Sketches of Church Life in Colonial Connecticut
Being the Story of the Transplanting of the Church of England into Forty Two Parishes of Connecticut,
with the Assistance of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
[This school is so thoroughly the result of the Colonial period, that it is has been thought best to preserve this record of its foundation in this place.--ED.]
The history of the Episcopal Academy of Connecticut is so closely interwoven with the parish history that it is most fitting mention of it should be made in this paper. The first record relating to its establishment was made in 1729, when, at the convention of the clergy, it was voted "that the several clergy make inquiry of their neighboring towns and see what can be done toward erecting an Episcopal Academy and report at the next convention." And at a subsequent convention a committee was appointed to receive proposals from various towns and to establish the institution in that place, which should be considered by them the most eligible. They selected Cheshire, and, in 1796, the Academy was built by thirty proprietors at a cost of £702 lawful money, and by them conveyed to the Board of Trustees, to be "forever applied to the use of an Institution conducted upon the principles of the Protestant Episcopal Church." Some of these proprietors were from the Congregational Society; but by far the greater majority were Episcopalians, who contributed not merely with a view to the benefit of the town, but of the Church throughout the diocese and country. That these proprietors made sacrifices in order to subscribe, is shown by the following true story. Hearing of her husband's subscription, the wife of one of these proprietors said she thought "he ought to buy some windows for his house first."
It was no doubt owing to the exertions of the Rev. Mr. Ives that Cheshire responded so liberally. "It was the first institution of the kind strictly belonging to the Church of England," says Dr. Beardsley, "and one of the first in the country." "The care which was shown in framing a code of laws for its temporary government and also in forming a constitution upon the most liberal and beneficial plan" proved that it was the design to erect it into a college; and under Dr. Bowden, its first honored and accomplished Principal, chosen by the convention, the design was fostered and ripened ultimately into repeated applications to the General Assembly for an "enlargement of its charter to Collegiate powers." By referring to the seventh and eighth articles of the original constitution, we find that the principal and his assistant were required to teach "the English Language, Philosophy, Mathematics, and every other science usually taught at colleges; likewise the dead languages, such as Greek and Latin. And whenever the finances of the Academy will admit, the Trustees shall procure an Instructor in the French language, purchase a Library and Philosophical apparatus at their own discretion."
The Academy seems to have made encouraging progress and its merits had begun to attract the attention of Churchmen in all parts of the country--the number of students consequently increasing, when an unexpected shock was given to the friends of the Institution by the resignation of Dr. Bowden. Among the efforts made to increase the funds--one then regarded as perfectly consistent with the dictates of Christian morality--was a petition to the General Assembly for a lottery to raise the sum of £4,000. In 1802, an act was finally passed, granting a lottery, to raise the sum of $15,000. After considerable delay, and no little loss in the sale of tickets, the managers closed their drawings, and the net proceeds amounted to $12,000. There is now, at the Academy, a book containing unsold lottery tickets, and among our Parish records, dated 1803, is the following:
"On motion that two tickets in the Episcopal Academy Lottery be purchased by subscription--Agreed to and money advanced." A list of names and subscriptions amounting to $10, follows, with this statement: "With the above Cash two Tickets were accordingly purchased, No. 4741 and No. 4742."
During Dr. Bronson's term as Principal, young ladies were admitted to the Academy and many came from other towns to receive instruction here. Among them was one, Mrs. Polly Logan Ford, of Washington, Ct, who so far as known was the oldest living "E. A. C." at the time of her death, Feb. 28th, 1901.
Of the later history of the Academy, not properly belonging to this paper, reference need only be made to its several new and commodious buildings, its long and honored list of graduates, to prove that those who labored for its establishment builded wisely and well, and that the object for which the Academy was started has not been forgotten, its promoters still believing "that the greatest good that can be done is to educate the heart in accordance with the teachings of the Divine Law."