Category Archives: Alumni & Alumnae

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!

 

An 1880s Williston Scrapbook

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
George B. Wardman portrait
George Wardman in his student days. (As always, please click images to enlarge.)

Consider why people keep scrapbooks.  Are a they a repository for the ephemera of one’s life, souvenirs of things that seemed important at the time?  If so, then they can be unique windows into individuals’ lives, in a particular place, at a particular time.

Among the many student scrapbooks and albums held by the Williston Northampton Archives, that of George Wardman, class of 1889, is among the older and more comprehensive.

George Benjamin Wardman entered Williston in the fall of 1885, as a member of the class of 1888.  Born in Cheyenne, WY, April 20, 1869, he was a resident of New Orleans, LA, according to the 1886 Annual Catalogue.  How he found his way from the deep South to Easthampton is not known.  To further confuse matters, his academic transcript, in contradiction to the Catalogue, claims he resided in Pittsburgh.  In any event, he arrived in the fall of 1885, bringing with him a leather scrapbook.

George B. Wardman scrapbook.The book, now in fragile condition, measures 12 x 9 inches, bound in buckram-covered boards with a leather spine.  Inside the front flyleaf is a penciled inscription: “George Wardman.  Christmas 1884.  Mama.”  George appears to have saved the book for something special; he did not begin adding to it until the winter of 1886.  The first pages contain a pasted collage of items from the 1886 Annual Catalogue, including a rosters of the faculty and George’s classmates, his first year curriculum in the Scientific Department, and what must have been the major news of the time, the appointment of a new Principal.

George B. Wardman scrapbook. Catalogue pages.
(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Here are the results of George’s entrance exams, assigning him to the Junior Middle class (“J.M.,” equivalent to the 10th grade) and initialed by Acting Principal Joseph Henry Sawyer.  Note how items have been sewn into the scrapbook with gold ribbon.  George eventually became less fastidious about this; later items were often simply tucked between pages, without sewing or the use of oxidation-prone glue.  Ironically, this has aided in their long-term preservation. George B. Wardman scrapbook. Results of placement exams.As was customary in most schools and colleges at the time, students’ physical measurements were recorded.  George’s vital statistics indicate that he was smaller than average, standing 5’3″ and weighing 102 pounds.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics rotated. Continue reading

‘Hamp Alumnae Speak (1966)

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

This fall we are celebrating the 95th anniversary of the 1924 founding of Northampton School for Girls, which merged with Williston Academy in 1971.   Many Northampton alumnae consider their school a unique, special place.  It is harder, with nearly half a century’s perspective, to pin down just what the essence of Northampton School was.  But recently a survey of ‘Hamp alumnae came to hand.  It comes close.  The study was carried out in 1965 and published in their Alumnae News the following year.That report is reproduced here in its entirety, without further commentary.  We’ve included a few additional photographs mostly because we like them, and they break up the page.  They’re not meant to illustrate any particular narrative.  (As always, please click each image to enlarge.)

(For a history of ‘Hamp and the merger, please see Northampton School for Girls — and After.  Links to other posts about Northampton School are at the bottom of this article.)

Founders/Principals Sarah Whitaker and Dorothy Bement in 1925.

The library in Scott Hall.

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“Sammy, my Sammy . . .”

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
Williston’s Song of Songs

It is sung, with varying degrees of solemnity and competence, at solemn events like graduations and hockey games.  If “Hail to Williston Northampton” is our recently adopted Alma Mater, then surely the much more venerable “Sammy” qualifies as our Alma Aviam.  (That’s “Beloved Grandmother.”  Don’t you regret not having taken Latin?  But I digress.)  At least one former Head of School thought the song and its associated traditions puerile and tried, without success, to suppress it.  “Sammy” remains the Song that Would Not Go Away.


Link: Listen to the 2012 Caterwaulers singing “Sammy!”

The music for “Sammy” — a broadside printed for Williston Academy’s centennial in 1941.

Link: A more rough-and-ready performance from Mem West, National Kazoo Day, 2019.

Venerable Williston Lore tells us that “Sammy,” our “stand-up song,” was written by Paul “Pitt” Johnson, class of 1905.  This appears to be accurate, although it seems that the memory briefly slipped Johnson’s mind after he graduated.  But in 1939, Alumni Secretary Howard Boardman asked for Johnson’s recollection.  Pitt wrote back,

Pitt Johnson to Howard Boardman, 1939

“Although  there might have been in my mind a slight doubt of the authorship, nevertheless, it was instantly removed after singing the first two measures.  I instantly recognized it as my work, which was one of the many songs I wrote during my years at the old school.”  [The full letter is reproduced at right; please click on the image to enlarge it.]

Johnson continued, “It so clearly comes to mind now how Dr. Sawyer [Headmaster Joseph H. Sawyer], upon hearing the song on the campus, called me to his office and suggested that theretofore the name Samuel had never lost its dignity and couldn’t I rewrite the song using Samuel instead of Sammy.  I remember how three or four of us tried it out but it sounded a bit brummy and didn’t cut the mustard so the song continued to refer to the founder of Williston as Sammy and I cannot recall a single instance of where Samuel Williston haunted me from the tomb because of it.”

Headmaster Sawyer

It is perhaps ironic that Johnson knew “Sammy” as his own when he heard the first two measures, since that is the one portion of the tune that he most certainly did not write.  Fans of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas will recognize the phrase as having been lifted, note for note, from the Bridesmaids’ Chorus in Trial by Jury, at the words “Wear the flowers ’til they fade.”   The show was wildly popular at the time Johnson “borrowed” the tune – and the cribbing was probably unconscious.  As for the lyrics that so bothered Joseph Sawyer, it is likely that having written “Sammy, my Sammy, my heart yearns for thee,” Johnson needed a rhyme, and settled on “and your old elm tree.”  Nothing we know of Samuel Williston suggests that he ever took an interest in trees, elm or otherwise.  Yet, as has been detailed elsewhere, from this bit of doggerel entire school traditions have risen.  (See “The Brand,” particularly toward the end of the article.) Continue reading