The Full Story

In 2004, Hebron Academy, one of the nation’s oldest endowed boarding schools, celebrated 200 years of rich history. For two centuries, the school’s mission and core values have remained consistent with its original charter: that students be taught liberal arts and sciences and educated to revere life and to respect and honor individuality. Now more than a decade into its Third Century, Hebron Academy remains an educational community focused on helping each student understand and reach his or her highest potential in mind, body, and spirit.

Hebron Academy 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 1700’s, established a church, and then chartered the school in 1804. The pioneers were “poor in goods, but rich in courage and hope.” The early settlers faced many challenges, including making a living in the wilderness, building a community, governing themselves, and educating young people in such a thinly populated settlement. 

Among the 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. Interest in the school stretched well beyond the small settlement of Hebron. Five of the nine original trustees came from surrounding towns including New Gloucester, Paris, Turner, and Minot.

The school opened its doors in 1805 to 25 young scholars, boys and girls. Many students rented rooms from Deacon Barrows and area farmers. By 1807, there were 50 students. The first dorm would not be built until 1829. From the beginning, Hebron was an inclusive, welcoming community. Girls learned alongside boys. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s students arrived from Mongolia, Burma, India, and Bulgaria.

The first preceptor, or headmaster, was William Barrows, Jr., a Dartmouth College graduate. Many of his successors were alumni from Dartmouth and Bowdoin College. Preceptors often taught for a short time, and then went on to study law, medicine, or theology.

In 1819, the school faced disaster when the Academy building burned. Neighboring towns saw an opportunity to move the school to their respective communities. 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” and 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 a new school building in 1891 and the Bicentennial Founders’ Day celebration in 2004. It is also commemorated in a memorial window to Deacon Barrows in today’s Hebron Community Baptist Church.

The school year in the 1800’s 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 during the terms to accommodate short-term students who arrived from farms or workshops. There was a college-prep track, and a non-college-prep track (girls were not going on to college). Some students were as young as 10, while others were 30 year old war veterans. Enrollment varied widely depending on the term. Early subjects included Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, English, mathematics, geography, history, natural sciences (anatomy, physiology, mineralogy, astronomy, botany, natural philosophy or physics, and chemistry), civil polity, logic, rhetoric, mental philosophy, English grammar, parsing, Webster’s dictionary, and English composition. Debating was an important activity for many years.

The school was not organized into classes and students did not officially “graduate.” Those planning to attend college studied until they felt they had prepared enough to pass a college entrance exam. Many Academy students went on to Dartmouth, Harvard, Bowdoin, and Colby. The school began official commencement exercises in 1878. Celebrations were quite different, too. Before the advent of television, radio, motion pictures, or public address systems, people would listen patiently for hours to “live” speakers and performers. Commencement exercises would last all day, with dozens of speeches and music recitals.

Around 1913, girls’ registration at the school began declining. By this time, several hundred Maine girls were attending “normal schools” for teacher training, and they did not need a high school diploma to enter these schools. At the same time, free public schools were improving. In the spring of 1922, only 36 girls registered. After graduation that year Hebron Academy became a boys’ school.

When World War I arrived, at least three faculty men resigned to enter the war and several students enlisted. Many alumni also fought in the war. Harold T. Andrews (1914) died in the battle of Cambrai in 1917, and was the first Maine boy to die in the war. A Portland post of the America Legion carries his name. Philip Frothingham (1915) was killed in an airplane accident in France and the Portland post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars bears his name. World War II had a far greater impact on the school. Twenty-eight students left school in 1943 to join the armed forces. In May of that year, the school closed and would remain closed until 1945.

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 and in part to its founders who were certain and clear about the school’s mission, and to many others who have guarded the school’s mission. William Sargent. Among the most revered was William Sargent, Principal from 1885 to 1921, 36 years in all. Sargent led the school into the 20th century and oversaw the school's physical expansion. Many buildings that stand across campus today were constructed during Sargent's era. He played a strong role in the everyday guidance of students and was known as someone who was truly devoted to Hebron and to educating boys and girls.
In a storied speech defending against the Academy's relocation to neighboring towns, Deacon Barrows, a founder, longtime Trustee, and protector of the Academy, accused opponents of “taking advantage of our misfortune” and trying to “steal away our little ewe lamb…the offspring of our prayers and tears and toils.” Barrows' dedication to preserving the Academy and its integrity form the crux of Hebron's fiercely loyal culture.

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  • Hebron's Founding Families

    Charles and Amy Dywer
    Charles Dwyer was Hebron Academy’s longest tenured teacher: an astounding 59 years, beginning in 1908 until his death in 1967 when he was an emeritus faculty member. He was the only faculty member to span the eras before and after the school’s closure during World War II. (He was joined by Harry Williams, Superintendent of Building and Grounds from 1922 to 1962, who stayed on campus during the war.) He created a modern athletic program for the school, adding many sports to the program during his tenure.

    He arrived on campus from his home on the Maine coast in the winter of 1900 at age 20 as a laborer on a dormitory construction project. By April, he was registered for classes. He graduated in 1904, Hebron’s Centennial year. He played baseball, was the football team captain, and leader of the Young Men’s Christian Association. He left to attend Colby, returning in 1908 to teach anatomy.

    Amy Mariner, his wife, joined him and together they moved into Atwood Dormitory and later, Long Cottage. She was the school librarian, a tutor, and a counselor; he was a science teacher and coach.

    In 1963, the school’s new athletic fields were dedicated to Charlie Dwyer. Jesse Owens, the Olympic star, came to deliver a speech at the dedication. Today, the school presents the Charles and Amy Dwyer award to an outstanding scholar-athlete in the senior class, honoring more than a half-century of the couple’s dedication to the school community.

    Claude Allen

    Claude Allen was hired as headmaster to reopen the school after the war in 1945. Allen was a Phillips Academy and Harvard University graduate and had worked for legendary headmaster Frank Boyden at Deerfield Academy for 14 years. Allen’s Hebron Academy was an all boys’ school.

    In 1969, applications began to decline. It was part of a trend common among independent boarding schools. In the early 1970’s, Hebron returned to its roots by reopening its doors to girls and welcoming young people from the area to attend as day students.
  • A History of Hebron Athletics

    The tradition at Hebron has long been “athletics for all.” Hebron organized its first baseball game in 1862. Gould Academy, Bridgton Academy, Norway High School and Hebron Academy formed a county athletic league in 1890. Football began in 1893. Hebron held its first annual “Athletic Exhibition,” with the horizontal bar, parallel bars, Swedish horse, flying rings, and tumbling, in 1896. Hockey began in 1921 and Hebron was home to America’s first covered school ice arena in 1925. Cross-country started in 1925, winter sports (ski events, snowshoe races, skating) in 1925, and swimming in 1930. In 1931, Hebron teams won State championships in football, cross-country, basketball, hockey, outdoor track, and baseball.
  • Co-Curricular Offerings

    Hebron held its first annual winter carnival in 1927. An Outing Club started in the 1930’s and maintained camps on nearby Streaked Mountain and Marshall Pond. Music was a popular activity, and the school had several groups, including a dance band, orchestra, and vocal quartet.

    The school established a Cum Laude chapter in 1927 to honor students for scholastic achievement. Cum Laude is a national honor society for independent schools. Green Key, which hosts guests and provides campus tours, started in 1949.

    Hebron held its first reunion in 1883, and Alumni Associations began meeting in New York City, Boston, and Portland around 1913.

Around 1804...

  • Thomas Jefferson is President.
  • The Louisiana Territory is transferred to the U.S.
  • The Lewis and Clark expedition departs.
  • Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel.
  • Beethoven is composing music.
  • Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France
  • John Dalton proposes his theory of matter and introduces the word “atom” to our vocabulary.
  • Haiti wins independence from France.
  • Spain declares war on Britain.
  • Less than 25,000 people live in Boston, and about 60,000 live in New York City.
HEBRON ACADEMY | 339 Paris RD P.O.Box 309 Hebron, ME 04238 207-966-2100
Hebron Academy is a small, private, co-ed college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades six through postgraduate located in Hebron Maine. Students from across the United States and around the world are challenged and inspired to reach their highest potential in mind, body, and spirit through small classes, knowledgeable and caring teachers who provide individual attention, and a friendly, respectful, family atmosphere.