Williston Seminary’s first building was the so-called “White Seminary” or “Old Sem.,” erected in 1841. Of neoclassical design, it was built of wood — indeed, it was Samuel Williston’s penultimate wooden structure before his decision to build entirely in brick. (His 1843 mansion, today’s Williston Homestead, was the other.) In 1857 the White Seminary burned to the ground. Two student letters describing the fire survive in the Archives. That of Henry Perry ’58 is reproduced below; another very different account, by Abner Austin ’59, will appear later this summer. The letters are remarkable not only as documents of school life but as reflections of the authors’ personalities.
Henry T. Perry (1838-1930), class of 1858, of Ashfield, Mass., went on to Williams College and Auburn Seminary. He entered the Christian missions and spent most of the years 1866-1913 in Turkey, where he was witness to the Armenian massacres. His biography, Against the Gates of Hell, by Gordon and Diana Severance, was published by The University Press of America in 2003.