A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

History of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) online

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consisting partly in labor, and partly in materials for
erecting the building. It was a period of comparative


poverty, the inhabitants of this region being mostly
young men without capital, and just beginning to earn a
livelihood for themselves and their families. 1

With such small resources at command, Mr. Kirkland
and his friends commenced the erection of the academy.
The place chosen for its site was about midway between
the present South College and the chapel. Ground was
broken and the foundation laid July 1, 1794. To give
some degree of dignity and importance to the occasion,
Mr Kirkland invited the Baron de Steuben to be present,
and to officiate in the ceremony of laying the corner-stone.
The brave old General was met on his arrival at Clinton
by Captain George W. Kirkland, a son of the Dominie,
and, at the head of a troop of horsemen, was escorted to
the grounds of the new academy. Mrs. Eli Lucas, now
living in Clinton, remembers seeing this rustic cavalcade
(two or three daughters of Mr. Kirkland on horseback
forming part of the company) sweep past her father's
house and ascend College Hill. Just what the formali-
ties of the occasion were, we are not informed ; but it is
well known that Mr. Kirkland was highly gratified at
seeing the corner-stone of his academy laid by one who
had been a compatriot in arms with Hamilton, and whose
services for the country entitled him to a lasting fame.

The foundations having been laid and the frame put up,
the work was suspended for lack of means to carry it
further. The structure stood in this condition for nearly
two years. Unbelieving mockers passing by called it
" Kirkland's folly ; " the foxes burrowed in its founda-
tions, the birds built their nests beneath its rafters, and
the squirrels careering up and down the naked timbers,
seemed to join in the general derision. But Mr. Kirk-

1 See Appendix D.


land was not disheartened. After a short time he re-
newed his efforts with fresh zeal, soliciting money and
labor and materials with which to finish the building. 1

He pressed others into the work of obtaining funds,
among whom was Mr. Joel Bristol, who labored assidu-
ously, and with such success that the means were secured
•for inclosing the academy. Early in the year 1798, a
large room in the second story on the south end, and two
small rooms on the lower floor were finished, and the two
front chimneys were built. The large room in the sec-
ond story (called " the arched room ") was designed and
used as a chapel. Here the work rested again for sev-
eral years. But the men who had begun to build were
resolved to finish. And so, from year to year the means
were procured for going forward, until at length rooms
enough were prepared to meet the wants of the institu-
tion. The building was three stories in height, and ninety
feet in length, by thirty-eight in width. Mr. Kirkland
had the satisfaction of seeing his academy opened for

1 As illustrating his persistency, and the generosity of the inhabitants of this
town, take the following: Mr. Eli Bristol, who lived at the foot of College Hill,
gave, at his solicitation, a lot of clap-boards which he had just procured for
siding up his own house. Mr. Bristol then had a second lot sawed for himself,
and stacked up in a kiln for drying. By accident the kiln took fire and the
boards were lost, and so Mr. Bristol was obliged to resort to his woods and the
saw-mill a third time before he could inclose his house.

About the same time, also, occurred the following: As Mr. Kirkland was
passing a house then in process of erection, just opposite the Clinton Grammar
School, he called out to the owner: "Mr. Owens, I had a dream last night."
"Pray, what did you dream? " said Owens. "I dreamed that you gave me
those nice pine boards for the academy, and that I took them home in my
cart." " Well," said Owens, " if you so dreamed, you must take them." The
next day, as Mr. Kirkland was again passing, Owens saluted him and declared
that a dream had also come to him. "What was it?" asked Mr Kirkland.
" I'dreamed that I wanted your cart and two yoke of oxen to goto White^boro'
for brick for my chimney, and that you let me have them." " Well," said his
Reverence, " if you dreamed so, you must have them, but, dear me, don't ever
dream again! "


pupils, its chairs of instruction filled by capable teachers,
and scholars flocking to it from every quarter.

It is often asked whether any Indian boys were edu-
cated at this academy. During the year previous to the
opening of the school, Mr. Kirkland brought to Clinton
from Oneida several of the most promising Indian lads
he could find, and, committing a part of them to the care
of Mr. Eli Bristol, kept the others in his own family. He
clothed them in such garments as were usually worn by
white boys, and sought to have them instructed in the ru-
diments of an English education, and trained to civilized
manners and habits. But they soon became restless
under these restraints. They did not like white people's
clothes, nor the confinement of white people's houses, and
they hated white people's books and ways. They liked
better to roam half-naked in the woods and fields, whoop-
ins; and hunting and fishing. And so it turned out that

o o o

by the end of the first year, it was found necessary to let
them return to their old haunts at Oneida.

Of the native children taught in the primary schools
here and elsewhere, I cannot learn that any entered this

The first principal of the school was Mr. John Niles, a
graduate of Yale College in the year 1797. He held
this position three years, when his failing health com-
pelled him to change his employment. Subsequently he
became a clergyman, and removed to Bath, Steuben
County. He died in the year 1812.

Rev. James Murdock was associated with Mr. Niles
during one year of his preceptorship. Studying theology
with Rev. Dr. Norton, of Clinton, he afterwards became
a Professor of Languages in the University of Vermont,
and of Church History in Andover Theological Seminary.


He was a man of studious habits and sound learning.
His translation of Mosheim's " Ecclesiastical History "
will long remain a monument to his industry and exact

In September, 1801, Rev. Robert Porter became the
principal of the academy. A graduate of Yale, he had
been serving for some time as a home missionary among
the feeble settlements along the Black River in this
State. In his new field he worked successfully four years.
He then joined a colony which was about to establish the
town of Prattsburgh, in this State. His subsequent life
was one of much practical usefulness. He died in the
year 1847.

In the autumn of 1805, Mr. Seth Norton, brother of
Rev. Dr. Norton, became principal. With the exception
of a single year spent in New Haven as tutor, he held his
post as preceptor of this academy until the year 1812,
when the institution was raised to the rank of a college ;
at that time he was appointed Professor of Languages.

Mr. Norton was a man of considerable mental force
and weight of character. His personal appearance was
not pleasing, for his complexion was dark, his eyes blue,
his manners jerky, and his speech rapid and abrupt.
Yet he was a thorough scholar, and made his pupils thor-
ough and accurate, and he inspired them with a love of
study. He was particularly fond of music, and was him-
self a superior singer. For many years he was the chor-
ister of the village church. Both the words and the
music of the familiar tune " Devonshire," beginning —

"Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,"

were composed by him. For many years he was com-
pelled to struggle with infirm health. He died in De-


cember, 1818, the first year of his married life. His
remains were deposited in the College Cemetery.


This institution has been closely identified from the
first with the growth and prosperity of the town of Kirk-
land. It originated here. From its feeble beginnings
until the present time, it has been fostered by the labors,
sacrifices and pecuniary gifts of the inhabitants. It has
also been the benefactor of the town. It has enhanced
the value of real estate, and increased the business of the
place. It has drawn hither a respectable class of inhab-
itants, and improved the tone of society. It has afforded
facilities for the education of the young, and induced
many to acquire a thorough classical training who would
otherwise have failed of its advantages. The limits of
this volume will allow space for only a brief sketch of
the history of the college ; a deficiency which I should
the more regret, were it not that a full and complete his-
tory of the institution may be looked for in due time,
from Professor Edward North, who is preparing the same,
in compliance with a vote of the trustees.

The account already given of Hamilton Oneida Acad-
emy brings its history down to the year 1812, when the
school was raised to the rank and functions of a college. 1
In order to obtain a charter, and a grant of $50,000
from the legislature for its endowment, it was found nec-
essary to raise another fund of $50,000 by subscription.
Rev. Caleb Alexander, of Fairfield, Herkimer County,
was employed to undertake this work. And so energetic
and skillful did he prove, that in a few months he secured
a sum which, with the estimated value of the academy

1 The academy closed its formal existence September 10, 1812.


buildings and lands ($15,000), amounted to $52,841.64.
A charter was granted May 22, 1812. The trustees im-
mediately completed the unfinished portions of the acad-
emy, and put the whole in good repair. They then pro-
ceeded to the election of a Faculty, choosing the Rev.
Azel Backus, D. D., of Bethlem, Conn., as Presi-
dent ; Rev. Seth Norton, Professor of Languages ; Josiah
Nmes, M. D., Professor of Chemistry; and Theodore
Strong, Tutor. The. doors of the college were opened
for students October 24, 1812 ; and regular recitations
commenced on the first of November.

The inauguration of the president took place Decem-
ber 3d, in the Congregational church of Clinton ; the
exereises consisting of a discourse by the president-elect,
an address in Latin by Professor Seth Norton, and prayer
and reading of the Scriptures by Rev. Dr. Asahel Norton,
of Clinton, and Rev. Eliphalet Steele, of Paris Hill. Dr.
Backus' life in the presidency was destined to be short.
He died after four years' service, December 28, 1816.

His successor in office was the Rev. Henry Davis, D. D.,
an alumnus of Yale College. Dr. Davis had been Pro-
fessor of Languages in Union College, and at the time of
his election here was president of Middlebury College,
and had recently been appointed president of Yale, to
succeed the eminent Timothy Dwight. For reasons
which prevailed in his own mind, he chose to accept the
position offered him by this college, and was inaugurated
in the fall of 1817. Dr. Davis continued in office sixteen

During the early years of his presidency the number
of students greatly increased. But afterwards troubles
arose, chiefly from difference of opinion in the Faculty
and Board of Trustees, on questions of internal govern-


inent and discipline, which brought the college very low
in numbers, and for a time alienated many of its friends.
Yet no one doubted the integrity of the president, or his
strong attachment to the institution. He died in Clinton,
March 7, 1852, aged eighty-two years.

Dr. Davis was succeeded, in the fall of 1883, by the
Rev. Sereno E. Dvvight, D. D., a son of Timothy D wight.
Owing largely to the infirm state of his health, he re-
signed his position after two years' service. He died
November 30, 1850. At the time of which we now speak
the Faculty of the college consisted of the following pro-
fessors : John H. Lathrop, in the department of Ethics
and Political Economy ; Simeon North, in the Latin and
Greek Languages ; Charles Avery, in Chemistry and Nat-
ural Philosophy ; Marcus Catlin, in Mathematics ; and
Oren Root, Tutor. Between the election of President
Davis and the resignation of President D wight, Professors
James Hadley, John Monteith, Eleazar S. Barrows, Will-
iam Kirkland, and John Wayland served the college for
short periods.

In the autumn of 1835, the Rev. Joseph Penney, D. D.,
of Northampton, Mass., was elected to the presidency.
He was a thorough and accurate scholar and a preacher
of much ability. Greatly to the regret of the friends of
the college he resigned his office in the year 1839.

Rev. Simeon North, D. D., then Professor of Languages,
was promoted to the presidency in 1839, and held this
position eighteen years. His administration covers a pe-
riod of much prosperity in the affairs of the college. At
the time of his election to the chair of Ancient Languages
only nine students were in attendance ; at his resignation
of the presidency there were one hundred and thirty-nine.
At his inauguration the treasury was almost empty ; dur-


ing his term of service it was largely replenished, new
buildings were erected, and several new professorships
created. Among the professors of this period mention
should be made of Rev. Henry Mandeville, D. D., in the
department of Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric and Elocu-
tion ; Rev. John Finley Smith, in Latin and Greek, suc-
ceeded in the same department by Edward North, L. H.
D. ; and Theodore D wight, LL. D., in Law, History, and
Political Economy ; Rev. Anson J. Upson, D. D., as
Professor of Logic, Rhetoric and Elocution ; and Rev.
William S. Curtis, D. D., as Professor of Mental and
Moral Philosophy.

President North was succeeded in the year 1858, by
Rev. Samuel W. Fisher, D. D., of Cincinnati. Dr.
Fisher's presidency, which lasted until 1866, was one of
great success. Eminent as a preacher, his services in the
pulpit and on the platform gained for the college a wide
public recognition. The number of students steadily in-
creased, the finances of the institution were augmented,
and its internal affairs were in many respects improved.
During his term of service Rev. William N. McHarg was
elected Professor of the Latin Language and Literature ;
Christian H. F. Peters, Ph. D., Professor of Astronomy ;
and Ellicott Evans, LL. D., Professor of Law, History
and Political Economy.

The Rev. Samuel Gilman Brown, D. D., formerly a
professor in Dartmouth College, was elected to the pres-
idency in the year 1866. We rejoice that the time has
not yet come for completing the record of his official life
in connection with this institution. During his adminis-
tration the college has received numerous and valuable
pecuniary gifts, and in all respects it stands upon a
broader and surer foundation than it has ever before oc-


cupied. Since his inauguration, Mr. Edward Wallenstein

Root served the college one year as Professor of Chemis-
try, but was removed by death, greatly lamented. Rev.
Samuel D. Wilcox also occupied the chair of Rhetoric
and Elocution very acceptably for about two years, when
his failing health compelled him to resign.

The present corps of instructors is as follows : —

Rev. Samuel Gilman Brown, D. D., LL. D., Pres-
ident, and Walcott Professor of the Evidences of Chris-

Charles Avery, LL. D., Professor Emeritus of

Rev. Nicholas Westermann Goertner, D. D.,
College Pastor. .

Oren Root, LL. D., Professor of Mathematics, Min-
eralogy and Geology.

Christian Henry Frederick Peters, Ph. D.,
Litchfield Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the
Litchfield Observatory.

Ellicott Evans, LL. D., Maynard Professor of Law,
History, Civil Polity and Political Economy.

Edward North, L. H. D., Edward Robinson Pro-
fessor of the Greek Language and Literature.

Rev. John William Mears, D. D., Albert Barnes
Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, and In-
structor in Modern Languages.

Albert Huntington Chester, A. M., E. M.,
Childs Professor of Agricultural Chemistry.

Rev. Abel Grosvenor Hopkins, A. M., Benjamin-
and-Bates Professor of the Latin Language and Liter-

Chester Huntington, A. M., Professor of Natural
Philosophy, and Librarian.


Henry Allyn Frink, A. M., Kingsley Professor of
Logic, Rhetoric and Elocution.

The treasurers of the college have been as follows :
Erastus Clark, from 1812 to 1825 ; James Dean, from
1825 to 1828 ; Othniel Williams, from 1828 to 1832 ;
Benjamin W. Dwight, M. D., from 1832 to 1850 ; Oth-
niel S. Williams, LL. D., from 1850 to the present time.

The trustees of the college have uniformly been men of
high repute in every walk of life. In the words of Pres-
ident Fisher, they have been " men wise in their genera-
tion, strong in intellect, full of enterprise, and the recip-
ients of honor and respect from the State and the

It would be difficult to enumerate all the benefactors of
the college. From the beginning until now, it has been
cherished and helped forward by the contributions of
the poor, and those in moderate circumstances, as well
as by the ampler gifts of the rich. The town in which it
is located has always done generously in its behalf. In
the raising of funds for its endowment the several presi-
dents and professors and treasurers and many of the trus-
tees have taken an active part. Special notice should be
made of the labors, at an early day, of Rev. Caleb Alex-
ander, of Fairfield, and subsequently of Professor Charles
Avery, who, first during the presidency of Dr. Dwight,
and afterwards of Dr. North, devoted himself with much
energy and perseverance to an increase of the college re-
sources. The institution is greatly indebted to the faith-
ful and untiring services of Professor Avery. In the
year 1859, Rev. N. W. Goertner, D. D., was appointed
a special commissioner, to secure a more ample and per-
manent endowment of the college. He has prosecuted
his work from that time to the present with great zeal


and efficiency. During his term of service, and chiefly
by his exertions the sum of two hundred thousand dol-
lars and upwards has been raised for the benefit of the

The South College, the Commons' Hall, now used as
the Cabinet, and the old President's house, now occu-
pied by Professor Chester, were built during the adminis-
tration of Dr. Backus. The Oneida Academy Hall was
removed, and the Chapel and Kirkland Hall and Dexter
Hall were erected (though the latter was not finished)
during the presidency of Dr. Davis. Dexter Hall was
afterwards completed by a special subscription raised for
that purpose by President North. The Commons' Hall
was fitted up for a Mineralogical and Geological Cabinet,
and the Gymnasium, the Laboratory and the Astronomi-
cal Observatory were erected during Dr. North's presi-
dency. During the same period, also, the old President's
house, which stood a few rods southeast of the South
College, was removed to its present position ; additional
land east of the College buildings was purchased, and
the entire grounds were laid out in their present order.
The Library Hall and the new President's house were
erected during the administration of Dr. Brown.


This school has been almost wholly contemporaneous
with Hamilton College. In the fall of 1813, one year
after the Hamilton Oneida Academy had been elevated
to the rank of a college, the friends of education in this
vicinity endeavored to raise the sum of $3000 by
subscription for erecting a new academy. The effort
failed of success, because the inhabitants of the town
had recently given out of their scanty resources all they


could spare to help endow the College. But they were
not disheartened by this failure. In the year 1815,
they organized a stock company, the members of which
were to own the property, and receive whatever dividends
might arise from the rent of the building and grounds.
It was confidently believed that the stock would pay
annual dividends of fifteen per cent. The estimated cost
of the edifice was $2000, and the stock was divided
into shares of twenty dollars each. Subscriptions having
been obtained to nearly the required amount, the build-
ing was erected. It was forty feet long, twenty-six
wide and two stories high ; and it was built of brick.

The engraving shows the appearance of the building
after a rough usage of fifty years ; it has recently been
remodeled and much improved, under the direction
of Mr. A. P. Kelsey, principal of the Rural High
School, and is now occupied by him. The land on which
the building was to stand was given by David Comstock,
in payment for four shares of stock. The bricks were
made by General Collins, near Middle Settlement. The
timber was furnished by James D. Stebbins, in payment
of stock. No dividends were ever declared upon the

In the interim between the closing of Hamilton Oneida
Academy and the opening of the new institution, a
classical school was set up in the second story of the
building now occupied by Judge Williams as a law
office, the lower story being then used as a cabinet
shop. It was taught by the Rev. Comfort Williams,
assisted by Moses Bristol. Next year, it was removed
to the building on College Street next east of the acad-
emy, and it was taught by William Groves. Next year,
it was opened in its original place, and was taught by



George Bristol. Mark Hopkins, since widely known as
President of Williams College, and Charles Avery and
Horace Bogue were among the pupils of this year. In
the fall of 1816, the school was transferred to the new
brick building on " the Flats," and placed under the
care of Rev. Joel Bradley. Mr. Bradley held the post
only a year or two, and was succeeded by Rev. William
R. Weeks.

This gentleman was somewhat original in his modes
of discipline, as the following instance will show : In the
absence of clocks and watches in the school-room, Mr.
Weeks set up a pendulum from the ceiling, at one end
of the room, the continuance of whose vibrations should
determine the length of a recitation, or a play-spell or
a penance. When the boys when out for a recess, they
were permitted to set the pendulum a-swinging for them-
selves, though if they swung it so hard as to make the
weight strike the ceiling, or if they played longer than
the pendulum vibrated, they each received a black mark.
Alas ! the temptation was too strong for many a lad to
resist. And so it happened that the pendulum weight
(which was an old horse-shoe), by its repeated thwack -
ings broke the plaster of the ceiling in pieces, and the
boys' legs kept in motion out of doors long after the
chronometer within was still. Of the sore punishment
which these transgressors received there are those now
living who could feelingly relate.

At what precise time the Female Department of this
school was organized, I am unable to learn. Only it is
believed that Miss Mary Hayes was the first teacher,
and this probably in the year 1817. She was succeeded
by Miss Mary Heywood, and she by Miss Julia Hayes,
and the latter by Miss Delia Strong.

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Rev. Dr. Kendall, of New York. Miss Matilda Wallace,
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Mich., the Misses Elizabeth Bradley. E. C. King, Anna
and Mary Chipinan. and bv Dr. John C. Gallup and

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 17)