Address by Frederick L. Greene, Esq. President of the Board of Trustees.
Sanderson Academy owes both its name and its beginning as a school to the Reverend Alvan Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson was a member of the family of that name, prominent, particularly in Whately and in Ashfield, since colonial days. He was born in Deerfield, and graduated at Williams College. He was installed as colleague pastor with the Reverend Nehemiah Porter of the Congregational Church here, in 1808, and served as such until dismissed at his own request, because of failing health, in January 1816; but little more than a year before his untimely death, June 22, 1817, at the early age of 36.
One of Mr. Sanderson's successors as pastor here, the Reverend Doctor Thomas Shepherd, the first historian of this town, has paid a touching and worthy tribute to Mr. Sanderson as a man, a teacher and a minister. From Dr. Shepherd's sketch, and from tradition, we are sure that as a clergyman our founder left lasting results for good in this community. But we are today more interested in him as a teacher, and more than that an educator, who had the courage and the foresight to establish here a school which has lasted for more than One hundred years, and which is entering upon its second century of corporate existence with even greater prospects of success than it began its first.
Sanderson Academy was opened as a private school by Mr. Sanderson in 1816, the year of his resignation as a minister. Of the month of this beginning we have no record. But as Mr. Sanderson died in June of 1817, our present Commencement season, it is evident that he taught for little, if any, more than a year. We can well believe in view of his declining health, if not from the date of his will, May 12, 1817, that the opening of this school was with no thought of private gain, but with a fixed purpose to start a work which would endure, and with an anxious and an earnest wish, himself to see the beginnings of an institution, doubtless long the cherished hope of his life.
The incorporation of the trustees to whom Alvan Sanderson had given from his little all for the establishment of this school followed four years later, June 15, 1821. This was done by act of the General Court, or Legislature, being Chapter 19, of the Acts of 1821. This was the natal day of the institution which we know. The date of its legal birth. Before that, though an active school, it had been in embryo as a living being.
The reasons for incorporation were doubtless several in number. First, perhaps to carry out what may have been known to be Mr. Sanderson's wish. For in his will he requested the incorporation of the Church to which he left $1,000. Second, perhaps, a belief that additions to the funds of the school would be more readily obtained for it, a corporation, rather than for trustees, the nominees of only a private individual. Third, the greater assurance of the perpetuity of the institution, and the belief that its property would be more readily handled by a corporation than by an unincorporated board.
The latter reason was largely fanciful. There was no legal necessity for incorporation. The second reason I have suggested was probably of real weight. But I am disposed to think that the controlling factor in the matter was that that generation was the age, at least in Massachusetts, of incorporated schools.
This fact naturally leads to thought of the status of education in the Massachusetts of that day. There were then in this state but two colleges, Harvard and Williams. There are now twenty-three enumerated in the Manual for the General Court, including in this list three Universities, two Technical schools, and four colleges or schools for professional training. And I believe this list incomplete.
Among the twenty-three are five colleges for women. Amherst College, though celebrating this week its Centennial like ourselves, was not incorporated until 1825. Mount Holyoke was founded in 1837.
Information as to secondary schools so-called, (that is as I here use the term), schools just below colleges in grade, fitting pupils either for college or for immediate entrance upon work, as do our academies and high schools, is less easy to obtain either for 1821 or 1921. The number now is legion, in 1821 it was small.
This much is certain as to 1821. There was no school in the state called a high school. That term first appears in the statutes in 1857, and then in the title, not the text, of the Act. But there were from the earliest times in some towns some public school between ordinary district schools and colleges. Not all secondary education was left to private schools.
The earliest statute of the state upon the subject was passed in 1789. Every town containing fifty families was required to provide "a school-master or school masters, of good morals, to teach children to read and write, and to instruct them in the English language as well as in arithmetic, orthography and decent behavior." While every town of two hundred families was to provide "a grammar school master, of good morals, instructed in the Latin, Greek and English languages." The schools taught by such masters were of course called Grammar Schools. To their courses of study were added by statute in 1826 "history of the United States, book-keeping, surveying, algebra and geometry."
As late as 1817, Dedham, the county seat of Norfolk County, was indicted and convicted for failure to provide a properly qualified grammar schoolmaster.
With such meager requirements for schools above the primary grade it is not strange that the first few decades of the Commonwealth were prolific in the establishment of incorporated Academies. Between the adoption of the Constitution in 1780 and February 1822, forty-seven academies were chartered by our Legislature, of which seven were located in the District of Maine. In the next 26 years the number increased largely, there being 64 created in that period.
This latter period saw practically the end however of new incorporations. Grammar or high schools began to be common, and in the forty years from 1848 to 1888 only 18 academies saw their beginnings.
Franklin County, "Little Franklin" as it has been termed almost since it was set off from Hampshire in 1811, was the seat of at least thirteen chartered institutions of learning between the incorporation of "The Trustees of New Salem Academy" in 1795, and of "Conway Academy" in 1853. Of these only New Salem Academy and Deerfield Academy, incorporated in 1797, are older than Sanderson; and of the thirteen, strangely enough, these three, the seniors, and Arms Academy of Shelburne, incorporated in 1860, the junior, alone survive. There is however, in Bernardston, Powers Institute, a successful school of high school or academy grade, successor in fact, though not in name, to Goodale Academy incorporated in that town in 1833.
The full name of our own institution as established in 1821 was the cumbrous one of "The Trustees of Sanderson Academy and School Fund," given doubtless to emphasize the fact that it had a fund for its support. This name was changed in 1889, by Chapter 240 of the Acts of the Legislature of that year, by dropping the last three words, so that the present legal title is "The Trustees of Sanderson Academy."
The first move toward incorporation was taken at the third meeting held October 27, 1818, of the trustees appointed by Mr. Sanderson's will. They had first convened July 17, 1817, but little over three weeks after his death, organized by the choice of Reverend Josiah Spaulding of Buckland as President, Ephriam Williams and Enos Smith, both of Ashfield, as treasurer and scribe. They had then voted to "expend the interest of fourteen hundred dollars, the ensuing year, if necessary, to support the School." Fourteen Hundred Dollars was the estimated amount of money left by Mr. Sanderson for a fund. It is doubtful if the full amount was realized. The vote shows a commendable spirit of thrift, both in amount and in the evident purpose not to trench upon the principal for current expenses. The spirit of thrift has survived to this day, but the purpose of keeping the fund intact was soon overlooked if not forgotten.
At the first meeting a committee was chosen to make rules for the School, and continued in service at the second meeting held August 19, 1817. This committee consisted of the President, and Reverend Joseph Field of Charlemont and Elijah Paine, the only lawyer on the board, the only lawyer save one, the late David Aiken of Greenfield, ever settled in the town so far as I am aware.
These rules, whatever they were, the records alas, do not show, were adopted at the meeting of October 27th, already referred to, at which meeting Thomas Longley of Hawley, better known as General Longley, an ancestor of the Longleys of Northampton, Elijah Paine, later known as Judge Paine, and Thomas White, known all his life as Squire White, were appointed a committee to petition the Legislature to "incorporate the persons appointed by Mr. Sanderson trustees to the property given by him for the support of a grammar school and all donations that may be given for the same purpose."
This committee evidently took no action, for at the annual meeting in August, 1818, it was voted that they should petition the Legislature before the next annual meeting, and that the names of Deacon Joseph Lyman, Deacon Thomas Sanderson, Reverend Theophilus Packard and Mr. Asa Sanderson, a brother of the Founder, should be added to the list of proposed incorporators.
Still the committee was inactive. We have no record of meetings in 1819 or 1820, but January 23, 182l, at a meeting called by notice, it was again voted to apply to the General Court for an act of incorporation, and to request the including of the names of Rev. Theophilus Packard of Shelburne, Rev. Moses Miller of Heath, Dea. Thomas Sanderson of Whately, Rev. Thomas Shepherd, and Messrs. Asa Sanderson, Samuel Bement and Dimick Ellis of Ashfield.
A new committee was appointed for the purpose, consisting of Elijah Paine, Rev. Joseph Field and Thomas White.
This committee acted with promptness. The Legislature met then in May, and a petition signed by all the committee was presented May 24th. A report was made in the Senate June 2, in the style of that day that, "the petitioners have leave to bring in a bill." This was done, the bill passed in the Senate June 8, was sent down to the House where it passed June 13 with an amendment to the title, making the words "The Trustees of the" a part thereof. It was finally enacted in both branches and signed June 15, 1821.
I recently examined in the Archives of the Secretary of the Commonwealth the legislative journals and papers concerning this act, looking for something of interest to recount here today. The papers are but two, the original petition and the draft for the bill. Each consists of a single quarter sheet of letter size. The petition covers but two pages, and is, I believe, in the hand of Thomas White. The bill is in a hand unknown to me, probably it was written by some member of the legislative committee which reported it. It is pretty well covered by endorsements, one by John Phillips, President of the Senate, one by Josiah Quincy, Speaker of the House, later Mayor of Boston, and President of Harvard College.
The petition is endorsed by E. Hoyt, Chairman of the Committee, which gave leave to bring in a bill. He was Elihu Hoyt of Deerfield, Senator from this district, to whose care no doubt as well as that of Henry Barrett, members of the House that year from Ashfield, our committee had entrusted it. One fact of great interest is shown by the petition. It recites with some particularity the terms of Mr. Sanderson's will, and states that his personal estate will amount to at least $1,400, to which $600 have been added by subscription; it also states that he gave for the purpose of the school one half of the school building, and that Thomas White had made over to the trustees the other half of said building.
This solves a question which had puzzled me for more than 40 years. The will did give to his trustees his one half of the school building, it did not state who owned the other half. There is no record in the Registry of Deeds of any conveyance of that one half from anyone. Our oldest trustees when I came on the Board, Henry S. Ranney and Frederick G. Howes, whose memory ran back to at least 1839, Albert W. Crafts, who lived beside the building most of his long life and who was active as a trustee for many years, could throw no light upon this missing link. Not even the descendants of Thomas White knew of, or remembered, the matter. Now an almost idle search at the State House brings a statement of the truth from the men who took part in the transfer.
John Brooks was Governor of Massachusetts from 1816 to 1823, a name familiar to few of us today. He of course signed the act engrossed on parchment as was then the custom. I did not look that up, the printed copy in our Special Laws, or the manuscript copy in the Academy's own records were enough for me. But that engrossed copy must have omitted the name of Asa Sanderson, which was included in the bill actually reported, for his name does not appear in the printed act, and his name was needed to make the full list of fifteen trustees authorized by the act.
This error was corrected in a measure at the first meeting of the trustees after their incorporation, when Asa Sanderson was unanimously elected a member of the board.
From this time, 1821, forward, materials for a history, even a sketch of the school are few, and fragmentary at that, for nearly sixty years. We have the records of the trustees from their first meeting in 1817, but in many of the intervening years down to1866 there were either no meetings, or no record of any; and from August 4, 1866, to 7th April, 1877, there is absolutely no record of any meeting or action whatever. Since 1877 the records are full and complete. The early records do give us the names of the trustees chosen from time to time, and not much else of value; for they of course contain no list of pupils of the school, and only a very incomplete list of the teachers.
In the "History of Ashfield" the late Frederick G. Howes wrote the chapter on the Academy. He was a trustee from 1863 until his death in 1917, and president for the board for the last 18 years of his life. In that chapter he gives to quote his words "the names of nearly if not all the teachers employed up to 1879. Some were employed for one term, others for several." That is the nearest to a record of those who once taught here which can now be found.
If we have scant records of the doings of the trustees in meeting assembled, still scanter are the records of their financial transactions. No treasurer's books or accounts are to be found for any of the period from 1817 to 1879. The trustees' records contain many votes allowing bills against the corporation, an occasional reference to some gift of apparatus or some subscription for repairs, and during 20 or 30 years frequent references to the Fund established by the Founder, and somewhat increased by subscription. This Fund was the subject of much interest and discussion in the town for at least two generations. The discussions were not free from rancor, bitter feelings were engendered and one law suit resulted. There was a feeling among some that the trustees had not merely carelessly allowed the Fund to be dissipated, but had misapplied both income and principal, and lined their own pockets. I remember as a boy an occasional reference to the Fund as some existent, but lost or misplaced, Genii, that ought to be supporting a school in the then decaying and usually unoccupied building. This suspicion was I am satisfied almost entirely groundless. The early trustees did not prove to be wise custodians of a fund. It was spent in current expenses in about 20 years. But the Fund was small to begin with, and there was no reason to believe that it ever reached the amount of $3,000, which was the smallest amount ever mentioned by critics of the board. The original trustees in their petition to the legislature estimated the amount to be received from Mr. Sanderson's estate at $1,400, and stated that $600 had been added by subscription. This I believe was the maximum of the Fund, and even this existed largely on paper, and much of it was I believe never realized.
And when I say on paper I mean that the Fund consisted almost entirely of individuals notes of hand, running, either to Mr. Sanderson or to the Trustees. It is to be remembered that this was before the days of stocks and bonds, with which we are now blessed or cursed. There were no Liberty Bonds, there were no railroads; there were no industrial corporations; there was no Savings Bank in Western Massachusetts, and but one in the state; there was no commercial bank in the county, and but one or two west of Worcester. A man's wealth then consisted solely of real estate, tangible personal property in his barns or storehouses, specie and notes secured by mortgage or otherwise; and our real estate records show that mortgages in those days were few.
Unsecured notes of hand are notoriously uncertain investments; subscription papers or notes given for charitable purposes rather more so. The value of each depends not only on the solvency of the maker, but on his continued solvency, and sometimes upon his life. A body of fifteen men, chosen as much for scholarly attainments and interest in education as for skill as investors, cannot handle such evidences of indebtedness as came to the hands of our predecessors with the success of an individual who makes the acquirement of wealth his life's aim.
That the trustees were indiscreet, and at times unwise, I doubt not. They were probably secretive as to the amount of the Fund; they probably resented criticism or even inquiry from outsiders; they spent sums from time to time in paying bills for labor by some one of their own number, when perhaps it would have been wiser to employ an outsider; but in the only recorded instance of a bill for services as trustee, that of a treasurer, the account was disallowed.
But the meagre fund was gradually eaten up. In 1834 the dissatisfaction as to its condition began to take form. The Executive Committee was authorized to take action to "ascertain the amount of the legacy of the late Rev. Alvan Sanderson which ought to be funded for the support of a school, and to take legal advice.
They reported that it ought to be $1,167.15, and January 1st, 1835, they reported that there was in the treasurer's hands $587.63. It was voted also in 1834 to see if subscribers to the fund would pay the interest on their subscriptions, and that if they would no further payments would be required. This it will be noted is nearly 18 years after Mr Sanderson's death. His estate was still unsettled, as it continued to be as late as 1847; subscriptions were still uncollected. Slackness is evident, but not wrongdoing.
The last reference in the records to the Fund, as such, was January 24th, 1847. It then amounted to only $346.62, consisting of amount due from the treasurer of $28.98, notes dated in 1834, 1835, and 1842 amounting to $300.97, (two of which were paid only in part owing to the maker's becoming insolvent), and one horseshed valued at $16.67.
But the references to the Fund in the records for 1834 and 1835 to which I have referred were plainly the result of inquiries as to its management made by some of the heirs of the Reverend Mr. Sanderson. The meetings of the Trustees in 1829, 1830, 1831 were largely perfunctory; besides routine business there were two votes as to employment of a teacher who was to receive only the income from tuition fees as compensation. There is no record of any meeting in 1832, nor in 1833, nor in 1834, until September 23rd, a month later than the regular annual meeting. Evidently the Fund was not functioning, to use a modern phrase. The corporation might, well have been thought comatose, if not already dead.
But there came a change. The Board met in September, November and December; twice in January 1835, and again in August, October and November of that year; again in April, August and October of 1836. This renewed activity arose from the inquiries and complaints just referred to by some of the heirs of the Founder. The spokesman for the heirs was Chester Sanderson, a brother of the Founder, long a prominent and respected citizen of the town, later father-in-law of Senator Henry L. Dawes.
It appears from the records of the meeting of the Trustees of December, 1834, that Mr. Sanderson had written a letter to Gen. Thomas Longley, Vice-President of the Board; and General Longley and Gen. Asa Howland of Conway, another of the Trustees, were appointed a committee to answer that letter. These gentlemen with Thomas White, Esq., constituted the executive committee, which had been requested to examine into the situation of the Fund.
These committees reported at the January 1835 meeting, and it was voted to print their report for circulation. This was done. The letter of Mr. Sanderson was an "open letter," and it was printed as part of the reply. There is no copy of this report in the records of the Trustees, and I know of but one in existence. That is owned by Mr. Charles A. Hall, one of our oldest trustees, an Historian himself, the Town's Antiquary.
Mr. Sanderson's letter was spicy, and it brought action. For at this January, 1835, meeting the Trustees voted "that the Executive Committee be authorized to set up a school for one term immediately," and in the following August that "the committee set up a school not exceeding one year, the teacher to have the use of the Academy and tuition bills and no more."
The reply of the titled committee was dignified, but was specious rather than frank, and was not conciliatory in tone. Neither it, nor the action taken, satisfied Mr. Chester Sanderson and those acting with him; for, during the year he and others of the heirs brought in the Supreme Judicial Court a bill of complaint, or bill in equity, against Mr. White and the other trustees, which at a meeting in November, 1835, the Trustees appointed agents to defend, authorizing them to employ counsel. The agents naturally were Squire Paine and Squire White, and they employed as counsel Dewey and Grennell, then prominent lawyers in Greenfield, while Mr. Sanderson was represented by Wells and Alvord, equally prominent attorneys in Greenfield.
This case was argued in September, 1836, at Northampton, on demurrer. This means that the trustees took the position that if everything charged were true nothing could be done about it in that suit; or in other words that the heirs had mistaken their remedy. Thus no evidence was taken at all, the case decided nothing as to the administration of the Fund it was decided purely on questions of law.
The case was however a very important one. It was brought upon the theory that Mr. Sanderson's heirs were entitled to exercise what are known as visitatorial powers over his trustees, whether incorporated or not; in plain English had a right to call upon the trustees for an account of their dealings with the funds, and to hold them liable for any misapplication thereof. The bill alleged, undoubtedly truthfully, that the trustees refused to give any account of their doings, and it further alleged misappropriation.
The latter of course the Trustees would have denied had they not chosen to say rather, it is none of your business, you cannot complain. And this was in effect the argument of the counsel for the Trustees. They claimed that the Trustees were themselves visitors of the Fund, and that no one had oversight of them.
Our sympathies must be divided. The desire of the heirs for information and publicity we must all believe right. The feeling of the Trustees that it was not right that persons who simply happened to be heirs of the Founder should control them was but reasonable. But no one it would seem could sympathize with their claim that they were and ought to be a law unto themselves.
The case was almost the first in Massachusetts, almost the first in this country indeed, concerning the powers cf the Courts to enforce the proper administration of public or charitable trusts. It is almost as much of a landmark in our jurisprudence, as is the Dartmouth College case in the Courts of the United States. And as the opinion in that case was written by Chief Justice Marshall, the greatest of the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, so was the opinion in this case written by Lemuel Shaw, the greatest of Massachusetts Chief Justices. The demurrer of the Trustees was sustained. In other words the bill of complaint was dismissed, and with costs. This result must have been most satisfactory to the Trustees. It relieved them of many doubtless vexatious inquiries. But the pleasure must have been mixed with some anxiety, and their counsel must have been chagrined. For while deciding in their favor the Court did not adopt their specious reasoning. It simply held that the heirs of the testator could not hold them to account, but that the Attorney General, as representing the public could. Such has been the well recognized law ever since.
But as the Attorney General never was called upon to act in this matter it is pretty safe to assume that the heirs had no faith that they could prove real misappropriation or maladministration. Curiously there is no reference in the records of the Trustees to this case save the vote already quoted as to agents and counsel.
A school is of value to a community not so much because of its buildings or its funds, as through the education it imparts, the influences that it exerts or sets in motion. And these influences depend in varying degrees upon its Trustees or other governing board; its teachers; and its pupils. In all of these Sanderson Academy has been fortunate. Its Trustees have included very many of the leading citizens of this Town, and many useful and distinguished men and women of other towns. Its teachers have had in their number men and women distinguished as educators and in other walks of life. Its pupils have come from the most progressive families of this and other towns. They have from the first I believe been, while here, earnest students, and they have gone forth to useful and often eminent lives in every profession, in every calling, here and elsewhere.
An address but briefly sketching the names and lives of the Trustees, or of the Teachers, or of the Pupils of this School could be written which would more than fill the time we can give to these exercises today. Of some of these three bodies the distinguished men whom I am soon to present to you will speak. To a few only can I take time now to refer, and mostly only to those personally known to me.
The original board of Trustees contained four clergymen. Not a strange proportion, as the Reverend Alven Sanderson was careful to name men whom he knew to be interested in education, and as at that time the ministry had almost a monopoly of men of liberal education. The proportion of ministers upon the board has not been maintained, but it has usually contained one at least, as it does at the present time. No one of these first trustees lived even until my boyhood. But we all know, of prominence here in all the activities of the town, of Thomas White, of Elijah Paine, lawyer and Judge of the Court of Sessions, the early counterpart of our present day County Commissioners, of Thomas Longley of Hawley, a General in the militia of that day.
The History of Ashfield refers to these first Trustees as "no common men," and describes their meetings as " notable gatherings," quoting from an elderly lady's description of them, "There were giants in those days." It is possible our oldest graduate, the Reverend Doctor Perry, can tell us from personal knowledge of some of them.
There followed in the next generation many men whose names are still familiar, whose descendants are known to you all. I cannot take time to name them all, but among them were Hiram Belding, Sanford Boice, Samuel W. Hall, Daniel Williams, Alvan Perry, Dr. Charles L. Knowlton, Josephus Crafts. The earliest Trustee ever known to me personally was Wait Bement, chosen in 1838; a careful, thrifty man, who probably started more Ashfield boys on successful mercantile lives than any other person; one of the most painstaking and useful Justices of the Peace who ever lived in this town, or in any other; a skillful conveyancer, and wise administrator of estates for fifty years or more. His works live after him, and by the records of them I largely judge.
The name of Henry S. Ranney appears first as a Trustee in 1852. There is no record of his election. He served continuously until his death in 1899. He was President from 1877. Mr. Ranney is still remembered by many of you. He was Town Clerk for 50 years. All his life a student and a reader, as useful, careful and competent a conveyancer and administrator as Mr. Bement, and more actively occupied as such from his residence on the Plain. He was probably better informed as to the history of the town, and of all its institutions, than any other man of his generation. Although the Academy had practically died between 1866 and 1877, while he was a Trustee, he was one of those most active in its renaissance. He was of a judicial temperament; progressive and in sympathy with the times, he spent a brief period in the West as a young man; in his later years he mingled the conservatism of age with the enthusiasm of youth. He presided on all occasions with grace and dignity. With his quiet and deliberate manner he harmonized many disagreements. He rejoiced in the rejuvenation of the Academy which he assisted in bringing about, and by his wise and gentle counsels did much to re-establish it in the confidence of the people.
Charles Eliot Norton, Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard College, was chosen a Trustee in September, 1878. To him more than to any other man Sanderson Academy owes its re-birth. With George William Curtis he started the movement in 1878 which resulted, first in placing the building in a good state of repair, and in September, 1879, the re-opening of the school, with a teacher engaged by the year. Since that date the school has been continuously maintained with a faculty consisting always of at least one, now of four.
Professor Norton served as Trustee until his death, always declining other office. No Trustee was so constant in attendance, none exercised anything like his influence on the board. He taught the Trustees, and all interested in the school, to work for it. He never, I believe, after an initial generous contribution towards repairs, gave it money, save by his will. He believed it an institution worth while for the Town to have, but he also believed that if it were to be worth while the people must believe it so, and work for it. He knew that we appreciate far more that which we earn ourselves than that which is given to us.
But while Professor Norton gave no money he gave lavishly of his time and thought. He instituted in 1879 the famous Academy Dinners which carried the name of Sanderson almost round the world. These owed much of their fame to Mr. Curtis, who spoke each year, as long as he lived, as only he could. But to each for twenty years Mr. Norton brought one or more guests of national or international fame, and a host of others who helped make the dinners occasions of far more than local interest.
But while Mr. Norton's personal interests were with the scholarly side of the school he was the soundest and most valuable financial adviser that the Academy ever had. He it was who in 1880 induced the Trustees to set aside from the proceeds of a Fair the sum of $400 as a Permanent Fund, the income only to be used. This was a beggarly sum compared even with the rather mythical $2,000 of the original Fund. But it was the principle of the thing that counted. None of the then Trustees was responsible for the evaporation of the original Fund, but they began to feel that the school needed a fund. Once started it grew like a mustard seed. Almost every year some sum was added from the proceeds of a dinner. Seeing the Trustees trying to help themselves a few Ashfield people made gifts to the Fund. Other gifts came from friends of Mr. Norton, until in 1885 Mr. John W. Field of Philadelphia gave us the "Field" of 3 1/2 acres for a playground, on which in 1888 and 1889, his widow, Eliza W. Field, erected our present buildings. She later gave $3,000 for an endowment, and also her house and land here from which $7,500 was realized for the Fund. To the Fund was also at about the same time added the proceeds of the sale of the old Academy grounds and buildings, some $1,400, I believe. And in 1903 came a bequest from Alvan Sanderson, a nephew of our Founder, of almost his entire estate, about $5,000. So this little fund of 1880 of $400 has grown in 41 years to about $25,000, and so wisely has it been cared for that I believe no dollar of principal or interest has been lost in its history.
Not less important than the gifts just detailed was the addition to and entire remodeling of the Academy building only a few years ago by contributions from its friends, of which the largest was from Milo M. Belding, born here, always retaining his interest in the town, giver of, and endower of, as perfect and suitable a Library as is to be found in New England. His son was one of our Trustees, so also are a son and a daughter of Professor Norton. Save these three I believe that all but one of our present board are graduates of Sanderson Academy. I would that time permitted me to speak of other Trustees to whom the Academy owes much, and of whose services I know well, my own election having been in 1880. I can only mention among others, active in bringing about the renaissance, Frederick G. Howes, President from Mr. Ranney's death until his own; Alvin Hall for many years, treasurer; Archibald D. Flower, long secretary, and indefatigable member of the Executive Committee; my widely loved father, Reverend Lewis Greene.
But I must recall to your minds two women, the first woman elected to the board. The talented Elizabeth Curtis, whose service on the board was all too short, whose interest in and for the Academy began with her young girlhood, and Amelia S. Ford. Miss Curtis in her brief service took an active part in the meetings of the board, speaking almost with the charm of her gifted father. Mrs. Ford was usually silent at board meetings unless called upon for her opinion. And this happened not rarely. Born in Shelburne, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, later a valued teacher in the public schools, still later a faithful member of the School Committee of the Town, for many years a member of the faculty of this school, and for some periods acting principal, Mrs. Ford did more than any individual, save Mr. Norton, to keep the torch of education burning in this Academy. I am told that in all her long service as a teacher she never missed a school session, and never once was tardy. This school owes her memory a great debt.
Of other teachers of the school I must make but brief mention, including as the list does Mary Lyon, the first great woman educator; Henry L. Dawes, long United States Senator; P. Emory Aldrich, a distinguished jurist, for twenty-two years a Judge of the Superior Court of the Commonwealth, both of whom I had the pleasure of knowing; and our own Frederick G. Howes, of whom I have spoken as Trustee, an excellent teacher.
But I must speak more at length of Ward W. Mitchell, who taught many terms here, and under whom it was my good fortune to be the fall term of 1869, the winter term of 1870. He was then about 50 years of age, a graduate of Williams College, a teacher all his life.
It was later my good fortune to spend two years at St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire, four years at Harvard College and two years at the Harvard Law School. The best schools, the best college, perhaps in the country. I met in each place great men, great teachers; but I met no man who excited in me, and in his other pupils, greater enthusiasm, more earnest endeavor in the work in hand, than Ward W. Mitchell. The school was small then, about 25 in the fall, 15 in the winter, and there was no shirk or loafer in either term. The classes were small, many of only eight or ten, some of one or two. I think Mr. Mitchell had nearly 20 recitations a day. Reading and spelling were the only studies we took as a school. He was an accomplished classical scholar, a brilliant mathematician. He interested us in natural sciences and he taught English, our mother tongue, best of all. He was a wonderful, all around teacher. If our present faculty combines in its members his all around capacity they are maintaining a good school.
I have left myself no time in which to even refer to the pupils of the Academy. And yet it is by its pupils that we measure in the long run the worth of a school. Sanderson Academy need not shrink from the test. To recite the names even of its scholars would be like reading the census lists for a hundred years. It would embrace at one time or another a very large proportion of the men and women who have made Ashfield what it is. And its pupils have been scattered to all parts of the world. Here have had some part of their early training, many ministers and missionaries, lawyers and doctors, educators, journalists, authors, farmers and business men. We all recall with pride that Mary Lyon studied here before she taught here. We rejoice that we have with us our oldest graduate, a learned divine, Dr. Perry; one of America's distinguished educators, a pioneer in his line, our friend and fellow graduate, President Emeritus Hall. I remember with satisfaction and pleasure, as will some of you, that here a great grandson of one of our first trustees had some of his early training. I refer to the brilliant and lovable William Henry Hall, valedictorian of his class at Yale in 1880. Too early taken from this world. And we have with us today in the graduating class and in the school great-grandchildren of Childs Sanderson, a brother of the Founder. So the school still serves the town the Founder loved.
But I cannot go down the list further. In the next century other names will be heard here to become as honored as those of the past. They will do their work as faithfully and sturdily as did our predecessors. We shall pass from the scene. Let us each strive to equal the good in the past, and to so live and labor that our successors, a century hence, may look back to this generation with contentment.
F. L. G.