriated money to support the High School. The annual sum, in lieu of tuition for Hampton residents, for this first five years (beginning with the 1885-86 academic year) was $300 with an extra $100 in 1887 for an “apparatus.” During that time the Town was raising about $1,300) via taxes each year for the primary schools. For their annual $300 to the Academy, “the citizens of the town of Hampton, who shall pass a suitable examination and receive the approbation of the Board of Education, shall he admitted to the school in equal standing with the Toppan Fund students.”The Town’s support increased to $400 for 1890-91, to $500 through 1895-96 and to $600 through 1904-05. About 1897, an additional sum was forthcoming from the Town for “High School Supplies.” This amounted to about $150 per year through 1903-04. Nonresidents were charged tuition as set by the Trustees. The Hampton Selectmen continued to appoint students under the Toppan bequest. In 1891, for instance, they appointed three boys and three girls for three years. A note below a copy of the appointment letter in the Trustees’ record book reads: “The above named appointment is in accordance with the wife of Christopher Toppan.”

Apparently, no students were ready to be graduated in 1888 for no commencement was held. However, in 1889 and thereafter for for successive years, graduation was held with a total of 1304 being graduated from 1887 through 1958 (according to graduation programs). The President of the Board of Trustees nearly always presented the diplomas; the pastor of the Congregational Church or the Baptist Church in Hampton often gave the main address. A baccalaureate sermon was preached before the graduating class, and an awards-and-scholarships assembly was held prior to the graduation. Very often there were printed programs for these two annual events. Besides class trips, dances and receptions for seniors and tree-planting ceremonies, there occasionally were other exercises or events pertaining to graduation which never “settled in” to become traditions.

The Trustees still had the maintenance of the Academy to look after. In 1890, they started providing textbooks free (although this policy was modified in some years due to lack of funds), and looked into the possibility of raising a flagpole in the Academy yard. In 1891 – along with electing Prof. Sanborn to the Board – they voted to improve the cellar and plaster its ceiling. Chandler adjustable desks replaced the old settees at a cost of $250 in 1895.

The Trustees accepted, in 1892, the legacy from the estate of Miss Abbie Leavitt, late of Hampton. Dow’s mentions such a legacy from Abigail Leavitt who died in 1891 leaving the Congregational Society $2,000 and the Academy “$8,000 or more.” Also, the Town accepted a $200 fund from her estate in 1893. Sometime before 1911, the Leavitt bequest to the Academy was “entirely lost by an unfortunate investment.”

On June 14, 1892, the Trustees voted to spend $25 “for the purpose of having an engraving of Hampton Academy placed in “The History of Hampton” about to be issued by Miss Lucy E. Dow.”{**}

{**The photograph appears in Dow’s facing page 493 (a watercolor of the scene depicted, painted by Doris Seavey Bragg ’33, hangs in Tuck Museum). Miss Dow put her father’s manuscript in order after his death in December 1889 and took its content up to the fall of 1892. The Town was very interested in seeing that its history was published and underwrote the cost to some extent. In 1895, the year after Miss Dow copyrighted the work, the Town paid $250 toward having the two volumes published and $500 to Miss Dow “for editing and furnishing manuscript for the history of the town of Hampton.” Also, many engravings in the work were obviously paid for by the interested parties.}

Dr. Merrill in 1894 complained that many who entered the High School from the Grammar School were not ready for the work. He asked the Town to elevate the standard of scholarship in the latter. In 1896, he wrote that few complete the course of four years at the High School – “some remain no longer than two years.”

As the end of the 19th century approached, the poor financial condition of the Academy was once again reflected in the Trustees’ book. In 1896, the Board decided “to request the town to bear its share of the expense in repairing the Academy building.” At the same meeting, Dr. Merrill, the Board President, was thanked “for his gift that he had made by paying bills held against the Academy.” The previous year, the Academy had received $100 less than the usual from the State “literary” fund because the school was in session one week less than usual.

Dr. Merrill died before the next annual meeting of the Board. Elected President was Rev. John A. Ross who had been chosen a Trustee in 1896. Rev. Ross, the Congregational pastor, became a strong leader during a transitional period at the Academy. That period would, at long last, begin to see greater, permanent funding for the school which was struggling to establish itself as an accredited public secondary school. President Ross remained head of the Academy Corporation until failing health forced him to resign in 1914 – 12 years after his pastorate had ended. During his presidency, he annually preached the baccalaureate sermon and/or gave the graduation address for the school. He also served on the public School Board for many years. Rev. Ross, who was born in Nova Scotia, died at age 86 in 1918 after exemplary service to Church, Town, Academy and public schools. His son, William T. Ross, was elected to fill his seat on the Board.

The I.O.O.F. was moving from the school hall so, in December 1896, the Board of Trustees voted that “the matter of leasing the Academy hall to the G.A.R. Post be left to the Secretary and Treasurer.” As the school continued in debt, the Trustees decided in February 1897 to prepare a statement of their financial condition and have it inserted in the Town Report. That statement, as published by the Town, showed an indebtedness of $587. Listed were amounts due the teachers for the Fall Term already past and the current Winter Term. Said Rev. Ross to the Town: “A debt has been steadily accumulating. This must stop.” He asked for an additional $100 from the taxpayers. It was granted. The Trustees also received donations from Alumni for, late in 1897, a vote of thanks was extended to those who had subscribed to the “Alumni Fund,” set up that year.

In the meantime, the first principal of the High School, Prof. Sanborn, resigned in November 1897 for health reasons. He retained his seal as a Trustee and would return after a year’s recuperation.{***}

{***In June 1930, after Prof. Sanborn’s death, the Alumni Association passed a very laudatory resolution on his contributions to Hampton Academy.}

There were 23 applicants for the vacant position and Dr. John D. Logan, with degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard College, seemed “most preferable.” From the Trustees’ book: “Testimonials were then read as to Prof. Logan’s character and ability from Pres. Eliot (of Harvard) and others.” He was hired but remained only to the end of the school year with Prof. Sanborn being rehired at his old salary of $800 per year.

With the added Town appropriation and an amount for supplies plus borrowing by the Trustees, the old debt of the Academy was paid off in 1897. But payments on the new note were burdensome. Rev. Ross still had to sell the taxpayers of Hampton on the idea of keeping their support at $600 which represented about half of the income of the Corporation. In his reports to the Town in 1898 and 1899, he wrote that the Academy could not remain open with less than the current support. “Hampton,” he stated, “could not have a High School, as such as she now has, for three times the appropriation, were it not for the Academy.” For the three terms ending with the Winter Term 1898-99, there were 47 enrollees: six in the graduating Class of 1898, seven in the Senior Class graduating in 1899 (only five would graduate), 13 in the Advanced Middle Class. 14 in the Middle Class, and seven in the Junior Class. During that March-to-March period, $600 was received from the Town for tuition and $58 (down $100 from the previous year) for supplies. $280 was realized from investments, $261 was paid for nonresident tuition, and $29 was realized from the sale of books. There was no income listed from the rent of the hall although $35 had been received for that item in 1896-97. Expenses for diplomas (about $7 during these years) were listed as “supplies.” All expenditures fell in the categories of teachers’ salaries, supplies and janitor’s salary ($25).

In the summer of 1899, the Academy building got ready for the 20th century – its shingling and a badly needed painting were provided through a $200 gift from Mr. Tuck which was solicited by Trustee C.C. Toppan. And a donation of “valuable books” through the influence of a Gen. Gale was the object of a Trustees’ vote of appreciation. The next summer, slate blackboards and a central heating system were installed.

The Perkins Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, Hampton, had, indeed, rented the Academy hall, for in 1899 the Trustees elected a committee of one “to confer with the Grand Army in regard to the cannon in the Academy yard.”