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History of Parsonsfield Seminary:
1932 Centennial Edition

History of Parsonsfield Seminary--1932 Centennial Edition

Below are links useful for helping you discover more about Parsonsfield Seminary, one for cyling in Parsonsfield, and one for linking you to on-line chess. FOR THE BEST INFORMATION ABOUT HAVING YOUR FUNCTION AT PARSONSFIELD SEMINARY, or seeing its historical records, contact The Friends of Par Sem directly by writing them at PO Box 163, Parsonsfield, Maine 04047 or calling 207-625-4449.

Cycling resources: cycling tours around the Seminary and Blazo's Corner
Historical society for Parsonsfield
Editor's family (Blazo-Leavitt) site
Another history of Parsonsfield Seminary
Parsonsfield Seminary's connection to Bates College
Online chess at

Click here to go to SECOND QUARTER CENTURY, 1857-1882

Click here to go to THIRD QUARTER CENTURY, 1882-1907

Click here to go to FOURTH QUARTER CENTURY, 1907-1932

Click here to go to FIRST QUARTER CENTURY, 1832-1857

Editor's Note

This history of Parsonsfield Seminary was written in 1932 for Par Sem's centennial celebration. It was authored by Robert Greenleaf Leavitt (my grandfather), Maude Lougee Boothby, Dr. Bernard L. Towle, and Kate E. Barker Thurston, each of whom took a quarter century of history to relate. It also includes poetry by Isadore Parker Merrill and Amelia Lougee Hussey, and a letter written by Cyrus K. Usher, a student, in 1837.

My interest in transcribing this little book onto disk and posting it on the Internet came about in an unusual way. I had a box of my grandfather's papers at work in my office, the little old 1932 blue book of Par Sem's history among them. One morning I arrived to find my office floor flooded and the book--though not the other papers--water-damaged. I resolved to type it out (unaware a 1980s edition of it had already been published) so that my children would have access to it, as our family (Blazo and Leavitt) has been associated with it from its earliest beginnings. I also intended to scan its illustrations (all available in un-water-damaged form, in my History of Parsonsfield) and make a gift of the resulting volume, perhaps with additional photographs, to the Par Sem alumni who faithfully come to Blazo Corner every year for "Par Sem Days." Finally, thinking of them, I thought of adding still another feature: their memoirs of the years from 1932 until the school finally closed, if they would agree to relate them to me. That project is still in the future.


Mary Freeman, September, 2002


August 13, 1932

To the men and women long dead,
To the alumnae now living,
To the boys and girls of the undergraduate body,
To the Principals, Instructors, Trustees and Benefactors
From a time one hundred years ago, through to a time this present,
Have given, are giving, will give of themselves that their Parsonsfield may continue to live--
This book is dedicated

August 13,1932


Address of Welcome......................................................................................................H.D. Granville, 1892
Response....................................................................................................................................Fred Mitchell, 1895
Music--Ina Stanley

1st Quarter Century History.....................................................................................................Dr. Robert G. Leavitt

2nd Quater Century History................................................................................Maude L. Boothby, 1894
Music--Margaret Coelis

Reading--Original Poem by Isodore Parkr Merrill
Read by Virginia

3rd Quarter Century History................................................................................Dr. Bernard L. Towle, 1894

Misses Delphine and Marguerite Lougee

4th Quarter Century History..........................................................................Kate E. Barker Thurston, 1890

Original Poem..................................................................................................................Amelia Lougee Hussey
President of Board of Trustees................................................................Judge Harry B. Ayer
State Superintendent of Schools..............................................................Bertrand Packard
Principal of Parsonsfield Seminary.............................................................Ernest E. Weeks

Yesterday and Today
Warm hand clasps, friendly voices!
The staid, the grave, the gay,
All join in glad reunion
On this auspicious day

The memories that cluster
Around this well-loved shrine,
From youth to age are potent
To thrill this heart of mine.

I hear the old bell calling,
A melody of yore!
And thoughts are backward winging
To days that are no more.

With pride we should remember
Whose wise and and valiant seers
Who laid a firm foundation
That stands--a hundred years.

And others we might mention
Were worthy of renown,
And in their varied callings
An honor to this town.

Our generation passes,
The old gives place to new;
A century of progress
Has shown what man can do.

Old time has wrought great changes
Within this hamlet fair,
Light, heat, and locomotion
And wonders of the air.

Not only in such such marvels
Have wondrous things have wrought,
What changes we encounter
In custom, mode and thought!

Whatever revelations
The future may increase,
May righteousness and justice
Bring in a reign of peace.

Still may this seat of learning
Send forth the light and truth
Thro coming generations,
To guide the heart of youth.



I always have recalled with pride
My great grandfather Buzzell,
And yet I bet he never tried
To solve a cross-word puzzle.
He never seemed to have a use
For cross words anyway,
As gentle tones and pleasant smiles
Clothed all he had to say.
He came here a pioneer in 1798 and met
The Honorable Rufus MacIntire,
And dear old Dr. Sweat,
And to these three wise, far-seeing men
We owe the founding of our grand "Par-Sem."

Dear old "Par-Sem," we gladly come
Thine acquaintance to renew;
And note whatever changes
Old time has brought to view.
When we in memory recall
Our school days glad and free,
We owe with unabating zeal
Allegiance unto Thee.
We are glad to see the dear old bell
Still swinging to and fro
In the belfry tower as it used to swing
In the days of long ago;
And we are glad that we can hear
Those welcoming chimes again,
Ringing and bringing back to us
Their melodious refrain.

When we look back on thy success,
Year following after year,
Our hearts are filled with gladness
Exultant and sincere.
Now let us hope when the cycling years
Reach the century mark again,
Our children's children find "Par Sem"
Still flourishing in its reign.
And while the time is drawing nigh
For us dear friends to say good-bye,
May we all our blessings see,
And lift our hearts in praise to Thee,
God of our fathers, known of old,
Author of earth and sea and sky,
May we with humble hearts behold
The glories of Thy majesty.
And may we seek, with faith made new,
Each day Thy righteous will to do.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet
Lest we forget, Lest we forget."

Born June 7, 1845




History of Parsonsfield Seminary


The founding of Parsonsfield Seminary and its history for one hundred years, the high grade of the courses of study offered from the first, and the large numbers of superior young men and women who have attended the school--all illustrate the high regard for learning that the people of New England have had from the very beginning. And this regard was simply the continuation of the love of learning which the early settlers brought with them out of England into the wilderness. It is a satisfaction to know that our part of America was settled by people of good quality and culture, some of them landed gentry in England, many of them graduates of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The tradition that learning is a good thing and that it should be free to all the people has come down to us, from 1620 to 1932 without interruption.

In the first years, the first two or three decades of the Massachusetts settlement (you remember that when Parsonsfield was settled it was in Massachusetts), the teaching of children was left to the parents in the home. But very early a law was enacted by the General Court of the Colony which gave the Selectman of each town the right and the duty to inquire of parents, and actually to ascertain, how well the children were being taught; whether they were being taught, not only to read, but also to understand religion and the important civil laws. And before the colony was fifty years old, a law, which has become the corner stone of the American public school system, was passed requiring the employment of teachers for public elementary schools. Moreover, every town of one hundred or more householders was required to provide a grammar school, so called, a school of somewhat higher grade, which should fit youths for entrance to the university (meaning Harvard University). It is plain that the pioneers of New England meant to open wide the road to higher learning, and to the highest learning, for all the people.

Mr. Horace Piper has given in his admirable paper on the schools of Parsonsfield, in the town history, interesting pictures of the hardships endured by the school children of the early years.

At first schools were held in private houses. The first separate buildings for schools were--at least some of them--log houses, heated in winter only by open fireplaces, before which the smaller children on the front benches roasted, and the older youths in the back seats shivered with cold. And this was not long ago; these rude conditions were what our forefathers endured a very few generations back. In these days of automobiles, telephones, radios and electric refrigerators, it is hard to remember that in the childhood of the grandparents of some of us here today, stoves and kerosene lamps were actually unknown in their homes and scarcely dreamed of.

In the years just preceding 1830 there were made, in this town, the first efforts toward offering to the people the means of instruction in studies of high school grade. One term high schools were held in various parts of the town, giving courses in history, astronomy, natural philosophy, rhetoric, algebra, and the Latin language. For example, a high school taught by one Bion Bradbury in Middle Road in the year 1830. To the success of this high school, the historian, Horace Piper, attributes the immediate impulse leading to the establishment of a permanent high school to be maintained throughout the year, offering all the courses usually taught in the academies, and fitting students for college. Prominent men of the town, and especially of North Parsonsfield, were interested in the project. The school they organized, and which was opened on the first Monday of September in 1832, they called Parsonsfield Seminary.

Look back for a moment at the neighborhood of North Parsonsfield in the year 1832. The township had been surveyed for Thomas Parsons, you remember, in 1771, and settlers began to come in almost immediately. The part we call North Road was, however, covered with unbroken forest until 1779. Then the first settler here, Amos Blazo, veteran of the Revolution, came with his family of ten sons. He and his sons cleared the first land in this vicinity. That is, this land upon which the first Seminary building was erected in 1832 had been primeval, virgin forest only fifty-three years before.

In these fifty years forests had been turned to farms, the population of Parsonsfield had increased very rapidly--probably to at least two thousand people in 1830. Industry, mostly farming, was thriving, people were prosperous. Some of them by the year 1820 had built large and rather expensive houses from funds they had accumulated, it seems, by local industry. Through the main street of North Parsonsfield, the east and west road, moved teams hauling freight from New Hampshire toward Portland and Boston, with occasional droves of cattle or sheep heading for the city markets, while stage coaches, gaily painted in bright colors (this was before the coming of the railroads) carried passengers between Biddeford and the parts of New Hampshire to the west of us--Madison, Tamworth, and Sandwich. The new Seminary stood thus near a busy artery of traffic of the times.

The men who were active in starting the new school were an interesting group. Three were ministers, of whom the chief was John Buzzell, minister of the church here and a prominent leader in the Free Baptist denomination, widely known for his writings and his evangelistic preaching tours through New England, a scholar, an eloquent preacher, and a forceful personality. One of his sermons is on record as having lasted for two hours and forty-five minutes. He was the first President of the Trustees.

One was the local physician, a man of wide reputation for skill in medicine and surgery, an eminent teacher of the healing art, Dr. Moses Sweat the first. He was for years the Secretary of the Board of Trustees.

Five were farmers living near, of whom we may mention Major Thomas Churchill, ancestor of the Churchills and most of the Lords of the present day, who lived at the top of the famous hill, a mile north of here. Three of the group were lawyers, namely, Robert T. Blazo, then practicing law in Moultonboro, New Hampshire, Honorable Nathan Clifford, and Honorable Rufus McIntire, of Middle Road, member of Congress and afterwards United States Marshall for the State of Maine. He was the person whose seizure some years later by men of New Brunswick up in Aroostook woods led to the skirmish of small states known as the Aroostook War.

School was started on the first Monday of September, 1832, with a large attendance. The first catalogue printed at the beginning of that year, lists the names of one hundred and forty students. There must, then, have been a building for recitations. But the land for it was conveyed by Robert Blazo in May 17 of the same year. The first Seminary, large enough to accommodate one hundred forty students, must have gone up in less than four months. There being no dormitory in the years 1833 and 1834, the students roomed in houses of the citizens of the town. Of the one hundred forty students, fifty-three were young men and women of Parsonsfield. Many residences are given as in New Hampshire, some as far away as Jackson, Holderness, Dover and Newcastle. One student came from Rhode Island and one from Ohio.

To find so many students attending at the very beginning, and coming from such distances, is surprising. It is probable that the close affiliation with the Free Will Baptist denomination explains the matter. Parsonsfield Seminary was regarded as a denominational school, was widely known through the religious papers, and the churches sent their young people here.

The first principal (he is called Preceptor) was Elder Hosea Quinby. He agreed to come for a salary of $400 a year--provided the tuitions amounted to so much. He too was an active and afterward an eminent Free Baptist preacher. The Baptist history says that Rev. Quinby preached in the Seminary Hall. He taught here for eight years.

The course of study given in the first catalog mentions the following subjects: all the Latin and French required for college entrance, Rhetoric, Ancient and Modern History, Intellectual Philosophy, Political Economy, Paley's Theological and Moral Philosophy, Logic, Philosophy of Natural History, Natural Philosophy, Geometry and Trigonometry, Navigation, Astronomy, Botany, and so forth. As the only teacher mentioned is Hosea Quinby, A.B., and there were one hundred and forty students to partake of this feast, either the service must have been on the cafeteria plan, or Hosea Quinby, A.B., must have been a very busy person. Possibly, however, there were subordinate teachers, too insignificant to mention.

The third principal was one Moses M. Smart. He conducted a Baptist Theological School in connection with the Seminary. Parsonsfield has therefore been the seat of an institution of higher learning. But in fact some years before the Seminary was started we had for a few years a Medical School, about 1817 to 1820, conducted by Dr. Moses Sweat the elder, aided by a Scotch physician, a well known anatomist, formerly of Edinburg University, one Dr. Ramsey. The doctors met their students in the Dr. Sweat house.

The Baptist Theological School of Professor Moses Smart seems to have strangled the Seminary, about which it twined for support. For when Mr. George H. Ricker, just graduated from Dartmouth College, came here as Principal in 1846, he found the school dead--as he says here in an address given here in 1885, no sessions had been held for a year. The Seminary, which started with such brilliant prospects, and an attendance of one hundred and forty students, in 1832, had thus, for reasons we cannot even guess at, come to a complete standstill in twelve or fourteen years.

Mr. Ricker came to take charge of the school in 1846. The buildings, he said, were in bad condition, the institution largely in debt. He opened school with nine scholars. He was principal for seven years and seems to have been a man to inspire everyone to hard work. The debt was paid off, the buildings were repaired and painted, the students increased to above one hundred.

Toward the end of the first quarter century of its history, the Seminary appears to have been in flourishing condition under Principal John A. Lowell. The catalog for 1854 gives the number of students as one hundred sixty three, of whom fifty eight were residents of Parsonsfield, representing the families of many of those here today. the remainder being from neighboring towns of Maine and New Hampshire; one was from South Carolina. Elder John Buzzell was still President of the Trustees, and Dr. Moses Sweat still Secretary. The first Seminary building was burned down on the morning of Thursday, September 21, 1854. Timber for the construction of the new Seminary, the one we are now assembled in, was at once freely offered by Colonel Hobbs, to be cut by the trustees from the Hobbs� farm on the South River, two miles to the west. On November 22, Dr. Sweat attended a Free Will Baptist Conference at Topsham and obtained a promise of $2000 towards the construction of the new Seminary. Clearly the school was then considered a school of the denomination. A number of solicitors were appointed to secure funds by private subscription. With the insurance money and the donations, it was decided in February of 1855, to start work on the new building. The building in which we are meeting today is, therefore, except for the North Wing, seventy seven years old this summer.

And this brings us to the end of the first quarter century.

Click here to go to SECOND QUARTER CENTURY, 1857-1882

Click here to go to THIRD QUARTER CENTURY, 1882-1907

Click here to go to FOURTH QUARTER CENTURY, 1907-1932

Click here to go to FIRST QUARTER CENTURY, 1832-1857

Disclaimer: I make no intellectual property right claims on this web site. You may copy or distribute anything you find on it. I hope you do not change the wording of the original history when you do, however, because the phrasings and spellings are authentic relics of 1932 and have value to many people as such. Or, if you do change them, make note that you do, please. If money is made by you somehow through the use of this site, please send whatever part of it conscience dictates to "Friends of Par Sem, PO Box 163, Parsonsfield, Maine 04047. " They can always use it to keep Parsonsfield Seminary in good repair. Thank you.