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A student writes about the Westfield of 1839

Dibbles Dabbles

March 21, 2012
By Billie Dibble - Westfield Historian, 1976-2006 ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

This article first published Feb. 21, 1985:

Recently Vincent Martonis, Historian for the Town of Hanover, shared with me a most interesting letter. It was written by a young student in the old Westfield Academy when the Academy was only two years old. The letter was in excellent condition, a little difficult to read because of the old fashioned penmanship, but well worth the effort.

The letter was addressed to Thomas N. Hopkins Esq. in a town in Erie County, New York, and was written by his son who signed it simply N.H. I'll quote some of the most interesting parts.

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Old Westfield Academy, established in 1837 — The school attended by N. Hopkins in 1839 and also the ancestor from which our present school got part of its name, Westfield Academy and Central School.

"INDEPENDENCE! Westfield, July 4th, 1839. Dr. Parents, The Academy neither being in session, nor any publick celebration of the day being made here, I am left without my accustomed employment, or anything publick to direct my mind ...

"On my way here I did not start from Springville until Monday. We came through that day, brought all my things. Mr. Parsons was very kind, charged me nothing for my passage, took me right to his boarding house at which I staid until Wednesday. School commenced on Thursday. Westfield is now the most pleasant village I was ever in. The lots are large and have good gardens, many tastefully arranged. The houses are large and handsome but what makes the striking difference between this and other villages especially at this season of the year is the streets are so beautifully decorated with locust trees. There are generally two rows on each side of the street, one on each side of the sidewalk. The Academy is situated at the extremity of the village and its site is a little higher than the road, a pleasant grove in the front. My boarding house is still farther this way, a little out of the village and higher, the ground rising after you come out of the village this way.

"Mr. Colburn I board with and not only have a location a little retired from the village and sufficiently out of its noise, but also I have a family. The man owns a farm about a mile from here which he lets. He is a carpenter and joiner by trade, a very industrious man, and altogether farmer-like in his habits. We were recommended to make application here by a Mr. Smith, Lawyer, very respectable and kind man who came and introduced us." No doubt the man was Austin Smith, well known in the history of Westfield.

N.H. goes on to say that the terms at his boarding place are, "$2 for a week or $30 for the term not being particular if I am here a few days before or after. For this they board me and furnish me room and lights. I have a pleasant little room for one to study in, carpeted. There is a hall leading into the house. My bedroom is adjoining my study room and the parlour is opposite my room. Farther they agree upon these terms not to take any more boarders. There are no rooms in the Academy for private study. I have free access to all parts of the house as I would at home. Mrs. Colburn does her own work and he his. They have but 3 smallish children 2 of which go to school. The school is not very large in the Academy now, though quite respectable ... I have taken up the study of Greek again this summer ... I commonly retire between 9 and 10 and rise about half past 4. By this course somewhat similar to John Q. Adams I keep my mind steadily poised, my feeling calm and enjoy myself much better than otherwise I should ... you are with each the other to sympathize in your affairs and I am alone. I remember you all with tender affection. Home is Home. OH! That I as well as we all may be directed by wisdom from on high so as to eventually land back safe at home. The Lord have mercy and bless, Your Affectionate Son, N.H."

These were some of the thoughts of a homesick young man who had come to pursue an education in the Westfield Academy, founded in 1837 and located on Academy Street about where our present post office stands (in 1985).



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