Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving Proclamation by William Dummer

While Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, William Dummer issued three Thanksgiving Proclamations--the first in 1723--which is arguably the oldest proclamation to set the holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. Various sources indicate that Thanksgiving Proclamations had been issued prior to this date. Perhaps the most commonly cited example is that of the proclamation issued by the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts on June 20, 1676. This Thanksgiving proclamation identified June 29, 1676 as a day of "Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lod may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded [sic] by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and soulds [sic] as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."

Such proclamations, extoling the virtues of being thankful and praising God, were not uncommon through the 17th and 18th centuries, but the date of the first official proclamation to set the date as the last Thursday in November may in fact be the 1723 Thanksgiving Proclamation by William Dummer. The December 1939 issue of The Archon includes an image of this proclamation with the note that, "To ascertain the authenticity of the proclamation considerable research was done. With the aid of Mr. Charles Taylor, Jr., one of the Trustees of the Academy, the document was checked upon by the Archives Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and by the Massachusetts Historical Society. It was finally established that, not only is the document authentic, but that [Acting] Governor Dummer issued three others between 1723 and 1726."

The text of this proclamation can be read above, but the original document is housed in the Pilgrim Hall Museum at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fencing at Governor Dummer Academy, 1932-1935

In 1935, The Milestone reported on the arrival of the academy’ first season of Fencing, with its 20-member squad (plus manager) picking up their masks and epees under young teacher Joseph Dana Allen, Jr., a 1931 Harvard graduate and past member of the Harvard Fencing Team.

“At the beginning of the winter term, a new sport, fencing, was inaugurated under the guidance of Mr. Allen, one of this year’s new masters, who was a former member of the Harvard Fencing Team and, in the Intercollegiate Matches of 1930, finished third. Just prior to the beginning of the season, Mr. Allen arranged an exhibition for the students in which several of the outstanding fencers in New England participated. Among them were Rene Peroy, fencing coach at Harvard; Edward and Everett Lane, national champions in 1929 and now members of the Boston Athletic Club; Mr. James Parker, also of the B.A.A.; Captain Robert Lawson, Gilbert Kerlin, Thomas Moran, and John Hurd, all of the Harvard Fencing Team. During an intermission Mr. Everett Lane gave a brief account of fencing, explaining the types of instruments used and something concerning the rules. The result of this exhibition was a great increase in the interest in fencing; two days later the squad was the second largest at the academy.

Despite the fact that it is said to take three years to make a fencer, the boys developed rapidly and, with daily practice, made very satisfactory progress. Although they were almost all mere beginners, toward the end of the term they showed such an advance that Mr. Allen was confident enough to take a team of five to compete in an informal contest with the more experienced Andover team. The team was defeated, but it made a creditable showing, taking five of the fourteen bouts, the final score being 9-5 in Andover’s favor.

There was such an interest in the sport that Mr. Allen took a group of the best fencers into Boston to witness the finals in the Olympic Fencing Competition at the Boston Arena. The high-light [sic] of the evening, in the minds of most of the boys, was the exhibition saber bout in which the contestants pursued each other all over the floor, seeking to cut the plume from the top of their opponent’s helmet.

At the end of the season, a tournament was arranged to decide who were the best fencers. At first a ladder tournament was organized, with the men arranged according to their ability as Mr. Allen rated them. Any contestant was able to challenge any two entries above him, and in this manner many were able to rise higher. After four days of this, four strips were drawn up, each having four men. These fought a round robin with the others in their strip, and, in the end, the four strip-winners fought a final series of bouts. The four strip-winners were Dix Robbins, Hugo Poisson, Harmon Hall, and John Healy. Of these, Hall and Poisson received first and second places, respectively, in the finals.

On Monday evening, March 14th, during the Athletic rally, the awards were distributed by Mr. Allen. These prizes, which were supplied through the kindness of the American Fencers League, were a pair of foils for the winner, and a single foil for the runner-up. –C.F.S [likely Colin Francis Soule of Passaic, New Jersey, and a member of the 1932 Fencing Squad]”

The Fencing Squad participated in tournaments in each of its four seasons, after which it appears to have been disbanded. Below are pictures of the first Fencing Squad in 1932, the last Fencing Squad (in 1935), and an action shot from the fencers of 1934-1935.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Governor's Academy Archives Posts Digitized Items on the Digital Commonwealth

The Archives of The Governor’s Academy has expanded access to some of its digitized historical materials through the Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts (DCM). The DCM is a Web portal and repository service for online cultural materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. The portal facilitates searching and browsing member institutions’ digital assets, including manuscripts, images, historical documents and sound recordings. The DCM site,, currently houses more than 20,000 searchable records.

The Governor’s Academy Archives has posted digitized copies of two items of historical significance: The Will of Lieutenant Governor William Dummer, which provided for the establishment of the school, and the academy’s Incorporation Charter of 1782, signed by both John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Posting of these items to the DCM repository was made possible by a grant from the Wilson Foundation. These items can be found by searching the term “Dummer Academy” on the DCM’s homepage.

Inclusion of The Governor's Academy materials in the DCM repository will allow researchers beyond the academy community to access its historical documents, and it provides an avenue for increasing awareness of the school as it approaches its 250th anniversary. The Governor's Academy Archives continues to seek funding sources for additional digitization efforts. For more information on the academy's Archives, please contact Laurie DiModica at or at 978-499-3347.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Gift of Appreciation

The Governor's Academy Archives recently received a donation from Duby McDowell, whose father, Edward Irvine McDowell, Jr., was a 1940 graduate of the academy and was involved in many activities while a student here.

Duby's gift--an envelope imprinted with a sketch of the Little Red School House--was mailed from South Byfield in 1938, the year in which the academy celebrated its 175th anniversary and in which the Little Red School House underwent restoration. While this imprint, as well as the 3¢ "Constitution Sesquicentennial" stamp that adorns the stamp's corner, make this gift interesting, equally valuable is the information contained in Duby's note that accompanied the envelope (below). This note reveals details of Edward McDowell's life that add color to the Archives' information on academy alumni: He was the grateful recipient of scholarship funds from the academy, went on to serve in World War II, and graduated from Yale University. He also shared "fond memories" of Governor Dummer Academy with his family.

We appreciate the effort made by alumni, their families, and friends, to bring these (and like items) to our attention!

Laurie DiModica
Manager of the Archives
1 Elm Street, Byfield, MA 01922

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Governor Dummer Academy Rifle Club

For many years, Governor Dummer Academy students were able to participate in the Rifle Club. Created at the tail end of World War II, the Rifle Club had 40 members in its inaugural year (the academic 1944-1945 year). The 1945 Milestone notes that the Rifle Club had “thrived beyond expectation,” and that the club’s shooting range “on the hill south of the hockey pond has been used steadily all the year in spite of the fact that the shelter did not survive the gales in January.” The club’s affiliation with the National Rifle Association (NRA) enabled it to purchase ammunition and to present awards to junior members. Over the course of the club’s first year, 135 awards were distributed and “some very skilled marksmen” had been developed. The club then turned toward the task of arranging matches with competing schools.

A preview of one upcoming Rifle Club season is published in the October 27, 1951 issue of The Archon:

Rifle Club Season Opens with a Bang!

This year the Governor Dummer Rifle Club promises keener, more active competition than ever before. With a roster of better than thirty-five members, eager for action on the range, the club is already making plans for upcoming activities. On the first school weekend some of the b

oys volunteered to help Mr. Christopher G. Stoneman, the master in charge of the rifle range, clear the weeds off the range in preparation for future use. At the first official meeting of the group as a club, an election of officers for the coming year was held. The result of this election established L. Franco Derba as president and Alexander A. Hose as secretary. There are reports of a good schedule in National Rifle Association competition with .22 calibre [sic] rifles, and all members of the club will have ample opportunities to shoot for N.R.A. ribbons.

The Rifle Club appears to have had a 20-year run, as evidenced by the fact that each Milestone from 1945 through 1964 had a page dedicated to club’s activities. No such entry appears from 1965 forward. Check out the some of the photographs of students and faculty during the Rifle Club’s existence, below.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bravado on the Pages of The Milestone

Bravado is a hallmark of The Milestone yearbooks from the 1920s. In student-written summaries of varsity sports teams’ seasons, the language conjures high drama, heroic efforts, and memorable results. The 1924 Milestone yearbook entry for the Fall 2003 Varsity Football season is particularly colorful:

“Dummer Academy has a right to be proud of her football team of 1923 [shown below]. The eleven, captained by Everit B. Terhune, Jr., and coached by Walter A. Comerford, will rank among the foremost Dummer Football teams of all time. The team after a disastrous start overcame many obstacles and handicaps and finished the season among a blaze of glory.”

Within seven games, the team—Terhune, Boyd, Whalen, Casgrain, Stone, Kenny, Osgood, MacLeod, Hinds, Albertson, Walkley, Ferdinand, Capron, and Forsberg—battled inexperience (only three were return varsity players), “incompetent officiating,” injury, and even the coach being “insulted and assaulted by a mob of mill workers” at one game to end the season with a respectable 5-2 record.

“November 10, 1923, is a date that will live long in the football annals of the school. On that day the team of 1923 came into its own. What happened on this memorable day? Dummer Academy defeated the much tooted Allen-Chalmers eleven, 7 to 0. During the week Walkley joined the cripples [Albertson and Ferdinand were injured in previous games], Horr substituting for him, and Whalen was shifted into left tackle position. This change wrought a wondrous change in the whole line. The guards and tackles which had been very weak suddenly became impregnable. The result was that Allen never got a yard beyond our forty-yard line throughout the game. In fact the heavier and more powerful Allen team was played to a standstill by our light team into which Coach Comerford had instilled such a wonderful spirit. MacLeod scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and Captain Terhune kicked the goal. The team had two other chances to score, but failed. The whole team played wonderfully, and there were no individual stars. Everyone gave his best.”

In the last game of the season—a 13 to 0 win for Dummer over Powder Point—Dummer made a 60-yard march for a touchdown. Included in the 1924 Milestone are the following sketches depicting the yardage gains (and losses) from the game’s first- and second-half periods. The sketches are signed “L.M.F.Jr 24” for Leonard Munn Fowle, Jr., ’24, The Milestone’s Athletics Editor for that year.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My School Days at Byfield, March 31, 1885

The following is an article that appeared in the March 31, 1885 edition of the Daily Evening Herald of Newburyport, Massachusetts. (Full text for the article follows, below it.) The article's author--identified only as "W.C.C."--is presumably William Coombs Codman, a student of Dummer Academy's sixth headmaster, Nehemiah Cleaveland (1821-1840), during the 1830s. Codman came from Dorchester to attend the academy as a boarding student when he was a mere 11 years old. In his article, published some 50 years after he came to Byfield, Codman reminisces about traveling to and attending Dummer Academy.

"It is a little more than fifty years ago since my schoolmate, William Sherburne Withington, and myself asked a space in the Newburyport Herald for our combined efforts at a newspaper paragraph, and the Herald, much to our surprise, published it. I shall never forget how anxiously we watched the arrival of the postman’s chaise on a certain Monday morning, on its return from Newburyport, and how pleased we were to see the product of our brains in print. It was not so easy then to get into the newspapers, though it is not so difficult now-a-days. If we read that article “Review of Hayward’s Gazeteer”) once, we certainly read it a hundred times. It was the proudest day of our young lives. The glory has lasted the writer for half a century. Poor Withington! I wish he could have lived to share with me the pleasant recollection, but he died a few years after. I now ask, for the second time, a space for my reminiscences of my school days at Dummer Academy. All boarding school boys will remember—no matter if they lived to be centenarians—the terrible sense of lonliness which comes over them for the first time when they leave home. Seasickness is short, though terrific; but homesickness is infinitely more horrible. I was about eleven years of age, and my residence was Dorchester. Byfield was forty miles away; the Soudan [sic] seems nearer now. My trunk—my grandfather’s trunk, made of pine and covered with hair—was neatly packed by my mother, and pasted to the lid inside was a list of the contents; but the dear, good mother did not mention in the list, that stowed away between the folds of some jacket or shirt, were cookies and short gingerbread and cocoanut cakes and acidulated drops. They were to be discovered later; and, dear soul as she rightly supposed, they helped to relieve homesickness.

Did I cry when the leave-taking took place? I remember that the large family were well supplied with handkerchiefs; that they were first applied to the eyes, and that when I turned round for a last look the moist linen was waving from a dozen hands as a parting farewell. Yes, I did cry. My father accompanied me to the city, an hour’s ride. The Eastern stage house, from which the Newburyport and Portsmouth stage coaches started, was located on Ann Street, now North Street, Boston. It was besides a rendezvous for Newburyport merchants, and many a bargain was consummated in the building. Some of your older citizens will remember the “Knights of the Whip”—the brothers Annable, Mendum, Forbes and Holland. When the Eastern railroad was completed they all found occupations either as conductors or expressmen.

I think it was the hour of 1 p.m., when we wheeled out of the stable yard into the narrow street, still called North Centre Street. Then came the crack of Forbes’ long whip. It seemed to me that a dozen bunches of fire crackers were being exploded. I had a seat with the driver; my little glazed cap towered a few inches above the high boot. When we were fairly out of the city Mr. Forbes became communicative; he had carried a great many boys to Byfield, and I wondered if he had brought any back. He was so kind and sympathetic that I could not but think that he had been sent off when quite young to a boarding school. Oh! What stories he used to tell of the fun the boys had at Byfield, and the beautiful Parker River, which they could utilize for swimming, rowing and boat sailing on Saturdays, and he so pleasantly whiled away the time that the journey didn’t seem so very long, after all. We had passed Old Rowley and were on the now abandoned turnpike, when Mr. Forbes pointed out the Academy building with the remark, “That’s your prison, youngster.” We soon reached a cross street where a sign board indicated the road to Dummer Academy. Here the stage coach drew up. I jumped off and was received by Deacon Hale. In a few minutes the hair covered trunk and its juvenile owner were on their way to the boarding house, while the stage coach rumbled along on its way to Newburyport enveloped in clouds of dust. It was but a short drive to Deacon Hale’s.

Chilled, forlorn and homesick, I made my debut among the impudent boys, who scanned me from head to foot, while I gazed around, and by the kindly expression of his eye, picked out Joe T., (afterwards candidate for Governor of a neighboring state) as my chum. I expected to be hazed, and my wisdom tooth must have been cut, for I made a most judicious selection. Joe was kind-hearted and muscular. With him as my champion there was nothing to fear. The good deacon introduced me in this way: “B’yes,”—he never said boys—“this is Master William, and he’s going to be one o’ yer.”

The boys were gathered around an immense fireplace, and the peat, which was cut into blocks and piled one on top of the other, like the blocks composing the ice palace at Montreal, emitted some heat, but it was unlike the cheery cannel coal fire in the parlor grate at home! After a ravenous appetite had been satisfied, good Madam Hale put a tallow dip in my hand, and escorted me to my chamber where Joe and myself in once bed, and two boys in another, were to sleep. At five o’clock the next morning, Joe awoke me to prepare for “study hour,” (from six to seven). When our toilets were partially completed, Joe led the way to the wash room (no hot or cold water faucets then). Two or three huge, coarse crash towels were suspended from cleets—everything was tidy about the premises which Mrs. Hale presided over. No doubt the towels were immaculate in the very early morning, but what could be expected when the last of a dozen boys had done with them. I took my turn at the japanned tin basin, for if I remember right there were only two for all of us, and undoubtedly I added my quota to the dirt spots on the towel. Study hour over, a rush was made for the breakfast. The boys played their knives and forks vigorously. People are now complaining of hard times. O! so much harder than they used to be. If they would only realize how much it cost, fifty years ago, to board, clothe, and educate a boy! Our fathers had to pay one dollar per week for our board, and twenty-six dollars per annum, for tuition. I am safe in saying, that everything included, the expense for each lad, per annum did not exceed one hundred dollars. Fortunately, my father never failed in business, or I should have felt that my extravagance was the cause! I may be going out of the way a little, but my fancy leads me to describe our landlord. Deacon, alias Esquire Hale, was small of stature, dignified for his inches, intellectual looking enough for a Trustee of the Academy, and hard on the boys where they stole his pears and apples; yet on the whole a good natured man. Nothing could be more fitting than the toast given by Arthur Delavan Gilman at one of our reunions, “Old Squire Hale, for forty-five years he took the boys to board, and for forty-five years the boys unflinchingly bored him.” On Sundays a wonderful transition took place; the Squire was no longer of the world-wordly, but the most solemn looking man in all Byfield. I don’t think he smiled once from sunrise to sunset—I am sure he never laughed—he had complete control over his visible muscles. Lapse of time prevents my giving an accurate account of his unique costume. I can only refer the reader to the fashion plates of the period. I think he must have watched the sun going down with as much pleasure as the Mussulman during the Ramazan. Sunday was supposed to commence early Saturday evening, and end (for the boys) a trifle earlier on the following day. In the evening Mr. Moody, the chorister of the church (I beg pardon—meeting house) all the boys of course, and the neighbors, would assemble in the large “sitting room.” The deacon would give out the hymns, and start the tune with the aid of a horse shoe shaped instrument called a “tuning fork,” which he would strike vigorously on the edge of the table—then raise it to ear, and before the sound died away he had secured the pitch. When we had got fairly underway on some old tune, the rock we called Dublin, and all the adjacent hills, would seem to echo back, “Handel’s nobody—Haydn ain’t much—Bully for the Deacon.” But the 34th Psalm tune was a special favorite with Deacon Hale, as sung to the words:

“Through all the changing scenes of life

In trouble or in joy

The praises of my God shall still

My heart and tongue employ.”

The first three lines went along smoothly enough, but all the musical science, all the force the deacon possessed, was to be expended on the word heart in the last line. Some gave the word four turns, thus har-ar-ar-ar-ar-art, but he would often add another, to the consternation of our musical party. I must now return to thing secular. After breakfast I heard the first ding-dong of the Academy bell. All the boys had green baize satchels, similar to those now carried by lawyers in our city streets. With boys the satchel has become obsolete, and the leather strap is much more convenient. I joined the procession to the Academy. A feeling of mortal terror came over me when I reached the threshold, but summoning up all the courage with which eleven long years had inspired me, opened the door, and was ushered into the august presence of the principal—Nehemiah Cleaveland, A.M. “Come up to the desk, young man,” was has salutation. I felt immensely flattered by being called a young man. I had only been called “whipper-snapper” before. On a platform raised about three feet above the school room floor Mr. Cleaveland was to receive the new pupil. After carefully wiping his gold-bowed spectacles, the critical moment for him to speak arrived. “Take your hands out of your breeches pockets, and hold your head up,” he said in a tone which was not assuring. After going through a sort of catechism as to my birthplace, age, etc., I was assigned a desk by Almory Holbrook, the monitor, but not until I had caught a glimpse of a ferrule on the Preceptor’s desk. I did not like its ugly look, and hoped I should never become familiar with it, but within the term, justly or unjustly, my acquaintance was to be revived. As soon as the edict had gone forth, I remembered that one of my Dorchester schoolmates had told that that if I would take two eye lashes, and place them crosswise in the palm of my hand, that a ferrule, even in made of lignumvitae, would, after one or two blows, break into infinitesimally small atoms. I had only time to get the eye lashes into position before the first clap. The prescribed dose was usually three, but mine being an aggravated case, it was extended to six. My curiosity was intense. I thought that the ferrule was weakening, and manfully held out my hand for a second, a third, and a fourth. At the fifth, I imagined the ferrule seemed cracking and would certainly collapse on the last blow, but I was disappointed, and returned to my desk with a very sore hand, and with the consciousness that I had been fooled. Years after, when I had thoughtfully reviewed the suggestion of my old schoolmate, I reached the conclusion that I had done him injustice. The inference I drew, was, that in such a case as mine, curiosity would be on the quivive, and that faith in the non-conducting and general smash-up qualities in those two little hairs, would be uppermost in the culprit’s mind and sustain him to the end. I had several whippings afterward, and will swear that they inflicted more pain, than the once I then received while expecting the ferrule to go to pieces like the “one horse shay.” I soon became accustomed to the school. I could handle an oar as well as any of my seniors—could remain under water, till somebody done for me expecting to bring up a corpse—dipped my hands in brine at night, so that I could punish any presumptuous boy if necessary. But it won’t do to brag. Perhaps Tom is living, and will tell how he made every bone in my little body ache, and kept me housed for two days at my boarding house. On one or more days in the week, all the boys were formed into a class, a spelling battalion, a regiment it seemed to me then. To vary the monotony, Mr. Cleaveland announced that each boy could select what seemed the most difficult word in the dictionary. When my turn came, I gave out escaloped. It passed perhaps a dozen boys before it was correctly spelt [sic], and so it went on until Taylor was reached, for we were arranged alphabetically. Taylor was a man, at least twenty-five. He could give us all points in mowing, planting potatoes, and general agriculture. He farmed it in summer, and attended the academy in winter, Taylor gave out the word “Mardamwazzle.” I give it as he gave it, and the sequel will show how nearly I am correct in the pronunciation. The head of the class commenced with mardamwazl, next mardamworzle, next mardamwazle, and so on to the end of the class. Taylor was in high glee. It was now Mr. Cleaveland’s turn. Taylor was jubilant; the boys were all excited. “Boys,” said the preceptor, “I have taught at this school for twenty-five years, and never have I been obliged to confess my ignorance before my scholars. I never met with the word before. Taylor, are you sure you found it in your dictionary? Bring it to me.” Taylor rapidly turned over the leaves, and then triumphantly pointed to the word. “There it is, sir,” said he. The master smiled; nay, more, he laughed outright—a very undignified thing for him to do, we thought, but excused him afterward when he said: “Boys, the word which has puzzled us all is ‘Mademoiselle’.” We never called that man Taylor again, he was only known as “Wazzle.” Byfield was not without its original characters. On the turnpike lived a Mr. Boynton, who in old stage coach times kept a tavern. One of his sons was born while Boynton was making an addition to his house; he was called “Adding.” A few years later another son was born. At that time Mr. Boynton was tearing down a part of the old tavern, and the youngster was named “Tearing.” So the young gentlemen were known in after years as the Messrs. Adding and Tearing Boynton.

I hold a schoolmate—now one of the most prominent lawyers in Essex County—responsible for the following: In the parish, near the meeting house, there lived a couple whose lives were varied with occasional spats, in which usually the wife came out first best. Mrs. S. had occasion one afternoon to visit Newburyport, and had told her husband that if she did not return by ten o’clock she need not be expected until the next day. Unfortunately for her, she did not reach home until nearly eleven. Mr. S. had bolted doors and windows and retired. All her rappings and shrieks were unavailing. The man slept soundly, and his wife had to stay outside the rest of the night. The following day she gave a neighbor an account of her adventure, winding up with “I declare, I don’t know what I should have done, had I not been sustained by those beautiful lines of Isaac Watts:

“Goosey goosey gander

Why did I wander?”

Among other originals at Byfield were “Old Kent” and “Dumb Fudger.” Possibly I may have occasion to refer to them again." – (signed) W.C.C.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wentworth Cheswell, American Patriot and Dummer Academy Alumnus

A recent research inquiry to the academy’s Archives prompted me to do some investigation into the issue of race integration throughout the school’s history. The research brought me back to the earliest years of the school, when Preceptor (Headmaster) Samuel Moody started his first lessons at the Little Red School House on March 1, 1763. Among the first class of 28 students under Moody was Wentworth Cheswell, a 16-year-old from Newmarket, New Hampshire.

While a formal education was a luxury in the 18th century, what is particularly notable about Wentworth Cheswell’s attendance is that he was accepted, and indeed thrived, at the academy with apparently little concern for his family being multiracial: Wentworth’s father was the famous housewright Hopestill Cheswell—himself the son of a freed black slave and a white woman—and Catherine (Keniston) Cheswell, who was also white. Hopestill’s father, Richard Cheswell, was a black slave in Exeter New Hampshire, who earned his freedom and, in October 1717, purchased 20 acres of land in what is today Newmarket. The transaction represents the earliest known deed in the State of New Hampshire showing ownership by a black man. Hopestill had his own significant achievements, having built several notable structures, including the John Paul Jones House, a National Historic Landmark which today houses the Portsmouth Historical Museum, and the Samuel Langdon House, which is now located at Sturbridge Village. Wentworth Cheswell’s education at Dummer Academy allowed him to achieve many professional successes himself.

After Wentworth Cheswell completed his studies at Dummer Academy, he returned to Newmarket to become a school teacher, but soon became embroiled in the American Revolutionary War. He was elected town messenger for the regional Committee of Safety, one of the many groups established in Colonial America to monitor events pertaining to public welfare. During the American Revolution, these committees communicated with Committees of Correspondence, which disseminated information along the militia units and provided intelligence on British activity. When Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth to alert defenders to the impending arrival of the British frigate Scarborough and the sloop of war Canseau, Wentworth Cheswell, as town messenger, rode on to Exeter to help communicate instructions on where militia men were to be sent. As an enlisted man, Cheswell served under Colonel John Langdon in the Company of Light Horse Volunteers at the Saratoga campaign.

Upon his return to Newmarket, Wentworth Cheswell settled into a long and prosperous life. He and his wife went on to have 13 children, and he remained an active and vibrant part of public life in New Hampshire. He was active in public office, holding positions as a school regulator and Justice of the Peace for Rockingham County.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Governor's Academy Archives Wins a Wilson Foundation Grant

The Governor's Academy (TGA) has been awarded a $1,000 Wilson Foundation Grant through the New England Library Information Network (NELINET, now part of LYRASIS) and the Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts (DCM). The award is a matched-funds grant that will enable the school’s Archives Department to expand access to some of its items of historical significance, such as the will of Lieutenant Governor William Dummer and the Academy’s Incorporation Charter, signed by both John Hancock and Samuel Adams (see below).

The Wilson Foundation Grant provides funds for incorporating some of TGA's digitized items in a web-searchable repository, now located at Inclusion of TGA materials in this repository will allow researchers beyond the school community to access its historical documents, and it will increase awareness of the school as it approaches its 250th anniversary in 2013.

The DCM provides a portal to cultural heritage information held in museums, historical societies, colleges, libraries, and other cultural repositories in Massachusetts. From the DCM site, viewers can search or browse the digital collections of member institutions. In conjunction with LYRASIS, DCM offers its web-searchable repository that hosts DCM members’ digital content. NELINET, a not-for-profit cooperative of academic, public, school, and special libraries and other information/cultural organizations in New England, was formed as a program of the New England Board of Higher Education in 1966 but joined with similar organizations in 2009 to form LYRASIS, the nation’s largest regional membership organization serving libraries and information professionals.