Grace Greylock Niles.

The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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"Father of American Foreign Missions," entered the Fresh-
man Class, in April, 1806; and the future poet, William Cullen
Bryant, from Cummington, Mass., entered the Sophomore
Class, October 9, 1810. Bryant was established in room 11
on the third floor, next to the northeast corner of West
College, in company with John Avery from Conway, Mass.,
a student ten years his senior, studying for the Episcopal
Ministry. The campus of Williams at that time consisted of
the East College and West College buildings, connected by
a straight avenue between Lombardy poplars.

The poet, Bryant, said in his Autobiography, sixty-one
years later, that he owed much to his room-mate's example
. and counsels, during his seven months' course at Williams
i' College. Avery was at that time a member of the Philo-
technian Society of the Adelphic Union, and persuaded
Bryant to join that society and encouraged his muse. The
library of the Adelphic Union, containing over one hundred
volumes, stood in an alcove of the hall outside Bryant's room.
Among the recent works of that period were found Wash-
ington Irving's Knickerbocker s History oj New York, pub-

390 The Hoosac Valley

lished in 1809, and Thomas Moore's Odes and Epistles,
published in 1806, which included Anacreon's Odes and
Moore's American poems and letters, written during his visit
to the Hudson and St. Lawrence in 1804.

Bryant mastered Latin prosody by himself at Williams
and translated Anacreon's Ode to Spring, comparing it
critically with Moore's translation. John Avery showed the
literary critic of the Junior Class unsigned copies of both
Bryant's and Moore's translations. The critic gave the
preference to Bryant's translation, and spoke encouragingly
of Moore's. This was flattering to the young poet, who said
as a child that he used to pray that he might receive the
gift of poetic genius, and write verses that might endure.

Bryant recorded that it was the custom of the Sopho-
mores, previous to 1809, to seize the Freshmen and compel
them to go through a series of burlesque ceremonies, called
"gamutizing." Several roguish fellows often kidnapped
the stalwart student guarding the belfry on the third floor
of West College, in order to delay recitations or prayers for
belated students. It is locally reported that strayed calves
from the lanes have been led up the stairs of West College
and found bellowing from the front hall window in the morn-
ing by their owners. It proved an easy task to "gamutize"
a calf, but not an easy one to get the conceited animal down
to earth after it had been an orator in the library of the
Adelphic Union.

Bryant's room-mate, John Avery, desired to complete
his theological studies at Yale, and urged young Bryant to
join him there. After seven months at Williams, Bryant
thus asked honorable dismission on May 8, 181 1. His
father, Dr. Peter Bryant, however, was unable to send his
son to Yale or even let him return to Williams ; and the poet
was forced to enter the law office of Sedgwick Brothers in
New York City. Bryant later referred to the office work as










392 The Hoosac Valley

"drudging for the dregs of men," and "scrawling strange
words with a barbarous pen," in the last stanza of his poem,
Green River.

Bryant wrote a satire in the spring of 1811, entitled De-
scriptio Gulielmopolis, depicting the muddy walks of Will-
iams's campus, and the frowning tutors guarding the dusty and
cobwebby halls of learning. This was read before the Philo-
technian Society in March, 18 12, by the poet's classmate,
Charles Jenkins, who possessed a copy of the satire ; or later
after young Jenkins was elected tutor at Williams, between
1816 and 1819. His son, Dr. J. L. Jenkins, inherited the
famous poem after his father's death in 1831. He subse-
quently became an alumnus of Yale and published the poem.
It was, after William Cullen Bryant's death, mentioned by
George William Curtis in his Memorial Oration, before the
New York Historical Society, December 20, 1878. It greatly
interested the alumni of Williams and copies of it appear in
Williams College history. ^

Ebenezer Fitch ^ resigned the Presidency of Williams, May
2, 1 81 5. A committee of six of the College Trustees, includ-
ing Theophilus Packard of Shelburne, Thaddeus Pomeroy of
Stockbridge, Joseph Lyman of Northampton, Samuel Shep-
herd of Lenox, Daniel Noble of Williamstown, and Joseph
Woodbridge of Stockbridge, were appointed to consider the
removal of Williams College to the Connecticut Valley, east
of the barrier of the " Forbidden Hoosac Mountain." How-
ever, it proved inexpedient to remove the college, owing to
the forbidding attitude of the founders of the English Hoosac
towns. Trustee Packard temporarily engaged Prof. Zepha-
niah Swift Moore of Dartmouth College to accept the Presi-
dency of Williams with a provisional promise of its final
removal to Amherst.

' Perry, Williamstown and Williams College, pp. 339-346.

'No portrait of President Fitch exists in the Archives of Williams College.

Free School of Williamstovvn 393

President Moore' was a son of Lieut. Judah Moore, of
Scotch-Irish Presbyterian origin, who in 1776 located with
Colonel Thomson and the grandfathers of Elder Brigham
Young, and the late Judge Levi Chandler Ball, in Wilming-
ton, Vt., seventeen miles east of Bennington Centre. Young
Moore attended Clio Hall at Bennington Centre in 1778
under Tutor Eldad Dewey. He prepared for Dartmouth
College and in 1793 graduated at the age of twenty-three-
He married Phoebe Drury of Auburn, Mass., and became
pastor of the Leicester Church and subsequently professor at
Dartmouth, which office he held until elected President of
Williams College in 1815.

Trustee Packard of Shelbume later proposed the petition
for the removal of Williams College to Amherst, and in
November, 18 18, nine of the twelve Trustees consented to
this. The three Trustees who voted against its removal
from Hoosac Valley were David Noble of Williamstown,
Israel Jones of Adams, and Levi Glezen of Stockbridge.

President Moore and the other Trustees favoring the
removal of the College met at a convention of the Hampshire
County people at Northampton in August, 18 19; and the
three opposing Trustees met with a large conclave of Berk-
shire people at Pittsfield two months later. The Berkshire
citizens determined that ''they knew not what would restore
to the community that confidence that sweetens life and
binds society together ; nor where would be found that balm
which would heal the wounds," if Williams College should
be removed from Williamstown.

The Hampshire County folk and their Trustees subscribed
$50,000 and presented their petition to the Legislature on
January 17, 1820, for aid in the removal of the College. The
Berkshire County citizens also held a convention at Williams-
town, December 27, 18 19, and subscribed $17,000 payable

'Tyler's History of Amherst College, 1873.

394 The Hoosac Valley

within ten years to the Legislature for the non-removal of
Williams College to the Connecticut Valley. Trustees
Noble, Jones, and Glezen prepared a petition, and engaged
Judge Charles A. Dewey of Williamstown to draw up a
legal remonstrance against the College's removal, which
they presented, together with President Fitch's Report of
the College, read before the Historical Society of Massachu-
setts in 1802, to the Legislature, January 17, 1820.

The Senate and House discussed two questions: "Was it
legal?" and "Was it expedient to remove Williams College? "
In the similar Dartmouth College Case of 18 19, Judge
Nathaniel Niles of West Fairlee, Vt., was the principal
Trustee for the corporation, and he engaged councillors
Daniel Webster and William Wirt to defend the College.
Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Court, therefore,
sustained Webster's novel and much questioned plea:
"That a gift to a charitable institution of learning is a
'contract,' in the sense of the Constitution of the United
States, between donor and trustees. To impair the obliga-
tion of a contract by any law of any State is forbidden by
the national Constitution."

The final decision of the Dartmouth Case influenced the
vote of the Massachusetts Senate on February 8, 1820,
which was 31 to 5; and that of the House on February 14th
following, which stood 120 to 25 against the removal of
Williams College. The General Court's decision, rendered
to President Moore and his nine Trustees of Williams was :
"That it was neither lawful nor expedient to grant the
prayer of the petitioners."

President Moore's chief argument before the Legislature
for the removal of Williams College was that Col. Ephraim
Williams's Will and desire for the founding of the Free School
of Williamstown had already been wilfully broken and set
aside, in the first place by excluding girls in 1791, and in the


396 The Hoosac Valley

second place by converting the Free School into Williams
College in 1793. Josiah Quincy in his address before the
Senate on February 8, 1820, said:

The trustees came all the way to Boston to make a con-
fession of a great crime. They tell us that so long ago as
1793 they perverted the Free School Fund, which the donor
designed for the use of the poor people of Williamstown (and
Adams; for the education of the children of the inhabitants,
including hoys and girls alike) to the use of their college,
that it was a great violation of a sacred trust. . . . What
can be the object of this extraordinary penitential confession?
Do they want absolution? No. That is not what they
want. ... In consideration of their confessing one crime,
they ask your indulgence to be permitted to commit another.
They tell you in so many words that we have now seven
and twenty years been perverting to our own use and con-
trary to the will of the donor one half of our present funds;
in consideration of which we pray liberty to abscond with the
residue !

The original manuscript copy of Quincy's Speech ' to the
Senate was presented to President Mark Hopkins of Williams
a year previous to Quincy's death in 1863, and is found in the
College Archives to-day.

In May, 1821, the Trustees of Amherst Charity Academy
elected President Moore for their President and Professor of
Theology and Moral Philosophy, at an annual salary of $1200,
and he accepted the office in a letter dated at Williamstown in
June of the same year. He announced his resignation of the
Presidency of Williams to the eighty students assembled
in the Chapel of West College, and half of them resolved to
join him at Amherst or to take their degrees elsewhere.

The Senior Class called a meeting and Emerson Davis

' Perry, Williamstown and Williams College, p. 407.

Free School of Williamstown 397

and Erastus Benedict addressed the wavering students.
Fifteen remained and took their degrees at WilHams in
September, from the hands of the retired President Moore
in the presence of the Rev, Edward Dorr Griffin, who was
subsequently elected President of Williams. On September
5, 1 82 1, the former graduates of Williams met in the Chapel
of West College and organized the famous Alumni Society
for the promotion of fellowship, literature, and interest in
their Alma Mater which was the first society of college
graduates in this country. In 1822 the Berkshire Medical
Institute was founded at Pittsfield and its degrees were con-
ferred with the academical degrees of Williams College.

President Griffin was graduated at Yale in 1790 and in
1 809 became Professor of Pulpit Eloquence at Andover Theo-
logical Seminary, and subsequently pastor of the Congrega-
tional Church of Newark, N. J. He was known as the
"Prince of Preachers." He instructed the Senior Class at
Williams and preached a third of the time at the Church
of Christ on the Square.

Soon after President Griffin's arrival at Williamstown in
1 82 1, he addressed a letter to Miss Mary Lyon, of Ipswich
School for Girls, who in 1830 founded Mount Holyoke School
for Girls, requesting her to recommend one of her graduates
to take charge of the Girls' Department of Williams College,
about to be established, in order to fulfil the Will and desire of
the founder. Miss Sarah Thayer received a letter of recom-
mendation from Miss Lyon, accompanied with President
Griffin's letter, both of which are found in the Archives of
Old Deerfield to-day. Miss Thayer accepted the position.
The house occupied by the Girls' Department stood west of
the Square, near the junction of Main Street with Hemlock
Glen Road, and the girls attended lectures with the boys
at the College Chapel. Among the girl students remembered
by this generation may be mentioned the venerable Miss

398 The Hoosac Valley

Tyler of Lanesboro, Miss Halstead of North Adams, and
Miss Scott, a granddaughter of Phineas Scott of West

The Girls' Department of Williams, for want of students,
was eventually abandoned, and Miss Thayer opened a Girls'
School in the Congregational Church of North Adams, built
in 1827, during the pastorship of Parson Long. She subse-
quently married Truman Paul and became the mother of
Jenny Paul-Goodrich, now the President of Fort Massachu-
setts Historical Society, to whom the writer is indebted for
these hitherto unpublished facts.

The Class of 1824 at Williams met with a revival led by
the student William Harvey, and Mark Hopkins was con-
verted and joined Stockbridge Church in 1825. One of the
members of the Class of 1825 was David Dudley Field, who
together with Henry Dwight Sedgwick and Robert Sedg-
wick of the Class of 1804, and Martin Ingram Townsend of |
the Class of 1833 are among the most distinguished pioneer
jurists of the United States. The Sedgwicks in 1822 pub-
lished essays on the Evils and Absurdities of the Practice oj \
English Common Law in the United States. Two years }
earlier however, Edward Livingston of Princeton, after Rob- '
ert Livingston's Louisiana Purchase from Emperor Napoleon ;
of France, drew up the Civil Code of Louisiana which was
adopted in 1823.

Later the Sedgwicks adopted Livingston's Code of Louisi-
ana as a model and revised the Code of New York, which was
not completed until after their death by their partner,
David Dudley Field. Stephen J. Field, a brother of David i
Dudley Field of the Class of 1837, also became his partner!!
in 1840, and ten years later moved to California and framed
the Judiciary Act of that State.

The Legislature of New York in 1857 began a law reform,
and commissioned David Dudley Field to prepare a political,

Free School of Williamstown 399

penal, and civil code and procedures, embracing the whole
body of the law. He became greatly honored in Europe
and was recognized as the New England Gladstone. He
lived to behold Parliament adopt the principles and forms of
his Civil Code of New York in England's Supreme Court
of Judicature Act, and was foremost in promoting a Code of
International Law with European publicists. At a banquet
of the Law Reform Society in London, Lord Brougham
stated that Field's New York Code had been introduced in
the most distant British colonies and that, an "American
was giving law to Australia."

In 1825, the Trustees of Williams resolved to raise $25,000
to build Grifhn Chapel and found a Professorship of Mathe-
matics and Natural Philosophy. Meanwhile Prof. Chester
Dewey resigned the chair of Natural Science to take charge
of the Pittsfield Gymnasium, a school for boys. He owned
the largest herbarium of the genus of sedges in the world,
and this he presented to Williams College before his death in
1867. After Dewey's departure, Albert Hopkins was chosen
for the Professorship of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy,
which he filled until 1862, when he was elected Memorial
Professor of Astronomy, an office founded by David Dudley
Field, in which he continued until his death in 1872.

The historic newspaper. The American Advocate, was
founded and printed by Ridley Bannister at Williamstown in
1827 in the Old Academy building on Spring Street. He was
a kinsman of Homer and Addison Bannister of Pownal, Vt.
His paper advocated the Democratic policy against the Fed-
eralists during the period when Henry Clay was a candidate
for Presidency of the United States against John Quincy
Adams. Clay was supported by Henry Shaw, the father of
the humourist, "Josh Billings" of Lanesboro, and several
Benningtonians. There are seventy-six numbers of the
paper preserved in Williams College Archives. A list of

400 The Hoosac Valley

plants and minerals collected by Dr. Ebenezer Emmons dur-
ing his rides between Cheshire, Williamstown, and Pownal
Bogs of Ashawagh, ' together with the religious essays of
Prof, Albert Hopkins, signed "U, " also appeared in The
Advocate. Mark Hopkins delivered his master's Oration on
Mystery at Williams commencement in September, 1827,
This famous oration was published in Silliman's American
Journal of Science and Arts in April, 1828; his address before
the Stockbridge Agricultural Society appeared in The
American Advocate during October, 1827. The newspaper
ceased publication in November, 1828.

Col. Henry W. Dwight, Jr., of Stockbridge, a former Repre-
sentative of the State of Massachusetts at Washington,
championed Dr. IMark Hopkins and he obtained license to
preach. After the death of Prof. William Porter of Williams
in 1830, Dr. Mark Hopkins accepted the vacant chair of
Moral Philosophy and Rhetoric. Three years later Presi-
dent Griffin had a slight paralytic stroke. On June 15,
1834, he organized the Williams College Church in Griffin
Chapel. It proved his last official act previous to his resig-
nation on September 28, 1836. The first three names on the
College Church records included those of Mark Hopkins,
Albert Hopkins, and Tutor Simeon H. Calhoun.

Prof. Mark Hopkins, during President Griffin's decline,
became instructor of the Senior Class of 1 834 and was elected
President of Williams College in 1836. His Inaugural
Address was entitled A Wise System of Educatio?i, He
became the greatest educator in New England.

Between 1834 and the semi-centennial in 1843 began the
progressive period of Williams College. Prof. Albert Hop-
kins sailed for Europe at his own expense in September, 1 834,
to procure apparatus for his astronomical and meteorological
observatories. After his return in November, 1836, he

' See Note i at end of volume.

Free School of Williamstown


repaired with a party of students wielding crow-bars to
the quartzite ledges on Alberta's Mountain (East Range)
and quarried the rock of which the ancient astronomical
observatory was constructed. It was dedicated on June 12,
1838. Albert Hopkins is justly known as the "Father of

Hopkins's Astronomical Observatory, fomtded by Prof . Albert Hopkins, 1838,
It is the first observatory of its kind erected in America.

'American Astronomy," although a dozen years earlier, in
1826, a small astronomical observatory was built by the
University of North Carolina.

Few of this generation know anything about the Garden,
Chip, Mountain, and Gravel Days, connected with the gym-
nastic exercises of Williams College students between 1793
and 1872, now replaced by Lassell's Gymnasium and by
exercises on Weston's Field. The pioneer students owned

their own wood-piles, and became masters at kindling fires,

402 The Hoosac \ 'alley

saw-buck philosophy, and drawing water up the shppery
path from the CoUege Spring, unless wealthy enough to
engage Bill Pratt to assume those duties for them. Half a
cord of wood lasted a term, and two quarts of burning fluid
proved sufticient for the midnight spirit-lamp for two

The Class of 1S50 was the first to construct a g^mmasium
apparatus in the field southwest of West College. It con-
sisted of one horizontal bar. a fixed sloping ladder for hand
climbing, one sliding pole, and three swinging ropes. The
apparatus was destroyed by some malicious person one night
and all except one strand cut in the ropes, injuring all bej'ond

Garden Day was established by Prof. Albert Hopkins and
Prof. Ebenezer Kellogg. The latter presented an acre of
ground to the College in 1835 for a public garden, after which
the first Horticultural Society for landscape gardening in this
country was organized. In a subsequent day (^1877). Cyrus
W. Field presented Si 0,000 to WiIliamsto^^^■l to beautify
]\Iain Street by removing fences, laying out Field Park, and
lighting the streets \\-ith gas. Water was conducted in pipes
to the College domiitories from Cold Spring in Hemlock
Glen in 1888. Chip Day was introductor}' for Garden Day,
and occurred about the middle of May during the third term.
The students raked up the chips and saw-dust about their
wood-piles and prepared the campus for the simimer months.

Mountain Day came on the second Monday of the third
term, and several students climbed to Mount Greylock and
remained overnight to behold the sunrise from Albert Hop-
kins's Meteorological Observatory. Henry D. Thoreau \dsi-
ted Mount Greylock during July. 1846. and, interested in the
object of the tower, said that "it would be no small advan-
tage if every college were thus located at the base of a moun-
tain, as good at least as one well-endowed professorship. . . .

Free School of Williamstovvn 403

Every visit to its summit would, as it were, generalize the
particular information gained below, and subject it to more
catholic tests."

The second Monday of the fall term was known as Gravel
Day, and was observed by the students hauling gravel to
spread over the paths of the campus. This custom passed
away about 1850, when each student was assessed, and men
were hired with teams to haul the gravel, while the students
took a holiday, known as Mountain Day later, to some
historic or natural history field in Hoosac Valley.

The Natural History Society of Williams in 1835 organ-
ized the first ecological expedition in this country, headed
by Prof. Albert Hopkins, Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, Tutor
Calhoun, seventeen students, and three townsmen. They
set sail from Boston on the Yarmouth sloop Flight and visited
St. Johns, New Brunswick, Halifax, and Windsor, Nova
Scotia. Professor Hopkins wrote an account of the expedi-
tion, which appeared, October, 1835, in The American Travel-
ler, ' a paper published by a WilHams alumnus.

The most distinguished visitor at Williams College com-
mencement on August 15, 1838, was the noveHst, Nathaniel
Hawthorne. In his American Note-Book he describes the
yeoman's daughters' sunburnt necks and silk and cambric
dresses; and the rough, brown-featured, school-master-
looking, half-bumpkin, half-scholarly graduates, dressed in
black, ill-cut broadcloth, and pumps. He considered their
manners very bad, although he discovered gentlemanly fel-
lows there, including his hero, Eustace Bright, who figured
in Tanglewood Tales and Woftder Book.

Hawthorne evidently enjoyed studying the crowd of
fugitive slaves from White Oaks, dispensing ginger-bread,
watermelon, and apple-toddy about the Square; while
a Jewish auctioneer from New York with his heterogeneous

'Perry, Williamstown and Williams College, pp. 566-570.

404 The Hoosac Valley

articles, and Sheriff Twining e^f Pittsfield with his pockets
bulging with writs of ejectment were, to the novelist, a part
of the commencement exercises that attracted him above
President Mark Hopkins's address or the orations of the

President Mark Hopkins's Baccalaureate orations were
always considered profound, but the eloquence of his Address
to the Alumni at the semi-centennial of the College, in 1843,
surpassed them all. Of the Alumni he said :

They have come from the yeomanry of the country, from
the plough and the work-shop, with clear heads, and firm
nerves, and industrious habits, and unperverted tastes—
in need, it may be, of polish, but susceptible of the highest.
. . . The progress of knowledge and improvement is like
the gradual accumulation of a pile to which every scholar |
ma}' be expected to add something, as every Indian is said
to have laid a stone upon the pile at the foot of Monument
Moimtain, but in other respects it is more like the progress
of a fire which is set at certain points, and spreads on every
side. Luther, and Bacon, and Newton, and Carey, and
Samuel J. Mills, set fires, and he who does this to any extent
does something for the race, even though that which kindled
the blaze was but a spark, and was lost in the brightness
and glow of the succeeding conflagration. . . .

Online LibraryGrace Greylock NilesThe Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history → online text (page 27 of 41)