Calvin C. Woolworth.

A son's tribute; online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryCalvin C. WoolworthA son's tribute; → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Book .W? W7





Ube Icntcfterbocfter press





HAi 5 l«20

As I was coming into the hall this evening, I
received a program and in it I found my ad-
dress named, A Son's Tribute, I am grateful to
whoever edited that title into the program.
That tribute can never exaggerate the admiration,
the affection, and the love of that son for that fa-
ther. I never knew an act or heard a word of his
that I would have preferred omitted, and I am
glad of this appropriate opportunity to make
these public declarations.

Grace Chamberlain, daughter of Alfred Cham-
berlain, later wife of Calvin Walrad, handed me
this morning the Jubilee book of 1846, and as it
goes back of what I have prepared, even to the
first years of my father's work in the Academy, I
will read from the historical sketch. "For the
last sixteen years the school has enjoyed the effi-
cient and successful superintendence of its present
principal, and it is no more than a single act of
justice to say that it is largely indebted for its
commanding position to his untiring energy."

This reference, with what follows, completes the
sketch of Principal Woolworth's life here from
1830 inclusive to 1852.


JUNE, I919.

I HAVE been asked for reminiscences of the early
days of the academy and especially about my fa-
ther. I can give a few details in response to the
latter part of the invitation by reading from a
letter to Dr. VanderVeer, Vice Chancellor of the
Regents of the University of the State of New
York — as follows :

Buck Hill Falls, Pa., August 4, 19 17.

Your frequent references to the character and
work of my father have been very gratifying and I
now want to tell you something of his earlier days.
He was born in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in
1800, son of Rev. Aaron Woolworth, D.D. He
graduated from Hamilton College in 1822. Then
Principal of Monson Academy, Mass., 1822 to 1824.
Then principal of Onondaga Academy, 1824 to


1830. Then principal of Cortland Academy from
1830 to 1852. He was Trustee of Hamilton CoV-
lege from 1836 to 1880; President of the Board g)f
Trustees of Hamilton College from 1874 to i88q>,
and received from Hamilton the degree of LLX'i.
He was the founder and the first President of the
New York State Teacher's Association — 1847-
1848. In 1852 he became principal, at that time,
of the first and only New York State Normal
School at Albany. In 1 856-1 880 he was Secre-
tary of the Board of Regents. He was the orig-
inator of the Regent's questions, and of the summer
convocations of the Regents. He died in Brook-
lyn, N. Y., June 30, 1880, and was buried in Homer,
July 3, 1880.

Eighty years of life, sixty years of public ser-
vice as an educator, an uninterrupted life work.
It was a grave question whether he should make
the change from his established work in the Acad-
emy to the new and somewhat experimental
Normal School, which had not entirely overcome
the prejudice of the public.

At Homer he left a school of very high char-
acter, of about five hundred pupils. Five thousand
pupils had passed under his care. The Academy
a financial success, no debt, and some thousands
of dollars in the treasury — and he was supported
by a community of rugged, sturdy, honest people,
who loved the Academy and were united in giving
it their undivided support.


He once said to me, * * I never had any resistance
to my plans, but was always careful to make no
suggestions but such as were supported by com-
mon sense." Homer, at that time a village of
about 1500 people, was settled in the eighteenth
century by emigration from New England, who in
that beautiful valley, covered by a splendid forest,
gradually opened up their farms and with in-
dustry, frugality, and clean, honest living: — some-
thing like Elihu Root's description in one of his
recent addresses, where he says, *' There is a
plain old house on the hills of Oneida, in the
Mohawk valley, where in my youth truth and
honor dwelt."

Is it any wonder that such environments
should produce such men as at Clinton, Elihu Root,
and at Homer, as Andrew White, the Syrian Mis-
sionaries, Henry Jessup and Samuel Jessup, Henry
A. Nelson, D.D., who during the stormy days of
the Civil War was the Union Pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church in Saint Louis, Mo., and
whose descendants are now missionaries in Syria,
Edward Hitchcock, for many years pastor of the
American Chapel in Paris, Theodore Munger; two
United States Senators — James, or as we used to
call him, Jim Nye of Nevada and Ira Harris,
United States Senator for New York; his brother
Hamilton Harris, who once said, "But for Cortland
Academy we would both he plowing the Preble
flats"; Dr. Stephen Smith, Lawrence McCully,


Chief Justice of the Sandwich Islands; Frank
Carpenter and many other splendid men?

The religious influences were important . All the
denominations in the village — Congregational,
Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal — were united in love
for the Academy, and the weekly winter evening
meetings were generally conducted by Professor
Gallup, professor of Latin and Greek, himself a
Baptist, opening with his favorite hymn, "Alas
and did my Saviour bleed," and frequently as-
sociated with him was one or another of the
clergymen, and in that old Academy lecture
room the most solemn and tender atmosphere

Louis A. Miller, Professor of Mathematics, had
risen from an uneducated blacksmith. He be-
came interested in Mathematics and so absorbed
was he in the subject that he mastered the French
language that he might study the works of LaPlace
on mathematical astronomy and finally mastered
the subject to the solutions of Celeste, an achieve-
ment rarely accomplished. He had never thought
much of religion until he was finally so impressed
with the infinite and majestic work of the Creator
that he appeared in one of those evening meetings
and undertook to tell how it had led to his conver-
sion, and with a broken voice was compelled to sit
down, overcome with emotion.

This was about 1849, and I was recently de-
scribing the event when one of my hearers —


Amelia Stone Quinton — said, "I was present and
remember it perfectly."

One of the Trustees of the Academy was that
lovely Dr. Bradford, who as State Senator in about
1850, secured legislation for the relief of the County
insane from their deplorable condition. The first
movement of the kind and continued by Dr. Ste-
phen Smith who has given so many of the ninety-
seven years of his life in service for human welfare.

He whom you knew as Principal Woolworth
was universally beloved by the community and his
pupils, and let me assure you these sentiments were
appreciated and were reciprocated and he was al-
ways glad to continue his interest in and assistance
to the Academy from his position as Executive
officer of the Regents.

Andrew White's Biography says, "From the
first the public care of the early settlers has been
a church and second a school, and this school has
been speedily developed into Cortland Academy,
and as a boy of five or six years of age I was very
proud to read on the cornerstone of the Academy
my grandfather's name, Andrew Dickson, who was
one of the original founders and not unlikely there
came to my blood the strain which has led me since
to feel that the building up of a goodly institution
is more honorable than any other work.

"An idea which was at the bottom of my efforts
in developing the University of Michigan and the
founding of Cornell University" (and let me here


add, that at the Cornell Commencement last week
President Schurman announced that thirty thou-
sand Cornell graduates were scattered throughout
the world). "I shall never forget the awe that
came over me when as a child I saw Principal Wool-
worth with his best students around him on the
green making astronomical observations through a
small telescope."

He wrote me in 1915 — "I wish to thank you
especially for the memorial of your father, I have
read it with especial interest on various accounts,
partly for its historical value and partly for its re-
vival of him in the days of his principalship in the
little old town. In my early youth I held him in
great respect, even awe, and of course not daring to
make any near approach to him, but later when in
the Senate at Albany I came to know him and prize
his work with the Board of Regents. I recall with
great pleasure meeting him at Cornell, at Union,
and at Hamilton and his direct work for education
throughout the whole state exercised an important
influence happily felt in various other parts of the

' ' I am glad to know that Elihu Root came under
his influence and I presume that his father whom I
used to know at Syracuse Academy, before he went
to Hamilton owed some of the best features of his
development to your father."

Seymour Cook, Class of 1849, writes me from
Whitewater, Wisconsin, "Your father was a model


instructor and a disciplinarian unequaled. The
boys were full of mischief but with wonderful tact
and experience he was more than a match for the
brightest of them, and far better he retained their
respect and love." But the boys were not always
asleep and one Sunday morning, the distribution of
signs the previous night had left a milliner's sign
over our door and a blacksmith's sign over the
door of Rev. Mr. Fessenden.

One afternoon as all the pupils had gathered in
the Academy Hall for the closing exercises they saw
a lumber wagon on the stage and when Principal
Wool worth came in he assumed not to notice it, but
just at the close of the exercises he said, "Thomas
Smith, Elliot Reed, John Coye (and others) — I
wish you to remain after the dismissal." He then
told them to replace the wagon where they found it.

Homer has always been a clean, well-kept vil-
lage and seems to get more attractive every year.
And those beautiful acres on yonder hillside have
not been neglected, where so many of our beloved
— and in my case four generations of ancestors, de-
scendents, and wife for fifty-seven years — are now
awaiting the dawning of the resurrection morning.

These Centennial festivities which we have
been so generously invited to share have brought
back many faces and memories of more than
seventy years ago. It all fills me with emotions I
cannot express.




looo Park Avenue, New York, December 8, 1919.

My dear Cal. Woolworth :

Inclosed I send you the substance of my remarks
in regard to your Father with something addi-
tional. If not suitable for your purposes let me
know and will change it. I am glad you are about
to memorialize your Father's life and work. I
have not received the booklet which the Homer
folk are to publish. Trusting you are well and
with kind regards to your daughter,
Sincerely yours,

Stephen Smith.

The Principal, Prof. Samuel B. Woolworth, had
a State-wide reputation as a successful educator.
His familiarity with the habits and social customs
of the people peculiarly fitted him for the training
of the sons and daughters of the communities of the
Homer Academy District. He had a dignified
personality and a reserved manner which enforced


strict compliance with the rules of the Academy
and yet he was most genial and helpful when stu-
dents sought his aid or advice in regard to their

I was impressed with his genial, social nature on
my first attendance at a class recitation. I had
studied the languages at home during the intervals
of farm work and was not very well qualified to
enter a class commencing reading Livy. But that
was my classification and I entered the class of
twelve students all of whom had studied Latin
for two or three years. Our first lesson was, of
course, the preface of the history, a page in
length. I spent a day and night on its translation
and construed only two or three sentences so as to
be at all satisfactory. I entered the class greatly
depressed and with the determination to request
the Professor to transfer me to a less advanced

At the head of the class was an advanced student
of three years and the most intense interest was
manifested by the class when he was requested to
translate the first sentence. He failed entirely as
did each successive member of the class. When
the last failed the Professor construed the sentence
into the most perfect English and with a few re-
marks on the beauties of this remarkable piece of
classical Latin dismissed the class.

Quite unfamiliar with the rules of Academic
etiquette I boldly followed the Professor to his


private room and entering without invitation, I

''Mr. Woolworth I don't see how you put these
words together in such way as to make the sen-
tence you gave us in such fine English."

Smiling, probably at my boorish impertinence,
he discoursed for several minutes on the peculiari-
ties of the Latin construction of a sentence com-
pared with the English. This explanation was so
clear that I never had any trouble with Latin
after that interview and soon began to construe
correctly the difficult sentences which passed along
the class.

During the term the Professor was absent a
week in New York attending a convention and
when he left he assigned me to teach the next lower
Latin class much to the annoyance of the older
members of the first Latin class.


No paper would be complete without a special
mention of Principal Woolworth. From 1830 to
1852 Cortland Academy had a reputation not ex-
celled by any similar institution. Principal Wool-
worth was a man of rare ability, an excellent
teacher, a good executive and possessed of that
rare and much needed quality, tact.


Homer, N. Y., July 17, 1919.

Mr. C. C. Woolworth,

Lee, Mass.
Dear Mr. Woolworth:

I think it was in the winter of 1849 and 1850 that
I attended the Homer Academy for a few weeks.
I came from a very retired neighborhood about
seven miles west of Homer village where my op-
portunities for education were as limited as the
very crude teaching of the common schools of those
days made it necessary.

While in Homer during that brief time, I was
helped somewhat by having a little broader vision
than before, and received some impressions from
the large body of students gathered there and my
observation of some of the teachers. Your father
especially impressed me very much and I came to
think he was a man of great wisdom and of true
nobility, and with me he was an ideal man.

As he used to read the Scriptures in the morning
before the body of students, which I should think
was three or four hundred, his selections of those
beautiful psalms and other selections, coming from
those lips were never quite so beautiful and so in-
spiring. I have always cherished the memory of
him as he used to look on those occasions and the
fact that he represented noble things — that he
stood for religion, morality, and righteousness has
always been fresh in my thought and an encour-
agement to always be true to the best things.


I have no doubt but that he was regarded by the
mass of the students much the same as I regarded
him, and any opposition to the principal of the
school would have brought ignominy and disgrace
on the part of any pupil or combination of pupils.
When we consider the many thousand students
that came under his care, we must come to the con-
clusion that his influence extended far and wide.
I think I received more benefit from my personal
knowledge of Dr. Woolworth and the conception
I formed of his character and life than I did from
the teaching of the schoolroom during my brief

I am very glad of this opportunity to express my
very high appreciation of your father and my obli-
gation to him.

Very cordially yours,

E. G. Ranney.


Here within the influence of Cortland Academy
I formed many friendships and acquaintances
which even now I should be pained to have
broken. On the morning of my departure from
this village I took the hand of our principal to
bid him adieu. He gave me his recommenda-
tion and I then resolved that I would never


dishonor it or the precepts which he had taught


Cortland Academy has been for some time one
of the most flourishing institutions of its kind in
the State. It has six teachers (four gentlemen and
two ladies) and as many departments. The
course of study pursued in this institution is de-
signed to present a thorough preparation for ad-
mission to colleges and for active business in the
various spheres in which the youth of our country
are called to act. It is furnished with a valuable
philosophical and chemical apparatus, an extensive
and valuable cabinet of minerals and geological
specimens and a library. Lectures are delivered
on chemistry, natural history, and geology. The
healthful situation of the institution, the very few
inducements to vice, the moral character of the
community, and the assiduous attention of the
teachers to the duties devolving on them, exert
a very favorable and manifest influence over
the habits of the student. This institution
was founded February 2, 1819. The whole
number of students who attended during the
year ending December, 1836 was 366 — males,
211; females, 155.

S. B. WooLWORTH, A.M., Principal.


A s Reviewed by the State Department oj Education

The following communication from Albert Van-
der Veer, M.D., the venerable vice chancellor of
the board of regents, University of the State of
New York, was read by Mrs. E. W. Hyatt at the
opening meeting of the Homer academy centenary
celebration, June 25th, and is so interesting and
informing to friends of Homer's splendid academy,
that it deserves a place in these columns, as many
were not privileged to hear it on that occasion :

To the President and Trustees of the Cortland
Academy and Union School :

You are celebrating the one hundredth anni-
versary of the founding of an institution whose
work has been far above the average. The Cort-
land academy was incorporated by the board of
regents more than a century ago, the charter being
dated February 2, 18 19. No one can estimate the
value of the history recorded and the loyal support
of the students who have been in attendance dur-
ing this period of time. Naturally there have been
seasons of disappointments, periods of real anxiety,
yet, withal, there have been great successes, or
to-day you would not be here assembled to nar-
rate these facts, and to fraternize with each other.

All of these successful periods of public school

life were the great arteries of reproduction and
growth of the educational interests of this country,
and go back to the establishment of the first com-
mon school, in 1633.

The University of the State of New York was
organized in 1784, by act of the State legislature.
In that period of time there had been established
within the territory of New York several elemen-
tary schools, a few secondary schools, and King's
College, now Columbia University. Originally the
board of regents did not have jurisdiction over the
elementary or common schools, although in various
reports to the legislature, as early as 1787, they
suggested the establishment of such schools; how-
ever, not until 18 12 and 1813 was provision made
for a State system of common schools. It may be
said the first State system of education was inaug-
urated in this act.

It was now to be noticed that the educational
work of New York State became vested in two
bodies, i. e., the regents of the university and the
superintendent of common schools ; the former hav-
ing jurisdiction over academies and the higher in-
stitutions, the latter the elementary and secondary
schools. On so important an occasion as this it is
but natural you should turn to the legal authority
that watched over your early birth, development,
growth, and maintenance, and that has ever been
your steadfast guide and friend.

It has been my good fortune to meet and mingle


with some of the graduates who have gone out
from this institution, particularly among the mem-
bers of the medical profession. I have known
some of the teachers, and had a delightful, long
acquaintance with one of the many able, earnest
principals who have brought this school to its pre-
sent high standing. I refer to that eminent educa-
tor. Dr. Samuel B. Woolworth, your teacher and
principal from 1830 to 1852. I met Dr. Wool-
worth some years after he came to Albany, and our
friendship continued very closely up to the time of
his death. He told me much relating to this in-
stitution, and it must be recognized that while he
was here was evolved the idea of supplying teach-
ers for our common schools, by the development of
the normal school, first to make its appearance in
Albany, and in which he at one time occupied the
position of president.

Under the twenty-one years of his principalship
this institution you are honoring to-day ranked
among the foremost academies of the State. It
has retained in a great measure its prominence in
classics for which the **old line" academies were
distinguished, and, as a result, has probably sent
as large a number of well-trained students to the
colleges of New York and New England as any
academy of the State. It is interesting to refer to
the early reports of the academy. In 1846 there
were 338 students reported during the year, 137
of whom had pursued classical and higher studies


for at least four months. Three years later the
attendance had increased to 480, of whom 238 were
pursuing classical or higher studies. In 1851, the
last year of Dr. Woolworth's principalship, an at-
tendance of 575 was reported with 286 pursuing
the classics or higher English, notwithstanding the
fact that a tuition of five dollars per term was
charged; perhaps the pecuniary demands for tui-
tion may have been mitigated by the fact that
board was procurable for from $1 .50 to $2 per week.

In 1839 Dr. Woolworth reported the organiza-
tion of a department for the education of teachers
under the act requiring every academy in the re-
ceipt of more than seven hundred dollars from the
literature fund to establish such a department.
Students were charged fifteen dollars per annum
for tuition though "no student will be debarred
from the advantages of this department by in-
ability to pay the tuition." In 1840, forty-one
young men were reported as taking the course and
thirty-six engaged in teaching "with decided suc-

The idea of the State Normal School pledges
seems to have originated here, as in 1842 it was
decided to furnish gratuitous instruction to one
young man from each town in the county, in order
that they might become professional teachers and
they were required to subscribe to the pledge to
teach "some common school" for at least one year
after leaving the department.


But it was more particularly as secretary of the
board of regents that I knew Dr. Woolworth so
intimately in educational affairs. His belief in the
good work of such an institution as the Homer
Academy never faltered, and I feel that the suc-
cess that has been sufficient to carry you through a
period of one hundred years is largely due to his
sincere interest and unwavering loyalty. From
the beginning of your charter in 1819 many able
minds were giving thought to the educational in-
terests of this country, particularly in the State of
New York.

When we look back it seems a long time required
for the development of our educational system, and
we find recorded many efforts made for a higher
education than that afforded by the common
school, hence we see the bringing into existence of
academies, seminaries, private, select, and boarding
schools. Of the latter many were but too plainly
built on the hope of commercial success, but, in
1850, and for a few years following that, there was
a greater effort for systematic educational instruc-
tion, through the organization of such institutions
as yours.

In 1854 ^^6 3,ct to develop a State department of
public instruction evolved two distinct lines of
educational interests, and between these two more


Online LibraryCalvin C. WoolworthA son's tribute; → online text (page 1 of 2)