Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

December 20, 2012

Dalton column: Three prestigious Andover schools equals one

The North Parish offered Phillips Academy early competition. After Phillips Academy was founded by Samuel Phillips Jr. with help from Eliphalet Pearson in 1778, some North Parish (now North Andover) residents created a school of their own.

In 1799, Jonathan Stevens, a well-to-do farmer, offered free land not far from the North Parish meeting house. His friends funded the project, and a building was constructed on what is now Academy Road. The school was incorporated in 1801 and was called the North Parish Free School. By 1803 the Free School’s name became Franklin Academy, perhaps after Benjamin Franklin.

The school was for boys and girls, unlike Phillips Academy that only admitted boys, and it was the first incorporated school in Massachusetts that admitted girls. The Franklin School differed from Phillips in another way as it was not intended as a preparatory school for college, but rather taught more practical courses intended for the needs of the community.

Franklin Academy was a for-profit enterprise, and it struggled until 1817 when Simeon Putnam, a Harvard graduate (class of 1811), took over as principal and made the school more popular and profitable, for he was a strict and fine teacher. He changed the focus of the school to more classical studies. In his “History of Andover” (1829) Abiel Abbot wrote, “The school has been highly beneficial to the North Parish and to those youth who have enjoyed its advantages... The Classical School, taught the eight preceding years by Mr. Simeon Putnam, has been constantly and deservedly rising in reputation for thorough instruction and moral discipline... The reputation is inferior to none, and has never been more flourishing than at the present time.”

Unfortunately, Putnam died in 1833, while still in early middle age, and the school once again struggled. Fifty years after it opened it closed and became a stable in 1853.

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