Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


November 22, 2012

Dalton column: Town's best historian

In 1912, the Andover Townsman ran a short piece about a young man, Claude M. Fuess, who, based on one book written in the latter stage of his life, would become Andover’s best historian. His doctoral thesis was published by the Columbia University Press, and Phillips Academy had a copy for its library because Dr. Fuess, already well-known in Andover, had been teaching at PA since 1908. He called Andover his adopted home, yet had ancestors who were part of its ancient history.

He was a modest man and most considerate. When he was late writing his history of Andover, which was supposed to be done for the town’s tercentennial in 1946, he said, “...circumstances of the author’s life [and] other commitments and some disasters...” interfered with its completion; but he still took pains explaining that the delay was inexcusable. The book came out in 1959 and was worth the wait (”Andover, a Symbol of New England,” The Atheneum Press, Portland, Maine, sponsored by the Andover and North Andover Historical Societies). Dr. Fuess died four years after its publication, and there are hints in his introduction that he was unwell while writing the book.

Dr. Fuess was an accomplished, prolific writer, and his oeuvre includes biographies of Calvin Coolidge and Daniel Webster as well as several books about Amherst College. He worked on, but did not complete, a biography of Alfred Stearns, a former headmaster of PA and president of Amherst College. Stearns died in 1939 and his family discontinued the biography.

Fuess was born in Waterville, N.Y., in 1885, and received both his master’s (1906) and doctorate (1912) from Columbia University. He taught English at Phillips from 1908 until 1933, the year he became headmaster, and served in that job until 1957, when John Kemper took over the responsibilities. Dr. Fuess became headmaster emeritus, a job that likely allowed him the time needed to finish the town’s history.

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