Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In the dawn of the 19th century, the death of a prominent Colchester farmer set forth an institution that would forever alter the landscape of the New England village he once lived. The year was 1800 and the farmer, Pierpont Bacon, had recently passed away. In doing so he left an endowment of thirty-five thousand dollars (about four-hundred thousand today) to the “inhabitants of the First Society of Colchester for the purpose of supporting and maintaining a school…for the instruction of Youth in Reading and writing English, in Artithmetic, Mathimaticks, and the Languages, or such other branches of Learning,” thus the formation of an academy that bears his name. Bacon Academy’s doors opened to the children of Colchester on the first of November 1803 and from that point forward, prepared many young men and women for the life that lied ahead.
In the early days of Bacon Academy, its reputation of quality preparation for Yale and other esteemed colleges carried throughout the country. Local children attended the school at no cost, but tuition of two to six dollars (about fifty to seventy today) per term would be levied upon those outside of the district. The sound of Bacon’s status was heard by many prominent fathers of the nineteenth century. In the midst of founding the Bank of Saint Louis in Missouri, Moses Austin (1761-1821) sent his ten-year-old son, Stephen, to the new institution in Connecticut. Such as the case for many others like Connecticut Assemblyman Elijah Boardman (1760-1823) sending his son William in 1806 and Benjamin Trumbull having his son Lyman attend in the 1820s. Lyman, William and Stephen would have followed the guidelines established by the Academy’s governing body, the Board of Trustees, in order to graduate.
The trustees established that there were to be three terms in a typical school year. The first started in September and ended in December; the second from January to April; and the third from May to August. Early class rolls show that the number of local students would be less in planting and harvesting season, many of them skipping semesters and/or returning either late in the first term or leaving early in the second and zero attendance in the third. Early Bacon students did not earn a diploma or graduate after four years like today. Instead, the school had a system divided into three branches. In the first branch, a young student learned such subjects as languages, grammar and mathematics. During the second branch, he or she would be taught writing, geometry, and rhetoric. The last branch would be similar to the common or grammar school. Age never factored into a student’s ability. Some students would leave Bacon at fifteen or sixteen if they completed the branches and most often attended Yale. In 1886, the branch structure was abandoned for the current four-year system and by 1890, the first modern-day commencement occurred with each graduate receiving a diploma.
The school bell would toll at five-thirty in the morning during the first and third term and at seven in the winter for those in branches one and two. During which two scholars would be chosen each day to practice public speaking in front of instructors and other students; no doubt Stephen or Lyman had to participate in this morning recital. Following the speech, the day would begin with the scholars from the common branch joining the others for the Morning Prayer. Afterward, the preceptor (principal) would talk about morals and the studies of his students. This routine was eliminated after 1846 when the bells tolled only for the start of the school day.
Life as a Bacon student was strict. The attitude of the scholar had to be forthright and that of a lady or gentleman. In or out of school, they would have behaved properly and dressed neatly or otherwise punished by means of “reproof, correction, admonition, or expulsion.” While in class, all pupils would sit diligently at their desk and learn the Greek or Latin classics. At home, the student usually studied when not working on their father’s farm or doing chores for their boarding master.
When the centennial celebration had past, the reputation of the school at national acclaim had diminished and the Academy was primarily for those in Colchester and the surrounding towns of Salem, Lebanon, East Haddam, Hebron and Marlborough. Eventually the Bacon became the public high school for the town. In 1962, the student population in the then 160 year old building on Main Street had exceeded its use and they moved to the new facility adjacent to the grammar school on Norwich Avenue. A major building spurt in Colchester in the 1980s again forced the construction of another high school less than a mile east. In 1993 the doors opened in the current location.
In 2003, Bacon Academy celebrated its 200th anniversary, kicked off by a special concert from the Bacon Academy Bands. Other events included an all-class reunion, golf tournament, and a town-wide open house at all of the buildings to ever house the school.
Stephen Austin- Founder/President of Texas and its capital's namesake; Edward Bartholomew-Famous Sculptor; Park Benjamin-New York Journalist/Writer; William Boardman-State Rep of Ohio; Leverett Brainard-Case, Lockwood, Brainard; Samuel Bridges-Congressman; William Buckingham- one of Lincoln’s “War Governors” of CT; Eliphalet Bulkley-President/Founder of Aetna; Morgan Bulkley-CT Governor/Hartford Mayor (Bulkley Bridge, School, etc); George Champion-African Missionary; Edwin Cragin-Famous New York Doctor; Isaac Crary-Founded University of Michigan; Henry Deming-US Senator; Alfred Ely-US Senator/Captured at Bull Run; Samuel Ely-CT Senator; Emily Goodrich-writer; Frank Haines-Judge CT Supreme Court; Nathaniel Hewitt-Reverend (Earliest known graduate 1804); Ebenezer Jackson-Congressman; William Larrabee-Iowa Governor; John Leffingwell-President, Farragut; Frederick Lord-Congressman; Charles McGurdy- US Representative; Edwin Morgan-New York Senator; James Mowry-Arms Supplier during Civil War; Charles Ransom-Afican Missionary; Silas Robinson-Judge CT Supreme Court; John Swift-Japanese Missionary, founded University of Tokyo; Ralph Taintor-CT State Senator; Samuel Talbot-CT Atty General; David Trumbull-South American Missionary; James Trumbull-South American Missionary; Lyman Trumbull -US Senator; Henry Waite-Chief Justice, CT Supreme Court; Morrison Waite-Chief Justice, US Supreme Court under Grant; Charles Watrous-District Judge in Texas; Charles Wetmore-Hawaiian Missionary;
John Stanizzi- state of Connecticut poet laureate
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