Nothing unmasks a people like the use of their God-given gifts and their acquired powers. The vision of the men who founded this school bespeaks the turning of ideals into actuality and evinces the wide use made of human gifts and power. The second twenty-five year period in the history of Parsonsfield Seminary is replete with men of vision and men of action to carry on the traditions and ideals of the founders of this institution.
The year of 1857 found the school houses in comparatively new buildings with George S. Bradley as principal. The board of trustees for 1857 comprised: President, Reverend John Buzzell; Vice-President, Reverend John Chick; Secretary, Dr. Moses Sweat the first (which position Dr. Sweat held until 1865, when he was succeeded by his son, Doctor Moses Sweat the second, whose services to his profession and his school were legion); Treasurer, Robert T. Blazo; Deacon Joseph Granville, Abram Marston, Henry Allen, Thomas Churchill, Reverend Porter Burbank, C.O. Libby, Horace Wood, Jonathan Piper, Reverend Nahum Foss, Rufus McIntire.
At the annual trustee meeting the previous Board voted that the lyceum should be held in the afternoon instead of the evening, and that the principal should be present whenever possible. This appears to be the first mention of the well-known literary activity, the lyceum, which lasted well into the late nineties. There is extant no list of students attending the school for the year 1857.
Fragmentary evidence from the few existing records indicates that the school did not prosper during 1858, for one finds the following item: Voted to write George H. Ricker of the Maine State Seminary and ask him to return to take charge of Parsonsfield Seminary again. There is no evidence that Mr. Ricker returned to serve as a teacher, for the school year 1859-1860 opened with George S. Bradley as principal, with his wife, Mrs. Anna W. Bradley, assisting him; while the services of Doctor Moses Sweat and Noah Sanborn were enjoyed as lecturer in anatomy and physiology and director of vocal and instrumental music, respectively. Mrs. A. P. Hodgdon served as Stewardess for the year.
A survey of old catalogs of the school reveals that there were offered two separate courses of instruction at this time: The Classical, or College Preparatory (which ordinarily embraced three years), and the English, or Scientific course, provided for those who did not wish to pursue the Classical Course in entirety. These two courses were supplemented by a special course of instruction for young ladies, which if pursued four years entitled the student to a diploma. One might mention in passing that for the first fifty years no formal commencements were held. A glance at the required Scientific Course for the senior year reveals the high educational aspirations of the school at this time. The following subjects were taught: Latin, Greek, Italian, German, French, Bulter's Analogy, Composition and Declamation, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Constitution of the United States, Mineralogy and Geology. If the subjects named are startling, even more surprising is the required list of textbooks for the year 1859.
The expenditure of the student for required texts must have exceeded the cost of college texts at the present day. A student, when coming to Parsonsfield Seminary in 1859, was asked to provide himself with the following books: The Bible, Webster's Dictionary, Worcester's Dictionary, Greenleaf's Common School and National Arithmetics, Smyth's Algebra, Smyth' s Geometry and Surveying, Smith' s Quarto geography, Goodrich's History of the United States, Watley' s Logic and Rhetoric, Comstock' s Natural Philosophy, Johnson's and Turner's Chemistry, Burritt's Geography of the Heavens, Mayhew's Bookkeeping, Paley's Natural Theology, Paley's Evidences of Christianity, Wayland's Mental and Moral Philosophy, Asa Smith's Astronomy, Cutter's Anatomy and Physiology, Weld's New English Grammar and Parsing Book, Wood's Botany, Worcester's Ancient History, Wayland's Political Economy, Longley's Phonography.
The school was still closely connected with the Free Will Baptist Denomination in 1859. One notes the effects of a firm religious belief in the strictness of school-government during this period. A few rules chosen at random from the twenty odd points of discipline reveal this rigidity. We read that compulsory chapel attendance at daily devotional services is required of all students, while more than three unexcused absences from these exercises subjects the offenders to dismissal unconditionally. One quaintly worded restriction reads: No student shall chew, smoke, or snuff tobacco anywhere about the Institutional premises, and all are especially requested to abstain entirely from the indulgence of this pernicious and deadly habit. Two further rules of the period are of interest: one of these restrictions states that young ladies and gentlemen are not allowed to walk or to ride in company without special permission from the principal,while the second rule provides that no student will be allowed to attend balls or dancing school. Small wonder it is, with his conduct hampered upon every side, that a student was enabled to attend school for one year for not more than one hundred dollars in 1859.
To enumerate the entire attendance of eighty-two students for 1859 is unnecessary. Among the more prominent and well know men and women who attended school during this year one finds William R. Thompson of South Parsonsfield, who, after being graduated from Colby College, subsequently entered the ministry. John M. Brown of North Parsonsfield, who was graduated from Harvard Law School, lived in Milton, Massachusetts, practiced law in Boston, yet ever proved himself [omission]. The name of Levi W. Stone, of Cornish, is found upon the school records for the year 1859, as well as that of J. Greenleaf Leavitt, of whom honorable mention is made later. Daniel O. Blazo, a well known local citizen and teacher, who served as a trustee for many years, attended school at this time. One finds, also, the names of William R. Davis, of Porter, prominent in town affairs and a keen financier; John H. Rand, a member of the first graduating class of Bates College in 1867, and later a professor of mathematics in his Alma Mater; Emory S. Ridlon, who later attended Albany Law School and eventually took his place as one of the best lawyers at the Cumberland County Bar; Charles Blazo, who, after his graduation from Bowdoin College in 1871, became a successful doctor in Rochester, New Hampshire; George I. Doe and John F. Moore, two native sons who later became associated with the school thru various offices; Sherman E. Piper, teacher and surveyor for many years, as well as a trustee of the school.
Among the women in attendance at Parsonsfield Seminary in 1859 we note Lucy A, Cooke, Francena B. Lord, Abbie A. Hodsdon, Hannah B. Lord, Juliette Lougee, Abbie Lougee, Lucy Lougee, Olive Pray, Abbie Tibbetts, and Julia A. Stanley.
The school year of 1860 opened under the management of George S. Bradley with practically the same corps of teachers, but with a slight change in the school system. Thru the instrumentality of Mr. Bradley the beautification of the campus was begin in 1860 thru the planting of many of the trees which now adorn the schoolís grounds..
The fire which razed the Seminary buildings on September 21, 1854, destroyed nearly all of the schoolís library, and much of its apparatus. There was remaining in 1860 a telescope, which had been purchased for ninety dollars; one microscope; one terrestrial and one celestial globe; and a
projection lantern with slides.
There is no record concerning the purchase of the bell whose clear tones have resounded for many years the the Ossipee Valley, summoning youth for study and worship in these halls. There is, however, a local story to the effect of one Ira Philbrick. The exact date of the hanging of the bell is unknown, but one would assume that the opening of the new buildings found the bell in the “old belfry.” There is supporting evidence that the bell was used in 1858.
In 1861 J. Greenleaf Leavitt, a former student at the school, returned to serve as principal for one year. Mr. Leavitt married Miss Susan C. Blazo, and later devoted his life to service in the Congregational ministry.
The Reverend Reuben V. Jeness, a graduate from Dartmouth College, and a personal friend of Oren B. Cheney, efficiently and judiciously guided their uncertain destiny of the school from 1862-1963.
The period of 1863 to 1868 was one of struggle and grave uncertainty for the continuance of the Seminary. The cataclysm into which the Civil War and its aftermath plunged the nation was far reaching, for few, indeed, were the towns thruout New England that did not feel the throb of sacrifice during the war, or the sting of depression during the Reconstruction Period. Many families of Parsonsfield, besides giving sons for the war, contributed small donations of money to Parsonsfield Seminary that its halls might remain opened for the education of the youth of the town. Unfortunately, the list of donors to this worthy cause has perished. The privations involved thru both national and local upheavals forced the trustees to close the school for short periods during the years 1863-1868. Fragmentary records for these years reveal that the school was opened for an occasional term, since Malcolm McIntire is reported to have taught for a short term in 1863-1864; while William R. Thompson, of South Parsonsfield, one of the town’s prominent ministers, served the Seminary as principal for an undated term during this period. Quite in keeping with the practice of the day, Addison Small, while a student at Bates College, was permitted to leave his college lectures and allowed to teach the winter term of school to help defray the expenses of his education. The incompleteness of the existing records makes it impossible to definitely state when Mr. Small taught in this institution, but evidence from various sources would seem to place his connection with the school either in 1867 or in 1868.
The records of the trustees show that in May, 1868, a meeting was held “To see what action should be taken for the maintaining of a school for the coming year, 1869.” Existing documents show that the school was opened for the Spring term of 1869 with I.P. Quimby as principal. Mr. Quimby proved himself an able and conscientious principal during his one year at this school. There were twenty men and twelve women enrolled for this term. The complete enrollment follows: James H. Blazo, George M. Blazo, Willie Cook, John Chapman, Alphonzo Cartland, Alonzo F. Chase, Charles B. Frost, Henry H. Kennison, Charles S. Leavitt, Fred H. Merrill, John Merrill, Alanson Merrill, Liston Merrill, Loren H. Merrill, Fred Oakes, Harry H. Sweat, John B. Sweat, Alonzo Thurston, Frank Wentworth, Emma R. Allen, Ella E. Allen, Etta E. Browne, Hannah Blazo, Lydia Churchill, Alethea F. Cooke, Mary E. Merrill, Eliza Merrill, Hannah E. Pray, Mabel C. Sweat, Josie A. Hinkley, Fannie Whitten.
The fall term of school opened August 20 with Madison K. Mabry as principal. Assisting Mr. Mabry were J. M. Hawkes, teacher of Science and Vocal Music; J.W. Titcomb, teacher of Penmanship; Miss M.A. Pike, Languages and Drawing; Miss Josie B. Stanley, Instrumental Music and Miss Abbie Mabry in the primary department. The total enrollment for the year was eighty-four. Among the thirty-six women students who were in attendance for this year we find two poets: Miss Alma Haydn Pendexter, who gained repute through her poems and short stories, and Isodore Parker, who wrote many poems, her best known creation being The Centennial Poem, written for and read at the Parsonsfield Centennial in 1885. Two musicians of note attended school in 1870, Hannah E. Pray, who later taught music at this institution, and Josie B. Stanley.
Of the fifty-four young men in attendance at the academy in 1870 five were to gain unusual recognition in their life pursuits. Frank H. Pease, of South Parsonsfield, who attended Tufts College, and subsequently became a prominent educator. Albert R. Leavitt, who in his youth engaged in educational work and whose later life became closely linked with the school as a trustee and loyal friend. Arthur Merrill, who obtained his medical education at Bowdoin College and practiced his profession for thirty years in Somerville, Massachusetts. Albert R. Moulton, who after studying at several universities settled in Worster,Massachusetts, and became a successful physician. One of the young men enrolled at this time was to become well known thruout many towns in two states. This youth, after attending Bowdoin College, chose to settle in his home town. Thruout the years of his professional life, until his death at the age of seventy-eight, the call of the sick was ever heeded by this patient, sympathetic, and dependable physician. The name of Doctor J. Mellen Leavitt will live long in the annals of Parsonsfield Seminary as a trustee who had the welfare and future of this school ever in his mind, and as one of the organizers of the Alumni Association, over which he presided until his death in 1930.
Obtainable records for the year 1871 reveal that the faculty consisted of M.K. Mabry, principal, with the Misses Clare E. OíBrien and Abbie Mabry, assistant teachers. A ten-week term of school with 110 students in attendance is recorded. This large number of students may be explained by the placing of the Blazo School of District Number Twelve at the Academy, presumably to aid in the financial support of the Academy. This practice was again employed during the year 1879-1880.
The students who attended this institution with Madison K. Mabry as principal speak highly of his ability as a teacher and recall his efficient management. Mr. Mabry’s connection with the school ended in 1872.
The trustees voted in 1873 “to offer the use of the academy to the town of Parsonsfield free of rent, provided the town would raise a sufficient sum of money to sustain a free High School for at least two weeks, said school to be kept in the academy for the year 1873.” The town provided the necessary funds to meet this agreement, for the school opened in 1873 with James Linscott as principal and Mrs. Eva Barker as teacher of music. From 1873 to 1877 the school was under the management of James Linscott and Orestes Kennison.
1877 is one of the most important years in the history of this school. In the year 1796, on one of the rocky hillside farms of Parsonsfield, there was born one Elisha Piper, who was destined to have his name in the history of Parsonsfield Seminary. The care and support of a family devolved upon this lad at a very early age. That these tasks were faithfully fulfilled is well known. Elisha Piper had no advantages of an education save for attendance at a few winter terms in the common schools of his home town. But there was within this man the same vision and spirit which dominated the founders of this school. He was interested in education, and while at work on hillsides and in the forests his thoughts must have been deep and long upon the advantages of education. By dint of sacrifices, unknown to 1932, this man managed during his life-span of eighty-two years, to accumulate the sum of $11,000, which at his death was bequeathed to the town of Parsonsfield for the maintenance of a Free High School. Although this fund was not available for three years, Mr. Piperís unexpected gift gave new courage to the trustees of the school who did not know where the necessary money for the continuance of the Seminary might be obtained.
The renewed hope which this money kindled in the minds of the citizens of the town led to a new era of prosperity for the school. In the fall of 1878 Reverend Thomas F. Millett assumed charge of the institution as principal, at the same time preaching in the village church. Mr. Millett was assisted this year by his wife, Mrs. A. J. Millett, and John A. Kennard. There were three courses of study, besides a special Normal department for teachers, with the total enrollment of fifty-one students. One notes with interest that a weekly literary publication, “The Caleopian,î was maintained during this year. The Boarding House at this time was under the direction of Mr. Griffin. Five men, who later became prominent physicians, were in attendance at the school during the year 1878: Frank and George Lougee, John A. Kennard, Herbert Neal, and George Walter Weeks. It is also fitting to mention the attendance of James E. W. Smith, whose name as a public
reader has been well known locally for many years.
1879 found the school under the same conservative management as for the previous year. One of the students under attendance during 1879 has related to me several incidents pertaining to school life of the day which are of interest. Among her memories is recalled the fact that the winter term of school was held in the dining room of the old Boarding House. Mr. Millett is remembered as a very rigid disciplinarian and a stern Baptist minister who was ever watching the conduct of his students. If report be true, however, the girls of 1879 found just as many ways of going to and returning from dances without detection as do the girls of 1932. While smoking was forbidden to all students, one Isaac Drown was accustomed to bringing his weekly supply of three T. D. pipes when he returned to the Boarding House Sunday evening. Despite the rigidity of government one learns that certain venturesome youths pulled up the old pump and thus necessitated the tedious task of dipping up water for an indefinite period. The name of the culprits cannot be divulged in this audience! Moreover, during this same year the tongue disappeared from the bell for some weeks. That there were other devilment, one may be sure.
Mr. Millett continued to teach in the Seminary during the school year 1880 with the Misses Hattie and Rachel White assisting him. There were 112 students in attendance for the year, this number including the scholars from the Blazo School. The Boarding House for 1880 was under the management of one of our worthy local citizens, H. G. O. Smith, a most conservative
Baptist of the “old school,” around whom there have arisen humorous stories, too involved to relate!
The closing of the first fifty years in the history of the school marked a new era of progress for the institution. The entire amount of the Piper bequest did not reach the treasury, owing to numerous contestations and litigations which arose after Mr. Piperís death, but the treasurer received about $9000 toward the maintenance of a Free High School, to be known as the Parsonsfield Free High School.
Harry L. Staples, a graduate of Bowdoin College, assisted by our own beloved Clara Smith Currier, had the honor of being the first principal of Parsonsfield Free High School. The school throve under this management.
Unstinted praise is due to the endeavors of the friends of this institution for the years 1857 to 1882, whose efforts, while often spurned or misunderstood, were for the continuance and advancement of the school.
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