Old Bacon Academy, Colchester, Connecticut

The Bacon Academy building at 84 Main Street in Colchester, around 1896. Image from Connecticut Quarterly.

The building in 2020:

Bacon Academy is one of the oldest public high schools in the United States, and the second oldest in Connecticut. It was established in 1803 following the death of Pierpont Bacon, a Colchester resident who bequeathed $35,000 to maintain a school for the town’s residents. At the time, a high school education was rare in the United States, and few towns had a high school, even here in the relatively well-educated northeast. For Bacon Academy, the main purpose was to prepare boys for college, so the school offered what was, at the time, regarded as a well-rounded education. An 1803 newspaper advertisement declared that students would “be accommodated with suitable instruction in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, the learned Languages and Sciences.” Tuition in 1803 was $2.00 per quarter in the summer, and $2.50 per quarter in the winter.

The school opened on November 1, 1803, here in this brick, three-story Federal-style building. It is situated right in the center of Colchester, on Main Street directly opposite Norwich Avenue. Behind the school, visible in the distance on the left side of the scene, is the town’s old burying ground, which dates back to 1713. The opening of the school was widely reported in newspapers across the region, and the New York Morning Chronicle provided the following description of the building and its location:

A large and elegant brick building is erected for the accommodation of the scholars; being 75 feet in length, 34 feet in breadth, and three stories high. It is divided into a large hall, and convenient apartments for the different branches. . . . Colchester is a very healthy and pleasant town situated on the turnpike road leading from Hartford to New-London, being nearly equi-distant from each. A more eligible situation for an institution of this kind, could not have been chosen.

The first principal of the school was 31-year-old John Adams, a Connecticut native and Yale graduate who had previously taught at Plainfield Academy in New Jersey. He went on to become a prominent educator, serving here in Colchester until 1810, followed by 23 years as principal of Phillips Academy Andover. Later in life he moved west, serving from 1836 to 1843 as principal of Jacksonville Female Seminary, a school that would eventually be incorporated into Illinois College in the early 20th century.

During its first year, Bacon Academy enrolled 206 students. The majority of these were from Colchester, but 63 of them were from out of town. In its early years, the school even attracted students from out of state. Perhaps most notably, this included 11-year-old Stephen F. Austin of Missouri, whose father Moses Austin enrolled him in the school starting in the fall of 1804. Stephen Austin attended the school for the next three years, and he would eventually go on to become one of the founders of Texas and the namesake of its capital city.

Aside from Austin, Bacon Academy saw a number of its other students go on to achieve prominence in the 19th century. These included at least five future governors: William Larrabee of Iowa, Edwin D. Morgan of New York, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, and William A. Buckingham and Morgan Bulkeley of Connecticut. With the exception of Larrabee, all of these men also served as U.S. senators, and Trumbull had a particularly distinguished career in the Senate, serving from 1855 to 1873. During this time, he co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Other distinguished Bacon Academy students included Eliphalet A. Bulkeley, who became the first president of Aetna Insurance Company, and Morrison Waite, who served as chief justice of the United States from 1874 to 1888.

By the mid-1830s, the school had grown to 425 students, including 137 who were from out of town and 32 from out of state. For the first few decades, the student body consisted of white males, with a separate school here in Colchester to educate African American children. However, at least one African American, the prominent educator Prince Saunders, was associated with Bacon Academy only a few years after it opened. He ran the African American students, and he is said to have taken courses at Bacon Academy, although it does not seem clear as to whether he was formally enrolled at the school, or was taught outside of school by some of its teachers.

In any case, by the 1840s Bacon Academy was racially integrated, and it had begun to enroll female students. This period in the mid-19th century was a high point for the school, which had aspirations of becoming a top-tier college preparatory school similar to Phillips Academy. However, the school ultimately saw a decline in enrollment, in part because of this deviation from its original mission. Unable to compete with the more established private schools, by the late 19th century Bacon Academy had settled into the role of the public high school for residents of Colchester.

The first photo was taken around the mid-1890s, showing the main academy building in the foreground. On the far right side is Day Hall, an Italianate-style building that was completed in 1858 as a church hall for the adjacent First Congregational Church. By this point, the exterior of the academy had seen a few changes from its original appearance, including the door hood above the main entrance and the octagonal cupola atop the building. The photo shows shutters on the windows and a balustrade along the roof, although these may not have been original either; an 1836 engraving of the building does not show either of these features.

This building remained in use by Bacon Academy until 1962, when the school relocated to a new facility. The school subsequently moved again in 1993, to its current site a few miles to the west of here on Norwich Avenue, where Bacon Academy remains the town’s public high school nearly 220 years after it was first established. In the meantime, the old building here on Main Street is still standing, as is the neighboring Day Hall, which was acquired by the school in 1929. The exteriors of both buildings have remained well-preserved over the years, and the only noticeable difference to the academy building in this scene is the lack of shutters or balustrade. Because of its architectural and historic significance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In addition, both it and Day Hall are contributing properties in the Colchester Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register in 1994.

Springfield Cemetery, Springfield, Mass (3)

A view looking east up one of the terraces in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

As explained in the previous post, Springfield Cemetery was established in 1841 as one of the first rural cemeteries in the northeast. Inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and Watertown, these types of cemeteries sought to create a pleasant, park-like atmosphere, in contrast to the older, gloomier Puritan-era graveyards in town centers. The cemetery was laid out in an area once known as Martha’s Dingle, located a little to the east of downtown Springfield. The land here consists of several steep-sided ravines, making it poorly suited for real estate development but ideal for a tranquil rural cemetery.

In developing the cemetery, some of the slopes were transformed into terraces, such as this one here. This particular view shows the view of the cemetery facing east from near its geographic center. In the foreground is the lower section, which had few interments during the 19th century, and further in the distance is the slope leading up to the upper section, which is adjacent to Pine Street. In general, the further up the hill that the gravestones are, the older they tend to be, culminating with the colonial-era stones along Pine Street, which were moved there from the old burying ground on Elm Street in 1848.

In this particular scene, most of the gravestones in the first photo date to the late 19th century, so they would have been relatively new when the photo was taken. Since then, many more burials have occurred here, but there are still some stones that are recognizable from the first photo. Near the center of the photo is a rectangular granite stone of businessman Warner C. Sturtevant (1809-1891), his wife Nancy (1811-1885), and several of their children and grandchildren. Just to the right of it, and a little closer to the foreground, is the marble stone of Samuel W. Fisher (1817-1884) and his wife Lorinda (1826-1885). In the distance beyond this stone is a large obelisk for the Merriam family, including dictionary publisher Charles Merriam (1806-1887), his wives Sophia (1808-1858) and Rachel (1824-1888), and several of their children.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, there are now many more gravestones here in this scene, most dating to the first half of the 20th century. Among the more notable burials here in this scene are George Walter Vincent Smith (1832-1923) and his wife Belle (1845-1928), who were both prominent philanthropists and art patrons. They amassed an extensive art collection that they subsequently donated to the city as the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, and they are buried here, just to the right of the tree on the left side of the scene.

Aside from the addition of more gravestones, some of the stones from the first photo are now gone, possibly having been replaced by newer monuments. Overall, though, this scene remains largely the same as it appeared in the late 19th century. Springfield Cemetery is still an active cemetery, and it continues to have the same natural, park-like appearance that its founders envisioned some 180 years ago. The city has since grown up around the cemetery, but from here it is hard to tell that these wooded ravines are right in the midst of one of the largest cities in New England.

Springfield Cemetery, Springfield, Mass (2)

A scene in Springfield Cemetery, facing the southern section of the cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Springfield Cemetery was established in 1841, and it was part of a trend that involved creating well-landscaped, park-like cemeteries on the outskirts of cities and towns, as opposed to the older, often gloomier Puritan-era graveyards in town centers. The first of these cemeteries was Mount Auburn Cemetery in the suburbs of Boston, which opened in 1831, and many other cities soon followed, including Springfield a decade later. Over the years, it would become the final resting place for many of the city’s prominent 19th century residents, and it remains an active cemetery today.

The cemetery is located in a ravine that was originally known as Martha’s Dingle. In transforming the area into a cemetery, the designers incorporated the natural features into the landscape by creating a series of terraces that were separated by wooded slopes. These were linked together by curving paths that followed the contours of the land. Overall, the intent was to create a place that would serve not only as a burial ground for the dead, but also as a quiet, peaceful place for the living to visit.

The view here in these two photos shows the upper section of the cemetery, facing south in the direction of Cedar Street. In the distance is the southernmost section of the cemetery, which, unlike the rest of the cemetery, lacks the winding paths and landscaped terraces. Instead, the lots here are laid out on flat ground, with few trees and with straight paths that intersect at right angles in a grid pattern. Most of the gravestones in that section date to the second half of the 19th century, and by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s it was already crowded with towering obelisks and other monuments.

By contrast, the slightly lower area here in the foreground was nearly devoid of gravestones when the first photo was taken. Of the two that are present near the foreground, the one in the lower center of the scene has apparently been removed or replaced, but the other one, further to the left, is still there. It features a veiled figure with an urn standing atop an Ionic column, marking the grave of James Abbe, who died in 1889 at the age of 66. He was a stove and tin merchant, and he was also a director for several local corporations, including serving as president of the Hampden Watch Company. In addition, he was a state legislator from 1876-1877, and he served as a trustee for the Springfield Cemetery Association.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, Abbe’s gravestone is still here, although it is now mostly hidden by a tree from this angle. Otherwise, the most significant difference here is the number of gravestones in the foreground. This section was mostly empty in the early 1890s, but it now features a number of 20th century gravestones. Perhaps the most prominent person buried in this section is Horace A. Moses, a paper manufacturer and philanthropist who was one of the founders of Junior Achievement. He died in 1947, and his gravestone is the bench-like monument on the far left side of the scene.

Overall, despite the increase in gravestones, this section of Springfield Cemetery has not changed much since the late 19th century. The level upper section in the distance is mostly hidden behind trees from here, but it still looks largely the same as it did in the first photo, with rows of large monuments. By contrast, even though it has more gravestones now than in the first photo, the area in the foreground still has much more of a rural, park-like appearance, with its winding roads and mature shade trees, as shown in the present-day scene.

Josiah Gilbert Holland Gravestone, Springfield, Mass

The gravestone of author Josiah Gilbert Holland in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Josiah Gilbert Holland was a prominent author during the second half of the 19th century, writing a variety of works, including novels, poems, history books, and advice books. He was also an assistant editor of the Springfield Republican, and he was one of the founders of the magazine Scribner’s Monthly. Born in Belchertown in 1819, Holland moved to Springfield as an adult, and he spent much of his literary career here, before moving to New York in the early 1870s. He died there in 1881, but his body was returned to Springfield, where he was buried here in Springfield Cemetery.

Holland’s books are rarely read today, in part because of the overly sentimental and moralistic style of his writings. However, these same qualities made his works very popular with the general public during the Victorian era, and after his death he was memorialized here at his gravesite with a bronze bas relief sculpture by prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It features a profile image of Holland, with a sprig of lily-of-the-valley behind him, and the inscription “Et Vitam Impendere Vero,” which translates to “To devote one’s life to truth.” Beneath the bas relief, the base of the monument features another inscription that reads “For the great hereafter I trust in the infinite love as it is expressed to me in the life and death of my lord and saviour Jesus Christ.”

The first photo was taken only about a decade after Holland’s burial. Since then, several more gravestones have been added to this scene, but otherwise very little has changed here. Holland himself has been largely forgotten by readers and literary scholars, but his monument has been well-preserved throughout this time, and it remains one of the most artistically-significant gravestones in Springfield.

Pynchon Monument, Springfield, Mass

The Pynchon family plot in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Springfield Cemetery was established in 1841, but it includes the remains of many of Springfield’s earliest colonial settlers, dating back to the mid-1600s. Originally, these residents were buried in a graveyard in downtown Springfield, on Elm Street between Old First Church and the Connecticut River. However, by the 1840s that land had become valuable real estate in the center of a growing town, and part of the graveyard was in the path of a new railroad along the river. Because of this, in 1848 the remains were exhumed, and nearly all were reinterred in Springfield Cemetery.

A total of 2,434 bodies were removed from the old graveyard, along with 517 gravestones. Friends and family members of the deceased had the option of having the remains buried in a different cemetery, or in a private lot here in Springfield Cemetery, but most were interred along the Pine Street side of the cemetery. Those bodies accompanied by gravestones were buried beneath their respective stones, and the hundreds of unidentified remains with no gravestones were buried in an adjacent lot.

Among those buried in private lots were members of the Pynchon family. The Pynchons were probably the most influential family in the early years of Springfield’s history, in particular the family patriarch, William Pynchon, who founded the settlement in 1636. He returned to England in 1652 after the publication of his controversial book, which the Puritan leaders found heretical, so he was not buried in Springfield. However, his children stayed here in Springfield, where they would play an important role in the town throughout the rest of the 17th century.

One of William Pynchon’s children was his daughter Mary, who came to Springfield as a teenager in the 1630s and married Elizur Holyoke in 1640. She died in 1657, and her gravestone is the oldest surviving stone here in the cemetery. It is visible on the left side of this scene, just behind and to the left of the large monument in the center of the photos. Gravestones were uncommon in New England before the late 1600s, as early burials were typically marked by simple fieldstones or wooden markers, if at all. Few gravestones in the region are dated prior to the 1660s, and many of these were likely carved years or decades after the fact. It is possible that Mary’s gravestone was carved at a later date, but either way it is definitely very old and was likely carved at some point in the 1600s.

Aside from its age, Mary Pynchon Holyoke’s gravestone is also memorable for its epitaph, which reads:

Shee yt lyes here was while she stood
A very glory of womanhood
Even here was sown most pretious dust
Which surely shall rise with the just

When her body was disinterred from the old burying ground in the spring of 1848, the remains of two different people were found beneath this stone. Writing several decades later in 1885, in Record of the Pynchon Family in England and America, Dr. J. C. Pynchon speculated that the second body may have been Elizur Holyoke, although there is no known record of where he was buried. In any case, there was little left of either body, with Pynchon writing:

These remains were found side by side, in the white sand, about six feet below the surface. This sand was discolored, and some few pieces of the skulls and other bones were found, while even the screws or nails of the coffins were wholly destroyed, their places being marked by the rust only, while no other vestige of the coffins remained. The few remains were gathered, which soon crumbled to dust on exposure to the air, and, with the surrounding earth, deposited in the new cemetery, after having lain in the old burying ground, in the case of Mary Holyoke, one hundred and ninety-one years.

Aside from Mary’s gravestone, the Pynchon family lot here also includes the large monument in the center of the scene. As indicated by the inscription here on this side of it, the monument was “Erected under a provision in the will of Edward Pynchon, who died Mar. 17, 1830. Æ 55.” Edward Pynchon was the 4th great grandson of William Pynchon, and he held a number of local political offices, including town clerk, town treasurer, county treasurer, and county register of deeds. In his will, he noted that the old Pynchon family monument had fallen into disrepair, and instructed his executors to install a new monument on the same spot in the old burying ground, with inscriptions for the family members buried there. This was carried out after his death, and then in the late 1840s this monument was moved here to this lot in Springfield Cemetery, presumably accompanied by the remains of the Pynchons who were buried beneath it.

The monument is carved of sandstone, which was the most common gravestone material in the Connecticut River Valley during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. However, sandstone does not always weather very well, and many of the inscriptions on the Pynchon monument have been eroded away, particularly here on the west side, where the entire panel has been obliterated. Although much of the monument is now illegible, the Springfield Republican published a transcription of it in 1911, along with the location of each name:

(East side over panel):— Hon. John Pynchon died Jan 17 1702, Æ 76, Amy his wife died Jan 9 1698 Æ 74

(South end): Hon John Pynchon died Apr 25 1721 Æ 74, Margaret his wife died Nov 11, 1746

(On north end): John Pynchon 3d Esq. died July 12, 1742 Æ 68. Bathshua his wife died June 20 1710 Æ 27; Phebe his wife dwho died Oct 10 1722 Æ 36; John Pynchon his son died Apr 6 1754 Æ 49.

(On west side over panel): Erected under a provision in the will of Edward Pynchon who died Mar 17 1830 Æ 55.

(On west side in panel, probably a continuation of north end): Bathshua his daughter & wife of Lieut Robert Harris died 1760 Æ 52.
William Pynchon Eqs. son of Hon John Pynchon 2d died Jan 1741 Æ 52; Catharine his wife died Apr 10 1747 Æ 47; Sarah their daughter wife of Josiah Dwight Esq died Aug 4 1755 Æ 34. Edward Pynchon Esq son of John Pynchon 3d died Jan 11 1783, Æ 80.

(On west side under panel) Susan wife of Edward Pynchon died Oct 15 1872 Æ 82.

(East side panel) Sarah relict of William Pynchon Esq died Feb 21 1796 Æ 84.
Elizabeth relict of Benjamin Colton daughter of John Pynchon 3d Esq died Sept 26 1776 Æ 74; Capt George Pynchon son of John Pynchon 3d died June 26 1797 Æ 81; Maj William Pynchon died Mar 24 1808 Æ 69; Lucy his wife died Feb 17 1814 Æ 75; John Pynchon died Mar. 1826 Æ 84.

The first photo was taken a little over 40 years after the gravestones were moved here to Springfield Cemetery. Since then, there have been a few small changes, such as the deterioration of the inscriptions on the Pynchon monument. Along with this, there are now newer gravestones in this section of the cemetery, and several of the 19th century gravestones appear to have been removed or replaced, including the one in the lower foreground of the first photo. This one might still be here, as there is a mostly-buried gravestone in the same location today, but its lettering is mostly illegible. Overall, though, despite these changes this scene still looks much the same as it did more than 125 years ago, and Springfield Cemetery retains its appearance as a rural cemetery in the midst of a large city.

Civil War Soldier’s Monument, Springfield, Mass

The Civil War monument at the soldiers’ plot in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Springfield has three major Civil War statues in honor of its veterans. Of these, the one at Court Square is by far the largest and most visible, but the city’s first monument was the one shown here in these two photos. It was dedicated in 1877, and it stands in the soldiers’ plot in Springfield Cemetery, near the main entrance. It features a granite base topped by a bronze soldier, which was designed by noted sculptor Henry J. Ellicott and cast by Maurice J. Power at the National Fine Art Foundry in New York City. The funds for the monument came from the Soldiers’ Rest Association, which had been established during the war to provide assistance to soldiers. At the end of the war, a little over $4,000 remained in this fund, and this money was used to commission this monument.

The first photo shows the monument in the early 1890s, less than 15 years after its dedication. At the time, it was joined by four bronze cannons that had been donated by the United States government, but these have since been removed. Otherwise, the only significant difference between these two photos is the number of headstones here, as there were many Civil War veterans who were still alive when the first photo was taken. There are now about 200 veterans buried here in the soldiers’ plot, with some here in the upper section next to the statue, and others in the lower section on the other side of the trees.