The first passenger train from Boston to Springfield brought pupils
for the seminary; but this was not till October, 1839. One says: "We left
Falmouth at four in the morning, Boston at six, dined at the Massasoit
House in Springfield, and alighted from the coach in South Hadley [13 miles
north of Springfield] about dark." To-day one could go in that time from
Boston to Buffalo, either climbing more than one thousand feet upward over
the Berkshire hills, or plunging through Hoosac almost two thousand feet
below its surface. The first annual catalogue gave the following directions
to Holyoke pupils: "A daily stage from Hartford to Brattleboro’ and from
Brattleboro’ to Hartford passes South Hadley. Young ladies from the west,
by stopping for the night at Springfield, will find a stage in the morning
for South Hadley. From Northampton, they
can take an early stage to Hadley and leave there by another stage for South Hadley. Those from the east can pass the night at Springfield, Hadley, or Amherst, and leave by a morning stage for South Hadley. By taking a private conveyance at Belchertown, they can arrive the same evening, and avoid the travel of several miles. A carriage will be sent from South Hadley to meet the stage on its arrival at Belchertown for such young ladies as will write Miss Lyon in season. South Hadley is about six miles [south] from Northampton. Young ladies who arrive at Northampton from the west can obtain a private conveyance from that place in the same way."
The Brattleboro’ and Hartford stage was continued until the Connecticut River Railroad was opened to Willimansett, which was announced in the catalogue of 1846. The tenth catalogue states that the railroad conveyance for South Hadley terminates at Smith’s Ferry. Though telegraph and railroad were yet to come, the quiet Connecticut valley was not unknown. The "little Nile" had attracted to its banks the first emigrants from eastern Massachusetts, and since the wars of King Philip, King William, and Queen Anne. Deerfield, Hatfield, and Hadley had been historic names.
This valley has many interesting geological features. Its bed was
once an arm of the sea extending from Long Island Sound to the northern
boundary of Massachusetts. Its bottom and sides were formed by the gneiss
rocks on the east, and the mica schist on the west, between which, in some
period of disturbance, came up the trap ranges of Holyoke and Tom. The
gradual filling up of this estuary by the action of streams, produced immense
beds of rock belonging to the formation known as the Triassic or New Red
Sandstone. These ancient shore-beds, once covered by the tides, still retain
in their strata footprints of the strange animals of that time. Examples
of the impressions of the feet of animals, of the stems of plants, and
of ripple marks, have been dug out of the rocks upon the semi-nary
premises, and others may still be seen in the bed of the brook. Little did Pliny Moody think, in 1802, when his ploughshare turned up a track in stone on his South Hadley farm, what an interest the scientific world would take in the outcome of that discovery, or that the region would become the most famous locality in the world for fossil foot-marks.
While Miss Lyon was planning the seminary, Prof. Hitchcock was enthusiastically at work in this new field of investigation, the results of which are seen in the valuable ichnological collections of Amherst College and Mount Holyoke Seminary. In the varieties of rock scattered through the valley in the form of drift, and in the numerous rounded hills of the picturesque landscape, the geologist sees evidences of the action of ice during the glacial period. Prospect Hill on the grounds of the seminary, is one of these moraines fashioned by the ice.
South Hadley is in Hampshire county, which, as Dr. Tyler says in his "History of Amherst College," "has long been the banner county of the state in its educational and religious history. Statistics show that it exceeds any other county in the proportion both of its college students and its church members. In 1832, old Hampshire county, with a population of sixty thousand, had one hundred and twenty students in college; which was twice as many as the average of the state. It was then computed that if the whole state sent young men to college in the same proportion, she would have twelve hundred students instead of six hundred, and the United States one hundred thousand instead of six thousand. And whether as cause and effect, or more likely both cause and effect of this, it is now equally distinguished for the number and character of higher educational institutions."
In 1887, within a circuit of eight miles from North-ampton there
are besides Mount Holyoke Seminary, three colleges, two academies, a seminary
for boys, a young ladies’ school, and an institute for deaf mutes.
There is a tradition that parents in Hadley tearfully implored the blessings of Heaven upon their sons and daughters when they left the old village to settle in the woods south of the mountain. In the " History of Hadley," pp. 395, 396, Mr. Judd says:-
"The Indian war would have prevented the removal of families to the south side of Mount Holyoke earlier than 1725, but there may have been a few settlers in South Hadley then. Their first petition to the General Court was in November, 1727. Twenty-one men represented that they were ‘Residents on a designed precinct in Hadley, south of Mount Holyoke,’ about eight miles from the place of public worship in Hadley, and the way mountainous and bad. They desired to be a precinct, and to have added a tract of province land on the eastern border four miles long and two miles wide (after-wards named the Crank); the General Court granted their requests, November 28th, provided they had forty families in two years, and should settle a learned, orthodox minister in three years. A second petition of twenty-six persons was presented July, 1728,. requesting to be a precinct from Mount Holyoke to Springfield bounds and from Connecticut River west to the equivalent lands east. The petition was granted August 1st, provided they built a meeting-house and settled a minister in three years. In June, 1732, they sent a third petition, requesting that their precinct might be established, though they had not been able to settle a min-ister in the time set. The Court, July 4th, gave them two years from August 1, 1732, to settle a minister. The first meeting of the South Precinct of Hadley, in the records preserved, was held March 12, 1733; there must have been previous meetings, the record of which is lost."
In 1870 occurred the semi-centennial anniversary of the Sabbath School of South Hadley, when Rev. J. M. Greene, the pastor, drew the following picture:-
its name around the world; no mills whose paper and cloth bore off millions of labels stamped with its name. The population was only one thousand and forty-seven - now  it is two thousand two hun-dred. Its valuation was one hundred and fifty thousand dollars - now it is one million five hundred thousand. The occupation of its citizens was almost wholly farming. There were two or three saw-mills and grist-m ills, a large oil-mill at the Falls, a mill for dressing cloth at Pearl City, and - we regret to add - two large distilleries and several cider mills. There were three school houses in town, one near the church, one at Falls Woods, and one at South Hadley Falls. [Miss Abby Wright taught a private school for young ladies in South Hadley a number of years, commencing about 1802. It was in good repute.] The Woodbridge school, a boarding school for boys, was somewhat noted from about 1827 to 1834. The merchandise for the town fifty years ago came up the river on flat-bottomed boats and landed at the Falls. The stage driver’s horn was heard twice each day in this village, once as he went through from Amherst to Springfield, and once as he returned."
Of the villages in Hampshire county, perhaps none was more quiet than South Hadley fifty years ago. Its one meeting-house expressed a union of sentiment among the people which had great influence in deciding the location of the seminary. The village itself would not be recognized now by one who saw it then, but from the upper windows of the seminary are seen the same views which feasted the eyes that first looked from them.
"Against the sunrising," says a lover of their beauty, is our own Prospect Hill, which hides all beyond it. Blue, distant hills lie against the southeastern sky, and in the foreground are the pond and the old red mill. Woods and broad fields stretch to the southern horizon, and the brook from the pond winds and twinkles through the nearer meadows until it flows into ‘Paradise.’ On the west, low, shifting sand hillocks, pine groves, and
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cultivated fields hide from our sight the river, beyond which are little foot-hills, the Mount Tom range, and the sunset. Between Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke, the river has made a wide highway through which we look to farther hills, shining in the sunset glow of summer days, as if the celestial city were there. Against the whole northern horizon lies the Holyoke range, one little hill close against another showing where the ‘Notch’ breaks the mountain barrier between Amherst and South Hadley. Perhaps the loveliest view from the seminary grounds is this Notch seen from a point where trees hide a wider prospect to the east and west."
The same writer continues:-
"Yet many places within South Hadley precincts overlook quite as extensive and beautiful scenery, each having such loveliness, all its own, that in its presence one cries, ‘This is finer than all beside.’ This river-valley, so famed for its beauty as well as historical associations and geological treasures, has nowhere greater charms than in this immediate vicinity. Who can justly describe the varied loveliness of river and meadows, villages, forests, and hillsides, as seen from Mount Holyoke or Mount Tom? What painter on canvas or by word could picture the splendor of these encircling hills when glowing with autumn’s scarlet and gold? What can surpass, in peaceful beauty, the drive through the wide streets of Old Hadley, then down the river-path and under the mountain, just at the sunset hour?
"Many points of interest to the geologist are easily reached from the seminary. The place from which Pliny Moody took the most valuable bird tracks is less than two miles away. ‘Titan’s Piazza,’ a remarkable columnar trap-rock formation, is on the side of Mount Holyoke, ‘Titan’s Pier’ overhanging the river a little farther down. Near it is the ‘Pass of Thermopylae,’ a rock fissure, high above and close upon the river, wide enough for a carriage-road.
beside the river, along country roads and by-ways, and deep in the woods, are countless nooks to linger in and return to, as to a restful friend. To a great number who have been here in the half-century past, the men-tion of names such as ‘Paradise,’ ‘Chestnut Woods,’ ‘Bittersweet Lane,’ ‘Iron Bridge,’ recalls ‘pure pleas-ures manifold,’ whose influence has never ceased to bless."
The ten acres first bought for the seminary, of Joel Hayes and Peter Allen, lie about forty rods south of the church., on the east side of the main street, and slope to Stony Brook, seventy rods eastward. Huckleberries grew near the road; farther away a blackberry patch was crossed by a rough ravine. April 12, 1837, while the building was in progress, the trustees voted "That the land east of the run be seeded down this spring, and sown with oats, and all west of the run be planted with potatoes, under the direction of the building committee." Ten years later they appointed a committee "to improve the ravine east of the seminary, and to make it suitable for cultivation."
The edifice first built, ninety-four feet by fifty, is that part of the present main building north of the seminary hall. A description written during the first term gives this sketch of the interior:-
"The third and fourth stories have each eighteen private rooms; the second has eight private, one chemical, and three recitation rooms. A ball in each of these stories extends the length of the house and each has two flights of stairs. In the second story a short front hall leads to the upper piazza and another to the upper story of the wood-house.
"Entering the front door the parlors are at the left, and at the
right, the seminary ball, fifty feet by forty, extends to the south end
of the building. Its white walls are hard finished. The ceiling is painted
white, and the floor, like all in the first and second stories, marble-colored.
A straw carpet covers the platform; the chairs are maple-colored and the
desks before them are
of cherry, with green lids. Folding doors open northward into the reading room, which is finished in the same manner. This is twenty feet by twenty and furnished with a well selected variety of periodicals and a few books. Beyond are Miss Lyon’s two rooms in the northeast corner. The parlors are each twenty feet square with folding doors between. One is unfurnished for want of funds. In the other, the carpet, cane chairs, and mirror were given by Miss Caldwell and her pupils at Norton. The piano is the gift of Deacon Safford. In the basement is a dining room, fifty feet by thirty; a kitchen with closets and store rooms; separate rooms for kneading, baking, and ironing; and an ample and convenient wash-room. All are so well arranged and neatly fitted up that much of the work, which is all done by the young ladies, is mere recreation. They would consider it a great calamity to be excluded from the kitchen and have their places supplied by domestics.
"The private rooms, eighteen feet by ten, including a lighted closet five or six feet square, are arranged for two occupants each, and provided with a bed, table, drawers, washstand, mirror, chairs, and an open Franklin stove. The stove is in a corner by the window at one end of the room; at the other is the closet and the door into the hall."
A glimpse within other academic walls is given by the Harvard Register, in reminiscences of Harvard life fifty years ago by Rev. Dr. Peabody. His reviewer says, in the Boston Journal, February 12, 1880:
"In the times of which he writes, the students’ rooms were furnished
in the plainest manner. Ten dollars would have been a fair auction price
for the contents of an average room. No fellow-student of his owned a carpet.
There was a second-hand furniture dealer who bad a few threadbare carpets
which he leased at an extravagant price to wealthy seniors, but not even
Southerners, though reputed to be fabulously rich, aspired to that luxury
until their senior year. The rooms were heated by an open wood fire, and
it was a
common practice to have also a cannon ball heated red-hot on very cold days, and placed as a radiator on some extemporized stand. Friction matches were not yet invented, and the evening lamp was lighted with flint, steel, and tinder-box. The price of board in commons was one dollar and seventy-five cents, or as then expressed, ‘ten and sixpence.’ The kitchen, cooking for about two hundred persons, was the largest culinary establishment of which the New England. mind then had any knowledge, and it attracted visitors, from the whole surrounding country.
"The student of fifty years ago went to morning prayers at six in summer, and in winter at about half an hour before sunrise. Recitations or lectures preceded as well as followed breakfast, which at the college commons consisted of coffee, hot rolls, and butter. Dinner occurred at half past twelve. There was another recitation in the afternoon, except on Saturday; then evening prayers at six in summer or at twilight in winter, and then came the evening meal, corresponding to, the breakfast except that tea took the place of coffee, and bread was substituted for hot rolls. The recitations were mere hearings of lessons without comment or collateral instruction, and the classes were divided into sections so that each student might be called upon at every recitation. Rich provision was made for courses of lectures and by far the largest part of the actual instruction was by means of them.
"The range of study was much less extensive than now. Natural history and chemistry received little. attention; French and Spanish were voluntary studies; Italian and German were chosen by a very few; good work was done in the department of philosophy, and in the writing of English; but the chief labor and crowning honor of scholarship were in mathematics and the classics."
covered; stoves were not set up; the furniture, delayed by storms, had not all arrived; and much of the bed-ding pledged had not made its appearance. For a week or ten days longer Deacon and Mrs. Safford and Deacon and Mrs. Porter were as busy as before, Deacon Porter still looking to the outdoor concerns and - by the way - giving Miss Lyon lessons in book-keeping. Deacon Safford worked day after day till long after dark setting up bedsteads and stoves, unpacking and arranging furniture and the like, just as if he were the father of this great family. We quote from other actors in those scenes; says one:
How well I remember November 8, 1837! My father had brought us -
four girls - in his own carriage, a three days’ ride from Vermont. Leaving
home on Saturday, we spent the Sabbath at a hotel in Chester, and thus
were able to arrive in good time on Wednesday. How uninviting that plain
brick building! The bare walls seemed almost insecure from their narrow
height. There were no trees, no fence, and not a blade of grass, but a
deep bed of sand lay all around the house. In the absence of front steps
we alighted on the back side of the basement at a door opening into the
dining room. At one end of the room a group were at work on unfinished
comfortables. At the other, tables were spread for hungry travelers. Mrs.
Deacon Safford, a royal woman with a lovely face, and Mrs. Deacon Porter,
of no less princely gifts, were washing crockery in the great kitchen.
Presently Miss Lyon appeared, her face all aglow under the traditional
turban, and gave us the welcome of a mother to her daughters. ‘Come right
up stairs,.’ she said, ‘you have come to help us,’ in a voice that had
the true home ring. Heart met heart, teacher and pupil were one, and we
followed her to the seminary hall. Deacon Safford, with his coat off, was
on his knees tacking straw matting on the plat-form. Looking up with a
bright smile he said, ‘We are in glorious confusion now, but shall soon
be in order.’ In a trice our wraps were thrown off and we
were on the floor helping. The enthusiasm of the presiding genius of that hall was so contagious that we could not be idle."
Another says, "I helped Elihu Dwight, I think it was, put down the carpet in Miss Lyon’s room. New arrivals were constantly announcing, - ‘Miss Lyon, I have brought the box of bedding from the ladies of our town.’ When the boxes were open Miss Lyon set me to marking the bedding and giving it out for the different rooms."
The first writer continues: "At four o’clock, the matting was down, the bell was rung, and Mount Holyoke Seminary opened! Though the sound of the hammer, the plane, and the lathe, was still heard about the house, no other day could be thought of, for this was the one appointed.
"It is said that Napoleon’s greatness appeared in the choice of his generals. Miss Lyon had shown rare wisdom in the selection of her aids. She said, ‘I have no personal charms to attract pupils, so I have had reference to these in choosing my teachers.’ How proud we were of the elegance, grace, and beauty of the brilliant Miss Caldwell, graceful Miss Smith, and charming Miss Hodgman! They all won our love; but Miss Lyon-revered and beloved-how my heart thrills at mention of her name! Yet I little appreciated her in those days of immaturity nearly fifty years ago.
"Supper came at a late hour. There were eighty of us to be disposed
of for the night. Not enough mattresses had been unpacked for us all to
have beds, even on the floor. We were very weary, but none of the repining,
homesick girls of modern boarding schools were there, for we were coping
with realities, not fancies, and under the inspiration of a magnetic leader.
‘Young ladies,’ she said, as she sent some to Mr. Condit’s, others to Mr.
Smith’s, or to Mr. Allen’s, 'you will recall these little experiences in
the real hard-ships of the far West.'"
Night provided for, the next problem was breakfast for the eighty. There was plenty of good bread, thanks to Mrs. Safford and that wonderful Rumford oven of Deacon Safford’s. But any housekeeper would declare that the few cooking utensils which had arrived, though they had proved surprisingly versatile hitherto, were quite unequal to the demand. We wonder where, how, or when, Miss Lyon slept that night. After eleven she was tapping softly at the door of one of her new daughters to engage her help for the morning meal. The helper slept, for she writes: "Four o’clock seemed to come in a minute. But that break-fast of mashed potato, bread and butter, and cold water-how good it was." Says another: "There was little furniture, but day by day loads arrived and young men from the village very kindly came and helped Deacon Safford to set it in place. Byron and Morgan Smith, Levi Allen, Newton and Elliot Mon-tague, Elihu and John Dwight, helped to put our house in order. I remember when John Dwight was setting up furniture one evening he saw Nancy Everett for the first. but not the last time. How happy we were in making the best of our inconveniences, and how we appreciated every article of furniture as it came.
"We brought our wood and water from the basement and thought it no hardship. We were so glad to have a place in the seminary, for we knew that more than twice our number had been refused for want of room. It was not long before each room had its wood-bin in the corresponding story of the wooden wing, and each story soon had its water cistern filled by a force pump in the basement.
"The South Hadley people were very kind to us. Mr. Hayes showed
us to our seats in church as courteously as if we were personal friends
whom be delighted to welcome to the house of God. Winter mornings, instead
of being shut in by the deep snow, we found the nicest of paths cut for
us by somebody in the night."
The building was too unfinished to be formally dedicated before the school opened, and that service was deferred till the 3rd of May following. The manuscript of Mr. Condit’s address still exists. A poem was written for the occasion by Sarah K. Browne, author of "The Last Indian," and "The Spartan Mother," then a member of the middle class.
But there never had been an hour when the seminary was not the Lord’s. In Miss Lyon’s words at the first, "Every brick of this house is consecrated. You must not call this Miss Lyon’s school. I regard it so truly a child of Providence that I do not like to have my name made prominent. And you would look upon it as I do if you could see the many gulfs that were to me impassable, bridged over by the divine Hand. Sometimes all seemed to hang upon some slight pivot, without which the whole would have fallen to the ground. I can see a ruling Hand in everything con-nected with its establishment, and I would have you ever remember that you are studying in an institution built by the hand of the Lord."
It was not the building alone, nor the seminary in general, which she consecrated. "How modestly did she tell us," writes a pupil, "that as the founder of the seminary, she had made a covenant with God in behalf of every pupil who should ever enter it. She trusted that God would preserve it to millennial days and use it for his glory; she had made us over to God and all who should follow us. This covenant on her part involved obligations on ours. We could not lightly disown it. Tenderly she besought us not to live henceforth unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again." Miss Fiske adds, "Miss Lyon continued, each succeeding year of her life, to impress this responsibility upon her pupils, and perhaps no one ever left her to be happy in living for herself."
[END OF CHAPTER 6]