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Our common schools have ever been justly reckoned amongst the most important institutions of our country. Indeed, they may be considered as at the foundation of every thing valuable in our institutions. From these fountains of knowledge, open to all, without distinction of sex or condition, intelligence is diffused through the community, and with it, a love of country and an attachment to her institutions. The importance of these schools has been appreciated here, and the appropriations for their support have usually been liberal, when compared with those of towns of equal wealth and magnitude.
The people of this town are favored with opportunities for a higher education than is to be obtained in common schools, by means of the very respectable Academy located here. It is one of the oldest Academies in the state, and the character of its instruction is elevated and liberal. It was incorporated under the name of Leicester Academy, March 23, 1784. It owes its foundation to the generosity and public spirit of Col. Jacob Davis, and Col. Ebenezer Crafts, whose munificence was suitably acknowledged in the act of Incorporation. The liberality of these gentlemen, one of them resident in Charlton, and the other in Sturbridge, deserves the gratitude of posterity.* They purchased the commodious Dwelling House, then recently occupied by Aaron Lopez, and its appendages, together with an acre of land, which they conveyed to the Trustees of Leicester Academy, “ in consideration of the regard they bear to virtue and learning, which they consider greatly conducive to the welfare of the community." The value of this estate was $1716, and was situated directly in front of the present Academy buildings. During the same year, (1784,) Dr. Austin Flint, who bas ever been a firm patron of the institution, and whose Dame would fill a larger space in our history than we are allowed to give it, if we were at liberty to follow the dictates of our own feelings, conveyed one hundred and twenty four square rods of land to said trustees, “in consideration of a desire to encourage the Academy." The liberality thus exhibited towards this institution,
Col. Davis was a native of Oxford, but, at the time of his donation to the Academy, be resided in Charlton, where he owned a valuable estate, adjacent to the estate of his brother, the late Ebenezer Davis, Esq. deceased. He afterwards removed to Montpelier, in Vermont, of which he was à considerable proprietor, and was the first white settler of any respectability in that town, now the seat of Government of Vermont. Col. Crafts commanded the first regiment of Cavalry ever raised in this county. He removed from Sturbridge to the town of Craftsbury, Vermont, where he died. His son, Samuel C. Crafts, who prepared for College at this Academy, was, for many years, a member of Congress from Vermont.
was also manifested by many other public spirited gentlemen in the County. The town of Leicester, in its corporate capacity, gave £500 6 consolidated securities." The Hon. Moses Gill gave £150: Thomas Denny, and Thomas Newhall, of Leicester, Gen. Rufus Putnam, of Rutland, and Jeduthan Baldwin, of Brookfield, each gave the sum of £100: Mr. Reuben Swan gave £50: John Southgate, and Samuel Denny, of Leicester, and the Hon. Joseph Allen, Esq. of Worcester, and Timothy Bigelow, Esq. each gave £30 : and Isaiah Thomas, L. L. D. gave the sum of £20. Donations were also made by Samuel Green, and Samuel Green, Jr. Peter Taft, Capt. William Watson, and Samuel Watson, of Leicester; Timothy Paine, Esq. and Phinebas Jones, of Worcester; Caleb Ammidown, of Charlton, and John Pierce. Of the original subscriptions, the sum of $2890 was raised within the town of Leicester, and $1610 by donations from abroad. Besides these, the state granted to the Academy a township of land in Maine, and a grant to raise $2000 by a lottery in 1785, to repair their buildings. The late Hon. Mr. Gill, was ever a great benefactor to the institution, and gave, in addition to his former donation, a quantity of Books, for which he paid £30 sterling, in England, for the use of the students in the Academy. In 1811, Col. Thomas Newball, who had been one of its earliest and firmest supporters, died, and left by his will a legacy of $1000 to this institution, and the interest of another thousand, to be annually expended in defraying the tuition of those families in town, who reside more than a mile from the Academy. In 1819, Stephen Salisbury, Esq. and the Hon. Dwight Foster, each gave the surn of $50, and five individuals in Leicester, in 1820, and 1822, gave a sum equal to $583. These were Alpheus Smith, Hon. Nathaniel P. Denny, Henry Sargent, Austin Flint, and James Smith, Esquires. In 1824, the Commonwealth made a donation of a small farm in Paxton, estimated at $400. In 1823, Capt. Israel Waters, of Charlton, who had been long known as a man interested in public institutions, left, at bis death, most of bis estate to the trustees of this Academy, for the support of a teacher, under the restrictions and limitations of the devise. The exact amount to be realized from this estate has not yet been ascertained, but is estimated at eight thousand dollars.
The available funds of the institution, exclusive of the buildings, occupied for the schools, was, in May, 1825, $10,655; which, added to the Waters donation, places this institution on a respectable and independent foundation. It has ever enjoyed in a good degree
the public fayor and confidence and the highi character of its trustees and instructors has deserved that confidence.
The first meeting of the trustees was held, April 7, 1784, and the Hon. Moses Gill was elected President of the board: which then consisted of Ebenezer Crafts, and Jacob Davis, Esquires, Hon. Moses Gill, Hon. Levi Lincoln, Hon. Joseph Allen, Hon. Samuel Baker, Hon. Seth Washburn, Rev. Benjamin Conklin, Gen. Rufus Putnam, Rev. Joshua Paine, of Storbridge, Rev. Joseph Pope, Rev. Archibald Campbell, Hon. Timothy Danielson, of Brimfield, and Rev. Joseph Sumner, D. D. of Shrewsbury. The Hon. Levi Lincolo succeeded Mr. Gill as President, and was succeeded by Dr. Sumner, whose successor was the Rev Dr. Bancroft, who now presides over that board, alike honorably to himself and usefully to the institution.
There has usually been a principal and assistant teacher in this Academy: though, about 1789, the funds of the institution became embarrassed, on account of the depreciated state of the currency, and one instructor only was employed, and his salary in that year was paid out of the treasury of the town. For many years, two instructors have been employed, and, at times, three. There has been a succession of highly respectable med as Preceptors of this Academy, the whole number of whom our limits will not permit us individually to mention. The first in order was Mr. Benjamin Stone,* whose assistant was Mr. Thomas Payson. After a succession of Preceptors, Mr. Ebenezer Adams, took charge of the Institution, in 1792, and continued in that office till 1806, when he resigned it. As a teacher, his character was almost unrivalled. For the fourteen years he continued in that employment, he was uniformly respected and esteemed, as well by his pupils, as by the inhabitants of the town, and when he left, he bore with him the bighest testimonials of the regret of the trustees at his surrender of a place he had so usefully filled. Among those whose names would mention with respect, as having officiated as teachers in this Academy, are the Rev. Dr. Pierce now of Brookline, Drs. Jackson and Shattuck of Boston, Chief Justice Richardson, of New Hamp
* Mr. Stone was a native of Shrewsbury, where he now resides. He graduated at Cambridge, in 1776, and studied the profession of 'Theology, bul was never settled over any society,
† Mr. Adams was a native of New Ipswich, in N. H. He graduated at Dartmouth College, in 1791. In 1809, he was appointed to the professorship of Languages in that institution, and subsequently, to that of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, which he now fills with honor, fidelity, and usefulness.
shire, and the Hon. Timothy Fuller, of Cambridge, men of reputation too high either to need, or be advanced by encomiums of ours. The late eminent and lamented Bishop Dehon, of Charleston, S.C. was a preceptor here, in 1796.* Mr. Adams was succeeded by the late Rev. Dr. Moore, and he by the Rev. Luther Wilson, now of Petersham, whose successor was the Rev. Josiah Clark, of Rutland. The present principal instructor of the Academy is, Mr. John Richardson : the preceptor of the English department, Mr. Increase S. Smith.
In 1824, a respectable Philosophical apparatus was procured in London, through the agency of the Rev. Dr. Prince, of Salem, by individuals of the town of Leicester, and given to the Academy.
This institution may now deservedly claim a bigh rank among those of our country. The salaries to its officers are liberal ; it is located in the centre of a rich and populous county, and in a situation pleasant, healthy, and retired from the confusion and dissipation of the dense population of a large town. The situation of the Academy building is high, and commands a fine prospect. The exterior of the building is neat and well proportioned ; its interior commodious and well designed. It is three stories high, with sixteen lodging rooms or parlors, besides a dining hall, library, school room, and chapel, and cost between eight and nine thousand dollars. It was intended to accommodate the students with commons, if desired, and a steward occupies 'a portion of the building for this purpose. Connected with the Academy, is a literary society of the students, possessed of a considerable library.
This was, for many years, the only Academy in the County of Worcester, and is among the oldest in the State: Though our detail of its history may have been tedious, the importance of the subject which seemed to require it, must be our apology.
There are no other literary institutions in town. There are two or three Social Libraries, containing, in the whole, about a thous
Bishop Dehon was a native of Boston, and was born Dec. 8, 1776. He entered Harvard University at the age of 14 years, and graduated in 1795. The next year, though but 19 years old, he was employed in the English department of Leicester Academy, and there won the respect and esteem of every one connected with the institution. He was admitted to the order of Priest in 1800, and took charge of the Church in Newport, R. I, where he was remarkably popular and acceptable as a preacher. His ill health, in 1809, induced him to become rector of St. Michael's Church, in Charleston, 9. C. In 1812, he was unanimously elected Bishop of the Diocess of South Carolina, which office he sustained till his death, August 6, 1817, when he fell a victim to the yellow fever. He died at the age of 41, and of him, it might with propriety be said, " his epitaph should be his name alone." VOL. II.
and volumes of well selected books. The people would be far from being inclined to boast of the effect of these institutions for the promotion of knowledge. The effect of them has been rather to give a good education to many, than to educate a few at the expense of others. Although a majority of the inhabitants in town have, at one time or other, availed themselves of the benefits of the Academy here, there have not more than eight persons graduated from any College, who were natives of the town, since the year 1784, and of these, not one studied theology.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY-As we have already observed, the records of the town do not go back beyond March, 1721, and the records of the church, as distinguished from those of the town, have not been preserved till within thirty years. In consequence of this, it is impossible to learn when the Congregational Church here was tirst formed. That it had been formed before March 30th, 1721, appears probable: since, at a town meeting then held, the question of settling Mr. David Parsons, as pastor was acted upon. He had, before that time, received a call to settle as their clergyman, and then gave his answer, accepting their invitation. He was the first clergyman of the town, and was installed in September, 1721. He had been previously, settled in Malden, and dismissed from that people. The terms of his settlement here were, that he should receive a gratuity of £100, be removed, with his family, from Malden, at the expense of the town, and be paid £75 salary per annum. For an additional encouragement, the town gave him forty acres of land in rear of the meeting house, and outlands enough to make up 100 acres. The unanimity of the people on this occasion in addition to the circumstances that some, at least, of his former people, removed with him to Leicester, promised that his connexion with this society would be useful and happy. But it proved far otherwise. He was a man of strong passions, and after a few years, there was very little disposition manifested by many of his people, to quell these passions, when excited. What originated these difficulties it would perhaps be impossible now to ascertain. The embarrassed and straitened circumstances of the people of the town might have been a cause of their neglecting to pay him his annual salary according to contract. In consequence of this neg. lect, he complained to the Quarter Sessions, in 1728. To this complaint the town made defence, and a long and unhappy lawsuit ensued. It is impossible, and would certainly be unprofitable, to trace the progress of these domestic difficulties. Such, hower .