Tag Archives: Emily Williston

The Quotable Sammy

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

WNS15ALM10_175l small lrRecently one of our better students asked me whether I knew of any good quotes from Samuel Williston that he could insert into a term paper.  “Don’t know,” I responded.  “What’s the paper about?”  “Doesn’t matter,” he said; “I’ll work them in.”  Suppressing my instinct to initiate a conversation about such pedantries as relevance, context, and provenance — the kid was, after all, in a hurry — I dug out a document prepared at the request of former Head of School Brian Wright back in 1991, and in reviewing it, realized that it was good blog fodder.  So . . . here is Samuel Williston (the fodder of us all), in his own words.

415_1125b LR“Whereas God in His Providence has bestowed upon me a goodly portion of this world’s possessions, which I ought to use for His glory, for the dissemination of the Gospel of the blessed Redeemer, and for the greatest good of my fellow-men — and, whereas, I desire to be instrumental in promoting the cause of correct and thorough literary and Christian education, and for that purpose have lately followed an Institution which is established at Easthampton, Massachusetts, and incorporated by the name ‘Williston Seminary’ […]”  Preamble, Constitution of Williston Seminary, 1845

(Williston founded his Seminary in 1841, but it took him four more years to publish his thoughts about what he was attempting.  See “The Constitution of Williston Seminary” for more detail.)

“Believing, that the image and glory of an all-wise and holy God are most brightly reflected in the knowledge and holiness of his rational creatures, and that the best interests of our country, the church, and the world are all involved in the intelligence, virtue, and piety of the rising generation; desiring also, if possible, to bring into existence some permanent agency, that shall live, when I am dead, and extend my usefulness to remote ages, I have thought I could in no other way more effectually serve God or my fellow-men, than by devoting a portion of the property which he has given me, to the establishment and ample endowment of an Institution, for the intellectual, moral and religious education of youth.” Continue reading

The Congregational Church in Easthampton History

By Rick Teller '70, Archivist

This presentation was given at the Easthampton Congregational Church on October 11, 2014, part of the Easthampton CityArts+ monthly Art Walk.  The text and graphics have been slightly modified for this blog.

The Payson Church, now the Easthampton Congregational Church, on Main Street, with Williston's Old Campus in the background. (Easthampton Congregational Church Archives)
The Payson Church, now the Easthampton Congregational Church, on Main Street, with Williston’s Old Campus in the background. (Easthampton Congregational Church Archives [henceforth ECC]) (Click images to enlarge.)
The Reverend Jonathan Edwards.
The Reverend Jonathan Edwards.

At the time of New England’s Great Awakening, when Jonathan Edwards was pastor in Northampton, Easthampton did not exist.  There were a few landholders in the village of Pascommuck, out on what is now East Street.  Late in life Edwards would recall that around 1730 “there began to appear a remarkable religious concern at a little village belonging to the congregation, called Pascommuck . . . at this place a number of persons seemed to be savingly wrought upon.”

Note Edwards’ phrase, “little village belonging to the congregation.”  In colonial Massachusetts, church and town were interdependent.  One could not exist without the other.  In 1781 Easthampton residents, citing the growing size of their village, petitioned for severance from Northampton.  Attending services in Northampton cannot have been convenient – it was a ride or walk of five or more miles, over roads that barely deserved the name.

Anticipating the success of their request, they began construction of a meeting house on the town common, now the rotary.  However, Southampton, only recently independent and perhaps fearing the dilution of their own small congregation, blocked the petition.  It was not until June of 1785 that the Northampton church agreed to the formation of an Easthampton parish, thus allowing the town of Easthampton to be incorporated.  The following November, 46 adults were dismissed from the Northampton church to form the first congregation in Easthampton.  15 Southampton families followed, and the congregation was formally organized on November 17. Continue reading

The Button Speech

Each fall Archivist Rick Teller ’70 speaks to the assembled School on some aspect of Williston Northampton history.  The event, popularly known as “the button speech,” only occasionally concerns buttons at all.  But this year it did.  These remarks were delivered on Friday, September 20, 2013.

The Williston Birthplace, ca. 1880. Note the kid on the tricycle! (Click images to enlarge.)

Good morning.  At solemn occasions … like hockey games … we sing about someone named “Sammy.”  Our hearts yearn for him … for his campus and geriatric elm.  But, you might well ask, about whom do we sing?  Just who was “Sammy?”

Samuel Williston was born across the street, in a house located where the Homestead now stands.  The house, where Mr. Swanson lives and which we now call “The Birthplace,” was moved across Park Street in 1843.  It is much grander now than it was when Sam arrived.

That was in 1795.  George Washington was President.  Easthampton was a small farm village.  Samuel’s father, Payson Williston, was the minister in Easthampton’s only church.  Payson was a stern, old-fashioned New England preacher, with strong Calvinist leanings.  We will get to Calvinism in a minute.  The Reverend Mr. Williston’s salary was tiny, and he had a house full of children.  He added to his income by planting a few acres of mediocre farmland.  That farm is now the heart of our magnificent campus.

Continue reading

Emily Speaks

Emily Graves Williston in the 1860s

Long after she’d stopped sewing buttons herself, Emily Graves Williston remained responsible for instructing other employees of the S. Williston Button Co.  (See the earlier post, The Button Mill.)  According to Baron of Buttons, a highly entertaining, if occasionally spurious unpublished biography of Samuel Williston by Guy Richard Carpenter, class of 1905, Emily told her charges that

“Buttons on a girl’s dress are just as noticeable as her nose.  Buttons should be trim and neat and they should set so well that they give a burnish to her whole turnout.  One fraying button or one loose button, to my eye, is like a sunburned, peeling nose — I just can’t bring myself to see anything else.  Buttons of choice silk and true color make the whole dress seem richer.  I like to think all our buttons make folk look and feel richer.  Father Payson says that on a girl a pretty button, like a pretty nose, is not to be sneezed at.”  (G. R. Carpenter, Baron of Buttons, undated typescript, The Williston Northampton Archives)

One of the things we at Williston Northampton try to instill in our history students is a critical facility concerning information sources: perhaps a healthy dose of skepticism when data or quotes of questionable provenance seem just too good to be true.  This would appear to be one of those instances.  But it’s still a good quote!

Your comments and questions are encouraged!  Please use the space below.