Re-Learning Our History

The history below was largely gathered over the years leading up to the Bicentennial. Upon further research, we've discovered new stories and hidden figures to share. Please check back for an interactive, multimedia timeline later this fall as we share more online and in the bicentennial edition of Hamptonia.

New Hampton School's History

Building a School

Forty-six private institutions of learning were chartered in the State of New Hampshire between 1781, when the first privately endowed school was established at Exeter, and 1830, when the first public school was established at Portsmouth. New Hampton was one. On June 27, 1821, William B. Kelley, Nathaniel Norris, and seventeen associates received a charter for New Hampton Academy in order to provide general secondary education for local boys and girls and for others who wished to board. By September 17, 1821, when the first term began, the construction of a 24 x 32-foot frame building—heated by an open fireplace, furnished with unpainted seats and desks, and containing no library, no equipment, and no blackboards—was almost completed. More than 50 students enrolled that fall (at $3.00 tuition per term), about one-third of them Boston boys who boarded with townspeople (for $1.00 to $1.38 per week).

The school grew rapidly. In 1825 the Calvinist Baptists were persuaded to sponsor the school, and the academy became New Hampton Academical and Theological Institution. In 1827, a separate women’s department was established in the village (the present site of New Hampton School), while the men’s department remained at the Old Institution (a long mile away). By 1833, a full graduate theology curriculum existed, along with the English and classical curricula for secondary students. Classroom buildings and dormitories were added. Between 1835 and 1850, more than 300 different students enrolled for at least one of the four terms each year.

Growth and Transition

During these growing years, however, the New Hampshire Baptist Society failed to finance the school adequately and, in 1853, the society relocated the school to Fairfax, Vermont, because the Vermont Baptist Society promised sufficient funds to operate it. The faculty, most of the students, and almost all the movables, including the chapel bell, went to Vermont.

Three assets remained: (1) the energy and vision of certain townspeople, especially Colonel Rufus G. Lewis, who engaged the Freewill Baptist (the denomination to which most of the townspeople belonged) to buy the buildings and operate their own school; (2) the libraries of the Literary Adelphi and the Social Fraternity, who had voted not to join the students’ exodus and to “forever remain at New Hampton” (their strategy being to send their libraries to a Boston bindery just before the relocation began so that, by the time the books were rebound and returned, the Calvinist Baptist School would be gone); and (3) the name “New Hampton” which had come to signify one of the best schools in New Hampshire.

Early in 1853, a new corporation opened the school, now called New Hampton Literary and Biblical Institution, for the purpose of “the promotion of literature, science, and the useful arts, morality and the Christian religion.”

The corporation bought the school’s buildings and moved them from the Old Institution to the Village, including the largest dormitory, called “The Brick,” a 100 by 36-foot, four-story brick building, which was torn down brick by brick, carted to the village in three days by 100 oxen pulling 50 oxcarts, and rebuilt and renamed Randall Hall. The women’s department opened with 57 students, the men’s department with 41 students.

Again, the school grew rapidly. A biblical department flourished from 1854 to 1870, at which time it relocated to Lewiston, Maine, to become part of Bates College. In 1866, President Atwood Bond Meservey initiated a commercial curriculum that grew into New Hampton Commercial College, a post-secondary department. Other courses, including a two-year agricultural course, were introduced. About 1910, Lane, Draper, and Berry were built. Enrollments again passed 300 per year.

An Era of Change

By 1910, the success of the growing public schools was beginning to affect New Hampton’s enrollment. In addition, the decline of local population and patronage, the withdrawal of Baptist support in 1915, and the dislocations caused by the World War weakened the school. After the centennial year of 1921, enrollments dropped drastically, and by 1926 only 44 students were enrolled.

That year a man with extraordinary energy and vision was appointed headmaster. Frederick Smith, a 1910 graduate of New Hampton, restructured the school’s finances, changed the school to a boys’ college preparatory school, called The New Hampton School for Boys, and actively recruited out-of-state boys. By the end of his first year, he had recruited 100 new students. Under Mr. Smith’s leadership, and in spite of the Great Depression, the school grew to more than 150 boys. In 1959, Mr. Smith retired, and T. Holmes Moore, New Hampton 1938, became headmaster.

Although still considered a college preparatory school, New Hampton (since 1959 called New Hampton School) under Mr. Moore’s leadership broadened its scope in response to changing social values and economic conditions. A new dining hall, gym, infirmary, and dorms were built. Enrollments grew again to about 300. 

Modern History and Headmasters

List of 7 items.

  • Louis Gnerre, M.Ed., Head of School 1969-1988

    In 1969 an administrative reorganization occurred that resulted in Mr. Moore becoming president of the school and Louis Gnerre becoming headmaster. The school also returned be being coeducational, renewing a tradition that had existed at New Hampton School from 1821 to 1926. During Mr. Gnerre’s tenure the school expanded both its athletic and its fine and performing arts departments and developed a Learning Center on campus designed to meet the needs of students with specific learning disabilities. Mr. Gnerre retired from the position in 1988 to become the school’s college counselor.
  • Bertram H. Buxton III, M.Ed., Head of School, 1988-1990

  • T.H. Moore, Head of School, 1990-1992

  • Jeffrey Pratt Beedy, Ed.D., Head of School, 1992-2004

    Dr. Beedy brought a new philosophy of education to New Hampton School. The Total Human Development Model has as its guiding principles the mission to nurture and shape the whole person within the whole community. The school-wide culture and curriculum is built around a development philosophy that informs everything the school does and embraces the values of respect and responsibility. THD provided the philosophical blueprint underlying the construction of five curriculum-driven dormitories; the 18,000 sq. ft. Academic Research Center; and the 30,000 sq. ft. Arts and Athletics Center. In 2002, New Hampton School's commitment to character education was recognized by the Character Education Partnership by its selection as a National School of Character. Dr. Beedy resigned as headmaster in 2004.
  • Alan Crocker, Interim Head of School, 2004-2005

  • Andrew Menke, MALS, Head of School, 2005-2016

    Andrew Menke was appointed Head of School in January 2005. During a renaissance period at New Hampton, Mr. Menke guided the school through a comprehensive strategic planning process, began the most ambitious capital campaign in the institution's history, helped make New Hampton the first boarding school in New England to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, and introduced iPads into the curriculum. In addition, the school continued its physical plant transformation in 2009 when the Pilalas Center for Math and Science opened. The building serves as tangible proof of New Hampton's dedication to the teaching of these disciplines and the school's continued growth and evolution. Additional work on campus included the renovations of Meservey Hall and Moore House, as well as the construction of O’Connor House. In the fall of 2014, Andrew Menke announced his resignation for the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
  • Joseph P. Williams, M.Ed., Head of School, 2016-Present

    Joseph Pirie Williams was appointed Head of School in October of 2015 and began his tenure at New Hampton School in July 2016. Mr. Williams has marked his initial years at the school with the development of a new strategic plan, the New Hampton Difference 2021, programmatic adjustments, a transition in student academic assessments, and property acquisitions including the merger of the Gordon-Nash Library and New Hampton School in January 2020. He also initiated a Bicentennial Campaign aimed at growing the school’s endowment, meeting the needs of the strategic plan, and preserving the goals of the school for the next two-hundred years.


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