FIRST BUILDING ERECTED.
JULIUS ROCKWELL, Speaker.
IN SENATE, February 10, 1836. Passed to be enacted.
COUNCIL CHAMBER, 11th of February, 1836. Approved.
March 2nd the five trustees met at South Hadley, ac-cepted the act
of incorporation, and added Rev. Will-iam Tyler and Rev. Roswell Hawks
to the board. April 13th they added Joseph Avery, of Conway, and arranged
for preparations to build. The next day Mr. Tyler and Miss Lyon drove to
Monson, and were joined by Mr. Hawks at the house of Deacon Andrew W. Porter.
Their errand is explained in a letter written by Mrs. Porter after Miss Lyon's death:-
"On answering the door bell on a snowy day in April, 1836, a stranger stood before me, who introduced herself as Miss Lyon. I was prepared to give her a cordial reception, having a high regard for Miss Grant and Miss Lyon as principals of Ipswich Seminary, but what could lead her there that stormy day I could not think. She soon explained. 'You have beard of our contemplated seminary. An act of incorporation has been obtained, the location decided on, and now we need some one to superintend the work of building - one whose business talents have been tested, who has had experience in building, and in whose integrity the community would have confidence; one, too, who would do it without remuneration, for it is all a work of benevolence. Last evening your husband was named to the trustees as one to whom. we might apply. Rev. Messrs. Hawks and Tyler were appointed to wait on him, and I was requested to accompany them.' Mr. Porter was in Boston to return that evening. Miss Lyon accepted my invitation to remain till Monday, but both gentlemen had appointments for the Sabbath to meet. It was decided that one of them should return on Monday. Miss Lyon retired to her room before Mr. Porter arrived and not a word was said about the seminary till Monday. Ten or twelve years after, she told me those were nights of prayer. 'And the Lord,' said she, 'not only answered my prayer by inclining your husband to en-gage in the work, but gave me yourself and Mr. Porter as personal friends, and your house as my home. O that first visit and that chamber where the enter-prise was commended to God anew, and the question of your husband's acceptance wholly submitted!’"
Deacon Porter was appointed trustee April 19th. May 6th, Mrs. Porter
wrote Miss Lyon, “We are deeply in-terested and see your present emergency.
Yet I am sorry to say Mr. Porter does not feel he can take new care now.
For three years he has suffered much from
his head and I have been constantly desiring him to lessen his business. But I must say that it has been my desire he should engage in this benevolent enterprise and trust the Lord for health. Should he return from his journey with strengthened nerve and should there be assistance he can render, I think he would do it most cheerfully. Our daughter sends love. Since you were here she has made bread twice, with good success. She means to be qualified for a bread-maker at Mount Holyoke Seminary." But the daughter did not enter; two years later at the age of thirteen, she followed her three brothers to a better school, leaving her parents childless, and yet not childless, for then more than ever they adopted the seminary whose mem-bers henceforth they fondly called their daughters.
The partial release from business which Deacon Porter had just secured,
Miss Lyon regarded as providential for her cause. He was soon as active
in it as if it were his own. Through that season he spent several days
each week at South Hadley. The next year, from March to November, nearly
every Monday he drove there twenty-one miles, returning home Saturday.
During all this time lie left his own extensive business in other hands,
provided his own conveyance, entertained himself and horse, and made no
charge whatever. For forty years every interest of the seminary continued
to be the object of his conscientious care, and constant prayers. But for
the cooperation of Deacons Avery, Safford, and Porter, the farmer, the
smith, and the manufacturer, it does not appear how the enterprise could
have gone forward. Who can doubt that the Lord helped Miss Lyon to find
such men and inclined them to enter into her plans when so many wise men
could not comprehend them. She loved to trace his hand in providing each
of her noble band of helpers. A Holyoke pupil writes: "She wanted us all
to know the names of Dana, Choate, Heard, Felt, Packard, and other early
friends of whom she seldom spoke without a moistened eye. I had not been
a week in the seminary
before I had heard of them all. She had so told us of Dr. Humphrey and Dr. Hitchcock that the very mention of their names filled us with reverence. We had heard of the faithfulness of Mr. Tyler and Mr. Bowdoin and were assured that Deacon Safford, Deacon Porter, and Deacon Avery would soon come to see us. And when they came we saw that their hearts were even as Miss Lyon's heart." Another says: "She never forgot to tell us of Deacon Porter's absence on her first visit, and of her two days of seeking to be willing to give up securing his aid, before she could even talk with him; then she would add, 'And now don't you think God has given us in Deacon Porter the very best man His storehouse could furnish?’"
Many, first and last, came into her plans for a time who failed
to see all things as she did, and presently withdrew. She often said that
the right persons were raised up in every strait and that it was wonderful
how they would fall away when there was nothing more for them to do, -
doubtless to teach her not to trust in the arm of flesh. But when trustees
could not see alike it was a source of solicitude. For a time they were
not unanimous in the choice of a site. The first spot talked of was just
north of the Eastman place, on a gentle elevation half a mile from the
church, which Miss Lyon thought too great a distance. She was not partial
to the site chosen May 19th, yet dreaded to have the subject agitated again
lest it lead to desertion of the cause by some whom it could ill afford
to spare. Two months later, those who desired a more command-ing location
had become so dissatisfied that the whole board was called together to
reconsider. But the vote of May 19th was confirmed July 28tb, and soon
the turf was broken thirty-five feet from the road, for a building of brick
ninety-four feet by fifty, and four stories above the basement, designed
to contain public rooms for school and family uses, and private rooms for
teachers and eighty pupils; every member of the school to room and board
in the same building. It
would not accommodate the two hundred planned for, but receipts were less than half the thirty thousand dollars asked for. To delay longer would be to lose a part already pledged, for change and death knew no delay. And additions could be made as funds should be received.
When excavations were nearly done, an apparent defect in the foundation threatened to reopen the question of site. It resulted in removal twenty-five feet farther from the road. One walking now about the grounds in the rear of the building might get no hint of the ravine which limited the removal and for filling which no funds could be spared at that time. Miss Lyon said, "I wish it could have gone much farther back, but this was something I could not control." After the house was done she used to preclude all criti-cism by pointing out the magnificent views from the upper windows.
Next, a doubt was raised about the bricks procured, causing delay
and suspense. But competent judges approved them and once more the work
went on. September 21st Miss Lyon wrote George W. Heard, Esq.: "The trustees
are now laying the foundations of the first edifice. The corner-stone is
to be laid on Monday, October 3rd, at two o'clock, with appropriate religious
exercises. Mr. Todd will give the address. We especially desire the members
of the original com-mittee to be present. I therefore write to you, and
hope Mrs. Heard will be able to come with you." Of October 3rd she wrote
Miss Grant: "It was a day of deep interest and tender associations. The
stones and brick and mortar speak a language that vibrates through my very
soul. How much thought and feeling have I had on this subject. And I have
lived to see a body of gentlemen venture to lay the corner-stone of an
edifice which will cost about fifteen thousand dollars, for the education
of women. Surely the Lord hath remembered our low estate. This will be
an era in the cause. It may have to struggle through embarrassments
for years, but its influence will be felt. The work will not stop with this institution."
One source of solicitude steadily followed another, yet courage never forsook her. She used to say, “It is one of the nicest of mental operations to distinguish between the very difficult and the impossible." She seemed to have that gift. After the question of site had been settled and re-settled, the foundations relaid, the bricks tested anew, and the walls were slowly rising, the structure fell to the ground. "Now," said the agent, “Miss Lyon will be discouraged," and he dreaded to meet her. But she came to the scene of confusion as cheerful as ever, exclaiming, “How wonderful! no one killed, no one hurt!”
President Heman Humphrey and Professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College were added to the trustees October 3rd, and Deacon Daniel Safford of Boston, the following April.
The building must be furnished. Turning again to the ladies of her
acquaintance, in December Miss Lyon presents a plan by which the sewing
societies of different towns might each provide furniture and bedding for
a private room, at a cost of from fifty to sixty dollars, surplus donations
being used for public rooms or housekeeping utensils for a family of one
hundred. With the plan goes this appeal: "And now, dear madam, would not
the ladies of your place consider it a privilege to furnish one of these
chambers? Would you not also consider it a privilege to bring the subject
before them so fairly that they will do it promptly?" And as if to aid
them in presenting the subject, she sets forth the need of the world for
thoroughly educated Christian women, and the plan of the seminary to train
such women; and calls special attention to the enterprise as a test of
the question whether the founding of schools for the education of women
shall have place among public benefactions. "In this," she writes, "lies
its chief importance. It is like the signing of the Declaration of Independence;
were still to be fought, but the question of independ-ence was settled. It is like the fitting out our first band of missionaries; the work of evangelizing the world was still before the church, but the question of acknowledged duty and the mode of meeting it was settled. Let this enterprise be carried through by Christian liberality, and it will no longer be uncertain whether the cause shall stand among the benevolent operations of the day. The work will be before us, but the principle on which it is to be accomplished will be settled. The progress of the enterprise in gaining an acknowledged standing has exceeded the expectations of its warmest friends, although the work of bringing this institution into operation has been longer than was anticipated. Had I a thousand lives, I could sacrifice them all in suffering and hardship f or its sake. Did I possess the greatest fortune, I could readily relinquish it all, and become more than poor, if its prosperity should demand it."
In 1835, the general committee with Miss Lyon's cordial concurrence
had invited Miss Grant to unite with her in taking charge of the new seminary;
her negative answer was not from lack of interest. This was shown in an
effort made in Boston, in March, 1837, when Rev. Messrs. Coggswell, Anderson,
Blagden, Winslow, Rogers, and Boies, with fifteen or twenty laymen, met
by invitation at Deacon Safford's. "to confer with regard to the seminary,
and to take measures for advancing its interests." Mrs. Safford, Miss Lyon,
and Miss Caldwell were also present by Deacon Safford's wish. He had consulted
some of de gentlemen on the point." They thought there would be no impropriety.
in admitting us to hear what was said," wrote Miss Lyon to Miss Grant,
adding, "Dr. Anderson made some very pertinent remarks and read from your
letter to him. I have since borrowed and read it to others, and all are
very much interested in it. I could not take a copy of it without your
leave, but I want one and will make good use of it." Of that man
greatly beloved whose name for half a century was almost a synonym for that of the American Board, we learn from Mrs. Cowles that, "in those days of sneer and obloquy when scarcely one distinguished man gave the plans of Mary Lyon his support, the quiet voice of Dr. Anderson gave no uncertain sound. At a meeting of a few Christian gentlemen in the parlors of Deacon Safford to bear her plans and confer on their feasibility, his unfaltering yea gave a decisive turn in favor of her novel enterprise. For years he was her shield."
At the close of the meeting over three thousand dollars was pledged,
and a week later the sum had risen to four thousand three hundred and sixty-five
dollars. The largest subscriptions were one of one thousand dollars by
Deacon Safford, two of five hundred dollars each, and four of two hundred
and fifty dollars each. In the letter to Dr. Anderson, so much prized,
Miss Grant refers to woman as divinely designed to be the chief educator
of the race, influencing not only her scholars and her daughters, but her
sons, brothers, and older men, not excepting even her father and his peers;
to the unprecedented demand for teachers throughout the land; to the increasing
readiness of young women to qualify themselves to teach; and to their lack
of suitable opportunity for study; and urges the case on this wise: "I
hope the benevolent men of our metropo-lis will not dismiss this subject
without careful exam-ination. The question is not whether the plan of that
seminary in all its minutiae is adapted to their taste, or whether it is
as good as their united wisdom. could devise; but it is whether they will
help build up an institution founded on Christian principles and designed
for the education of women. We ask for aid not for the sake of an individual,
not for the sake of woman alone, but we ask it for our country, nay more,
for the world. My soul kindles as I write, but I am exceeding the limits
of my strength, whose failure has been caused chiefly by efforts to sustain
an institution without such
means as it would be economy for the Christian public to furnish, and such as I think they would long since have gladly afforded if they bad understood the subject in all its bearings. f have not a doubt that my labors wilt be curtailed many years in consequence of my increased burden for the want of what comparatively small funds would have furnished."
Miss Grant's fears proved true. Without endowment, without her former associate, her strength grew less and less, and in April, 1839, she was forced to resign her charge and leave for life the work she loved so well. But her biographer says that grace was given her to look on with thankful heart that the great cause was carried forward, though she herself was held back from the work. It was with her full approval that Miss Lyon secured as pupils the first year at Holyoke, a few from Ipswich Seminary on whom she could rely to give tone to the school; the arguments which she used and which led them to make the change were these: their help was needed and would tell more in the, new school, and they might thus share in the responsibility and reward of aiding to found an institution that would do good long after they should rest from their labors. Her two teachers, and her associate principal, Miss Eunice Caldwell, now Mrs. J. P. Cowles of Ipswich, had taught in Ipswich Seminary.
Crowded with work and plans of her own as were the three years before
opening Mount Holyoke Seminary, Miss Lyon was not too busy to help others
in their need. We have seen her in the summer of 1835 going back to take
charge of Ipswich Seminary, that Miss Grant might travel. Even before she
had left Ipswich in the autumn of 1834 she was invited to Norton for consultation
with Judge Wheaton about the seminary lie was founding in memory of his
daughter, and in which Miss Lyon was thoroughly interested. The bank note
he placed in her hand on leaving, instead of using for stage fare, she
gave to the thousand dollars she was then collecting of ladies.
Perplexities of her own did not prevent care for the interests of others. In July, 1836, when dissatisfaction with the site at South Hadley was greatest, after rehearsing various causes of solicitude and delay, she wrote from Norton, "And so I came here to see how the new house comes on." What the new house was will appear in the following quotation from the " Semi-centennial Sketch" of Wheaton Seminary:-
"It is something to remember that before Mount Holyoke Seminary
was established, Mary Lyon was busy with plans for the new seminary at
Norton. Her own school was of course first in her thoughts, but she took
many days, sometimes weeks, to visit Norton and aid in the beginning of
the work there. Miss Caldwell, who had promised to go with her to South
Hadley, could be spared for two years, and became the first principal of
Wheaton Seminary, though not without distrust of herself. But Miss Lyon
knew the person she had recommended and was ready to assist in emer-gencies.
There are those who distinctly remember the first assembling of the school
on an April morning in 1835. They recall the very tones of the principal's
voice as she enters with her cheery 'Good morning, young ladies!' And through
their graphic words we see again the brisk figure of Mary Lyon moving among
them in the weeks that followed, and hear her quick 'Hasten on, young ladies,
you are not aware of the habit of lagging you are forming,' as they passed
to recitations. Even her gait is recalled-her business-like manner of moving
swiftly forward, which made her seem to stoop as she walked; and her way
of bring-ing a long lead pencil down on her left fore-finger while talking
earnestly, her eyes fixed upon distances others could not pierce. 'Do not
waste the precious moments,' she was ever saying, and her advice was always
supplemented by Miss Caldwell's motto, 'Al-ways in haste, but never in
a hurry.' How well the habit of expeditious mental work was inculcated
may be inferred from the fact that under Miss Lyon's
direction a number of the girls went through Adams' Arithmetic in three weeks.
"The boarding-house was not built till the second year. The plan of bringing pupils into one establish-ment for a home and for study had not then been often tried and there were fears regarding its success. But Mary Lyon with her clear foresight and strong constructive faculty, in whose mind Mount Holyoke Seminary was already a real edifice, although no stone of its foundations had been laid, insisted that such an establishment must be, and it was. Mrs. Cowles says that Miss Lyon fairly 'talked the boarding-house into being' and took charge of its details, leaving to her the more congenial occupation of managing the school. While the walls of Mount Holyoke Seminary were going up, Miss Lyon's enthusiasm regarding it aroused a strong interest among the Norton girls. They contributed funds for furnishing a room in the new institution. A record at Mount Holyoke Seminary in Miss Lyon's handwriting contains the following entries:-
November, cash from teachers and pupils of Wheaton Seminary to complete the furnishing of parlor,. . . . $135.50
"Many Norton pupils followed Miss Caldwell to South Hadley and thus it happens that some prominent names are found on the early lists of both seminaries. This is especially true of some who afterward became missionaries."
After two years as a private school Wheaton Sem-inary was incorporated in 1837.
Holyoke Seminary," Miss Lyon states more fully than in previous circulars, the following points:-
"It designs to fit young women to be educators rather than mere teachers; and to develop the most useful women for any sphere, rather than to supply teachers who shall devote their lives to that profession; and also to establish the principle that the education of the daughters of the church calls as rightfully for the free gifts of the church as does that of her sons." Statistics follow, showing the contrast between Protestant supineness in this respect and the activity of the Papal church in seeking control of coming generations through her girls' schools in this land. The pamphlet closes with an appeal to patriotism, philanthropy, and Christian benevolence for aid to Mount Holyoke Seminary as the representative of the cause of education for woman.
April 12th, the trustees formally appointed Miss Mary Lyon principal and Miss Eunice Caldwell associate principal of Mount Holyoke Seminary. In May a prospectus was issued indicating the academical arrangements, and adding:-
The school year will comprise four quarters of ten weeks each. The charge for board and tuition will be settled by experiment. In the present fluctuating, state of the market the trustees will name a price for one quarter only at a time. For the first quarter they have decided to place board, exclusive of fuel and lights, at thirteen dollars, and tuition at three dollars, making the bill sixteen dollars for tell weeks, to be paid in advance. As far as definite encouragement has been of-fered, it has been that the regular bills for board and tuition would be from one-third to one-half less than in existing seminaries. It will be seen, Oil Comparison, that the terms stated are not far from one-half charged elsewhere. The expectations of the public will therefore be fully realized even if on experiment it be found that actual cost re-quires the charge to be somewhat higher hereafter. The domestic department will be in charge of a competent person. All the members of the school will aid to some extent in the domestic labors of the family. The time thus occupied will be so small that it will not retard progress in study, but rather facilitate it by the invigorating influence Of a little daily exercise.
This feature of the institution will not relieve mothers from giving their daughters a thorough domestic education, but it will rather furnish additional motives to be faithful in this important duty. Is it not a refection on both mother and daughter, when the daughter can-not perform with skill and cheerfulness any domestic labor which is suitable for her mother?
The plan for the domestic department is an experiment - but one respecting which there are sanguine hopes of success. That the experiment may be a fair one, it is important that the plan should be executed on the principle of entire equality; that the labor should be performed as a gratuitous service; that all should participate; and that none should be received who are entirely unacquainted with domestic work, or who cannot cheerfully co-operate with others in carry-ing out these arrangements.
In the formation of all the plans of this seminary it is kept in mind that the labors of any teacher are but temporary. Much care will be taken to adopt permanent principles and to mature a system which may outlive those who inaugurate it.
Porter wrote to Miss Lyon at Norton: " The committee are becoming discouraged about proceeding with the building, fearing it will not be possible to raise the ten thousand dollars needed before October. Now if you can come it may raise their drooping spirits. I try to encourage Mr. Porter. The Lord can send silver and gold enough for these walls to be built even in these troublous times. It is his cause and I believe he will not suffer it to be hindered. What is the prospect for the furnishing fund?"
In just what way their faith was rekindled by her coming, we have
no record; but we learn about the furnishing, by letters from ladies in
all parts of the state responding to her appeal in December. Such of those
time-stained letters as remain to this day have an interest merely from
their existence. They were written, folded, and wafered half a century
ago. From the official figures - "6," "10," "12 ˝" - in one corner telling
the postage, and the postmark in another show-ing the distance they came,
we can learn the law of postal rates, while the "paid" on some and the
lack of it on most tells from whose purse the postage came. But the value
of these old-style sheets to the heart of every daughter of Holyoke lies
in the story they tell of courageous efforts, sometimes successful, sometimes
not. Some joyfully inclose money already raised, others convey no pledge.
One offered to furnish the crockery, another asks if so small a sum as
twenty dollars would be accepted, if no more could be gathered. Here is
one postmarked "Phillipston, Paid 10." Let us open and read. "The subscriptions
to the general fund are not yet all paid. Most of the ladies are dependent
for earnings, on the palm leaf hats they braid; with these they can buy
materials with which they can make pillows and bedding; but fifty or sixty
dollars is more than they can raise; could not some other town unite with
them, that both may do what neither can do alone?" Other letters report
that sewing societies are finishing comforters and pillows
and sewing upon a corner of each the name of their association. Those pillows were sometimes used by pupils unfamiliar with this chapter in Holyoke history to whom those names were a mystery. But here is a letter in Miss Lyon's own hand, to her niece, June 26: "Considerable money will need to be borrowed to finish the building, and the trustees will not feel authorized to hire more. [They had voted that the amount hired should not exceed five thousand dollars.] I hope to secure the furnishing from ladies, but the trying times render it exceedingly difficult. I think not one-third of the amount needed is yet pledged. Everything done for us now is like giving bread to the hungry and water to the thirsty. Sometimes it seems as though I should sink under the burden. How all can be done before the first of November I know not; but in view of what the Lord has done for us we have abundant reason to trust him."
Finding her bodily presence more powerful than her letters she went to many towns, meeting the ladies and inspiring them with new zeal. In July she is again at Norton, where she hears from Mrs. Porter: " The carpenters are nearly done in the two upper stories. It is very desirable that you should come soon on account of the divisions in the basement." Now she must attend to finishing the domestic ball, where no one else can superintend the work; but the furnishing was never out of mind. By September it was plain that new efforts must be made; turning to the expected pupils for aid. she sent a list of articles needed, and asked for a return list of such as each could bring. She expressed the belief that friends if necessary, even at a sacrifice, would cheerfully lend certain articles for a time; the young ladies to whom they were entrusted being respon-sible for their careful usage and safe return. Before the opening of the school, word was to be sent to each whether all the articles on her list would be needed.
door north of the unfinished building. She looked after the drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves, latches, and hinges. One man declared that not a nail was driven she did not see. Another says, "She saw that the church's funds were applied for the convenience and welfare of the church's daughters. When the joiner work was done she made ready for the plasterer; when the plastering was done she made ready for the painter, and when the painter had done she saw to the drying."
Her evenings were filled with correspondence. To the work of finishing and furnishing was added the incalculable care - to use her own words - "of economizing our means and contriving how to do without what we cannot have." Her great inventive powers were called into full play and when one door was shut she always found another open. But no pen can describe the labors or anxieties of those months. Seven weeks before the school was to open she wrote: "When I look through to November 5th, it seems like looking down a precipice which I must descend. I can only avoid looking at the bottom and fix my eye on the nearest stone till I have safely reached it. I try to take the best possible care of my health. I have had more prostrating headache the last few weeks than usual, but on the whole I am very much sus-tained by a kind Providence."
Friends feared for her health. There was no escaping from her labors, but in all the whirl of work and care she was as punctual at meals, at prayers, and in retiring as she ever required her pupils to be. She regarded all her strength as the Lord's, yet entrusted to her care. We catch the undertone of her spirit in her words to Miss Grant: "Do not cease to pray that no one who contributes money or time or influence, to this undertaking, may ever call aught his own."
Goods delivered were not always according to contract. The supply of tin-ware was late in coming and then proved inferior to the quality ordered. Longer delay was inconvenient, but sacred funds were not to be wasted, and the lot was promptly returned. For the same reason a lot of bedsteads was about to be sent back, when Deacon Safford interposed. "Let them at least have a trial," said he. Miss Lyon replied, "I am not satisfied to have such beds set up. But if you say so, Deacon Safford, we will keep a few of them." And one of them was set up in Deacon Safford's room. It broke down the first night, and Deacon Safford not only acquiesced in Miss Lyon's judgment, but paid the extra expense occasioned by following his advice.
At the close of the Preparatory Lecture, Friday afternoon, November 3rd, Mrs. Obed Montague, as she tells us, proposed to several ladies to go from church to call on Miss Lyon and see the new seminary before the young ladies assembled. They were cordially shown over the building by Miss Lyon herself. As they were leaving she invited them to a "working bee" the next day to help put the house in order. They accepted the invitation and promised to bring others. Arriving at one o'clock, they met Miss Lyon and a few pupils carrying away brick and shavings left by retreating workmen. Thirty pairs of willing hands were soon at work; some on unfinished bedding, some in cooking for next week's arrivals, and others in arranging rooms. By (lark a surprising amount of work was done, and Miss Lyon invited all to stay to tea. They protested, and Deacon Safford said: "Why, Miss Lyon! you know there isn't a tea-kettle in the house - nor any tea." But with Miss Lyon tea meant supper. "Besides," she added, "I want you to test Mrs. Safford's cooking."
"Seldom had Miss Lyon a happier face," says Mrs. Montague, "than at that supper table, so grateful was she for what had been accomplished that short Novem-ber afternoon."
Her house was getting ready.
[END OF CHAPTER V]