History of Marlow Academy of Marlow, New Hampshire

Little more than a decade old in 1850, Marlow Academy of Marlow, N.H. was in its heyday with a well-established reputation for excellence, competing with independent New Hampshire schools such as Andover and Phillips Exeter which had been established in the eighteenth century and with more recently established Cheshire County schools such as Chesterfield and Walpole Academies. This small town academy in Southwest New Hampshire drew scholars, not only from surrounding towns, but also from as far away as Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, and Ohio. It was part of a new wave of independent schools formed in the East in the nineteenth century to meet the educational needs of the growing republic.

These academies, or private secondary schools, were the only path to university education, although for most attendees, graduation from an academy was an end in itself. In an era in which only about one percent of the population entered college, an academy degree conferred the status of advanced education. Although eighty percent of all boys and 80 percent of all girls under 20 attended school and the American literacy rate was over 95 percent in 1850, our nation felt the need of a broader group of highly educated citizens to assume leadership positions at all levels and families saw advanced education as their children's ladder to success.

Science in Marlow

While Marlow Academy, like other independent schools of its day, emphasized classical learning, it surely considered itself modern. The 1850-51 Catalogue, page 17, lists an astonishing array of the latest scientific paraphernalia: "A beautiful and expensive Apparatus has recently been procured.. .large and efficient, affording striking experiments. Among the Apparatus are Claxton's Patent Air Pump..., a variety of Glass Receivers, Apparatus for Weighing Air, Hand and Bladder Glasses, Madgeberg Hemispheres, Weight Lifter for Weighing 100 pounds air pressure. Condensers, Barometer, Guinea and Feather Tube [for demonstrating that objects of different weights fall at the same rate] and numerous other instruments for Hydrostatics and Pneumatics." Then the list becomes even more intriguing. "Also a large Brass Mounted Plate Electrical machine. Battery, Leyden Jars, Chime of Bells, Electrical Tellurian ['an apparatus for showing the diurnal rotation and annual revolution of the earth and the obliquity of its axis produce alteration of day and night and the changes of the seasons,' Webster's Unabridged Dictionary], Electrical Sportsman [?], Thunder House to show the necessity of perfect lightning rods. Miser's Plate, Dischargers, Electrometer, Insulated Stool [!], Apparatus for Electrical lights, etc. Artificial magnets. Magnetic Needle, Galvanic Battery, Powder Cup, Voltaic Pistol, Helix on Stand, Magic Circle [?], Electromagnet, Analytical Apparatus for Shocks, Page's Revolving magnet exhibiting rapid motion by Electricity with all instruments necessary to explain the entire process of telegraphing."

"The Academy is also furnished with a twelve-inch Artificial Globe, Compound Microscope, Cutler's Anatomical Plates, and Madison's Astronomical Maps to illustrate the Mechanism of the Heavens. Also apparatus to illustrate Chemistry. The Cabinet contains numerous specimens of Geological Formations." The Academy also boasted plans for a practical course in surveying. "The principal is intending to procure a superior Surveyor's Compass and Mathematical Instruments before the ensuing spring."

Higher and Higher Education in Marlow

School-wide lectures on such topics as Natural Philosophy, Geology, and Physiology were delivered by the principal. The winter's lectures would be on Pneumatics, Electricity, and Magnetism with Chemistry reserved for spring. The 1850-51 Marlow Academy studies were as rigorous as Marlow's winters. Scholars must have been well-grounded by their district schools in literacy and mathematics and must have applied themselves diligently to succeed at Marlow Academy. Both young men and young women attended. There were two curricula, the English Course and the Classical Course. In 1850, 46 students were enrolled in the Classical Course, 19 males and 27 females, and there were 151 enrolled in the English Course, 67 males and 84 females. Each was a three-year course, if the terms were taken consecutively, which was not always the case. Many names are recognizable in Marlow today. (In the autumn of 2005, there will be a copy in the Marlow Library of the Marlow Academy catalogues 1850-51 and Fall of 1872 along with related material. These will contain lists of the students enrolled in those years.)

The Classical Course required the strenuous curriculum of the English Course with the addition of Latin and Greek. Latin and Greek were commonly taught at New England academies. With few exceptions, all that remains of the Greek today are the letters over the doors of our college fraternity houses. Representing Latin, our graduation gowns are still medieval monastic style and a few of our "written in stone" high school mottos are Latin.

To convey the tone of the 1850 curriculum, here are a few of the texts listed in the Marlow Academy 1850-51 Catalogue: Weld's Grammar and Parsing; Hall's Manual of Morals; Olmsted's School Philosophy; Johnston's Elements of Chemistry; Mattson's Astronomy; Wood's Botany; Paley's Natural Theology; Wayland's Moral Science; Markham's History, and Whatley's Rhetoric and Logic. Instruction was also given in French, Music, Penmanship, Drawing and Painting, Composition, and Declamation. It is interesting that in 1850 French was grouped with accomplishments (read "frills") rather than with the "meat and potatoes" classes. By 1872, French is on more solid ground as a serious study, and Greek is already on the way out, taught "as demanded."

The Classical Course included Cicero, Caesar, Livy, Virgil, Horace and Tacitus as well as Xenothon's Anabasis, Homer, Demosthenes, and, of course, the Greek testament. "Latin and Greek grammars are constant companions," the 1850-51 Catalogue tells us. "Not only are students required to commit to memory all the important rules and remarks of Grammar, but their application is made evident in reading the classics."

End of the Term at Marlow Academy

Examinations were few, but rigorous. Each term's final examination was marked by a public event, a term graduation. Visiting dignitaries from surrounding towns were invited to attend scholarly speeches and recitations and orally examine the students as well. Facing a scholarly examining committee must have felt like taking an oral doctoral exam today and must have provided strong motivation to master material. It reflects the ancient tradition of elder scholars examining new scholars to determine whether or not they shall pass into the scholarly ranks. Education at Marlow Academy was indeed higher education. Our "new" educational ideas of performance objectives and authentic assessment are not so new after all.

Each term's end was not only an examination and performance for visiting scholars, but a celebration of scholarly achievement with a full program of speeches and recitations attended by families and well-wishers too.  It was a serious, formal occasion. One can imagine that all were dressed in their Sunday best.  Here are several selections from such an end-of-term program given at Marlow Academy in the fall of 1871:

Oration Perseverance Arthur C. Joslin, Marlow
Declamation He Never Smiled Again Horace T. Baron, Newport
Recitation Temptation Miss. Hattie Perkins, Marlow
Recitation Doubt Me Not Miss. Nettie L. Allen, Lempster
Declamation New Hampshire's Lament George F. Gee, Marlow
Essai Pourquoi Plaignez? Miss Alma W. Isham, Cincinnati
Declamation The Philosopher's Scales Eddie Giffin, Marlow
Oration Personal Influence L. Albert Loveland, Gilsum

The Victorian earnestness and sentimentality of the titles endearingly reflect the mid-nineteenth century era.

Attending Marlow Academy

Such high-minded education was not available to everyone. Not every town offered education beyond grade eight, so scholars who lived beyond nineteenth century commuting distance from an academy had to leave home and either board with relatives or strangers near an academy or, in some cases, be housed an fed at the academy. Since Marlow Academy opened in 1838 in the main hall of Jones Hotel, we might guess that early out-of-town students boarded there. In 1841 when the Academy building was constructed, "The Tontine," an old school house which had stood on the east side of the Ashuelot River opposite the dam, was moved to beside the Academy to serve as a dormitory, so, for a time, at least, the Academy itself could house students. (From 1864 to 1888, however, "The Tontine" was the home of Luman Smith, the village blacksmith.)  Charles Strickland tells us that the girls boarded separately in a home further up the street.

The costs of room and board were modest as page 19 of the 1850 Catalogue shows. The English Course was $3.50 for an eleven week term. With Latin and Greek added, the cost was $4.00. The "accomplishment" classes such as painting and drawing carried extra costs, from $1.00 to $3.00 a term. "Nothing is charged for incidental expenses... .Board, including room rent, washing, fuel, and lights, does not exceed $1.50 per week. Rooms may be secured for self-boarding and the expenses thereby diminished. It will be observed that $20.00 will pay the expense of board and tuition for a term." The 1872 Catalogue shows little change in these figures.

Although the costs were modest, not every family could afford them, and not every family could afford the loss of a farm or factory worker that secondary education represented. For families of many Marlow Academy scholars, the expense and loss of labor was surely a sacrifice. Some students attended terms sporadically as they could, completing the three-year program in four or more years.

History of Marlow Academy

In 1838, the year after Victoria became Queen of England, the year Samuel Morse first demonstrated the telegraph, and the year Iowa became a United States Territory, Giles Bailey established Marlow Academy at Jones Hotel. In 1841, the Marlow Academy Association, led by The Reverend Amos Tenney, completed the Academy building on a 10 by 10 rod tract of land on a knoll overlooking the village pond. This group was connected with the Methodist Conference which helps explain the religious nature of some of the texts. The white clapboard building still stands today as the Odd Fellows Forest Lodge No. 69 and serves as a location for many community events. I.O.O.F. purchased the building in 1892.

Externally, the building has changed little. The "porta-potty" just outside the back door stands closer to the building than the old outhouses must have stood during its life as an educational institution. At the top of the Academy's steps, we see two entry doors. Whether or not it is true, rumor has it that one door was for the female students and the other for the males. Originally the building held four classrooms, but now the classroom walls have been removed. The building has two stories and a mysterious windowed attic room, probably used for storage. Topped by a four-pointed steeple, it remains one of the more quaint and attractive buildings in a village of quaint, attractive buildings.

In 1845 the Methodist Church was moved from Marlow Hill to the present village, then called South Marlow, and placed nearly beside Marlow Academy, probably no coincidence. We find that Amos Flagg Fiske, who served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Marlow Academy in 1850 and one of three Executive Directors in 1872, was instrumental in having this church building moved. As might be imagined, the move was not a popular one with the Methodists on Marlow Hill. Around the same time the buildings that today we call Jones Hall and Murray Hall (or "The Grange") were also moved from Marlow Hill to South Marlow to form the famous village vignette across the pond we see today.

Alas, from its heyday in the early 1850's, Marlow Academy fell on sad times as did many of the old New England Academies in the nineteenth century, many, perhaps, because of the exodus of young men due to the Civil War. We can't entirely blame the Civil War for Marlow Academy's troubles because they began before the War started. What caused the decline remains a mystery, but, in 1857, the year of the Dred Scott Decision, Josiah Otis, a spiritualist, purchased the Academy to run as a Normal School, that is to train teachers. The experiment was a dismal failure.

In 1858, Josiah Otis sold the building to the Baptists connected with the Acworth church. They held worship the Academy building on Sunday and held school there on week days. One can only guess why the Academy declined and the Normal School failed. Some may blame personalities, and perhaps rightly so, but we know that in the 1850's, as today, teaching was not high status or high salaried work. Presumably teaching scholars were expected to find their reward in the work itself. ("The more things change, the more they remain the same.") In many areas, to avoid paying teachers a living wage, families took turns boarding the district school house teacher who was passed from home to home like a poor relation. Teaching was one of the few careers open to a young woman, but, in most places, the young lady was expected to leave her teaching career on marriage. There was small motivation to educate oneself to teach.

Some young women remained unmarried to dedicate their lives to teaching. Perhaps the Civil War, which swept away so many eligible young men, may have been a factor in these decisions. For instance, Sarah E, Phelps of Marlow is listed in the 1880 census as age 16; occupation, teacher; member of her father's household. Our own Mr. Marlow, Charles Strickland, characterized her as a beloved teacher who, in her old age, became blind (no doubt from correcting all those homework papers by kerosene or whale oil lamp), but continued to the end her practice of knitting every child in town a pair of warm woolen mittens for Christmas each year. The townspeople reciprocated her devotion by helping provide firewood and other necessities for her in her old age.

Perhaps for economic reasons the trend toward training teachers did not provide a large clientele. Perhaps, in the period before automobiles, Marlow was simply too far off the beaten track. Route 10, passing through the swamps, especially toward the north, was almost impassible several months of the year well into the twentieth century. Other routes in by stage weren't so easy or predictable either. For whatever reasons, Marlow Academy remained closed during the Civil War Period and into the Antebellum Era, but, in 1871, the year that Henry Stanley found Dr. Livingston near Lake Tanganyika and the year Orville Wright was born, the Marlow Academy Association purchased the Academy building and reopened the Academy. Several of the names which appear as trustees in the 1850-51 Catalogue are the same as those the fall of 1872 Catalogue.

Willard A. Baker, Esq.
Josiah Bumap, Esq.
Nathaniel R. Butler, Esq.
Reuben Hatch, M.D.
Peter T. Fox, Esq.
Harvey C. Wood A.M.
Amos F. Fiske, Esq., Secretary

Perely E. Fox, President
Lyman Cram, Secretary
Hon. Amos F. Fiske, Treasurer
James Bumap
Marshall Perkins, M.D.
Peter Fox
James M. Howard
Executive Committee
John Q. Jones
M. Perkins, M.D.
A. F. Fiske

The 1872 Marlow Academy Catalogue remarks on page 9, "The twentieth century will demand more than the nineteenth.. .The old system of academic instruction, with its prescribed curriculum, is well enough in its place, but does not meet the demands of all. [Here we begin a long, slippery slope. We are still on it.] There are hundreds.. .whose only education consists of the rudiments of English language taught in district schools. This class will not attend our larger academies, partly on account of expense and partly from timidity, and it is our object to offer to these an opportunity for obtaining something more than a grammar school education and with but little expense." In keeping with this new, less academic philosophy, we find text names somewhat less academically pretentious: Grammar, Greenleaf's Arithmetic, Davies Elementary Algebra, Fulton and Eastman's Book-keeping, Wayland's Moral Science, and Czery's Exercises in Velocity for Piano. (What every parlor performer needs to keep the audience awake!)

Marlow Academy, which had opened in 1838 with a clear purpose, in keeping with its New England sister academies, for preparing an elite for leadership, moved in 1872 toward a more democratic ideal, but it was also more in keeping with the coming age of continued industrial expansion and "robber barons."

James Tracy, in his article "Republican Schools and Independent Schools for the Revolution to the Millennium" in New Visions for a New Millennium writes:

"At the nation's founding, American culture was infused with a notion of deference in which it assumed that there was a 'natural aristocracy' of.. .men who deserved respect and deference from their social inferiors." He goes on to say that Madison as well as Hamilton feared "mobocracy" and their "immersion in classical antiquity convinced them that the Roman Republic had failed when its aristocracy ceased to be virtuous.. .The founders [of our nation and of our independent schools] believed the republic could survive only as long as its elites looked beyond self-interest and instead devoted themselves to 'virtue'."

The constitution of Phillips Andover reads, "... above all, it is expected that the Master's attention to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under his charge will exceed every care; well considering that, though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble; yet, knowledge without goodness is dangerous,. .It is required that he must attentively guard against the earliest irregularities; that he frequently delineate their natural colours, the deformity and odiousness of vice and the beauty and amiableness of virtue...."

While Marlow Academy seemed to shift away from its earliest elitist mission, as suggested by its shift from a rigorous academic curriculum to a broader, more democratic and less demanding curriculum, it also seemed to weaken in terms of its mission to guard and instill virtue in its scholars. Although in 1872, the entire school was required to belong to a literary society which met every Wednesday evening during the term for exercises in discussion and declamation of the same high moral tone we find in the Fall Term program of exercises, (See above) in the 1872 Catalogue, the school's moral mission is less clearly articulated.

The 1850-51 Catalogue reads, "A watchful care will be exercised over the morals of the students and efforts made to secure correct habits of study and deportment. All students will be required to meet daily for Scriptures and religious devotions - and to attend church on the Sabbath - to observe specific hours of study, and to avoid whatever tends to divert the mind from study, the heart from virtue, or to abstract from funds of the student without returning the equivalent." In 1872, parents received no such assurances.

However, the Academy directors bravely attempted to attract scholars from afar: "Marlow Academy is situated in Marlow, N. H. about 15 miles from Keene and the same from Bellows Falls, Vermont. There is a daily stage to Wilton via Stoddard and Hancock connection with Boston trains, also tri-weekly stages to Keene and Bellows Falls." No doubt the directors hoped that city dwellers would wish to remove their children from the worldly influences of urban life to the peace and purity of the country. James Tracy in "Republican Schools..." (See above) writes, "Often these schools were far from urban centers where children of those with means could live in pristine, natural settings." This was, after all, the era still bathed in the fading, golden glow of pastoral romanticism. The wealthy sought "cures" in the fresh country air, especially in watery locations, especially those with "medicinal springs." Such a curative spring was reputed to exist in Marlow. A quick perusal of the shorter list of Marlow Academy scholars of 1872 shows that fewer students came from far away. Although one came from Cincinnati, Ohio and one from Holden, Massachusetts, most came from Marlow, Gilsum, and Lempster.

For many years, Marlow Academy continued its work, but in 1889, the year of the first known use of the word "automobile" and the end of the Spanish-American War, Marlow Academy closed its doors, ending secondary education in Marlow, N. H. until the present time when most of our high school students attend school two towns away. Since 1892, the Old Academy has been in the care of Forest Lodge, No. 69,1.O.O.F. There it stands on its knoll across from the pond, a relic of academic glory days.

Its former students remained loyal and sentimentally attached to their Alma Mater. We find evidence in the program for the 1901 Marlow Academy Reunion. It seems that there were many such events.

From the 1901 Program:
"Come in the evening or coming in the morning.
Come when you're looked for, or come without warning.
Greeting and welcome you'll find here before you."

Alumni Committee:
Elgin A. Jones
George F. Gee
Perley E. Fox
Sarah J. H. Fish
Carl Allen

"This reunion is intended to be an occasion of joyous reminiscence. Morning exercises will be held in the Academy as usual." This is followed by a full day of events: a banquet at Jones Hall, speeches by teachers and students, a reading of the Marlow Academy History, an edition of "Evening Star," and a reception and Musicale at Jones Hall.

Here is the last word from the Marlow Academy Reunion of 1901:

"We think that old Aladdin's lamp,
Which brought him wealth and station,
Had, on its base, this potent word
Of magic, - Education."