Governor Dummer Academy History, 1763-1963

By John W. Ragle | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV
Allen, Abbot, and Adams

In the twelve years following the withdrawal of Isaac Smith, the fortunes of Dummer Academy fell victim to so eccentric a sequence of good, and then bad luck as to engender in the minds of her Trustees and her friends high hopes and, ultimately, understandable disappointment. In the first place, Dr. Benjamin Allen, the man whom the Board secured as Preceptor, was a happy choice -- though not, indeed, their initial selection. (Offer of the post had been first accepted, and then rejected by the Reverend Jacob Abbot, minister in Hampton Falls, who changed his mind when the members of his parish, seeing that they were in grave danger of losing him, found a solution to the disagreements which had caused his determination to resign.)

Dr. Allen had been a highly respected Professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Upon leaving Union, he had originally planned to start a school of his own ". . . in order to lay out his talents to more advantage, that is profit, as well as usefulness to the public than his present situation admits," to quote one of the references submitted in his behalf. His friends thought the position at Dummer ready-made for him and supplied the Trustees with the highest of recommendations. Such men as President Nott of Union College and Chief Justice Kent of New York wrote concerning him; John Thornton Kirkland and J. S. Buckminster, President and Lecturer respectively at Harvard College, added their praise. Dr. Allen was present at the Academy on October 22, 1809, the day of his election, to accept his appointment in person.

The Preceptor's salary was set at $800 per annum, together with the use of the Mansion House for his rather considerable family and some boarders, and including, of course, provision of garden space and some of the outbuildings. (Dr. Allen did not accept an alternative offer of $400 anually together with the lease of the Academy farm; Mr. John Northend, the current tenant, remained, and the former home of Preceptor Smith, which had been purchased by the Academy, came into use as the farmhouse.) Once again, so far had the school's fortunes declined in the last years under Mr. Smith, that decision was reached to charge tuition, except to those pupils whose homes were in the Parish of Byfield.

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