This thriving institution of learning is located at Adams village, whose inhabitants early felt the need of better facilities for education than the common schools afforded; accordingly efforts were made at different times to found an institution of learning of a higher grade; but, owing to local jealousies and the powerful opposition of the friends of the Black River Institute, located at Watertown, and Union Academy, at Belleville, they were not successful. In the year 1852 an effort was made to establish a graded school, but it resulted in failure. In the year 1859, Captain Sidney J. Mendell, filled with great expectations of the future of the village, to be brought about by a mineral spring located in the west part of the village, commenced, near the railroad depot, the erection of a large three-story hotel. When this building was nearly completed, pecuniary reverses overtook him, and the building passed, by fore-closure, into the hands of Gen. Solon D. Hungerford, who had been one of the most active in former efforts to afford better educational facilities to the village. He proceeded to finish the building. While waiting to make some disposition of it, the thought occurred to him that the long-sought-for educational institute might now be secured. To will, with him, was to do; and accordingly, on November 1, 1863, he placed in the hands of Justus Eddy, Esq., editor of the Jefferson County News, a proposition: In consideration of the sum of $10,000 to be raised by the citizens of Adams and vicinity, he agreed to give to a board of trustees, to be afterwards named, a good and sufficient deed of the property known as the Mendell hotel, with the single reservation that if they should sell or otherwise dispose of the property the avails should be used to erect another building for an academy within one mile of his residence. On receiving the proposition of Gen. Hungerford, Mr. Eddy published a call for a public meeting to be held on Nov. 30, 1863, at the Presbyterian lecture-room, to take it into consideration. At that meeting it was resolved to accept the offer of Gen. Hungerford. A committee of the following gentlemen was appointed to devise means to carry the resolution into effect: Justus Eddy, Rev. J. N. Hobart, Rev. G. W. Mackie, Rev. J. C. Vandercook, Dr. L. B. Waldo, H. F. Overton, B. Randall, W. A. Gilbert, and Andrew Blackstone. This committee delegated to a sub-committee, composed of the following gentlemen, the work of preparing a platform on which the different church interests could be harmonized: J. Eddy, A. J. Brown, H. F. Overton, D. A. Dwight, and A. W. Gilbert, who prepared the following platform, which was adopted by the executive committee as a basis on which to raise the needful amount:
lst. The board of trustees shall consist of twenty-four members.
2d. At least twelve of the principal donors shall nominate the first board of trustees.
Not more than one-third of the trustees shall belong to any one religious society.
This platform having been submitted to Gen. Hungerford, and approved by him, also another resolution, allowing the trustees to use the income from the endowment fund in any way they might deem for the best interests of the school, the committee then called a public meeting of all persons interested, at the Presbyterian lecture-room, at which meeting B. Randall, G. W. Mackie, and W. A. Gilbert were appointed a committee to obtain subscriptions to the endowment of 810,000. These gentlemen, about February 20, reported that they had obtained in good and valid subscriptions the sum of $10,568. A committee was then appointed to appraise the improvements of the hotel, who reported them worth $13,500. A public meeting was then called on March 4, 1864, and it was resolved that application be made to the Regents of the University for a charter, under the name of “Hungerford Collegiate Institute,” and with the following gentlemen as its first board of trustees: Hon. Joseph Mullin, E. R. Mason, LL.D., Geo. Frasier, Asa M. Whitford, William M. Johnson, S. D. Hungerford, B. Randall, W. A. Gilbert, George Cooper, Justus Eddy, George W. Bond, Philander Smith, Willard –, Rev. J. N. Hobart, Rev. G. W. Mackie, Rev. F. F. Jewell, Rufus P. White, A. J. Brown, T. P. Saunders, H. F. Overton, Samuel Harmon, Hon. E. S. Salisbury, A. W. Ingraham.
After the charter was obtained, the position of principal was given to Prof J. D. Houghton, a gentleman of large experience and high literary attainments, who had long been at the head of Union academy at Belleville, Jefferson County, New York, an institution which he had raised to the first rank for scholarship among the academies in the State. He accepted the position, and the trustees proceeded to fit up the building for school purposes, after plans prepared by him. To do this money was necessary, which was obtained partly by anticipating the interest of the endowment and partly by subscription, of which General Hungerford gave as much as all the others combined; The changes necessary to fit the building for an academy,,!), gether with seats, heating apparatus, etc., cost about $4000. On September 8, 1864, the school went into operation, with the following corps of teachers: Principal, J. D. Houghton A.M.; Preceptress, Miss Emma N. Beebee; Con. and Higher English, Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Gardner; Music, Mrs. J. D. Houghton; Primary Department, Miss Cornelia Clark.
About this time a very valuable mineralogical cabinet was presented to the institute by Mr. John G. Webb, now of Florida. This cabinet was nearly destroyed at the burning of the school building, which took place some years later. During the second year Prof Holbrook was associated with Mr. Houghton as vice-principal. During Mr. Houghton’s administration the school was noted for its thorough scholarship and excellent discipline. At this time military drill, under Colonel E. S. Salisbury and others, was maintained, and in the opinion of the teachers was of great help in keeping up the discipline of the school. On January 29, 1868, the building was consumed by fire. At that time it, with its contents, was insured for $14,000. About $13,400 was paid to the trustees by the insurance company. February 3, five days after the fire, a meeting of the trustees was held at Hungerford’s National Bank,; when it was resolved to erect another building immediately. At this meeting the question of change of site was introduced, and the site upon which the building now stands was selected. General S. D. Hungerford then said he wished to be allowed to give the land selected to the trustees, if it could be procured. This offer was accepted, with thanks. The work of building was soon after entered upon with great energy. The trustees had at their disposal about $16,000. They were authorized to expend $20,000 in the erection of a suitable building for an academy and boarding-hall, that should accommodate at least as many students as the former building. About June 1 work on the new building was begun. The plans were by J. D. Houghton and Mr. White, of Syracuse. The mason work was under the direction of Asa Lyons, of Adams. The carpenter work was done by William H. Wheeler, with David Gaylord, both of Adams, as architect .in charge. Under this energetic management, seconded by the strenuous efforts of the building committee, the house was enclosed in the fall of 1868.
The size of the building is 97 by 129 feet, four stories high, and is heated by steam and thoroughly ventilated. It was found that the building committee had gone beyond the authorized limit,— $20,000,— having expended $20,240 on the outside of the building. Various plans were pro-posed for raising the necessary funds for its completion, among others that of bonding the village corporation, and a law was passed by the legislature for that purpose, but was vetoed by Governor Hoffman. A public meeting was then held in the unfinished building to take into consideration ways and means to raise money to finish it, at which General Hungerford agreed to give $5000, provided the sum of $12,000 should be raised by other parties. This offer he afterwards modified by agreeing to give as much as all others up to the sum of $10,000. About $7000 were secured by citizens, and the work of finishing the building was entered upon, and on August 24, 1870, the completed building was dedicated to the interests for which it had been erected.
On the 28th the school was opened in the new building, with the following corps of teachers: Albert B. Watkins, A.M., principal; Orlo B. Rhodes, A.M., vice-principal; Mrs., H. N. Butterworth, preceptress; Mrs. L. B. Woodward, teacher common English; Miss L. Chatfield, oil painting and drawing; Mr. W. H. H. Taylor, commercial; Mr. Gustavo Gunther, music; Blrs. H. B. Watkins, Spanish and English. Messrs. Watkins and Rhodes still retain their respective positions, and have succeeded by their earnest efforts, seconded by an efficient body of teachers, in building up a reputation for the school for thorough scholarship second to none in the State.
There are six courses of study: 1 , classical; 2, English; 3, college preparatory; 4, scientific or engineering; 5, commercial; 6, music.
There are three literary societies connected with the school, — ”Nousaskean,” ”Kalamathean” and ”Calisophian.” The library contains 1421 carefully-selected volumes, and is always accessible to the students. A public reading-room contains the latest papers and magazines upon the table, and open at all proper hours. The chemical and philosophical apparatus is full and complete, leaving but little to be desired by those who are pursuing the study of the natural sciences. The Institute has also a first-class mineralogical cabinet, which was mainly the gift of William Rosa, M.D., of Watertown, and J. G. Webb, formerly of the State Geological and Mineralogical Survey.
The influence of the school is beginning to show itself in the increased interest in literary and scientific subjects, and the trustees confidently look forward to the time when it shall have secured such a hold on the affections of the community in which it is located that a liberal endowment shall be cheerfully provided for it. The present officers and faculty of the Institute, as given in the tenth annual catalogue, are as follows:
Board of Trustees. — Gen. S. D. Hungerford, Justus Eddy, George W. Bond, Edwin R. Maxson, A.M., M.D., LL.D., Rufus P. White, Hon. A. J. Brown, Hon. Joseph Mullen, LL.D., Henry F. Overton, W. V. V. Rosa, M.D., A. W. Ingraham, S. N. Bond, James M. Cleveland, Philip Stearne, Samuel Niblock, Thomas C. Chittenden, Esq., Henry O. Kenyon, Hart Grenell, Albert B. Watkins, Henry J. Brimmer, A. H. Fisher, W. E. Overton, A. H. Coughlan, I. L. Hunt, Jr., Esq., W. H. Withington. Officers.— Gen. S. D. Hungerford, President; E. R. Maxson, A.M., M.D., LL.D., Vice-President; Albert B. Watkins, Secretary; Hart Grenell, Treasurer.
Faculty — Albert B. Watkins, Orlo B. Rhodes, Principals. Albert B. Watkins, A.M., Ph.D., Metaphysics and Literature; Orlo B. Rhodes, A.M., Greek and Latin; Charles L. Williams, Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Prof. Herm. Haydn, Instrumental Music; William Cheeseman, Commercial Department; R. N. Jackson, Penmanship; Miss F. M. Hastings, Preceptress, French and Painting; Mrs. L. B. Woodward, English Department; Mrs. A. B. Watkins, Spanish and English; Mrs. O. B. Rhodes, German; Mrs. H. F. Nefflen, Elocution; Miss Jennie M. Clarke, Telegraphing. Primary department, Mrs. O. B. Rhodes, Principal; Assistants, Miss L. J. Martin, fall and winter terms; Miss F. A. Keegan, spring term. Librarian, Orlo B. Rhodes.
Source: Durant, Samuel W. and Henry B. Peirce. History of Jefferson County, New York, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1878. p 242-243.