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.”
We left Episode 4, The Coming of Girls 1840, with young Will, the boy who wanted to study instead of playing football, hugging and kissing one of the young ladies as she stepped down from the Lebanon Stagecoach onto the Hilltop.
His behavior would have been extremely shocking to Mrs. Kimball and Principal Richards as very little communication, public or private, was allowed between young ladies and gentlemen; he probably would have been expelled. Although the manner of expression was different in 1840, the 27 articles of The Regulations of the School are similar in intent to many of KUA’s rules today: good character and behavior, no illegal substances, required evening study hall, required class attendance, respect for one’s classmates and teachers, etc. The first rule, Article 1, states, “Satisfactory evidence of good moral character and such previous attainments in study as shall hereafter be specified, are required as the condition of membership….” Article 10 is more specific to what is expected. “The use of profane or indecent language, playing at cards, or dice, or any other game of chance, rude or indecent behavior, insult or abuse to others, making clamorous or improper noises, to the disturbance of other students or the inhabitants of the place, and all other conduct inconsistent with decorum, are strictly prohibited.” And Article 13 looks for dedicated and happy students. “Every student is expected cheerfully to pursue that course of study in the respective departments, prescribed by the teachers, and seasonably to furnish himself with all the necessary books.”
However, Article 20 is, surely and thankfully, an idea from KUA’s distant past. It states that “All calls, walks, rides, etc. between the members of the two departments, male and female, are strictly prohibited except by special permission from the Principal.” It’s hard to imagine a more awesome task for a young man than to ask Principal Richards or Miss Green if he could call on a young lady at her residence or take a walk with her.
Thus, the shock of Will’s classmates as he greeted the young lady in so familiar a fashion.
Episode 4: The Coming of Girls August 20, 1840, cont.
WILL: My dear sister, how glad I am to welcome you!
SARAH: My precious brother, how glad I am to be here!
SEVERAL OF THE BOYS: Hm!
Mrs. Kimball with Mr. Richards, Miss Green, and Dr. Frost form a little group near her garden gate. As these girls descend from the stage, they straighten themselves out to go up to be presented by Miss Green and Miss Baldwin to Mrs. Kimball, who receives them all with much graciousness, but also with a rather stiff repression of her real feelings. The boys are standing mostly together in a group by themselves on the other side of the grounds, eyeing Will enviously who had the entre to Paradise by virtue of his unfair relationship to one of the girls. The stage drives off.
With one of the girls comes her mother. In turn they go up to be presented to Mrs. Kimball.
MRS. HEATON: This is my daughter, Martha Heaton. I wished to come with her to see what the labor performed by the young ladies themselves in the Boarding House will consist of.
MRS. KIMBALL: The manual labor system has been decided upon,––and all else with regard for propriety, economy and the public taste.
RICHARDS: Miss Green, who is the principal instructress of the Female department will tell you all the details.
As the reception proceeds, Miss Green draws the mother and daughter a little to one side.
MISS GREEN: What is the girl’s name?
MRS. HEATON: Martha S. Heaton.
MISS GREEN: And she lives where?
MRS. HEATON: Post Mills, Vermont.
MISS GREEN: Yes, what can I tell you?
MRS. HEATON: How much work will the girls do in the care of the building?
MISS GREEN: The Boarding House will accommodate some 40 or 50 young ladies. If practicable the labor attending the care of the house will be performed by the young ladies themselves. By this arrangement it is expected that the whole expense, exclusive of wood and lights will not exceed $1.25 per week.
MRS. HEATON: I understand.
MISS GREEN: You made application 4 weeks in advance?
MRS. HEATON: Yes.
MISS GREEN: Then Martha can have a room in the Boarding House. (To Martha) You have brought with you a tablespoon and a teaspoon, towels for your own use, and bedding for your bed?
MARTHA: Yes, Miss Green.
MISS GREEN: And suitable shoes for storm weather?
MARTHA: Yes, Miss Green.
MISS GREEN: Then you are properly equipped for the work of the Academy.
RICHARDS:Now, young ladies––you may betake yourselves under the superintendence of Miss Green and Miss Baldwin to your rooms in the Boarding House, or in the various houses in the village to which you have been assigned. Young gentlemen, you may carry their baggage for them. (Cheers from the boys, heartily given; they jump forward to pick up the valises and bundles.)But after the young ladies have preceded you. I wish to announce a regulation. Students of the two departments, that means the young gentlemen and the young ladies––will not be allowed to meet and converse on the street or elsewhere, except in the presence of a teacher or with special permission for proper reasons from me or Miss Green. (Manifest disappointment among the boys.) The two departments will meet together at least once a day for morning or evening devotion. (He turns for a moment to consult with Mrs. Kimball who nods approval and then to Miss Green who bows assent.)
DICK: Will, I feel that I, too, have not been leading a sufficiently pious life.
NED: Nor I.
DICK: Will you help us?
WILL: I shall be glad to, in so far as I can. I hoped you would come around to feel as I do about duty to our studies.
RICHARDS:Now, young ladies, you may go. (Miss Green and Miss Baldwin precede the girls in quaint and stately procession out at the Meriden vista.
RICHARDS:Yes, Mrs. Kimball, I am more and more confident that the coming of the girls will be the beginning of a new success for the Academy. They will be all greatly indebted to you.
MRS. KIMBALL: Yes,–-yes. But,–-they are my children. (She looks at Dr. Frost, who bows understandingly.)
RICHARDS:The atmosphere of cheerfulness seems already to be spreading over our little community. Now, young gentlemen.
The boys rush forward with an enthusiastic cheer, pickup all the valises and baggage and run out with it in the same direction as the girls. Mrs. Kimball watches them a moment; then turns with a smile to Mr. Richards and Dr. Frost and goes back in the house.
The End, Episode 4
The dialogue in the pageant was taken from people’s memories as spoken or written and sometimes the actual words were used. The conversation between Miss Green and Mrs. Beaton was drawn from the 1840 annual catalogue under the heading, The Female Department. “… Provision has been made for a Boarding House, accommodating some forty or fifty young Ladies, where it is designed that they shall be under the more immediate care of their teachers. If practicable, the labor will be performed by the young ladies themselves, under the direction of a governess, skilled in domestic economy. By this arrangement it is expected that the whole expense, exclusive of wood and lights, will not exceed $1,25 per week.” Plus the cost of one’s own spoons as they were evidently not plentiful at KUA in 1840!
On June 16, 1813, Kimball Union celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Academy. The centenary celebrations were planned around Commencement and Reunion and featured an historical performance chronicling the settlement of Meriden in 1769 and the founding of the Academy through 1913. Called The Pageant of Meriden, it was the third in a series of Pageants of New Country Life by William Chauncy Langdon with Arthur Farwell as composer and director of music. The pageant became a community production with Kimball Union and the Meriden villagers who participated as actors, musicians, dancers and as production assistants, showing the continued link between the town and the Academy over the years. Because of the great interest shown in the pageant and general celebrations, The Old Home Week Association of Plainfield (Meriden is a village in Plainfield), voted to join in and have its annual celebration be the pageant.
The nine episodes of the pageant, Langdon wrote, were “written and composed on the principle that both dramatically and musically the pageant is a distinct and individual art-form, and not merely a series of historic episodes interspersed with incidental music.” The location was Pageant Hill or, as we know it, the Potato Patch, with the audience, Langdon continued, “…looking across the valley to the hill-top on which Meriden and the Academy stand, and to the lofty height of Ascutney rising beyond.”
It begins with Episode I: The Settling of Meriden 1769: “From out of the woods to the west comes Daniel Kimball, a boy of fifteen years, parting the branches before him as he makes his way out in the open. He is dressed in home-spun shirt and leather breeches; over his shoulder is slung powder-horn, shot pouch and flint bag. In his hand he carries a flint-lock somewhat too long for him. He comes out into the clear space and looks around a moment. … ‘Here is a bit clear space, Mother….’” and they prepare a site for their new home. The following two episodes deal with The Starting of the Church 1780 and The Founding of the Academy 1813.
The following is the first half of Episode 4: The Coming of Girls 1840, the year Hannah Kimball’s Female Department officially opened.
EPISODE 4: THE COMING OF GIRLS
(AUGUST 20, 1840)
Several boys of the Academy run out with a large football of that time and begin kicking it from one to another.
TOM: Here goes! The English against the Classical Department!
ALL: Hurrah! Hurrah!
A boy passes through with an open book from which he studies off and on.
SEVERAL: Come on, Will!! Join in the game a bit!
WILL: No, I thank you. I want to study.
TOM: Come on! Don’t be a poke. You need exercise and its jolly good fun.
WILL: No, I feel I have not been attending to my studies as I ought and it is my duty to avoid the temptations of the playground.
DICK: Rooms in the Academy are to be occupied by pious students only. He wants to get in. That’s why.
WILL: I assure you that is not the case. I feel––
TOM: Come on, let’s play.
NED: He’ll be arguing in favor of the girls next.
(All groan aloud.)
DICK: I’m not coming back next term if they have a lot of girls here.
NED: Nor I. I’m not going to any girls’ school.
FRED: (near Meriden vista): Sh! Here comes Mr. Richards.
TOM: (near orchestra stand): And Mrs. Kimball, too.
NED: I wonder if they heard.
Mr. Richards comes in by the road from the field. The boys all stand respectfully and take off their caps to the principal. He returns the greeting cordially.
MR. RICHARDS: Young gentlemen––I am glad to see you enjoying yourselves at a healthful game of football. The young ladies from away arrive on the Lebanon stage today. I trust you will give them a kind and respectful welcome.
SEVERAL: Yes, sir. Yes, Mr. Richards.
Mrs. Kimball and Dr. Frost come in from the top of the hill.
MR. RICHARDS: Good afternoon, Mrs. Kimball. I am glad you are able to enjoy the occasion of this auspicious day.
Mr. Richards takes off his hat with a courtly bow. All the boys take off their caps and stand respectfully as Mrs. Kimball approaches.
MRS. KIMBALL: Oh, yes, Mr. Richards, I am perfectly well, entirely able to enjoy the day. I thank you. I had no intention of being otherwise. I have been looking forward to this day for some years. yes–- (she looks around at the boys) I have been across to look at the new Academy building for the Female Department.
MR. RICHARDS: Does it please you?
MRS. KIMBALL: It seems to me to afford very adequate and proper facilities for convening and boarding the young ladies. Yes, I hope with the divine assistance and direction it will fully answer the great purpose to which my husband and myself have devoted our estate.
MR. RICHARDS: (Turning with an inclusive smile toward all the boys):I am positive that the mutual influences of the two departments will be good. I foresee an air of cheerfulness and interest thrown over our little community of students quite unusual before and elsewhere.
SEVERAL: Yes, Mr. Richards.
Others stand silent and uneasy. Mrs. Kimball looks keenly from boy to boy.
MRS. KIMBALL: I think, Mr. Richards, the young gentlemen believe they will not like having the girls here. They will find themselves mistaken. Yes.
Several boys look guilty. Others start to protest but remain silent.
MRS. KIMBALL: Now, I will go in. Will one of you young gentlemen inform me when you see the stage-coach coming? (To Tom) You, sir.
TOM: Yes, Mrs. Kimball.
MRS. KIMBALL: I think you do not understand at all. However,––it is not to be expected.
Mrs. Kimball and Mr. Richards go into the house.
DICK: Come on, kick the ball. Quick, let’s have a little more fun before the girls come.
The boys resume their game, playing with special vim and hilarity until the horn of the stage-coach is heard down the Lebanon road.
SEVERAL: (with groans): There it comes.
Tom brushes his clothes off and walks over to Mrs. Kimball’s house.
TOM: I hear the stage coming, Mrs. Kimball.
Mrs. Kimball comes out, in a state of suppressed and very dignified excitement, followed by Mr. Richards and Dr. Frost. From other directions come Miss Martha M. Green and Miss Lucy Baldwin and several other teachers of the Academy. These all group themselves excitedly near the top of the hill where they can see down the vista. The boys pick up their ball and stand together in groups rather quiet and not at all enthusiastic. Will returns with his book and eagerly looks for the coming of the stage. Up the Lebanon road comes the stage driven at a fast pace. Inside and out it is loaded with girls and with their baggage. As it drives in and stops and older people wave their handkerchiefs and hats and the girls descend; the baggage is unloaded from the stage. Several of the girls are very pretty. The boys notice the fact with a quiet but pleased surprise. As one of the girls starts to get down from the top of the stage, Dick steps forward to help her. Mr. Richards, however, hands him a large carpet bag, and himself helps the young lady down. As another of the girls descends Will, who has been waving to her, runs forward, helps her down, seizes her in his arms and kisses her.
Has poor Will suddenly forgotten his desire to study at Kimball Union and rashly hugged and kissed a girl in front of Mrs. Kimball and Principal Richards?
To be continued …..
This Saturday, January 10, 1815, will mark 200 years since classes began here on the Hilltop. Seven students attended that day – we will probably never know for sure all their names, as many early records have been lost. We do know that the following spring in 1816, six young men received diplomas; four young women, their classmates, were not granted diplomas that year or any year until two women are listed in the graduating class of 1848.
How did this Academy come into existence in a tiny, secluded village so long ago? Some believe it all began with the birth of David Sutherland in 1777, a boy who spent his youth on the most northerly tip of the Scottish mainland in a village called Caithness. At age 12, his mother enrolled him in a school in Edinburgh, “… under the instruction of … a pious and learned schoolmaster.” He came under the influence of two wealthy, itinerant preachers, Robert and Richard Haldane, who had established a seminary “… to qualify young men for going literally into the highways and hedges to preach the Gospel….” He entered their school and was “educated for the ministry at [the brothers’] expense.” Sutherland was ordained in the spring of 1803 and he and his bride set sail for the United States, destination Barnet, Vermont, where a fellow Scotsman had sent a “call” to him to become their preacher.
One day, while visiting Deacon Joseph Foord of Piermont, NH, Sutherland spoke of Scotland and his former school, one that offered free education to poor and pious young men studying for the ministry. Foord’s son must have been informed of the visit as Sutherland later wrote a paper in 1811, where we learn that “Deacon Foord … has a son, who a few years since, went to Scotland to obtain an education gratis, for the ministry at an institution established for that purpose…. He has written several times to his father informing him, that if an institution of the same kind were established in New England he would obtain donations for it in money and books to a considerable amount, in England and Scotland.” Because of the son’s letter, Sutherland added, a council of local ministers met on August 6, 1811, to consider a similar school; a plan was drawn up for the “infant institution.” Ideas for the school so varied, they decided to invite representatives of the leading churches in all of New England to a meeting in Windsor, VT, on October 21, 1812.
Timothy Dwight, President of Yale College, was a delegate at the meeting. As one of the founders of Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, MA, in 1808, the first of its kind in the United States, it is not surprising that at age 60 he would leave the comforts of New Haven, CT, to attend the meeting. There were other distinguished professors: Porter, Woods, and Stuart of Andover Theological Seminary and Moore, Adams, and Shurtleff of Dartmouth College. However, it was President Dwight’s words that determined the kind of school that was created that day. Kimball Union Principal Cyrus Richards wrote in 1880, “President Dwight presented an elaborate argument, urging the great importance of a liberally educated ministry, for the present and future welfare of the churches and the country, and deprecating the establishment of schools with a partial and limited course of studies even for the purpose of multiplying ministers. These views were almost unanimously adopted by the Council … making the new Seminary an academy, whose object should be, as set forth in the charter, ‘To assist in the education of poor and pious young men for the gospel ministry; and such others as may be admitted by the trustees, subject to pay tuition.’” The path the Academy would take was clearly determined by the clause “such others as may be admitted …” as it made it possible for young men of all persuasions and interests to attend the Academy, and importantly and innovatively, for young women to study at the Academy from its earliest days.
Principal Richards added that the Academy, having been established by the Council “… was christened … with the name of Union Academy – it being the offspring of the united churches of New England; Its location was to be determined … by the highest offer of pecuniary benefactions. Woodstock, VT, Orford, N.H., and several other places made liberal offers. But Hon. Daniel Kimball, of Meriden, N.H., arose in the council and said that God had blessed him with a liberal fortune, but with no natural heir to inherit it. He recognized the providence of God in this movement, and was ready to pledge the institution six thousand dollars for immediate use, and the bulk of his property at his decease. This offer by this noble man … being most gratefully accepted, determined its location in Meriden, N.H.” Less than a year later, on June 16, 1813, Union Academy was incorporated.
Daniel Kimball began his life in Preston, CT, in 1753. When he was 16, his father Benjamin brought his family to Meriden, where he purchased 750 acres of land from the original town proprietors, including the village of Meriden, and owned and operated a gristmill below the Meriden Covered Bridge. After serving as a Sergeant in the Revolutionary War, Daniel married Hannah Chase, a teacher before and after marriage and a member of the prominent and educated Chase Family of Cornish, NH. Kimball inherited his father’s substantial property and greatly added to it through his own efforts. Not only was he a farmer, he owned a general store where he and his partner traded local produce as far away as Boston and returned with needed supplies for the local population. He also served the community as both a representative and a senator in the State Legislature and locally as town clerk, selectman, and Justice of the Peace.
Although he had become the first citizen and wealthiest man of the village, money wasn’t Kimball’s only gift to the Academy. He donated a portion of his property on The Hilltop for the first Academy building across the church green from his home and provided the material for it. Daniel did much of the actual construction of the building himself. Chester B. Jordan, class of 1866, a former Governor of New Hampshire (elected 1890), wrote in the February 1903 issue of The Kimball Union, “My father was present when Hon. Daniel Kimball was building the first academy. He said the old gentleman was hauling stone with his old mare hitched to a stone-boat, and laying up the foundation with his own hands. He endowed it living and dying.” The building was dedicated on January 9, 1815, and instruction began the next day.
Daniel Kimball died on February 17, 1817, but as his financial affairs were intertwined with those of his business partner, his death initially created a great hardship for the young institution. It was not until 1822 that his bequest, listed at $34,193.47, came into the hands of Union Academy. In their August 5, 1823 meeting, the trustees, as empowered by Section 13 of the charter “… once to alter the name of the Union Academy by prefixing thereto the name of the principal donor …” gratefully renamed the school Kimball Union Academy.
For more detail on the beginning of Kimball Union Academy, refer to our new history book, On The Hilltop, or visit past postings created by KUA Archivist Jane Carver Fielder on KUA’s Archives Blog <https://kimballunionarchives.wordpress.com/<https://kimballunionarchives.wordpress.com/>
In the 1920s, Winter Carnival events included sleigh rides, a tug-of-war, snowshoeing, tobogganing and other events. Although sledding from The Hilltop has always been discouraged, it looks as though this group of boys had at least one thrilling ride down the hill before the town authorities contacted Headmaster Tracy to protest – as once reported in an issue of The Kimball Union.
These young women prepared for their snowshoeing expedition near the same place as the tobogganers. I imagine there was little danger from cars on a snowy Hilltop in the 1920s!
Because KUA was an all-boys’ school from 1935-1974, boys were allowed to invite their girl friends from home as guests for the annual Winter Carnival. They would vacate one of the dorms and the visitors would take over their rooms for the weekend. In 1941, The Kimball Union reported that, “The arrival of the lady guests at Meriden created the usual ardent comparison indulged in by all those who witnessed the event. The windows of downstairs D.R. were fairly crammed with spectators, as the arrivals made their way to the upper stories and their rooms.” The formal dance was held in the Silver gym followed by refreshments in the old D.R. dining hall. Snow sculpture competitions were held between dorms. The winner in 1941 is pictured above. The newspaper added, “This ski boot, about 10 feet high and 12 feet long, built by the members of Chellis Hall, was so well done … it easily captured the statuary cup …. It is built of snow packed around a framework of wood and chicken wire.” Notice the line of faculty chaperons in the upper right hand corner and behind them on the fireplace mantle, the school mascot.
By the early 1960s, KUA’s faculty and students had finished building the Ira P. Townsend ’38 Ski Hill located on French’s Ledges and competitions were being held there. At Winter Carnival, the boys and their dates would hike to the hill to watch alpine and jumping events. In 1962 the Concordia reported that the “Junior Nordic Championships of the U.S.E.A.S.A. were held on the new ski hill …. A week later the team won the Prep School Championships at Middlebury by a margin of 16 points, the largest in the thirteen years of competition.”