Charles H. Richards

Principal Cyrus Richards married Helen Dorothy Whiton of Antrim, NH, on August 1, 1836. It has been said that their courtship was carried on through letters written in Latin. They lived in a large, frame house that once stood in place of Miller Bicentennial Hall. Their home was always full of music as Helen was not only a scholar, but an accomplished pianist and Cyrus had a beautiful singing voice. Helen took the train to Boston weekly to continue her study of the piano. At home, she taught her children, who also became accomplished musicians, and others of Meriden to sing and to play the piano.

“She was a woman of lovely Christian character, and of uncommon intellectual gifts and culture. She wrote much for religious periodicals, and was the author of several juvenile books.  She died March 10, 1860, greatly lamented by the entire community, to whom her social gifts and warm sympathies had much endeared her.”– The History of Hartford, VT.

Of their six children, only four survived past childhood.  Charles Herbert Richards, class of 1854, was born in Meriden in 1839. In his sister Helen’s diary, she wrote of their happy childhood enjoying hiking, music and the public speaking clubs at KUA. Of her brother’s future, she wrote, “Charlie C. [friend] wiped some of my dishes and sat in the kitchen and talked of Charley’s [brother] college prospects…He advises Charley to go to Amherst rather than Yale, on account of the religious influences there, and says he shall shed bitter tears if he goes to Yale, so anxious is he for his welfare and the safety of his soul – but I fear very much Charley will not be persuaded. His heart seems set on Yale.

Charles studied at both Amherst and then Yale; his soul was not, apparently, damaged at Yale as he then went on to Union Theological Seminary and Andover Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1866. He served in the First Congregational Church in Madison, Wisconsin for 24 years before transferring to Philadelphia for six more years.

Charles was chosen to give the sermon at the dedication of the Stone Church in Meriden in 1899. He recalled the earlier church of his boyhood, “erected on the very rock…There was the high pulpit, with its huge sounding board, where the minister perched like a swallow in the eaves. There were the large box-pews, roomy enough for a family residence, they were divided from each other by openwork partitions made of delicate spindles through which, while the preacher was soaring in theological discourse far above my youthful head, I used to peep out at the Spauldings, and Duncans, and Bryants, and Wingates, and other companions of my boyhood. The seats around three sides of the pew were on hinges, and were turned up during the long prayer that people might rest against the back of the pew as they stood; at the end of the prayer they went down with a clatter like applause, very pleasing to the ear of childhood. A homely and old-fashioned church it was, but precious to remember… I can just barely remember the gracious and benignant face, and the stately and venerable figure of Madam Kimball, who, with her husband, was foremost in the work of building the sanctuary, and whose earthly life was ended at the ripe age of eighty-nine, in the very year when that church was torn down to make way for another. Daniel and Hannah Kimball will be forever illustrious as founders and benefactors both of the church and of the Academy which bears their name, and their spirit of generosity, transmitted to their representatives in our day, is largely responsible for this building in which we worship.”

Charles, his wife and children and his sister Abbie and her family spent summers in Meriden staying at the Bird Village Inn. His daughter Marie Louise’s son, Paul, bought property in Meriden, where eventually Paul’s son Alex lived with his family before building a house of their own nearby. Alex and Gretchen’s daughter, Molly Cherington, the great, great, great granddaughter of Principal Cyrus Richards, graduated from KUA in 1998. Her brother Ben Cherington, also a native of Meriden, is now the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Again, the ties that bind are many at Kimball Union Academy.

Next Time: Life at KUA from the diary of Helen M. Richards, class of 1857


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