A few weeks ago, I sent out a From the Archives… article featuring KUA graduates who had become college presidents …
This year, we have commemorated Kimball Union’s return to coeducation in the fall of 1974, and have honored various women who, for over 200 years, have influenced the growth and success of the Academy. From the four young women of the class of 1816 who dared to be the first to be educated in a school originally established for “poor and pious young men” studying for the ministry; to Hannah Kimball, Daniel’s widow, whose dream of an Academy for young women was realized when, through her efforts, “A regularly organized Female Department went into operation in the autumn of 1840;” to former teacher Myra Everest (1879-1881), who upon hearing of the Academy’s difficulties filling the school, devised the One Hundred Dollar Plan “…whereby a student paid $100 for board, room, fuel, lights, and full tuition rights, but was required to work ‘cheerfully’ for one hour a day;” to the dedicated women faculty, staff and now trustees, who have all had such a strong influence on and shown such care for their students. And to the young women themselves whose numbers grew from four in 1816 with many hundreds more enrolled through 1934; to the 11 women in 1974, who entered what had been a boys’ school for the previous 39 years, into the thousand plus successful graduates since 1975: young women who have had a powerful influence on the success of Kimball Union in the classroom, the arts, athletics, volunteer activities, student government or just as good citizens. We celebrate them all!
Before we wish the 199th graduating class farewell, we should take a moment to look back 100 years when another class celebrated, with satisfaction, their graduation. A summary of the school year 1914-1915 appeared in The Bulletin of Kimball Union Academy in August 1915 and is reprinted below. I think, in many ways, it could be written of all the school years as each generation celebrates its accomplishments and what, at their time, seemed a great deal of good work.
The Bulletin of Kimball Union Academy
THE YEAR 1914–1915 IN RETROSPECT
As each year in the life of a school or of an individual brings its particular problems, so when completed, it should bring a distinct sense of satisfaction due to its particular successes. In looking back over the year 1914-1915 in the life of the Academy, certain things stand out prominently as matters worthy of favorable comment. In the first place, the opening of the gymnasium, with the beginning of the year, and its constant use has given to the athletic life of the school an invigorated tone. A better spirit than formerly has been shown at practice and in the games themselves. A greater percentage of the members of the school have taken part in organized athletics, and the teams have reflected this interest in a greater number of victories than for some years past. Another encouraging sign has been the increased scholarship standards, as shown by more students on the honor rolls and a much larger number of pupils from the Senior Class deciding for college and other institutions of higher education. The young men and women of the Academy are coming to see, to a degree at least, that the spirit to be shown in the class-room and on the athletic field must be the same. The body of alumni have responded in a marked degree to the various appeals that have been made to them during the year. Two enthusiastic meetings of alumni have been held and prompt and generous responses have been made to appeals for funds for current expenses and for a small athletic endowment. Loyalty and co-operation have characterized the relations between alumni, students and teachers and from such co-operation and loyalty has resulted an efficient and vital school spirit. Altogether the year 1914-1915 has been a good year in the annals of the Academy.
Many of you may never have heard of The Great Stone Face of New Hampshire. Fewer still will know of its past ties to Kimball Union.
If you had traveled through the White Mountains before 2003, you probably would have stopped in Franconia Notch to visit, as the people in this photograph did, The Great Stone Face. Already inspired just by being in these magnificent mountains, it would be hard for you not to feel a sense of awe at nature’s creation as you looked up at this profile 1200 feet above you. In his 1850 short story, The Great Stone Face, Nathaniel Hawthorne called it “…a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness.”
The Profile was simply an outcrop of five granite ledges 40 feet high and 25 feet across resting on each other on the summit of Cannon Mountain. Although the stone face looked out from its mountaintop home for thousands of years, it was known only to Native Americans until about 1806 when two surveyors who were working in the region, spotted it. From that time on, it grew into a popular tourist site visited by thousands of people each year. In 1945, the Old Man’s profile became the State emblem and soon it appeared on our license plates and road signs. In 2000, it was the symbol used for the New Hampshire State quarter–uniquely, the only quarter with a profile on both sides.
Over the centuries, natural damage occurred to the stone face as rain, wind, ice and snow worked their way into its natural crevices weakening the structure. Repairs were made to it in the 1920s using chains, and in 1957, steel rods and cement were added to stabilize it. But, on the night of May 3, 2003, while the valley slept, nature’s mighty sculpture quietly slid down the mountainside. It was an incredibly sad day for the people of New Hampshire; our Old Man of the Mountains who had seemed so magical and eternal, was gone.
In the years since it fell, people have searched for solutions that would restore the profile to its past glory, but, in the end, they found the whole ledge was just too unstable to recreate it from granite. In time, man-made images, known as “profilers,” created from the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, were placed in the Profile Plaza in Franconia Notch, to give people an impression of the Old Man as he once appeared from the top of Cannon Mountain.
The connection of The Old Man of the Mountains to Kimball Union comes from our earliest history. As unlikely as it seems today, the Academy once owned the land upon which the profile rested. We know this from an account of a trustees meeting in 1822. After the settlement of Daniel Kimball’s will in 1822, other matters came before the trustees. A KUA historian and 1940s faculty member Ernest Sherman tells us that they voted “to pay George Woodward a sum of eighty dollars the amount that he had paid in taxes on a parcel of property which he had given to the school. It was adjudged advisable to pay the taxes and maintain the lands. These very lands contained what at that time was a little known and unfamiliar rock formation which today is the symbol of the State of New Hampshire. The old man of the mountains.”
Further interest was shown in the 1927-28 Kimball Union Bulletin, under Lands of the Academy: “The campaign to raise funds for the purchase of the forest land in Franconia Notch reminds us of an interesting fact which may not be known to many of our readers. One of the first gifts to the Academy consisted of about 2,000 acres of land in Franconia Notch given by George Woodward of Haverhill, N.H. An investigation made in 1860 by Samuel B. Duncan, at that time Treasurer of the Academy, led him to report that the 2,000 acres included the region ‘where the view of the profile is obtained.’ Another lot containing 1,000 acres in Lincoln, N.H., was given the Academy in the same year by Constant Murdock.
“These two pieces of woodland were held by the Academy until 1891 when they were sold and the proceeds used in the construction of Baxter and Dexter Richards Halls [also known as The Bird Village Inn]. The price received was $2.30 per acre. Possibly if the trustees could have foreseen the developments the Henrys and the Parker-Young Company have made in Lincoln and the great summer holiday traffic in Franconia, they would have retained the title to the land even if they had felt the necessity of turning the standing timber into cash.”
In our Archives there is an old, coverless book dated 1816 that consists of various religious articles. In one, the Rev. Bancroft Fowler (KUA trustee 1812-1821) pleads for much needed donations for the young academy: “It depends, therefore, entirely on the public liberality whether we shall be able to support these young men, and others who have applied for assistance, or whether they shall be left to the heartsickening task of endeavoring to get an education by their own exertions, or abandoning the object on which their hearts are so much set. This liberality, we trust, will be displayed….” Fowler included a list of previous donors, including Daniel Kimball, and with his last entry, confirmed the gift of land in Lincoln, NH. “A donation has been made of 1,000 acres of land in Lincoln, by Constant Murdock, Esq. and a right in Orange by the Rev. Mr. Waldo, for the use of the Academy.”
Neither Constant Murdock, Rev. Waldo or George Woodward appear in the lists of trustees, teachers or students in the General Catalogue 1815-1880, but there was one connection we know a little of; Woodward’s name appears in one of many various, handwritten treasury notes. The one for August 1, 1823. “Name: Geo. Woodward. Date: Aug. 16th 1819. Bal. of prin. Principal due: 219.28. Int. Aug. 1: 40.14. Amount 1823: 259.42”
Imagine if you were to drive through the White Mountains today and saw a sign emblazoned with a Wildcat profile and stating: “Kimball Union Academy Welcomes you to Franconia Notch”?
Overlay photo credit: The faceless ledge. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Man_of_the_Mountain_overlay_2.jpg
Going to the War
There is a touching story about a flag made by the young women of the Academy many years ago. In fact, a short chapter was devoted to its cause in Episode 5: Going to the Civil War in The Pageant of Meriden written to celebrate Kimball Union’s Centenary in 1913. It begins with folk of all ages, along with “young fellows in uniform,” arriving on the Hilltop. Twelve-year-old Robbie calls from the doorway of his home to his family inside, “They are going up! Come on! Come on, George! They are all going up!“…
From the same place comes George, in uniform, a young fellow of about nineteen, his father and mother, and his sister, Mary carrying a new flag.
Robbie: Did you help make it, Mary?
Mary: Yes, of course I did. All the girls in the Academy helped make it. Every one did something on it.
Robbie: Let me carry it up, will you?
Mary: No, I will not.
Robbie: Father, can’t I carry it up the hill? I’ll be careful of it.
Father: No, Robbie, you cannot. Be quiet. Mary and the girls have made this flag for the boys of the Academy to carry to the front, and of course Mary wants to carry it up herself. She has charge of it until it is presented to the company.
Robbie: Who is going to carry it in the company?
George: I am.
Robbie: You are? What, in battle? Are you going to carry it in the charges?
George: Yes, unless they hit me.
The episode ends with many sad farewells and George’s father telling him, “… My boy, one last word from your father. It is hard for your mother to say good-bye to you. Think of her always, and do your duty for your country. Never flinch. And that will be a comfort to your mother–whatever happens. God bless you!”
In the true story, according to The Kimball Union newspaper of 1911, fourteen members of the Class of 1862 went “from the graduating platform” into Lebanon, New Hampshire, where they were mustered into Company E of the newly formed Ninth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Among them was class Valedictorian Oscar Robinson, who had been born and raised on a farm in Cornish, New Hampshire, as had his father and grandfather before him. He opened his Commencement address with patriotic words to his classmates, many of who would soon be engaged in battle. “Classmates the parting hours has come! The old chapel bell has summoned us for the last time!! Already perchance our thoughts have wandered far beyond the distant hills where quiet homes and loving friends would bid us speak the sacred parting word…we realize that we are called to serve no other bonds of friendship than those formed by engaging in a common pursuit, striving for a common goal and reaping a common reward.”
The young women of the Academy made a silk flag, five feet by eight feet, with the embroidered words “Animo et Fide,” (Courageous and Faithful), and presented it to their male classmates just before they left Meriden. Robinson later wrote, “It was a sad meeting and one never to be forgotten by those present.” They carried the flag to Virginia for their first campaign, but were told to send it home as regulations did not allow flags at a Company level as it would cause confusion among the ten companies and reduce firepower by the same number. They sent the flag and brass eagle that sat atop it to Professor Abel Wood at KUA and cut the staff into pieces, one for each KUA soldier of Company E.
Robinson, who rose to the rank of Captain, felt grateful that he returned from the war unscathed having fought in all but one of Company E’s campaigns. He entered Dartmouth College and roomed with his KUA classmate and comrade at arms, Franklin Burnham. He graduated with honors in 1869 and taught at Albany High School in Albany, NY, for 25 years. He was a very
successful and popular teacher; he was promoted to Principal in 1887, the same year he received a Ph.D. from Dartmouth.
Professor Wood held onto the tassel and silk cord from the flag, but gave the brass eagle to Burnham and the flag to Robinson who displayed it each year on Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays and Memorial Day. He wrote, “On those occasions the old flag is always in evidence and greatly revered by all the teachers and pupils. It is much worn and very frail.” He added of the motto, “No words could better express the sentiment of the boys who carried it forth from the old Academy in the darkest days of the Civil War.”
He always fondly remembered his days at KUA, as revealed in a hand-written letter he wrote in 1902 in which he said he would not be able to return for reunion. He wondered if [even] one of his classmates would be there. “Probably not. – We numbered 11 girls and 26 boys at graduation. It was during the darkest days of the Civil War & 18 of our 26 boy graduates – almost every able bodied man immediately entered the Union Army. I believe it was the ‘banner class’ for patriotism. In fact the school flag was presented to us which we carried South & I am the proud possessor of its tattered remains. It bears on its fold in golden letters the appropriate motto ‘Animo Et Fide.’ – But these things belong to a past generation, they are ancient history, few of those survive to whom such items are of interest.”
Oscar Robinson passed away on July 11, 1911, the last Ninth New Hampshire Infantryman from KUA. As for the old flag, “At his funeral it rested on his casket and was buried with him.”