These excerpts from Horace Ford's small typed booklet dated 1923 were contributed by Jane Dieffenbacher, Fairfield Town Historian. Jane tells us that
this booklet was a speech, delivered at the dedication of the monument erected by the
alumni of Fairfield Academy. The monument is still there and gives a history of the school.
SOME OF THE MEN WHO MADE FAIRFIELD SEMINARY
by Horace Ford
Excerts from Horace Ford's manuscript written in 1923.
"The first cornerstone was laid on July 4th, 1802, twenty-six years after
the signing of the Declaration of Independence. One would think that the
founders might have had other thoughts than the building of a school, and yet
those great and good men, some of whose names presently I shall recall to
you, having been denied the privilege of an education, greatly desired that
their children, and their children's children, should quench their thirst for
knowledge amid these beautiful foothills which God has fashioned. It was the
work of patriots who believed that only education could make permanent the
young republic's great declaration."
"When there is a great work, there is always a great mind which has
dreamed, and then the hands have wrought. Therefore, I wonder who first
thought of this school? It seems probable that this honor belongs to Capt.
Moses Mather. In any event, tradition tells us that he was one of the
leading men of his time, and some old memoranda found among the papers of his
son, Dr. William Mather, make certain that he was one of the first trustees
of the school, in any event, his is the first name recorded in these
memoranda, and the date after his name is September 4th, 1811.
"I was a small boy when Dr. William Mather walked these streets.
"His father's mantle had fallen upon him, and when one in those days
thought of Fairfield Seminary, he thought of Dr. William Mather, once a
teacher in the medical department, and later a Trustee. The date after his
name is January 13th, 1853. I suppose the date of his election to the board.
He was a man of the old school and a fine old gentleman he was. I used to
meet him, as in his quiet and stately manner he walked these streets. He
wore a long coat, a high collar of the period, with the large turned-back
cravat, and I can hear even now the sound of his cane upon the flat stone
walk in front of his house. I used to go with my mother to call on his
wife, and I confess that I was a bit afraid of the doctor, because he
appeared so stately, and in years so far away from me. He was a fine type of
the men whose sturdy lives helped to do the work of their day.
"And now I want to call a partial roll of those men whose lives were put
to this great educational enterprise. These names, which I have selected
from the memoranda left among the papers of Dr. Mather, do not represent all
of the trustees who held office between 1811, the first date shown, and 1853,
the last one. I am giving merely the names of those which were household
words in and about Fairfield when I was a boy.
"Moses Mather, Amos Sherwood, Amos Sherwood, Jr., Dr. Griffen Sweet,
Nathan Smith, Alden S. Gage, Norman Butler, Clinton Chatfield, David W. Cole,
Thomas H. Rice, Westel Willoughby, Jr., Richmond Bushnell, Moses Johnson,
William B. Porter, Ezra Graves, Cyrus M. Johnson, James Seaman, Roswell D.
Brown, William Alexander, William Jackson, William Mather, William Smith,
W.D. Waterman, M.H.C. Favill, Henry Tillinghast, Benjamin Bowen, James
Hadley, Jarius Mather, Jeriman Corey, Francis H. Bloodgood, Uria H. Hurlbut,
Nathanel Carpenter, Phineus S. Whipple, Jeremiah Smith, Abijah Mann, Abijah
Mann, Jr., John Snell, John Herkimer, Henry Coffin, Parley Arnold, Samuel C.
Griswold, William Bushnell, G.W. Phillips, Simeon Ford, Asa Chatfield, John
Green, Horace Ford, Nathan B. Hildreth, William Griswold, Sidenious Teale."
"I have told you of Moses Mather, the man who dreamed of the Seminary,and
that his dream came true, and of his son, Dr. William Mather. Now I should
like to tell you of others.
"Amos Sherwood owned the house which was built in 1803 by Robert
Knowlton, the house at the end of the "Long Walk" where I lived as a boy. My
grandfather, Horace Ford, who lived at Salisbury, bought the Sherwood house
and moved to Fairfield in 1833. Mr. Sherwood seems to have been elected to
the board of trustees in 1843.
"Griffin Sweet was a physician and surgeon, the country doctor of an
early day. He lived alone in the house across the way which for some years
had been occupied by Clarence Barnes as a store and post office. His office
was heavy with the smell of the healing drugs which he used to cure the ills
of the folks who lived hereabouts. He directed the stork who bore me to the
home of my mother and father, and carried me through all the litle illnesses
of childhood. He was made a trustee in 1848.
"Norman Butler, when I knew him, had retired, and was living alone in the
village of Newport. For many years, he and my father, during the summer,
bought cattle, and in the fall drove them, a thousand or more at a time, to
Utica, where they were slaughtered. That was long before the days of Armour,
Swift, and Morris whose great packing houses have made famous the city where
I live. His election to the board seems to have taken place in 1864.
"David Cole, elected to the board in 1856. If I am not mistaken he was
the grandfather of Canning and Truman Cole. We say 'like father like son,'
but heredity also works backward, and sometimes we know the sterling and
substantial characteristics of the grandfather through those same qualities
in the grandsons.
"Thomas Rice, "Uncle Tommie," as everyone called him, was a staunch
Methodist, stong in doctrine, a defender of the faith, powerful in prayer and
testimony. He came, I think, from Scotch-Irish ancestry, with all the strong
qualities of that hardy race. As a small boy I used to go to prayer meeting
with my father and mother, but at that time I sat with my mother on the left
side of the room, while my father and the other men sat on the right. "Uncle
Tommie' used to pound the bench in front of him while making his testimony,
and always, it never failed, and in a spirit of humble piety and with a broad
Scotch accent, he would say: 'My face is where my back ought to be.' In
other words he felt that he was not progressing in the faith, that he was
'backsliding' as we Methodists used to say; but he was not because he was
one of the great Christian men of this community, a man whose word was even
better than his bond."
"John Green, grand old man that he was. He was a Methodist of an earlier
day. His pew in the church was immediately in front of our family pew, and
sometimes during the sermon he bowed his head on the cane which he always
carried. I used to think that 'Father Green' was sleeping, but he was not,
because later I used to hear him, and the other brethern, discussing the
sermon, and nearly always he could repeat the substance of the discourse. He
was a man of few words. I used to think him almost stern and unapproachable,
and I feared him, until one day, when I was seventeen, I stood at the
Methodist altar and took upon myself the vows of the Church which brought me
into 'full connection,' and after that service, 'Father' John Green who that
day forgot his taciturnity, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and said three
words, 'I am glad,' but that was enough. Those three words meant more coming
from a man like John Green, because he lived at a time when our elders gave
scant thought to the boys and girls of the community.
"Horace Ford was my grandfather. His name is one of the last which
appears in the memoranda left by Dr. William Mather. I never saw him. He
died in 1860, before I was born, and although no date of his election to the
board is given, probably it was in the early fifties. He and my grandmother,
Rebecca Smith Ford, were members of the Presbyterian Church."
"And I should name others who were here when I was a boy and who were
interested in the school, either as trustees or patrons. Some of these are
the sons of men, who, in an earlier day, made the beginnings of 'Old
Fairfield'. Therefore, I want to call this roll of honored names, the names
of the men I knew. They were your fathers and mine. I call the roll from
memory. I hope I have given their names correctly: George Reed, Cephus
LaDue, Watson and Sherman Lambertson, Eleazer C. Rice, once a member of the
New York State Assembly, Peter Kilts, George Pickert, Justus Cole, Charles
Neely, Martin Barnes, Morgan Reese, E.W. Fairchild, William Whipple, William
Lambertson, Milton Ford, my father, and Frank S. Ford, my uncle, William
Windecker, Fred A. Morey, Hiram Barnes, John Todd, Daniel and Samuel Wilson,
Cornelius Johnson, Willard Ingham, James Ford. And last but not least, Miss
Lydia Bailey, the most capable housekeeper, who, by her good old fashioned
cooking did much toward the success of Fairfield Seminary."
"The students, in those post (Civil) war days, seemed older than the boys
of a later day, and they were older because many of them had gone with
Professor-Captain Van Petten to fight the battles of the Union. Some of the
men who made this school possible also went, most of them with the 121st NY
State Volunteers, and some of them came back to the little old cemetery
yonder, where loving hands each Memorial Day since then have decorated their
resting place. It was in such an atmosphere that the young men and the young
women students of the day grew strong, and went forth to fight the important
battles of life.
"I wish I had time to tell you of the principals, preceptresses, and
teachers of the days when I was a boy; all I can do is repeat the names of a
"The patriotic Van Petten, of whom I have a slight, and only a slight,
recollection during the days following the war.
"Prof. Albert Barnes Watkins, the student, the gentleman and teacher, and
his charming wife, the daughter of Dr. William Mather.
"Prof. William Brownell and his wife whose quiet and scholarly ways long
will be remembered by this community and by the boys and girls of that
"Prof. C.W. Percell, whose full beard made him look like Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow. He was a close student, and a natural born teacher.
"I do not remember many of the Preceptresses who had charge of the young
women. However, I want to mention the name of Mrs. Jones, 'Mother' Jones the
girls called her. Evidently she was a woman of rare tact, because the girls
loved her almost as they loved their own mothers. Her son, Lewis B. Jones,
was a small boy then, and 'Lew' and I played together on the Seminary
grounds, or at the end of the walk. Lew is a big boy now - I should say a
big man - He is Vice President and Advertising Director of the Eastman Kodak
"But I cannot close this portion of my remarks without paying loving
tribute to a man whose entire life has been given to the cause of education.
Professor, then Major Hall, was born with a teacher's instinct. When I was a
boy in his class, he seemed to know everything and he knew how to impart that
knowledge. I received my first electric shock from the Leyden jar in his
classroom, and also my first impressions about the structure of this old
world in which we live. Hats off, you boys and girls of another day to Prof
Hall, the grand old man of Fairfield Seminary.
"You may not know it but the first country club in New York State had
permanent quarters in Fred Morey's store. I think that the charter members
were William Whipple, Howard Lambertson, John Starkings, and John Young. In
any event, they usually were seen of an evening after a hard day's work in
the fields seated about the store's big stove. I was not a member, but I
occasionally held a junior guest card, and was present many times to listen
to the literary program which included many heated discussions about
religion, philosophy, politics, the school, and sometimes they talked about
the character of the cheese, hay and grain crops. The club had no dues, but
it did have a self service cafe, and thereby it anticipated the cafeteria by
many years. The menu was simple, cheese, crackers, and dried herrings,
always the same. Like every other well managed club we did not pay cash at
the time of service, but unlike the modern club we did not have to sign a
ticket describing the character of the food, and the charge, because Fred
Morey looked after such details. Therefore, at the proper time, the members
would find on their bills the cafe charges for food taken by self service
from the cracker barrel, the dried herring box, or the cheese stand.
Students were not eligible to membership, only residents of Fairfield Village
"The other day I was eating luncheon at my Club in Chicago. The
newspapers that day had told us of the serious illness of President Harding.
Seated near me were five business men of an especially alert appearance, and
one asked who would succeed to the presidency in the event that Mr. Harding
should die. Of course, all five of them said that the vice-president would
become president, but someone then asked the name of our vice-president and
not one could recall the name of Vice-President Coolidge. I do not believe
that incident to be typical of the hurried and strenuous business men of our
large cities, but I do know that such gross ignorance could not have appeared
in Fred Morey's country club. And not only that, if Howard Lambertson had
been present around that big stove, he would have told the plurality, and the
number of electors, by which Harding and Coolidge were elected, and not only
that, he would have given from memory all that information back to the time
"What shall I say of the old debating societies, "The Aethenian' for the
young ladies, 'The Calliopean' and "The Philoratorian' for the young men.
Life was very real and earnest then; and we of the 'Calliopean' Society, and
no doubt those of the other two, were powerful in debate. We settled every
question of education, politics, and religion, but those questions have not
remained settled. Maybe the results would have been different had they lived
to finish their work. We always closed our portion of the debate by saying,
'With these few remarks I will leave the floor.'
"And then commencement week. One joyous happy week. Monday, 'The
Calliopean' exercises in the old Presbyterian Church; on Tuesday, 'The
Philoretorian' exercises; on Wednesday, 'The Aethenians' held forth, and they
read literary essays of great charm with such titles as 'Butter Side Down',
being a description of the contrary things in human experience. Each
evening, the Society whose turn it was, marched in gala attire from the
campus, down the street and to the old Church. And Thursday was the big day
of oratory from a platform built on the south end of the old campus. A real
orator from abroad, graduating orations and essays by the students, diplomas
tied with bright ribbon, a brass band from Fort Plain, and then the people
who came in carriages from far and near. In those days I drove a team of
young horses hitched to a top buggy. The horses were a bit afraid of the
band, but I liked to drive them up the street and see them keep step with
the music. Talk about your automobile; the feel of the steering wheel cannot
equal the delightful thrill that passes from a mettlesome horse up the lines
to the driver. Those were the days of real sport.
"I lived at the end of the walk where the hills stand looking down, and
where the elm trees grow broad and strong, and where the grass is green, and
the maples turn golden in the autumn.
"I lived at the end of the walk where there is a wonderful well, and a
mocking echo on a night that is still, when one talks to the hills toward the
"I lived at the end of the walk where the sun goes down behind the hill,
and where its bedtime rays bathe the fields with splendor.
"And it was at the end of this walk that Prof. Watkins used to come, to
look at the trees, the hills, the fields, and the setting sun. Almost every
evening, when the day was pleasant, he would come to the gate of my father's
house, as a lover would come to his appointed tryst and look toward the west.
It almost was a religious rite that was performed by this lover of nature.
Albert Watkins was one of the great men of Fairfield Seminary. His wife was
most charming and an inspiration to him. She is living on the north side of
Chicago. I see her occasionally, as I do her sons, Jesse, Frank, and
Charles, and her brother, Alonzo Mather, a loyal Fairfield boy who went forth
with an idea which brought him substantial financial gain as President of the
Mather Stock Car Company. It was Alonzo Mather who helped greatly to make
possible this memorial of granite and bronze." (Fairfield alumni's gift, a
monument still on the Fairfield Seminary Campus.)
"And now in closing. The other day I stood at the foot of majestic Mount
Shasta in sunny California, and I drank of its healing waters. I journeyed
northward and came to see Mount Hood in all its snow capped grandeur. And
then I stepped in sight of Mount Tacoma, which the Indians named 'Ta Homa',
the mountain that was God, but which the geographers call Mount Rainier; and
yet standing with you here today, surrounded by so many pleasant memories, I
want to say that there have been moments in my life when almost would I have
given all this wonderful mountain scenery along the Pacific slope for one
drink of the water from this well at the end of the walk and for one look at
our own Barto Hill.
"But maybe that desire came from what a boy saw at Fairfield, a desire
which grew stronger as he became a man."
August 25th, 1923.
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