Beginning Years

Early History of Brownington Academy

Beginning Years

Like many other new things this new institution had many tribulations in getting into fair running order. Scholars were not so plenty as in later years. By the census of 1820 Orleans county contained only 5,457 inhabitants. A large proportion of these were “early settlers” who had only just fairly begun the race for a living on these rugged hills. They had brought the district school with them, the support of which was not onerous, and their children could learn all the common branches and board at home. The idea of sending their children to a distant town at an extra expense for board and tuition they did not take in readily. They had to be educated up to it.

So that if we could have looked into the lower room of the old academy just 65 years ago when Mr. Woodward first met his scholars we should have gazed upon mostly empty seats. Among the young gentlemen who attended that first term were Carlos Baxter, Horace Stewart, Ben Hawley, Aaron Hinman and Wm. Fling. Two young ladies came out from Brown’s Hill, in Canada, Marion Richardson and another, whose name I have not learned, and they proved to be the only ones of their sex in attendance. They got a boarding place at Capt. Samuel Smith’s, who lived in the house at the lower end of the village where Israel Parker now lives, but which was known in my day as the “Bigelow House.”

Capt. Smith with his accustomed spirit of enterprise, and with an eye to business, it may be, had put another story on his house to accommodate the students who wish for boarding places. Fearing that these two young ladies would get homesick for want of company, the captain made a raid on the district school for recruits.

The school that term happened to be taught by Miss Harriet Davis who afterwards became Mrs. Ira Camp, the mother of David M. Camp of Newport. She was an excellent teacher and beloved by all her scholars, and the idea of leaving their old teacher and going to a new one was preposterous and not to be thought of. But the case was desperate, the captain was persistent and finally succeeded in getting Lucy Ann Smith and Emily Brigham to graduate at the district school and enter the academy.

At that time the facilities for advertising were very meager, at least we should consider them so. The only paper published in this part of the state was the North Star, at Danville, and the stage coach was due only once a week, the stage driver having a tin horn which he always blew just before arriving at a post-office so as to give the people ample notice of his coming. The students increased in number from term to term as the school became advertised, though it was several years before it attained its greatest influence and usefulness.

……. There was no endowment and the only funds available were those coming from the rent of the school lands, but this had begun to be no small item and was increasing from year to year as the lands became settled. The number of scholars increased also from term to term and hardly two or three years had passed before the success of the school was assured.