Williston Northampton and Local History . . . Your History!

The Tale of The Lion

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

We are not a campus of monuments.  Other schools may have their statues of alumni Presidents, of creepy idealized schoolboys, of King Ozymandias . . . Williston has a statue called “The Actor,” generally understood to represent a fictional knight whose every attribute defies institutional aspirations toward Purpose, Passion, and Integrity.  And, of course, a lion.  No . . . The Lion.

The Lion in Winter. (Please click images to enlarge.)

The Lion has no name, nor does he represent the school’s Wildcat mascot.  He stands guarding the flagpole.  His empty eyes scan Mount Tom, perhaps anticipating danger from the bike path.  For generations he has been a magnet for children, some of them quite old, who cannot resist riding him.  Chameleonlike, his colors change so often that while his aging body is cast iron, observers may be forgiven for assuming that he is comprised entirely of layers of paint.  Perhaps like Auden’s Sphinx, The Lion is admired. but unloved.

Periodically, especially before important events like Convocation and Commencement, The Lion metamorphoses to a neutral color, institutionally repainted in the name of Looking Neat and Clean.  It never lasts.  The Lion has celebrated the national holidays of many countries, graduations, and the occasional birthday.  At times of local or national tragedy, leonine memorials have been de rigeur.  These have tended to last longer than other redecorative efforts.  He has been painted to advertise school plays, has appeared in support of political candidates, has been colored pink to promote breast cancer awareness,  and adopted a rainbow insignia to commemorate Williston’s participation in an LGBDQ Day of Silence.

(Ann Hallock)

Not every paint job has been so high-minded.  A couple of years ago, The Lion sported an odd shade of light blue, serving as background for a too-public senior prom invitation.  (Embarrassed, she declined.)  And painting traditions have changed over the years.  There was a time when a student subject to involuntary early departure might leave a farewell message.  More often, his friends would paint the beast in the miscreant’s memory.  Until a recent shift in tradition, it was rare actually to see anyone painting The Lion.  Most of the time, he appeared, overnight, to have painted himself.

The Lion in the 1930s, in its original Williston location, next to Swan Cottage

How the Lion Came to Williston

Edward Clare (William Rittase)

The Lion was brought to Easthampton in the 1920s by Williston Junior School Headmaster Edward Clare (for whom Clare House is named), and was installed next to what is now called Swan Cottage, on the crest of the Main Street Precipice.  When Ed Clare died suddenly in 1947, his widow Hazel stayed on, as did his Lion.  In 1965 the statue was relocated to a spot on the main campus, next to the Theater, where it remained until 1996, at which time it was moved to its present location, to make room for Falstaff.

The Legend of the Lion

According to legend, as transmitted by Hazel Clare, The Lion was one of a pair that stood overlooking the Charles River in Boston, on the property of a British merchant.  At the time of the Boston Tea Party, a mob invaded the merchant’s house and dumped the lions into the river.  The Tory fled to Canada, and the lions remained underwater until around the time of the Civil War, when they were dredged from the river during the expansion of the Charlestown Navy Yard.  Col. George Moore was the officer in charge of the recovery operation.  In civilian life, Col. Moore sold pianos.  That detail becomes relevant because at home in nearby Walpole, Mass., Moore had access to a variety of cranes, blocks, and tackles meant for hoisting pianos through upper-story windows, thus also useful for fishing cast iron lions out of the muck.  Moore took one of the lions for himself and installed it at his Walpole residence, which he named Lionhurst.  The second lion was taken by someone else, and lost to history.  Col. Moore had a daughter, Treby Moore.  Treby, who never married, was Edward Clare’s aunt.  She gave Ed the Lion, which he brought to Easthampton. Continue reading

Faculty Meetings — a Century Ago

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
Sidney N. Morse on the steps of Middle Hall. (Please click any image to enlarge it.)

Sidney Nelson Morse taught English, and occasionally Latin and Greek, at Williston Seminary from 1890 until 1927.  A product of Williston, class of 1886, and Yale, 1890, he also served as Alumni Secretary, remaining in that role for several years beyond his “official” retirement.  From 1918 to 1927 he was Secretary to the Faculty.  His principal responsibility was to take the minutes of weekly faculty meetings.  These documents survive, in 48 exam bluebooks, scrawled in Morse’s sometimes challenging handwriting and often written in the distinctive blue pencil which, for reasons unknown, he favored.

While admittedly there is much repetition in the texts, gems emerge.  The minutes are, in fact, a detailed chronicle of Williston life from the perhaps necessarily narrow window of her teachers.  Here we present some excerpts from approximately a century ago, 1918-1921, which might resonate today.  (Editor’s annotations are in italics.)

November 22, 1918: “Suggested that a teacher be detailed to be in Northampton Sat. night and to come back in the last car to see that Williston boys are O.K., each teacher in turn.”  (In those days light rail service ran between Easthampton and Northampton.)

(The First World War had finally ended in November, 1918.  With the Armistice came a demand for more “normal” campus activities.)

March 14, 1919: “The matter of petition from the students to take 2 hrs. military drill a week in place of 4 was not acted upon except so far as to leave unchanged the present schedule in general until May 1, & any slight changes to be left at the discretion of Sergt. Graham.”  (Sergeant Alfred Linton Graham had served with the Canadian Army from 1914 until his discharge in January 1918.  Williston employed him as a military instructor during the 1918-19 school year.)

Alfred Graham, from the 1919 yearbook, The Log.  Dr. Galbraith dispensed with his services the following year.

This writer’s sense is that there is far too much of the following.  It should be noted, though, that such discussions of individual disciplinary matters among the full faculty continued until fairly recently.  Even after a century, it seems appropriate to abbreviate students’ names.

May 16, 1919: “Moved, that R___ M___ be kept on strict probation and denied all out-of-bounds privileges for the rest of the term; and if he be allowed to return next year, his return to, and continuance in, Williston shall be strictly conditioned (Unexcused absences beyond 20 for the year 1918-19).  Carried.”

“Moved, that J___ A___, for presenting forged excuses for absence from school exercises be put on strict probation as to conduct and attitude toward his work; and further, in case he returns to school next year, he shall pay in advance full tuition for each term.  Carried.” Continue reading

A Different Time

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

The Williston Junior School, 1944

The cover of the April,1944 Williston Bulletin, featuring what was then called Williston Cottage, later Conant House. (Please click images to enlarge them.)

The Williston Junior School was a semi-autonomous branch of Williston Seminary and Williston Academy, offering a boarding program for students in grades 5-8.  Founded in 1918, it shared facilities with the Upper School, but had its own Headmaster and faculty.  Originally operating out of Payson Hall on the Old Campus, it eventually relocated to four buildings on Main Street.  Present-day alumni will recognize the “Main St. Quadrangle,” or Clare House, Swan Cottage, Conant House (a.k.a. Williston Cottage), and Sawyer House.

The title page. showing the Junior Schoolhouse, now Swan Cottage.
Edward Clare was Junior School Headmaster from 1936-1947. Clare House is named for him.

We’ve reproduced a Junior School viewbook from 1944 – largely without comment, because the often charming images speak for themselves.  It was a different time.  (Copies of the viewbook are from donations by Ellis Baker ’51 and Peter Stevens ’60)  Please click on any image to enlarge it. Continue reading

Oldest Living Graduate Remembers (1941)

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
Dwight W. Learned, class of 1866 (Wikipedia Commons)

Dwight Whitney Learned (1848-1943), a native of Canturbury, Connecticut, graduated Williston Seminary in 1866 and Yale, B.A. 1870, Ph.D. 1873.  He was a grand-nephew of Samuel Williston, his grandmother having been Samuel’s sister Sarah; that may have explained his choice of Williston to prepare for college.  Following Yale, he taught Greek and mathematics at Thayer College in Kidder, Missouri, for two years, where he was ordained in the Congregational ministry.  In 1875, under the banner of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, he went to Japan, where for 53 years he was professor of church history and theology at Doshisha University in Kyoto.  He published extensively in both Japanese and English, and contributed to a Japanese translation of the New Testament.  Upon his retirement in 1928, he was honored by the Emperor.  He settled in Claremont, California, where he continued to preach and write.

In 1941, as the centennial of Williston’s founding approached, Learned sent a typed memoir to centennial organizer Herbert B. Howe, class of 1905.  As he points out, aged 92, he must have been among the oldest living alumni.  Learned’s pages are reproduced here, with only a few annotations.  They are an interesting window into student life during and after the Civil War, and even touch on the Confederate surrender and Lincoln’s assassination.  It must also be noted that Learned’s recollections of Williston academic life, while amusing, are not altogether complimentary.  (To enlarge any image, please click on it.)

No image is known of the campus as Learned saw it in 1864. In this 1856 engraving, Middle Hall (“Old Sem”) is at center. The original White Seminary building, to its right, burned in 1857 and was replaced by South Hall. The gymnasium, with its distinctive tower, rose well behind these buildings. Of the two churches, the Payson Church (Easthampton Congregational) remains today. Samuel Williston was about to remove the First Church, at left, to make way for North Hall.

Principal Marshall Henshaw

Marshall Henshaw served as Principal from 1863-1876.   Both respected and feared by his students, of him Joseph Sawyer once wrote that “a botched translation was highway murder.”  Williston Seminary had been coeducational until 1864, when Samuel Williston constructed a new public high school for Easthampton.  The faculty mentioned by Learned, Amherst graduates all, were young men when they taught at Williston: Francis A. Walker became an eminent economist; Henry Goodell ’58 the founding President of Massachusetts Agricultural College;  Charles M. Lamson ’60 and Thomas Smith important figures on the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  Classicist Henry Mather Tyler ’61 taught at Knox and Smith Colleges, and wrote an important history of the latter; while Marquis F. Dickinson ’58 became a distinguished attorney and, coincidentally, Samuel Williston’s son-in-law.

It is surprising to learn that in days of cleaner air and lower buildings, one could see Amherst college, eleven miles distant, from an upper story in Easthampton.  Williston students attended services at the Payson Church, next to the campus.

Adelphi was the Seminary’s debating and literary society.  Its rival, Gamma Sigma, had not yet been founded.

If, presumably, Learned is evoking the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, then he has misremembered the date, April 9, 1865 – although General Grant had indeed written Robert E. Lee on the seventh, offering to discuss terms of surrender.

Happy New Year from the Williston Northampton Archives!

 

Williston Northampton and Local History . . . Your History!