Hillton Academy claims the distinction of being well over a century old. Founded in 1782 by one Peter Masters, LL.D., a very good and learned pedagogue, it has for more than a hundred years maintained its high estate among boys’ schools. The original charter provides “that there be, and hereby is, established ... an Academy for promoting Piety and Virtue, and for the Education of Youth in the English, Latin, and Greek Languages, in Writing, Arithmetic, Music, and the Art of Speaking, Practical Geometry, Logic, and Geography, and such other of the Liberal Arts and Sciences or Languages as opportunity may hereafter permit, and as the Trustees, hereinafter provided, shall direct.”
In the catalogue of Hillton Academy you may find a proud list of graduates that includes ministers plenipotentiary, members of cabinets, governors, senators, representatives, supreme court judges, college presidents, authors, and many, many other equally creditable to their alma mater. The founder and first principal of the academy passed away in 1835, as an old record says, “full of honor, and commanding the respect and love of all who knew him.” He was succeeded by that best-beloved of American schoolmasters, Dr. Hosea Bradley, whose portrait, showing a tall, dignified, and hale old gentleman, with white hair, and dressed in ceremonious broadcloth, still hangs behind the chancel of the school chapel. Dr. Bradley resigned a few years before his death, in 1876, and the present principal, John Ross Wheeler, A.M., professor of Latin, took the chair.
As Professor Wheeler is a man of inordinate modesty, and as he is quite likely to read these words, I can say but little about him. Perhaps the statement of a member of the upper middle class upon his return from a visit to the “office” will serve to throw some light on his character, Said the boy:
“I tell you I don’t want to go through with that again! I’ll take a licking first! He says things that count! You see, ‘Wheels’ has been a boy himself, and he hasn’t forgotten it; and that—that makes a difference somehow!”
Yes, that disrespectful lad said “Wheels!” I have no excuse to offer for him; I only relate the incident as it occurred.
The buildings, many of them a hundred years old, are with one exception of warm-hued red brick. The gymnasium is built of red sandstone. Ivy has almost entirely hidden the walls of the academy building and of Masters Hall. The grounds are given over to well-kept sod, and the massive elms throw a tapestry of grateful shade in summer, and in winter hold the snow upon their great limbs and transform the Green into a fairyland of white. From the cluster of buildings the land slopes away southward, and along the river bluff a footpath winds past the Society House, past the boathouse steps, down to the campus. The path is bordered by firs, and here and there a stunted maple bends and nods to the passing skiffs.