Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Hampton Academy and High-School / The Proprietary School

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The Proprietary School

After Rev. Mr. Webster had been in the ministry, in Hampton, long enough to become considerably acquainted with a large portion of the people, he was convinced of the importance of a higher standard of education in the schools. The town was raising, for their support, all the money required by law, and something more. The school children learned to read and spell, write and cipher; and many of them made a laudable improvement of the privileges furnished. Beyond the branches enumerated, but little instruction was ordinarily given by the teachers. They did, however, endeavor to instil into the minds of the children the importance of good manners, and the duty of showing due respect to the aged and to their superiors generally.

While the pastor appreciated the efforts of the teachers in these directions, he thought it incumbent on himself to induce parents to favor the introduction of other branches of study into the common schools, and to foster in the young people a thirst for higher attainments. He was impressed with the belief that, by the opening of a school of a higher order, a new interest would be excited, and a new impulse given to the cause of education.

A considerable number of the parents here and in neighboring towns became interested in the project of establishing such a school. When this point was reached, definite measures to that end began to be taken; and, in answer to a petition to the General Court, the following act of incorporation was granted:

"In the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ten.

An Act to incorporate certain persons, by the name of the Proprietary School in Hampton.

Section 1st -- Be it enacted by the Senate and house of Representatives and General Court convened, that Edmund Toppan, Joseph Towle junior, John Fogg, Thomas Ward, Ebenezer Lawrence, Samuel F. Leavitt and Richard Greenleaf, and their associates and successors be, and they hereby are incorporated, and made a body corporate and politic forever, under the name of the Proprietary School in Hampton, and by that name may sue and prosecute, and be sued and prosecuted to final judgment and execution, and shall have and enjoy all the powers and privileges which by law are incident to similar corporations.

Section 2nd -- And be it further enacted, that the said corporation may establish a School in Hampton, for the instruction and education of youth, and erect and maintain suitable buildings therefor, and may purchase and receive by donation, and hold real and personal estate of any kind, not exceeding Twenty thousand Dollars in value, provided that nothing in this act shall be construed to exempt more than ten thousand Dollars from taxation.

Section 3d -- And be it further enacted, that the said corporation, at any meeting duly holden, may make rules,s regulations and by-laws, for the management of the interests and concerns of the said institution, and appoint such and so many officers as they shall think proper, and prescribe their powers and duties.

Section 4th -- And be it further enacted, that the said Edmund Toppan and Joseph Towle junior, or either of them, shall notify the first meeting of said Corporation to be holden at any suitable time and place in said Hampton, by posting up a notification at the meeting-house in said Hampton, three Sundays successively, at which meeting the manner of holding future meetings may be regulated, and any business relating to said corporation, transacted."

Money being now needed for the furtherance of the enterprise, it was decided to raise the sum of one thousand dollars, in shares of twenty-five dollars each. The subscription list, dated November 26, 1810, is as follows:

Thomas Ward 4 shares
James Leavitt 2 shares
Richard Greenleaf 2 shares
Ebenezer Lawrence 1 share
John Fogg (Northampton) 1 share
Samuel F. Leavitt (Northampton) 2 shares
Joseph Towle, Jr. 1 share
Jonathan Marston 1 share
Willard Emery 1 share
Edmund Toppan 4 shares
Jonathan Marston, Jr. 1 share
Jabez M. Davison 1 share
David Nudd 2 shares
Edmund James 1 share
Simeon Shaw 1 share
Isaac Marston 1 share
Samuel James 1 share
Abihal Marston (Northampton) 1 share
Theophilus Sanborn (Hampton Falls) 1 share
Aaron Merrill (Hampton Falls) 1 share
Dudley Dodge (Hampton Falls) 1 share
Jeremiah Hobbs 1 share
John Brown 1 share
Daniel Towle 1 share
Thomas Leavitt (Hampton Falls) 1 share
John Perkins 1 share
Dudley Lamprey 1 share
Josiah Webster 1 share
Thomas Ward 1 share
David Garland 1 share

Having proceeded thus far, nothing more was done, till February 5, 1811, when the first meeting of the subscribers was held, at the house of James Leavitt, Esq., to choose a committee of three, to solicit further subscriptions. Theophilus Sanborn, of Hampton Falls, Edmund Toppan, of Hampton, and Samuel F. Leavitt, of North Hampton, were chosen.

At an adjourned meeting a week later, it was voted, "To accept of the gift, of the town of Hampton, of the Green, where the meeting-house formerly stood," and to erect upon it a suitable school building, on a plan drawn by a committee chosen for the purpose, before the act of incorporation. Thomas Ward, Samuel F. Leavitt and Samuel James were chosen a committee, to receive proposals for building, and to report at an adjourned meeting February 22; but no proposals having been handed in, the work was at a later adjournment put up at auction; the result of which was, that Richard Greenleaf took the contract to do the whole, excepting the rock work, for seven hundred thirty-eight dollars.

At the meeting on the 22nd February, five trustees were chosen: Rev. Jonathan French of North Hampton, a zealous patron through a long life, Rev. Asa Parker of Portsmouth, James Leavitt and Edmund Toppan, Esquires, of Hampton, and John Fogg, Esquire, a physician, of North Hampton. The latter was chosen president of the corporation, and Thomas Ward, treasurer; and it was further voted, that such of the trustees as were proprietors should have the charge of the building, and make all necessary writings with the contractor.

Shortly afterward, Rev. Josiah Webster, of Hampton, and Richard Pike, of Newburyport were added to the board of trustees: while Rev. Jacob Abbott, of Hampton Falls, was substituted for Rev. Asa Parker; and in the autumn of the same year, Edmund Toppan, Esq., having resigned, Thomas Ward was elected in his place.

For carrying on the work of building, it was voted that nine dollars be paid on each share on or before April 1st; nine dollars, on or before July 1st; and seven dollars, when the building should be completed, which must be on or before September 1st.

There is nothing on record to show that the house was not completed by the time specified; but we find that five years later, a committee chosen to take into consideration the account of the contractor reported: "That Richard Greenleaf stop his suit against the Corporation and make such repairs on the house as Mr. Jeremiah Hobbs and Samuel Brown jr., may find necessary, in consequence of any defect in the building of said house -- and that his account ought to be paid by the Corporation." As there is not further record on the subject, it is probable that the difficulty was then satisfactorily settled.

The school-house was at first a one-story building; but in December, 1820, a proposition was made by Rockingham Lodge, No. 34, of Free Masons, that they build on another story for their own use, on such terms as might be agreed upon by a committee from the Lodge and a committee from the corportion. The record of this proposition is the first, in which the new school is called an Academy. [Editor's note: See here for an 1815 reference using the term "Academy" to refer to the school.] No satisfactory agreement could be made; and the next spring the corporation decided to put on another story and otherwise to enlarge the building to meet the increasing demands of the school. Capt. Simon Towle took the contract, for four hundred fifty-five dollars; to pay which, and for other expenses, thirty-five additional shares, at twenty dollars, were issued. The work was done in the summer of 1821, the school, meanwhile, being kept at the house of James Leavitt, Esq.

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