Milton Classical Institute (1867-c1889)

By Muriel Bristol | October 11, 2018

Ten prominent Milton citizens incorporated a private secondary school at Three Ponds Village in Milton, NH, in July 1867. The incorporators included NH Governor’s Councilor (and ex-officio NH State Board of Education member) Charles Jones, Strafford Sheriff Luther Hayes, manufacturers William P. Tuttle and Hiram V. Wentworth, Dr. George W. Peavey, and others.


Section 1. Corporation name, powers and liabilities. 2. Purposes, location and capital stock. 3. First meeting, how called, etc. Section. 4. Power of Legislature reserved. 5. Repealing clause. 6. Act takes effect on its passage.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

Section 1. That Luther Hayes, Charles Jones, George W. Peavy, Joseph Sayward, William P. Tuttle, George W. Tasker, John S. Hersey, Hiram V. Wentworth, George Lyman, and John Lucus, all of Milton, and their successors, be, and they hereby are, created and made a body politic by the name of the Milton Classical Institute, and by that name may sue and be sued, prosecute and defend to final judgment and execution, and shall have and enjoy all the privileges, and be subject to all the liabilities incident to corporations of a similar nature.

Sect. 2. Said corporation is hereby authorized to establish and maintain at Three Ponds Village, in the town of Milton, in this State, the Milton Classical Institute, a literary and scientific institution heretofore established in said village, for the purpose of the academical instruction of the young in any or all of the branches of education usually taught in any academy; and for that purpose is made capable in law to have, and to hold, and enjoy, all the property, both real and personal, which has been heretofore and is now held and possessed by the said grantees as trustees of said institute, for said purpose, and which may be so held and possessed at the time of the passage of this act; and for this purpose may purchase, erect, and maintain suitable buildings therefor; and may receive and hold by purchase, gift, devise, or otherwise, real or personal estate to an amount not exceeding thirty thousand dollars.

Sect. 3. Any two of said corporators may call the first meeting of said corporation, at said Three Ponds Village, by giving a written or printed notice thereof to each of said corporators, or causing the same to be left at his last and usual place of abode, five days prior to the time appointed for holding the same; at which, or any subsequent meeting called and holden, said corporation may adopt such constitution and by-laws, not repugnant to the constitution and laws of this State, as they shall judge proper to carry into effect the object of this grant, and may choose such officers and trustees as they may deem expedient.

Sect. 4. The Legislature may at any time alter, amend, or repeal this act, whenever, in their opinion, the public good may require it.

Sect. 5. All acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act are hereby repealed.

Sect. 6. This act shall take effect from and after its passage. (Approved July 8 1867).

The Milton Classical Institute used the Union church building at Milton Three Ponds. It is said to have been across the street from the Milton Hotel, which was south of the train station. It is difficult to know exactly when the Milton Classical Institute first opened its doors or who was in charge there for its first few years.

People listed as Milton teachers in the Ninth (1870) Federal Census were Mary A. Cook, aged thirty-two years, Abby Wentworth, aged thirty years, Nellie C. Berry, aged twenty-six years, Mary P. Hayes, aged twenty-six years, James W. Applebee, aged twenty-five years, and Martha A. Sayward, aged twenty-two years.

However, most, if not all, of these teachers would have been working in Milton’s public district primary schools, or, as they were called, “common schools.” There was no public high school, nor would there be for another generation.

James W. Applebee and Frank Haley were the Milton [School] Superintendents in the following year, 1871. (Applebee served later as principal of the Ingalls School in Lynn, MA, between 1906 and 1911).

A short biography of Milton merchant and NH State Senator Charles H. Looney (1849-1902) says that he “was educated in the [Milton] common schools and at the Classical Institute of Milton N.H.” The course of his life suggests that he must have attended the Milton Classical Institute not long after its 1867 incorporation. He was already running his own Milton store by 1871.

Dr. John Edmund Scruton (1846-1894) of Union “received his early education at the Farmington (N.H.) High School, at the West Lebanon Academy, and at Milton (N.H.) Classical Institute.” As he received his medical degree at Bowdoin College in 1870, he too must have attended the Milton Classical Institute in its earliest days.

Mrs. Mary C. Quimby, who for 46 years has been a school teacher, observed her 79th birthday in her home at Acton, Me., near her birthplace. Mrs. Quimby was educated in West Lebanon, Me., academy and Milton Institute. In the latter she acted as assistant teacher for two years. She taught her first term of school when 15 years of age [c1862]. Mrs. Quimby’s parents were Daniel and Susan (Hern) Ricker. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby will observe their 48th wedding anniversary the 12th of next month, having married October 12th 1878, by Rev. Hiram Manser (Carrol County Independent, September 17, 1926).

The NH Register listed the Milton Classical Institute as a Literary Institution in 1871. J.N. Ham was its Principal in 1872 and 1873.

Next came Jesse Piper Bickford, who ran the Milton Classical Institute in 187477. He was born in Newburgh, ME, March 3, 1844, son of George and Ann (Piper) Bickford. He died in Bangor, ME, May 26, 1910, aged sixty-six years.

Jesse P. Bickford, of Newburgh, Maine, attended Bowdoin College; he belonged to Bowdoin’s Athenean Society in his freshman (1870) and sophomore (1871) years. Jesse Piper Bickford resided in room 21 of Bowdoin’s M.H. residence during his junior year (1872). He likely would have graduated from Bowdoin College in the Spring of 1874.

The US Commissioner of Education included the Milton Classical Institute in his annual report of 1874, with the newly-minted Jesse P. Bickford as its Principal. He married Elizabeth “Lizzie” C. Horne of Milton, July 30, 1876.

J.P. Bickford was teaching at the Milton Classical Institute in 1877. Steiger’s Educational Directory listed the Milton Classical Institute of Milton, N.H., in its 1878 edition. The US Secretary of the Interior included the Milton Classical Institute in his 1878 report, so it was still active at that time.

Jesse P. Bickford seems to have left Milton about this time. Census officials enumerated Jesse P. Bickford, a teacher, aged thirty-six years, with his parents in Newburgh, ME, at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. Bickford’s father may have been ill; in fact, he died that September.

Business directories identify Miss Clements as running the Milton Classical Institute in 1878-80. Charles E. Hussey taught there at about this time.

For a year he taught the high school at Milton, N.H. In 1879, he resigned to take the principalship at Rochester (Eaton, 1896).

The US Commissioner of Education reported the Milton Classical Institute, of Milton, NH, as having been “closed.” This information appeared in an addendum to an 1881 List of institutions for secondary instruction, & c. But, as Mark Twain would have it, reports of its demise were apparently premature.

Subsequent directories identified A.E. Cowell as running the Milton Classical Institute in 1881-83. This was likely Allen E. Cowell (1862-1929), son Edmond E. and Elizabeth J. (Chamberlain) Cowell of Lebanon, ME. (His mother would be the Mrs. E.E. Cowell of 1887; she was a sister of Samuel G. Chamberlain).

Fred A. Chase ran the Milton Classical Institute in 1884. Mrs. M.K. Cowell did so in 1886 and Mrs. E.E. Cowell did so in 1887. Moses K. Cowell (1825-1905) originated in Lebanon, ME, and was at this time a physician in Milton Mills

Miss Fannie L. Hayes (1865-1953) ran the Milton Classical Institute in 1889. She was a daughter of one of its incorporators, Luther Hayes. It does not so appear in the directory of 1890.

The journal of the NH House of Representatives for the afternoon of Thursday, January 22, 1891, includes the following:

On motion of Mr. Pulsifer of Gilford, the following petitions were recalled from the Committee on Education and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary:

Petition of the trustees of the Milton Classical Institute for authority to sell and convey the property of said institute and dispose of the proceeds thereof.

Petition of Ira W. Duntley and 36 others of Milton, praying that authority be granted the trustees of the Milton Classical Institute to sell and convey the property of said institute and dispose of the proceeds thereof.

At which point, it would seem to have been all over but the conveyancing.

(Note that the Milton Classical Institute closed its doors shortly before its successor, the Nute High School and Library, opened theirs).

There was this sort of eulogy, which was published in a local 1907-08 town directory, as a lead-in to a discussion of the 1891 Nute High School and Library.

The first attempt at the establishment of a high school in Milton was made by the Rev. Ezra S. Anderson, in 1832. The most successful of the earlier institutions, however, was the Classical Institute, classes being held in the old Union meeting-house, remodeled in 1866, for that purpose. Many men of prominence in the community and State, today [1908], point with pride and satisfaction to the early training they received there. 


Biographical Review Publishing Company. (1897). Biographical Review: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Stafford and Belknap Countries, New Hampshire. Retrieved from

Bowdoin College. (1894, June 1). Obituary Record of the Graduates of Bowdoin College and the Medical College of Maine. Retrieved from

Davis, Bryant, and Lawton. (1908). The Town Register: Farmington, Milton, Wakefield, Middleton, Brookfield, 1907-8. Retrieved from

Eaton, Chester W. and Warren E. (1896). Proceedings of the 250th Anniversary of the Ancient Town of Redding, Once Including the Territory Now Comprising the Towns of Reading, Wakefield, and North Reading. Retrieved from

Harriman, Walter, et. al. (1867). Laws of the State of New Hampshire, Passed June Session, 1867 (Volume 1). Retrieved from

Steiger, Ernst. (1878). Steiger’s Educational Directory for 1878. Retrieved from

US Bureau of Education. (1875). Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1874. Retrieved from

US Bureau of Education. (1883). Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1881. Retrieved from

US Secretary of the Interior. (1880). Report of the Secretary of the Interior, Part II: Education. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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