The Old New Hampton Institute built around 1852 and located in the vicinity of Ralph & Claire Lemnah's residence on Fireman's Pond Road in Fairfax

The new New Hampton Institute built in 1897 after the first one burned and located in the vicinity of Ralph & Claire Lemnah's residence on Fireman's Pond Road in Fairfax




To the Editor of the Free Press:

Perhaps you will allow a stray Vermonter to express the deep emotions he feels in reading of the conflagration of the New Hampton Institution at Fairfax. I could go to the spot on the farm up in Berkshire where work was stopped one forenoon, away back in the "fifties," by the arrival of two callers in a buggy. One was "Elder" Dunn, who did most of the talking. They were working up an endowment for the proposed school at Fairfax. The method was to take a man's note for twenty, forty or any number of dollars with the understanding that he need not pay it so long as he would keep up the annual interest. If paid of course the money would be invested. It is easy to see now what a poor and cheap way it was to create an endowment. But as a small boy listening I enjoyed the discussion (doubtless in no small part because it afforded a surcease from hoeing corn) and revolved in my mind how glorious it would be to go to such a school.

A year or two later I went. I remember the long ride over the stupendous hills of Fairfield, through the fortile vale of Buck Hollow, up the almost endless ascent beyond, till the dome of the Institution loomed in sight. I have lived to look upon the capitols, the palaces, the cathedrals and the universities of Europe, but never has anything seemed so grand as that building on that day. It was in the autumn of 1855. The school was then at its prime and thronged with students. Of young men whom I remember vividly, there was a Julian H. Dewey who has risen to the rank of tutor; and I thought him a fellow of the most princely bearing in the world; There was Guy C. Noble from my part of the country. What a cheerful genial youth! Both became leaders at the Franklin County bar. From my town there was Orville E. Babcock. He soon obtained a cadetship and went to West Point so opportunitus that he graduated in the eventful year 1861. Presently he was on the staff of General Grand and accompanied him through his campaigns till he came to bear that intimate and delicate part in the surrender of Lee at Appomatitox which is described by General Porter in the October number of the Century Magazine.

It was my great fortune to meet at Fairfax Charles Work, with whom I afterward entered the University. A finer scholar rarely has graced any school. His singular qualities were discovered in the class room of Prof. Upham where we obtained our drill in Latin and Greek.

All these young men have long since closed their career: and often am I wondering about a host of others whether they are now alive or dead. No one failed to catch an inspiration in that keen intellectual atmosphere if he were capable of inspiration. The stimulus of Prof. Upham's scholarship is probably remembered most appreciatively, but for my part I do not forget the brusque and vigorous drive in mathematics of Prof. Mark A. Cummings. It seems to me that I can feel to this day something of his impulse.

The presence of the "theologues" of course gave the Fairfax school an intense religious sentiment. Its palmy days were in the period of great revival which overspread the country in the decade prior to the war. In personal dealing with "inquirers" Prof. Upham has always been my model. So quiet his manner, so soft his lisping voice, yet so searching his questions, so lucid his explanations, and so authoritative the Christian rule laid down by him -- I am sure he directed a multitude of youth into the religious path. I have never forgotten to acknowledge my great obligation to him.

It is not at all difficult to appreciate today the weakness in the foundation of the New Hampton Institution. Its endowment was utterly precarious; its tuition fees were absurdly low; its theological course was simple in the extreme compared with the Seminary of the present hour. It was impossible that the school should endure in those conditions. Nevertheless in its best days it was the birthplace of scholars, both men and women. Nothing I have ever been permitted to see of the world has effaced or dimmed my love for the old school. A hundred times have I promised myself that some day I would go to Fairfax simply to walk once more through the long street and look up to the building that held so many precious associations and memories. It saddens me now to think that it can never be.

A single reflection may perhaps be permitted. If things are now in the hearts of boys as they were forty years ago in my mother State, what Vermont needs is endowed preparatory schools, Given an Eton, a Rugby or a Harrow, where the lad could go early, stay long, and fit thoroughly and Vermont should send out the finest scholars in the world. But there is an "if". If the boys are as they were in the times long ago; but I suppose, and I hope, they are even brighter and better.

First Presbyterian Church, Passaic, N.J.
Philo F. Leavens.


Below are photos in actual size of a pamphlet distributed by The New Hampton Institute for the school year 1893-1894 sent to me by a Janet Seymour


Along with this a wedding announcement from the newspaper of Helen E. Sheridan and Patrick H. McGue. Patrick & Helen E. (Sheridan) McGue were the parents of Ralph McGue. Ralph was born in Fairfield where his father was originally from and he and Harriet (Clay) McGue lived in the large white house on the corner of School & Main Street where Bill and Mary Rowell now live. Mary is the daughter of Ralph & Harriet (Clay) Mcgue

Henry A. Raymond
November 4, 2003