Category Archives: Easthampton History

Easthampton Illustrated, ca. 1890

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
Photo no. 21, showing its original format. The prints, which range in size from 8 x 6″ to 9.5 x 7.75″, are printed on 14 x 11″ paper, contained in a brown cloth-covered portfolio. (Please click all images to enlarge.)

The Archives hold several sets of a portfolio entitled East Hampton Illustrated, containing 32 lithotype photographs of Easthampton.  Many are images of Williston Seminary and of buildings associated with Samuel Williston or his business partners; the balance are of other Easthampton landmarks, most of them industrial.

The set was published by the Linotype Printing Co., 114 Nassau St., New York, and is undated.  Most antiquarian booksellers date the portfolio ca. 1900, but all  of the photographs are older.  The catalog of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library in Williamstown, MA dates the collection ca. 1880.  Information in some of the photo captions, noted below, suggests that the album appeared after 1881 and no later than 1895.  Thus, we estimate the publication date as ca. 1890.

No. 1: View of Easthampton from Adams Street, Looking North

View of Easthampton from Adams Street, Looking NorthThe vantage point is near the intersection of Adams and Liberty Streets, more specifically looking northwest.  In the distance are the spires of the Payson (Easthampton Congregational) and Methodist Churches (a different structure than the present day former church housing the Young World Childcare Center), the Town Hall, and the Williston Seminary gymnasium.  The reach from the Nashawannuck spillway to the Lower Mill Pond is visible in the foreground.  The area today is heavily wooded.

Incidentally, for this article we have, perhaps, broken a rule.  The reproduced images have been adjusted to mitigate yellowing and fading, so that their appearance better approaches their original state – which, admittedly, we can only conjecture.  As always, you may click on the photographs to enlarge them.

No. 2: Williston Seminary

Williston Seminary

A view of the original Williston Seminary campus on Main Street.  Union Street is to the right; the split rail fence surrounds the Payson Church – the present-day Easthampton Congregational Church.  The three main campus buildings, from the foreground back, were, with an appalling lack of creativity, named South, Middle, and North Halls,  The gymnasium tower is visible behind South Hall, and one can make out the First Congregational Church (1836; see “The Congregational Church in Easthampton History”) in the distance, at the end of Main Street.

No. 3: General View of Williston Seminary

General View of Williston SeminaryThis unusual view from across Union Street, near the side entrance to the Payson Church, shows South, Middle, and North Halls, with the Principal’s House, still standing at the corner of Pleasant Street and recently renovated, in the right distance.  (Despite the name, from 1849 forward the Principals resided elsewhere.)  The Gymnasium, with its distinctive tower, is at right.  Close examination of the photo shows a baseball game in progress.

North, Middle, and South Halls, and the Gymnasium were demolished in or shortly after 1952, after Williston Academy consolidated operations on the present Park Street/Payson Avenue campus. Continue reading

Buy! Buy!!

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
The first Willistonian editors, 1881. (Click all images to enlarge)

Surely “cater to your customers” must be the most fundamental principle of marketing.  When Williston Seminary’s campus newspaper, The Willistonian, made its first appearance in March of 1881 (making it, 118 years later, the oldest continuously published secondary school paper in the United States), its student editors sought to finance their enterprise by selling advertising.   With a couple hundred teenage boys occupying the campus, local merchants sought to appeal to their wallets.  Logically then, we can open a window into an 1880s adolescent’s mind by examining how, away from home and parental supervision, he wanted to spend his (or his father’s) money — or how local merchants wanted him to spend it.

Early issues of The Willistonian came in an advertising wrapper.  The “front page” was actually inside.  Because the paper was also sold by local merchants, a portion of the advertising was aimed at the general public.  And industries like Glendale Elastic Fabrics — one of the late Samuel Williston’s enterprises — may have purchased space out of a sense of obligation to Samuel’s widow Emily, if not to the school.

The advertisements below are selected from the first three years of The Willistonian, 1881-1884.

The front cover of the April 16, 1881 Willistonian — actually an advertising wrapper.

“Opposite Williston Seminary” meant Shop Row, on Main Street.  C. S. Rust appealed to young men’s fashion sensibilities.

May 7, 1881
Shop Row, directly across from the campus, with the Methodist Church and Town Hall. Most of these buildings remain.

Continue reading

The Confessions of Harlan Mendenhall

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
The Rev. Dr. Harlan G. Mendenhall

In the fall of 1931 the Reverend Dr. Harlan G. Mendenhall, Williston Seminary class of 1870 (Classical), visited the campus.  Aged 80, Mendenhall was considered the “grand old man” of American Presbyterianism, having served in parishes all over the U.S., risen to the highest levels of the New York Presbytery, and was, in 1931, still not retired.    Dr. Mendenhall brought with him a variety of documents from his student days, including a copy of the 1869 Salmagundi, Williston’s first senior yearbook, which he had co-edited, and a scrapbook of his student writings as a member of Adelphi, the school’s literary and debating society.  He also sat down with The Willistonian for an extended interview, reproduced at length in the issue of October 21.  Conversation focused on how the school had changed in more than five decades – and took a surprising turn.

North and Middle Halls in the 1930s. When Mendenhall was a student, North Hall was new. (Click all images to enlarge.)

“Williston in my day was a great deal different than your Williston of today.  North Hall was but a few years old and was all partitioned off into three sections by thick fire walls.  There were no bathrooms nor any central heating system, and in the winter we all had to buy our own coal for our stoves.  We had no school dining room either and had to eat either at fraternity eating places or at the old “Hash Factory” which stood at the corner of Union and High Streets.  It was possible to eat for two dollars a week then.”

“Students were then a great deal older than the fellows at Williston are now.  There was one fellow named Redington who had already graduated from Yale and had come to Williston to study English.   As the boys were older, they were more independent and often used to have revolutions and uprisings of all sorts.”

Lyman W. Redington, class of 1866 and again, 1869. We have found no evidence of anyone else ever completing both the Classical and Scientific curricula, with a year of college separating them.

[Lyman William Redington of Waddington, N.Y. graduated Williston’s Classical Department in 1866.  He completed a year at Yale, left because of eye problems, but returned to Williston and enrolled in the Scientific, a.k.a. English Department, graduating in 1869.  He and Harlan Mendenhall were the founding co-editors of the yearbook Salmagundi in 1869.  He became a newspaper editor in Rutland, Vt., ran unsuccessfully for Governor, took up law, and ultimately became Asst. Corporate Counsel for the City of New York, and a Tammany Hall member of the State Assembly.]

“There was a fellow in school then who had received a check for one hundred dollars from home, and instead of depositing it in the bank, he took it across to Putnam’s Book Store and established a checking account.”

“There came a time when Ballance, that was the boy, [William Henry Ballance, class of 1870] said that he had ten more dollars coming, and Old Put claimed that he had drawn his entire account.  Then Ballance started an association of most of the boys in school swearing not to trade with Put until the ten dollars should be paid.  They formed a big parade and marched down in front of Put’s store and read the constitution and by-laws of the association to him.  Some of the boys carried big banners inscribed ‘No More Trade for Old Put’ and ‘False Weights Against True Ballance.’  The parade then marched over to the gym steps and had its picture taken.” Continue reading

Going to Mount Tom (ca. 1870)

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
Abner Davol, class of 1872

Mount Tom — the “great hill” that dominates Easthampton’s eastern skyline — has drawn Williston students since the school’s founding.  Abner Pardon Davol, class of 1872, was no exception.  Davol, a native of Fall River, Mass., entered Williston Seminary in September, 1869, enrolled in the Scientific curriculum.  He graduated in 1872.

Student academic work from the mid-19th century is relatively rare.  But somehow Abner’s essay, “Going to Mt. Tom,” survives in the Williston Northampton Archives.  The manuscript, on both sides of a single folded 8 x 10 inch sheet, is undated.  The writing is not terribly sophisticated, and there is a certain naiveté to some of the content.  My guess is that this was submitted to a weekly English composition class during Abner’s first or second year at Williston.

Here is Abner’s paper.  Readers may click on each image to enlarge it.

Abner Davol, “Going to Mt. Tom,” page 1.

It was, and of course, remains, a distance of just under two miles from the Old Campus on Main Street to the foot of the mountain.  For Abner and friends to have walked the distance and achieved the summit in 80 minutes is quite an accomplishment.

Mt. Tom from Holyoke Street, at the time unpaved. Except for a few farms, the mile between the “factory village” and the foot of the mountain was unpopulated.
Page 2

What were they thinking?  Apparently Abner and his companions decided to descend via the steepest part of the escarpment, just beneath the basalt cliffs, a field strewn with broken shale.  And after sunset.  Contemporary maps confirm that there was a perfectly good road, but perhaps the kids were taking the most direct route from the summit to it.

“Factory village” was the residential area east of Nashawannuck Pond and the factories alongside it.  Town-gown relations were imperfect at this time, but Davol’s concern seems overstated.  It was probably added for dramatic effect, since it is likely that he expected to read his essay to his English class.

Mt. Tom from Nashawannuck Pond, ca. 1880. Then as now, the mountain was irresistible.

After Williston, Abner Davol returned to Fall River, where he became a banker and City Councillor.  He died in 1940, aged 87.