From L to R: Jesse Edward Hunt, class of 1862; Martha Maude Soule, class of 1885; Alice Mary Henderson, class of 1904; Walter B. Henderson, class of 1905.
Kimball Union’s tradition of welcoming international students into its student body began long ago in the 19th century. Although our earliest records are sometimes conflicting or incomplete, it appears that the first student to have been born outside of the United States to attend KUA was William Henry Lemmex, class of 1825. He was born in Demarara, British Guiana, South America, to an Irish father and American mother who relocated to Vermont when he was five years old.
After four years at KUA, he attended Norwich University and became a successful businessman in Vermont. James Joseph Annance, class of 1831, was the first Native North American on record to have been a KUA student. He is listed in the 1815-80 General Catalogue as “An Indian” from St. Francis, Lower Canada (now the province of Quebec) and as a Dartmouth College student (1831-34). The first European student, James Cruickshanks, class of 1851, was born in Haddington, Scotland. He graduated from Yale College, class of 1855, and served as a pastor in many States throughout his lifetime. Nine more students through the class of 1900 were listed as having been born in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, or Germany. Some, such as Jesse Edward Hunt, class of 1862, came from Madras, India. After graduation, he served as a corporal in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry during the Civil War; his life sadly ended in 1864 in a prison in Savannah, Georgia. Others came from Ceylon, Liberia, Turkey, Armenia, Africa, and China including Martha Maude Soule, class of 1885, who was born in Hong Kong. She married a classmate, Edmund B. Hunt, from Cornish Flat, NH.
Of the 55 students listed as having been born outside the United States during those years, over 20 were from the Canadian Provinces with several from the United States Territories (as they were then) and a few from Hawaii. It’s possible that some of the Canadian students were children of immigrants who eventually settled in the United States. One wonders how, in the 19th century, others found KUA tucked away in the New Hampshire hills. I suspect that many were children of missionaries or from families who had heard of the Academy through other missionaries or their churches. There were at least 26 alumni listed as foreign missionaries through 1880.
By the beginning of the 20th century, international students were more likely to have been native to their countries of birth. In the fall of 1900, the first of five students from Jamaica enrolled. Alice Mary Henderson, class of 1904, was born in Brown’s Town, Jamaica, and, after graduation, attended Colby College in Maine. Alice and her husband were missionaries in Haiti for 35 years before returning to Jamaica. In 1954, as Alice’s classmates planned their 50th KUA reunion, a class newsletter declared, in regards to Alice, “ … we must have our valedictorian.” Their former principal, Ernest Woodbury (1900-05), also remembered Alice well in his response to their invitation, particularly her help in operating the school’s first typewriter, “an Oliver.” Her brother,
Walter B. Henderson, enrolled the following year, 1901, and graduated in 1905. He attended Brown University and served as a 2nd Lt. in the Royal Field Artillery in 1918 before becoming an English professor at Dartmouth College.
In the fall of 1903, Ira St. Clair Sharp, class of 1908, from Ashton, Jamaica, enrolled; he was only 13 years old. Also in 1903, Muriel Georgina Thomson and Cicely Knibb Fray, both from the class of 1907, left their homes in Jamaica and traveled together to Meriden. Muriel’s grandfather, the Hon. Rev. William Menzie Webb, was born in Jamaica and, in 1880, was the founder of the Westwood School for Girls in Stewart Town, the first integrated girls’ boarding school in Jamaica. It opened in 1882 with six girls and Cicely’s mother as its first teacher. While a student here, Muriel was a member of the Minervians, the girls’ literary/debating society and a contributor to The Kimball Union newspaper. One of her articles, A Visit to Meriden in the Year 2000, is
still an entertaining story to read in 2013.
Here is a piece of her imaginary story. On a visit to a classroom, she wrote: “I … noticed that there was no teacher in the room, but a sort of automatic machine which first of all called the roll and then took up the lesson by asking questions. In another part of the room was a phonograph, which recorded the answers of the students as well as the questions, and, of course any other conversation which was carried on. The principal told me that at the close of each day he received the reports of all the phonographs (there was one in each class-room) and marked the students accordingly. … I told him that I thought that in the last century automatic machines had taken the place of much hand and brain labor.” Finally, after a pleasant walk through the Campus Woods and a familiar school dinner of hash and beans, she “… took a final look at Meriden, and started for home marveling greatly.”
Muriel returned to Jamaica and became a teacher in her grandfather’s school.