Boarding and Day · Co-ed College Prep · Grades 6–12 & Postgraduate · Hebron, Maine

Our History + The Bell-Lipman Archives

Hebron Academy is among the nation's oldest endowed boarding schools.  Chartered in 1804, Hebron opened its doors to students in 1805. From its beginning, Hebron has been an inclusive, supportive educational community that values individuality and respects individual differences. For more than two centuries our mission and core values have remained consistent with the school's original charter—that our students be taught liberal arts and sciences and educated to revere life and to respect and honor individuality. 

antique church

The Full Story

antique photo of a large crowd of people in front of an old church building

The school was founded by Revolutionary War veterans from Massachusetts who received land in the “district of Maine” as compensation for their military service. They settled the community in the late 1790’s, first establishing their church and town, and then chartering a school for their children in 1804. The pioneers were “poor in goods, but rich in courage and hope.”  Among those early settlers was Deacon William Barrows, who led the effort to establish Hebron Academy and was a member of its Board of Trustees for 33 years, until his death in 1837.  The first preceptor, or headmaster, was William Barrows, Jr., a Dartmouth College graduate.

old photo of students from 1895 showing off their athletic gear

Hebron Academy opened its doors in 1805 to 25 young scholars, boys and girls. By 1807, there were 50 students who ‘boarded round’ in the homes and boarding houses of the village.  From the beginning, Hebron was an inclusive, welcoming community. Girls learned alongside boys, studying literature and sciences, languages and arts. Students came to the Academy from the surrounding towns, but also from Maine, the New England states and a number of countries. From its roots, Hebron has been a global community.

In 1819, the school faced disaster when the original Academy building burned. A neighboring town saw an opportunity to move the school to their locale, but Deacon Barrows vigorously and successfully defended the school during an hour-long address to his fellow Trustees. His speech concluded with a dramatic, emotional statement accusing wealthier neighbors from Paris Hill of “taking advantage of our misfortune” by trying to “steal away our little ewe lamb…the offspring of our prayers and tears and toils.” The speech became part of the Hebron Academy culture. It has been reenacted for special events, like the dedication of Sturtevant Hall building 1891 and at the Bicentennial Founders’ Day celebration in 2004. The story is also commemorated in a memorial window to Deacon Barrows in today’s Hebron Community Baptist Church.

Antique photo of four people at the edge of a rough baseball diamond with school building in background

The school year in the nineteenth century was much different than what is typical today, as was the organization of classes. The schedule was often affected by the weather and farming needs. Courses started fresh at each term to accommodate new students who began their studies at different times of the year. Students studied a ‘Classical’ course as preparation for college or an ‘English’ course as potential preparation for teaching and life work. Some students were as young as 10, while others were war veterans, older than usual students. Enrollment varied widely depending on the term. Early subjects included Latin, Greek, French, and German, English, mathematics, geography, history, natural and physical sciences (anatomy, physiology, botany, natural philosophy or physics and chemistry), logic, rhetoric, English grammar, parsing, and English composition. Debating was supported by the Tyrocenic Adelphi Society and was an important activity for many years.

old photo of a dapper older man with his hair parted

In 1883, William Sargent came to the school as a young Principal with a strong vision for the future.  During his tenure of thirty-seven years, Sargent would direct the transformation of Hebron from a regional Academy to a comprehensive boarding school.  Under his direction and that of Freelan Stanley, chair of Hebron’s Board of Trustees, the main campus grew to include the major buildings of today:  Sturtevant Hall, Sturtevant Home, Atwood Hall, Sargent Memorial Gymnasium and the Stanley Building.  During this time, Hebron became an official ‘fitting school,’ for Colby College, which admitted its students upon Mr. Sargent’s recommendation ‘without further examination.’ 

antique photo of a covered open air ice hockey arena

However, concurrent to this period of growth, enrollment for girls began to decline. At this time, hundreds of Maine girls were attending “normal schools” for teacher training, and free public education was also improving. In the spring of 1922, only 36 girls registered, and after graduation that year Hebron’s Board of Trustees determined that Hebron Academy should become a boys’ school. Following Principal William Sargent’s death, the trustees appointed Ralph Hunt as Principal, and he would lead Hebron through a robust period as a boys’ boarding school. Freelan Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer motorcar and ardent promoter of vigorous, healthy living, would become Hunt’s partner for change as well as a great benefactor, providing support for building an indoor ice arena in 1927, the first of its kind for a school in the country.  Stanley also oversaw the completion of Sargent Memorial Gymnasium in 1929, at the time an incomparable facility for a school which included a competition swimming pool, two basketball courts  and an indoor baseball practice space.  Today, Sargent has been repurposed as the LePage Center for the Arts, its large spaces now supporting a variety of studio, music and performing arts activities.  

antique photo of students with vintage equipment

As Hebron grew in enrollment through the 1930’s, it earned a reputation as a strong ‘prepping school’ for boys aspiring to the finest eastern colleges. Its graduates excelled academically and athletically, but as war began in Europe in the early 1940’s, Hebron began to suffer from economic as well as geographic hardship. Rationing curtailed travel, and younger faculty enlisted. In the spring of 1943, twenty-eight students left school to join the armed forces, and in May of that year, the Trustees closed the school ‘for the duration.’ Hebron would remain closed until 1945.

old photo of dapper headmaster Claude Allen breaking ground with crowd of students

In the fall of 1945, the Board of Trustees appointed Claude Allen, an English master at Deerfield, to reopen the school.  Mr. Allen hired a dedicated faculty, restored the shuttered buildings and led the school into its modern era with a traditional boarding program of college preparatory academics and competitive athletics. At the same time, the school’s trustees also embarked upon a decade of building which transformed the campus by the addition of Treat Science Hall, Dwyer Fields, Halford Hall, Hupper Library as well as a hockey rink and an on campus ski area.  

The last years of the twentieth century brought more change to the school. Co-education returned in 1972 after a hiatus of fifty years, and young women again shared learning, athletics, and leadership with young men. The academic program expanded with the introduction of new Advanced Placement courses and electives in science, religion and the arts. A middle school division was added to the program in 1991, together with additional offerings for athletics, student groups, and outdoor programs.

The story of Hebron is often the story of dedicated individuals  –  trustees, headmasters, teachers, and others  –  who devoted their lives to the school and its students. Hebron owes its longevity in part to its founders who were clear about the school’s mission, and to many others who have sustained the school’s purpose through both the good and the uncertain times.

The school celebrated its Bicentennial Year in 2004 under the leadership of Head of School John King and launched a third century of service to students from Maine and across the world. Dan Marchetti, former Head of School, was appointed in 2016 to continue and reaffirm Hebron’s excellence among independent schools.  Hebron has remained steadfast in its mission to inspire and guide each student to reach his or her ‘highest potential in mind, body and spirit,’ a goal undertaken anew in each succeeding year by a school community dedicated now, as through all its history, to learning, change and growth for all its members.